Dear Js,i

The moment you’ve been waiting for finally happened. I bet you’ve been wondering, when’s this crazy old man finally going to run out of steam with his rambling letters?

Well today’s your lucky day. It finally happened. I ran out of steam. Some nights I just let myself drift off in J’s room. Didn’t even bother with shower. Some nights I procrastinated with reading.

But I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. See this routine has been going on so long that I feel guilty every day I don’t write. (That’s what makes routines and habits so valuable.) So even though I can’t be arsed to write, at least I can write about how I can’t be arsed to write. (Another valuable trick — motion beats meditation.)

And before you know it, the action of getting going and doing something, even if it’s nothing, often leads you to accidentally doing something worth something. Now that I’ve said that, I better try to make this turn into something worth something to make this point valid.

I decided to investigate my sloth. Why so glum? The reason: Poo. Specifically, because you’re learning to #2. It’s a chain reaction. The start of the chain is we decided that we can’t let you skip any days without going anymore after many episodes of constipation. So every night has turned into a Mexican standoff (you/me/mama) with you deadlocked on the potty. We read. We talk. You cry. We insist. It sucks the life out of me. Potty time can extend til 10pm, and bedtime til 11pm. 2 hours later than usual. Obviously, those 2 hours eat into the time mama and I have for ourselves. So we get extra cranky, and I don’t get time to do anything before I have to sleep.

You take it for granted. But here’s the challenge: How do you teach someone to poo?

Anyway, that’s just a symptom — the last straw that tipped the camel’s hump over. The real reason why I can’t be bothered to work is… apathy. I just don’t care enough.

In modern times, the biggest thing that children have that ancestors didn’t have much of is choice. Humans progress from generation to generation from less choice to more choice.

Example: My parents (your grandparents) had to make their shitty business work because they had no choice. Their limited education meant that trying to find wealth through education would take too long or cost money or time they didn’t have. So they dove head first into whatever opportunity they had, and persisted until life surrendered and gave them their rewards. It was ugly; it was brutish, like squeezing blood from a rock. But they had no choice.

The problem I have, and the problem you have, is choice. So many options. Which one is best? That’s the most obvious question, but the wrong one. Infinite choice equals infinite indecision.

My parents couldn’t spend as much time with us as we do with you. In my early years, I saw grandma more than I did them. But they had no choice. They didn’t have the luxury of having mom stay at home. They didn’t have the freedom to go to work late, or come home early, while earning a cushy living. They couldn’t buy all the books we could ever want to read. They had no time to take us to the library every week to borrow the books we didn’t want to buy. They didn’t have the “choice” to learn how to build a business that lets them spend time with family.

Now, I happen to earn enough that mama doesn’t have to work. (Even though we’re in one of the most expensive places to live). A lot of what drove me in the beginning was a desperate search for answers. I needed to know why I felt depressed in my 20s, and what I could do about it. I ended up learning about how the world worked, how people behaved, and what made people buy. I told mama that there were no more mysteries that nagged at me. I didn’t know everything (you can’t), but I discovered what made people do what they do, which accounts for everything that happens in the world.

So in the beginning, I was excited. Finally, I had the tools to make money on demand, from nothing: 1) Psychology – what makes people buy or do anything, 2) Marketing – how to create systems to sell — to transform desire into action; and 3) Software engineering – how to make solutions from thin air with zero raw materials.

But the more I learned, the more reality crushed me. I learned that status in a meritocracy deludes you into thinking success will make you happy. I learned that people don’t change, and there is nothing more futile than trying to help people who don’t want to be helped. Even those who raise their hands claiming they want it don’t keep their hands up for long. Studying marketing and psychology converted me from Christian to Agnostic to Atheist. So if money didn’t make me happy, I didn’t care enough about strangers, and without no supernatural being threatening my afterlife, what else is there to motivate me?

That’s why I only write to you two. You’re the only people I care about in this world right now. I know you may not even end up caring, but that’s okay. It’s all I got and it’s what keeps me going. It’s okay if you don’t think any of this is useful. Giving is about being selfish.

