Digesting Slower News

Michael Luo writes in The New Yorker:

Could journalism in general get slower? As I read about the Slow Media movement—which, so far, seems to be a mostly European phenomenon—I inevitably thought about trends in the magazine industry in the United States, where publications are experimenting with paywalls and churning out digital content. The appeal of Slow Media is that it pushes back against the technological pressures that are shaping journalism more broadly. (Newport advocates Slow Media in a section of his book, urging readers to join “the attention resistance.”) It is an attempt to take back control of the way we experience the news. It is also about relinquishing the illusion of knowledge that the passive consumption of news on social media facilitates and bringing our best selves to the act of becoming informed.

Reading printed books have helped me stayed away from online news. I am heading toward that direction.

Banning the IRS From Developing Free Online Tax Filing Software

Justin Elliott reports in ProPublica:

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry’s profits.

This is a disgrace!

Pete Buttigieg

I have been rooting for Elizabeth Warren, but I might have a change of heart after listening to Pete Buttigieg’s interview with David Remnick. He sounds smart and honest. His primary focus on restructuring our democracy is convincing. Our current government system is broken and we need to fix it. It might not easy, but I am glad he is thinking and talking about it. My wife is right. He is the candidate to keep an eye on.

Tình mẹ con

Thứ Hai tôi nán lại Lancaster đưa mẹ đi tái khám sau khi được cắt gân từ ngón chân hôm thứ Sáu. Buổi sáng chị đi làm còn thằng cháu đi học. Chỉ còn tôi với mẹ trong căn nhà. Chúng tôi không trò chuyện gì nhiều. Chỉ cần được ở bên mẹ là hạnh phúc lắm rồi.

Đã lâu lắm rồi mẹ, chị, và tôi mới được dịp gắn bó bên nhau. Bốn ngày quá ngắn ngủi nên tôi quý từng giây phút bên mẹ và chị. Nghe chị vất vả trong công việc tôi cũng bùi ngùi. Một mình chị thức khuya dậy sớm làm thêm giờ còn phải lo lắng cho mẹ già và con thơ. Một mình chị gánh chịu. Tôi cảm khích chị.

Sau khi xong phẫu thuật, tình trạng của mẹ đã khá hơn nhưng đi đứng vẫn khó khăn. Nhìn thấy mẹ đau đớn từng bước chân tim tôi như bị dao cắt. Thật xót xa khi tôi không thể chia sẻ được cơn đau của mẹ. Thấy mẹ như thế tôi càng không nỡ xa mẹ. Khi chia tay tôi cố giấu đi những giọt lệ nghẹn nghào.

Quay về Virginia với vợ con, tôi nhớ đến mẹ và chị vô cùng. Khi bên mẹ và chị, tôi lại nhớ đến vợ con. Biết sao bây giờ? Tất cả điều rất quan trọng với tôi.

Writing About Your Own Death

Anne Boyer writes in The New Yorker:

In a note about prospective titles for what would become “Illness as Metaphor,” Susan Sontag wrote, “To think only about oneself is to think of death.” Being a writer makes me a servant of sensory details, issuing forth page after page. I am certain that my illness would make a better story if it were someone else’s. Who would want to hear the hammer always complaining about its meeting with the nail? The slightly ill but undiagnosed are better narrators than the truly ill. Their suffering is not so overdetermined. They can be lavishly self-defined, poetic with the glamour of the sick person’s proximity to finality.

To write about oneself may be to write of death, but to write about death is to write of everyone. As Audre Lorde wrote, in “The Cancer Journals,” after she was given a diagnosis of breast cancer, at the age of forty-four, “I carry tattooed upon my heart a list of names of women who did not survive, and there is always a space left for one more, my own.”

Love this passage.

Letter to My Sons #1

My dearest Đạo, Đán, Xuân, and Vương

I have been away from you only for three days, but I already am missing you terribly. I miss seeing you play, hearing you calling me “Daddy,” and eating out together. I can’t wait to go home to kiss you, hold you, and play with you.

I am away from you to look after grandma. She had a flexor tenotomy. The doctor cut a tendon in her toe to ease her pain and to help her walk better. When he used a scalpel to trim off her callous, I went to the bathroom and vomited. I can’t deal with that kind of things too well.

After the procedure, grandma seemed to walk a bit better. In addition to taking care of her, I had a chance to spend some time with her and my sisters. Being around them reminded me of the good old time before I had a family of my own. I treasure these brief moments together with them. They are my love and of course they also love you dearly.

Living without you for a couple of days is hard, but it also gives me an opportunity to reflect and to think about our relationship. The simple fact is that the longer I am away from you the more I realize how much I love you. I can’t imagine being without you for weeks or months. I will see you guys soon.

Love,

Daddy.

Anne Lamott: Almost Everything

I read anything written by Anne Lamott. Her prose is always impeccable and her story is inspiring. In her latest book, Lamott reveals her personal struggles, including suicidal thoughts, drinking, relationships, diets, and death. Her stories are honest and her messages are hopeful. Almost Everything is a short, beautiful, and thoughtful read. Amanda Dewey’s pleasing typesetting makes it a perfect gift for anyone you care about.

