Switched to Google Pixel 2

After more than two months without a smartphone, I am now using Google Pixel 2. I have always been an Apple fanatic. Unfortunately the latest iPhones are way too expensive for me. The iPhone 8 is $700 and 8 Plus is $800. The iPhone X is over a grant. It’s not that I can’t effort it—since George Mason gives me a stipend each month for work related usage. I just can’t spend $700 to $1,000 for a phone.

The bigger disappointment for me, however, is Apple’s design. Apple’s user interface and user experience have not been too exciting. With each iOS update, the software sucks up so much battery. Google, on the other hand, has stepped up its design; therefore, I wanted to give it a shot.

The new Pixel 2 with 64GB Memory started out at $650 and Best Buy has a $100 discount. Google also threw in a Google Mini, which is $50, so I thought it was a good deal. In addition, I prefer small screen over big screen. $550 or $23 a month is still a lot, but I can live with that.

The switch was quite painless since I already have a Gmail account. With the contacts, I just export them to vCard and import them into my Google Contact. I only use a few apps so re-downloading them was not so bad. Podcast is the only thing that I missed from Apple. I am now using Play Music, but most podcasts, Fresh Air in particular, aren’t on Play Music yet. Google needs to catch up on this. Other than that, I am impressed with Google’s design. The screen is fantastic for reading. Typography is stunning.

The battery is also great. I only used like 25% for an entire day. To be fair, I tried to limit my phone usage as much as possible. Two months without a phone felt great even though at times I did wish I have it to call my mom or my wife. Luckily, I haven’t have any issue at work that required a phone. Our server has been performing well, but I do need to monitor it just in case.

For my limited usage, Pixel 2 does seem like a luxury, but what the heck. As for the Google Mini, the kids are having fun with it. They have been asking her all kind of questions. Đạo asked her how many books are there in the world and what is the biggest Lego ever built? She actually had an answer for each of them. He even asked her some mathematic questions and he figured that she could help him do his homework. I don’t think I would have bought Google Mini, but it is a nice complementary to the Pixel 2.

To Carol

You hurt me, and you made me cry.
But if you leave me, you will fucking die.

Nguyễn Thanh Việt: Nothing Ever Dies

Nguyễn Thanh Việt came to the U.S. when he was four. I left Vietnam when I was twelve. We are both refugee. Yet neither of us has any idea about the war. He explored the subject through novels and movies. I learned about it through Asia Entertainment, a Vietnamese music production that released documentary and music video about the war. Its perspective is mostly from the Republic of Vietnam.

In writing this book, Nguyễn returned to the homeland to visit war-related places and museums, which are now mostly tourist attractions. Like him, I went into Vịnh Mốc tunnels and paid Hồ Chí Minh’s body a visit. From a refugee perspective, Nguyễn offers a fair and balance analysis of the war. He draws his studies from literature, film, and art, which are kind of odd for a nonfiction book. I wonder why he hadn’t studied Vietnamese music. We must have thousands of songs about the war. Nguyễn’s assessment on identity resonates with me:

Having carried ourselves over, or been brought over, from the other side—we Gooks, we goo-goos, we slopes, we dinks, we zipperheads, we slant-eyes, we yellow ones, we brown ones, we Japs, we Chinks, we ragheads, we sand niggers, we Orientals, we who cannot be distinguished between ourselves because we all look alike—we know that the condition of our being and our self-representation is that we are both ourselves and others. We are never without identity and never without ideology, whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. Those people who believe themselves to be beyond identity and ideology will, sooner or later, charge us with identity and ideology if we dare to commit that most unnatural act of speaking up and out. (p.63)

He was lucky that no one had ever called him these names to his face. As a kid, I was called Ching Chong and chink even though I am not Chinese. Then again, we all look alike.

A compelling and beautiful read if you don’t mind Nguyễn’s academic writing style.

Thấy chưa?

Hôm nọ thằng Đạo ngồi ăn cơm không để ý (vì ham chơi Lego) nên làm đổ ly nước. Đán la lên, “Thấy chưa”? Chắc nó nghe tôi nói nhiều lần nên đã nhớ.

Hôm qua Đán đem hộp lunchbox về đồ ăn vẫn chưa đụng tới nên bị mẹ la. Tối đến Đạo hỏi Đán, “Why didn’t you eat your lunch”? Đán trả lời, “Because my friends kept scratching my nách”. Đạo hỏi lại, “Your nut”? Tôi cũng hơi ngạc nhiên nhưng Đán trả lời, “No, my nách. My armpit”. Nó chỉ vào nách của nó.

Tối qua kiểm tra lại 24 chữ cái cho Đán nhưng nó vẫn không nhận ra được một số chữ. Tôi chỉ đi chỉ lại chữ s nhiều lần mà nó cứ nói chữ c hoặc chữ q mà không nói chữ s. Không biết thằng này có bị dyslexia hay không nữa. Hơn cả năm rồi mà nó vẫn chưa thuộc hết 24 chữ cái. Chắc phải nói chuyện với cô nó xem coi có cần đi kiểm tra hay không.