You know, when I come home every day you two scream “Daddy!” This bugs mama, of course. She suffered for you all day and keeps you out of trouble. Then when I come home it’s see ya mama, it’s play time. On the other hand, mama is who you want when you get hurt. Some nights you wake up screaming. I go over to calm you down and what do you do? You push me away and scream louder in my ear, “I want mama.” And I think why did I even bother to crawl out of my warm bed. On Saturday morning, mama left you two with me downstairs. “I have to take a shower.” She locked the door, “Mama needs some alone time.” The shower turned on so she probably didn’t hear you sobbing on the other side. I asked you to come down with us, but you stayed there until she was done. It’s not that we don’t love you. It’s just that we’re people too.

The everything store. I just finished this book. Great book. Amazon is ruthless. Not because they want to be, but because Jeff Bezos doesn’t know how to be a human being. Amazon is the Walmart of the internet age. They crush book publishers. They murder small business owners. They’re assholes about it too. They invite mom-and-pops to sell through their Amazon Marketplace. Then when they discover products that are selling well, they’ll start selling them too, undercutting and burying the mom-and-pops who risked uncharted waters in the beginning. Meanwhile, their algorithms match the lowest price anywhere, even if lowest price is from a thug selling stolen goods on Amazon marketplace.

Amazon is an extension of Bezos — how it innovates, and how it’s efficient. It also inherited all of Bezos’ dysfunctions. This story from the book is a perfect example:

As a kid, I spent my summers with my grandparents on their ranch in Texas. I helped fix windmills, vaccinate cattle, and do other chores. We also watched soap operas every afternoon, especially “Days of our Lives.” My grandparents belonged to a Caravan Club, a group of Airstream trailer owners who travel together around the U.S. and Canada. And every few summers, we’d join the caravan. We’d hitch up the Airstream trailer to my grandfather’s car, and off we’d go, in a line with 300 other Airstream adventurers. I loved and worshipped my grandparents and I really looked forward to these trips. On one particular trip, I was about 10 years old. I was rolling around in the big bench seat in the back of the car. My grandfather was driving. And my grandmother had the passenger seat. She smoked throughout these trips, and I hated the smell.

At that age, I’d take any excuse to make estimates and do minor arithmetic. I’d calculate our gas mileage — figure out useless statistics on things like grocery spending. I’d been hearing an ad campaign about smoking. I can’t remember the details, but basically the ad said, every puff of a cigarette takes some number of minutes off of your life: I think it might have been two minutes per puff. At any rate, I decided to do the math for my grandmother. I estimated the number of cigarettes per days, estimated the number of puffs per cigarette and so on. When I was satisfied that I’d come up with a reasonable number, I poked my head into the front of the car, tapped my grandmother on the shoulder, and proudly proclaimed, “At two minutes per puff, you’ve taken nine years off your life!”

I have a vivid memory of what happened, and it was not what I expected. I expected to be applauded for my cleverness and arithmetic skills. “Jeff, you’re so smart. You had to have made some tricky estimates, figure out the number of minutes in a year and do some division.” That’s not what happened. Instead, my grandmother burst into tears. I sat in the backseat and did not know what to do. While my grandmother sat crying, my grandfather, who had been driving in silence, pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. He got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow. Was I in trouble? My grandfather was a highly intelligent, quiet man. He had never said a harsh word to me, and maybe this was to be the first time? Or maybe he would ask that I get back in the car and apologize to my grandmother. I had no experience in this realm with my grandparents and no way to gauge what the consequences might be. We stopped beside the trailer. My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

I don’t think he’s changed. We all change, but we don’t really change much inside. I think he’s still mostly clueless about people. That’s why he tries to solve everything with technology instead of psychology or being human.

In the end of the book, Bezos wonders why everyone thinks Amazon is evil. Like the competitive kid who will stop at nothing to win at everything, he wonders why no one likes him.