What I love the most is her advice on writing. Here are a few examples to keep me motivated.

Lamott (p.85):

No one cares if you continue to write, so you’d better care, because otherwise you are doomed.

If you do stick with writing, you will get better and better, and you can start to learn the important lessons: who you really are, and how all of us can live in the face of death, and how important it is to pay much better attention to life, moment by moment, which is why you are here.

Lamott (p.89):

If it’s creative release, or you have a story to tell, or if you’ve just always wanted to write a novel, or you just love to write, the way other people like to garden, you’re good.

Lamott (p.99):

I tell the six-year-olds that if they want to have great lives, they need to read a lot or listen to the written word. If they rely only on their own thinking, they will not notice the power that is all around them, the force-be-with-you kind of power. Reading and writing help us take the blinders off so we can look around and say “Wow,” so we can look at life and our lives with care, and curiosity, and attention to detail, which re what will make us happy and less afraid.

Những chuyện vui buồn

Hôm qua một ngày đẹp trời tôi đưa thằng cháu và vợ con nó đi xem hoa anh đào ở DC. Hoa nỡ rộn ràng nhưng người xem cũng tấp nậm. Mười mấy năm rồi mới gặp lại thằng cháu và cũng là lần đầu tiên gặp vợ con nó. Từ nhỏ đến bây giờ tính tình nóng nảy của nó vẫn không thay đổi chúc nào. Giờ đây có vợ con rồi vẫn thô lỗ. Tuy bề ngoài nó ăn nói như thế nhưng tôi biết trong thâm tâm của nó cũng rất cảm tình. Công việc của nó đem đến nhiều căng thẳng nên nó mới trở nên như thế. Giờ đây vợ chồng nó quyết định về Việt Nam sống. Có thể đây là cơ hội cho nó thay đổi đời sống. Tôi không ngăn cản nó mà còn hy vọng chúng nó sẽ có được một đời sống mới vui vẻ và hạnh phúc.

Sáng nay tôi về một mình đưa mẹ đi cắt gân ngón chân. Sau mười năm đau đớn và đi khó khăn mẹ quyết đi cắt. Hy vọng phương pháp này sẽ giúp mẹ bớt đau và đi lại nhẹ nhàng hơn. Khi bác sĩ tiêm thuốc tê, mẹ nhức nhối vô cùng. Khi ngón chân mẹ không còn cảm giác nữa ông lấy kim cắt đi gân rồi lấy dao gọt đi những phần da đã bị chai cứng. Quan sát một hồi bỗng nhiên đầu óc tôi choáng váng và không thể tự chủ được nữa. Tôi ra phòng chờ đợi ngồi xuống để lấy lại bình tĩnh nhưng tôi cảm thấy khó chịu như buồn mửa và muốn ngất đi. Vào phòng vệ sinh tôi mửa xong mới lấy lai được chúc thăng bằng. Cũng may là chưa ngất xỉu như sáu tháng trước khi tôi thấy vợ bị mổ đẻ. Mai mốt tôi sẽ không bao giờ chứng kiến những tình trạng như thế nữa.

Cắt xong mẹ cũng OK. Giờ thì cần có sự nghỉ ngơi nhiều. Tôi muốn ở bên cạnh chăm sóc cho mẹ mấy hôm để bà khỏi phải cử động nhiều. Không có đám nhỏ tôi được những giây phút yên tĩnh nhưng tôi lại nhớ đến chúng nó vô cùng. Mới một ngày xa cách mà tôi đã như thế. Làm sao có thể xa tụi nó những ngày trong tuần và chỉ gặp bọn nó vào những ngày cuối tuần.

Back to iPhone

On Wednesday, I woke up and couldn’t tell time because my phone was completely black. I tried to charge it with different cables, but nothing came up. I suspect either the charging port went bad or the chip burned. My Pixel 2 was dead in just 18 months. I still owe Verizon $160. Even though I love the Google ecosystem, I don’t want to drop $700 to $900 on a Pixel 3. I definitely don’t want to spent a grant on a new iPhone.

My only choice is to revive the old iPhone 6 Plus my wife used before she switched to the 8 Plus. I took the 6 Plus to a Vietnamese repair shop in Eden Center to replace the shattered screen and drained battery for $110 (instead of $200 at Apple). I wiped out everything and started fresh. The 6 Plus a bit too big, but it works fine. I was not keen on returning to the Apple ecosystem. The Onboarding process is a bit cumbersome and I do not want to return to iTunes.

From photo to music to docs to Chrome, Google has created a seamless experience because everything is accessible through the web. Fortunately, Google has all the apps I can still access on iOS. As a result, I continue to use most of the Google apps, but on an iPhone. It feels like best of both world.

I am happy with this four-year-old device because I only wanted to use the bare minimum. I don’t want to use it if I don’t need to. Let’s see how far this will take me.