Tôi đã sai

Hôm thứ Bảy cả nhà đưa bà ngoại ra phi trường đi vacation ở Nhật Bản và Nam Hàn. Sau đó kéo quá DC chơi. Tụi nhỏ thấy chỗ phun nước nên nhảy vào chơi ướt hết cả người. Chủ Nhật thằng Đạo và thằng Xuân bị sốt và ói mửa đầy nhà. Thứ Hai tôi cũng phải ở nhà với tụi nó. Cả hai vợ chồng đều mệt mỏi cả. Tôi thì bị nhức đầu cả ngày. Thứ Ba đi làm có một chuyện nhỏ không đáng kể nhưng làm tôi bực bội.

Khi đón thằng Xuân về lại thêm một chuyện nhỏ không đáng kể nhưng tôi đã trút cái giận lên bà xã. Nói vài câu lớn tiếng thế là vợ giận lại. Biết mình hơi quá đáng nên đã xin lỗi nhưng vẫn chưa được tha. Tôi biết mình thật vô cớ và không biết từ lúc nào tôi đã dễ bị kích thích. Chuyện không đáng để ý tới cũng khiến tôi bực bội rồi đâm ra quạu quọ.

Tôi cần lấy lại sự điềm tĩnh cho chính bản thân. Ngủ không đủ đã kiến tôi mất đi sự kiềm chế tính tình. Tôi không thể để cho những sự nhỏ nhặt làm tôi trở nên cọc cằn và mất thăng bằng. Vì đám nhỏ tôi cần phải tự kiểm điểm lại chính mình.

Read One Book at a Time

I like to read. I prefer books over social media. Reading books keep me offline. I check out a couple of books from our local libraries. I want to get through them all as quickly as I can. I ended up losing my concentration. If I am 20 or 30 pages into the book and I am not feeling it, I grow impatience and just want to move on to the next one. Now I just check out one book at a time. I have to finish it first before I could check out another one. It has been working so far until I forgot to take my book with me. Now I have nothing to read during my lunch break.

The Koch Administration

On her profile of Mike Pence, Jane Mayer points out that the Moron in Chief filled his administration with Koch suckers:

Trump began to appoint an extraordinary number of officials with ties to the Kochs and to Pence, especially in positions that affected Koch Industries financially, such as those dealing with regulatory, environmental, and fiscal policy. Short, who a few months earlier had tried to enlist the Kochs to stop Trump, joined the White House as its director of legislative affairs. Scott Pruitt, the militantly anti-regulatory attorney general of Oklahoma, who had been heavily supported by the Kochs, was appointed director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, in turn, placed Patrick Traylor, a lawyer for Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies, in charge of the E.P.A.’s enforcement of key anti-pollution laws. As the Times has reported, a document called “A Roadmap to Repeal,” written by Koch operatives, has guided the E.P.A.’s reversal of Obama Administration clean-air and climate regulations. Don McGahn, who had done legal work for Freedom Partners, became White House counsel. Betsy DeVos, a billionaire heiress, who had been a major member of the Kochs’ donor network and a supporter of Pence, was named Secretary of Education. The new director of the C.I.A. was Mike Pompeo, the congressman who represented Charles Koch’s district, in Wichita, Kansas; before Pompeo ran for office, the Kochs had invested in his aerospace business. Pompeo, the former transition-team member said, “wasn’t even on Trump’s radar, but he was brought in to meet him and got appointed, like, the next day.” A recent analysis by the Checks & Balances Project found that sixteen high-ranking officials in the Trump White House had ties to the Kochs. The pattern continued among lower-level political appointees, including in Pence’s office, which was stocked with Koch alumni. Pence reportedly consulted with Charles Koch before hiring his speechwriter, Stephen Ford, who previously worked at Freedom Partners.

Once Pence replaces Trump, this country will be ruled by the Koch brothers.

No Moron for Virginia

Trump endorsed Ed Gillespie. Pence rallied for Gillespie and compared him to Trump. Virginians, do we need another fucking moron fucking up our state? Fuck no. Virginia is for lovers. We have no place for fucking haters.

Nguyễn Văn Thọ: Vợ cũ

Bài viết về người vợ cũ của Nguyễn Văn Thọ rất cảm động. Tuy hai vợ chồng đã ly dị nhưng vẫn trân trọng và lo lắng cho nhau. Hai người không còn tình yêu nhưng vẫn còn tình nghĩa. “Chuyện cây khế nhà tôi” nói lên tình cảm đẹp đẻ giữa con người và thiên nhiên. Những bài còn lại tôi chỉ đọc thoáng qua nhất là những đề tài về chiến tranh.

Bài “Ăn mày khắp thế gian” tác giả dùng một chữ “xuya” trong câu “Cũng đôi khi gặp một người ăn xin chơi đàn rất xuya”. Lần đầu tôi đọc chữ này và không hiểu chính xác là nghĩa gì và có phải là tiếng Việt hay không. Theo tôi đoán là hay hoặc cao siêu.


Delaney Ruston’s documentary on screen addiction hits close to home. My wife and I had witnessed extinction bursts when we asked our kids to turn off their digital device. They got addicted before we realized it. Fortunately, my wife has been able to limit screen time to weekends only. The limitation has worked out well. They don’t overreact anymore.

The film does demonstrate the kids’ resiliency. They will overcome the addiction if we set boundary and stay firm. As parents, we need to control our own impulse as well. I haven’t had a cellphone for two months and I am much happier without it. I carry a book with me instead. I have to get a new phone for work. I pre-ordered a Pixel 2, but I am now debating whether I should get it. I will continue to limit my usage at home.

Screen addition is not new, but it is something that parents have to deal with. Talk to your kids and set the balance for them.