But then I thought, that’s a good question. Why does the public not love Amazon? After all, Bezos fights for the customer above all.

Here are the reasons I came up with:

1) Bezos thinks farther ahead than everyone around him. Creative destruction is necessary with any new technology, but people hate change. For example, Bezos imagines a world 10 years into the future, where people read digital books instead of paper ones. But he can’t wait 10 years for publishers to migrate to e-books. So like the mafia, he murders and bullies them to submit to his vision. He doesn’t care that he’s trampling over other people, because he has no patience for people to catch up with him.

2) He thinks he has only one customer: the Amazon buyer. But in reality Amazon has many other people they have to make happy. Like the suppliers. Cannibalizing suppliers like they are interchangeable commodities for the short-term low price is unsustainable. Soon all the suppliers will be either destroyed or diminished to low-price low-margin providers. In the end the customer hurts if all that’s left are cheap options, offered by people who can churn out the bare minimum at the thinnest margins.

3) The world he knows is one where the thing people care about most is price. False. People do not want a low price. They want a good deal. Price-value is a balance. If you can provide more education and help customer see more value, they will gladly pay higher prices. Build up even more value, and even a high price can be seen as a bargain.

4) Bezos doesn’t understand that the value of the products/brands he sells has been built elsewhere. Discounting only works after value has been established. His only strategy is discounting, right away, without helping building any value for the products (except for convenience). So while there are maybe 100 things you can do build up the value of a product or brand, Bezos only makes use of 3. So long term, he will destroy every product that runs through Amazon’s meat market. Besides, people do not want a low price. Our brains are incapable of thinking of money. We want value. By throwing people immediately into a price situation, you throw value out of the equation. Infinite choice and infinite shelf space, yes. But if every new product that is sold is immediately discounted, it is instantly devalued.

Good for companies like Apple, Nike, that knife company Wustof and Dyson to pull their products from Amazon. I hope in time, more premium brands do the same. I hope that in the end, Bezos gets his wish and Amazon becomes what it wants to be known for – the bargain bin discount warehouse.

Which leads to an opportunity. If Amazon is the bargain bin discount warehouse, then its Kryptonite is an “everything store” for premium services only. Bezos wouldn’t be able to understand it, and he wouldn’t know how to compete in a domain where price is irrelevant. Let Amazon be the discounter. For sellers who stand by their high value being the bargain for the price, and for buyers who want to spare no expense for the best experiences, they can go to this other place.

RIP Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He’s one of mama’s favorite authors. He won the Nobel Prize for “100 Years of Solitude.” I want to read it but I don’t want to read the English version and I can’t read Spanish. So I’m stuck. Maybe one day I’ll cave and get the English one. I found a great interview with him, where he gives advice to writers:

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: If I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him; it’s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says “God help me from inventing when I sing.” It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.


Whom were you writing for at this point? Who was your audience?


Leaf Storm was written for my friends who were helping me and lending me their books and were very enthusiastic about my work. In general I think you usually do write for someone. When I’m writing I’m always aware that this friend is going to like this, or that another friend is going to like that paragraph or chapter, always thinking of specific people. In the end all books are written for your friends. The problem after writing One Hundred Years of Solitude was that now I no longer know whom of the millions of readers I am writing for; this upsets and inhibits me. It’s like a million eyes are looking at you and you don’t really know what they think.

Go read the whole thing. One of the things I took away from that is, as always, write as if you’re writing to your one favorite person. When you write for everyone, you write for no one. The other is that imagination comes from living. If you get stuck, you need to live more. Make more mistakes and throw yourself into new experiences that scare the shit out of you. Interestingly, I found Bob Dylan echoing the same struggles Garcia Marquez had:

So I bought two more books. Raymond Carver’s collected works. I bought this after hearing what Stephen King said about him. I also got Claude Hopkins’ “My Life in Advertising + Scientific Advertising” because I haven’t gone to church in a while.

Back pain mystery – solved. And I thought it was because I was getting old. Remember when I hurt my back at the trampoline park a few months ago? And how I was stumped about why it was taking so long to heal? Well, I figured it out. What has been hurting my back is… OUR BED. Julie sleeps nears the headboard with mama on the other side. And I sleep at the other end next to mama. Maybe it has something to do with the end of the mattress sloping under my weight. But I must have been tensing my back unconsciously in my sleep. And that’s why I wake up stiff each day sore, spasming and unable to twist my neck or back.

Wanna know how I figured it out? One night, I crashed next to your bed after putting you back down after one of your dreams. I woke up thinking it was the best sleep I ever had. My neck and back felt looser and some pain was gone. So I tried it a few more times. Each time, my body loosened up more. Gravity stretched my muscles over the hard floor, and because the floor doesn’t budge, eventually my brain said it’s okay to relax.

Meanwhile, mama told me, “Did you know that right after you go to his room, he sneaks over here?” Your excuse: “I didn’t know it was daddy. I thought it was a rock.” And: “I like to sleep with two grown-ups.” Mama: “I’m the only grownup here.” You: “(pause) hehhehehehehehe…”

New developments

You tugged yourself up on my leg, raised one hand and screamed at me. You wanted me to help you walk all over the house. Living room to front door to garage door to kitchen and back. Over and over until you got tired. Then you started crying but you still kept going. After 30 minutes of walking, you started standing on your own. Your brother cheered you on.


“NYEEH!” means, “Daddy help me walk!”

Stand with me

I like this

“I think I like this”

Top spin

You have gotten more comfortable on your bike. So I got the idea to raise your seat up by 5mm. That little bit put you on your toes and off the ground just enough that you started to fly…


A few days later, you were lifting both feet up and gliding, and rolling up and down hills “making train tracks.”

You have been driving us crazy asking us about the dinosaur asteroid and planets. WHY WHY WHY. So I said maybe we can go to the library and finds some books about planets and asteroids. Mama texted me the next day:

“Wait until you see how many answers we found… 25 books worth of answers including:
– dinosaurs
– asteroids
– planets
– how stars are made
– the digestive system
– how gravity works
I’m exhausted thinking about it lol.”

“I want to test something.” Mama said you were running from computer to computer at library. You did 1234567890-= and filled the field of the login form. Then you’d hit backspace to clear it and try again. Then you looked at mama and raised your eyebrows (which mama says looks like me), “I want to test something.” You run away, “I want to try a different computer to see if it’s a same thing.” I said I didn’t teach him that. Did you? Nope. Not sure where you got the “test” idea from.

It’s strange that you still can’t catch a ball – even big ones. You have classmates who could at 2. You just stick your hands out but you don’t track with your eyes.

This week in pictures

Easter party. Egg in a tree? How can that be?

Water + Cornstarch = ?

“I feel like I’m flying”

Night flying





Ortega Park

Splish Splash



You tried to eat it all and almost did

You tried to eat it all and almost did

Big box little box

Big box little box



You’re lucky you have mama. She plans all the fun things we do, I just show up. Last Saturday, we went to a park with water features. Without her you would stay at home all the time. This is what happened today when it was cold and we didn’t have a plan:

Cabin fever

Cabin fever

I got a haircut. That’s also when I get to catch up on the latest headlines of magazines like Cosmo and Men’s Health. Here’s something fun to try next time you’re at the checkout line. Peek at the magazine rack. Can you spot the trends/topics each magazine ALWAYS covers?



P.S. This week in history: After months of delays, Falcon 9 launches. It’s the first rocket launched by a private company, Space X. It delivered cargo and supplies to the International Space Station. I don’t know how NASA trusted them not to crash into the ISS.

P.P.S. You know you don’t want any more kids when you regret doing something stupid like have unprotected sex. Yes, adults do dumb things too. First time, we played it of like, “That’s okay, we meant to do that anyway.” Second time was with purpose. This time, after mama was 3 days late, it was Hallelujah, high fives and celebratory drinks when mama had her monthly thing.