Dear Js,

This has been a crazy year. We had a ‘war room’ for the last few months, chasing after an aggressive goal. All that hard work. No financial reward as yet. Just experience and scars.

Outside of work, I have killed Secret Campfire. And started Birthday Profit System. With my limited time and advancing age, I decided to give up childish fantasy projects. And instead go for boring ones with more direct path to money. It’s been cold in the new house. The insulation isn’t very good.

This year there have been many celebrity deaths. Including the guy who eradicated smallpox.
Donald Trump is now president. Everything seems crazier because of internet, social media, and the sensationalist traditional media, which has given up even pretending to have any journalistic integrity.

J, mama and I were about to bow chicka wow wow when you wake up screaming. They call it night terrors. You woke up and screamed for no reason and you wouldn’t respond to anything we say. After you calmed down you said to mama, “It was nice of dad to come and tell me a story.” She said I came to tell you a story to try to get you to calm down, because you were screaming non-stop. You looked at her confused and said, “No, I wasn’t crying.” Whatever dude, just go to sleep. SIGH cockblocked on NYE by my own kid.

we put out our Christmas tree on the first Monday of the year
Me: J I miss our Christmas tree
J: me too
J: j anyone else miss our tree
mama: me too
j: I don’t.
Us: (gasp)
j: Because I know it will be alright

I went back into the office on Tuesday. Then discovered that half my team wasn’t going to be in until next week. So I decided to say fuck it and disappear for the rest of the week.

But good thing I checked my email today because our VP sent me an email yesterday afternoon saying I need to help someone wrap up something. So I guess technically I’m now “working from home.” Damnit couldn’t escape.

In other news mama got the flu yesterday. That makes her the last person in the family to get sick. Everyone was taking turns getting sick with fever over the last 2 weeks.

J, our storywalk up to Episode 1 now (we’re done with 4,5 and 6). You look forward to it every Tuesday and Thursday.
I watched the podracing scene from Episode 1 again to refresh my memory to tell it to you on our walk tomorrow.
You two have gotten into two stories. You ask me to tell it to you at every chance. Star Wars and superheroes. Tonight’s bedtime story was Ant-man. You asked for it. j you ask me not to tell you Star Wars stories because you say it gives you bad dreams.

Now fast forward a few months. As for night time stories, we’ve done Iron Giant, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, … and who knows what else. I usually don’t really feel like telling stories, but you two really look forward to it. You two used to fight going to bed. Now story time makes it easier but harder for me. And as for our morning walks, we’ve done Batmans and we’re now at Star Wars Episode 3.

The story of the lot USB drive and the detective
One day at work, I got a message from the security personnel. He asked me a question that made me instantly suspicious: “Did you lose anything valuable?” I patted my body and searched the desk for my most valuable things: wallet, phone, computer, car keys. I replied, “Not that I know of…”
He said, “We have recovered something that might be your property.” I tried hard to think of what it could be, but I came up empty. Then he asked, “Do you have two children, one boy, one girl; with the boy older than the girl?” Now I’m wondering if it’s safe to even talk to this guy. I wondered if this is one of those corporate info-security training exercises, and the correct response might be to not answer.
So I waited. I did not answer. I started wondering if I was in trouble. How would this guy even know about my kids? I don’t have any info about them in the company intranet. Cameras? Did he follow me back to my house? Maybe he saw my kids when they visited that other time. But I didn’t remember us causing any trouble. You guys got close to the fish that one time… did one of you feed them something that killed them?
Then he asked, “Do you have a pink USB drive?” OK now it was starting to make sense, but I still paused before answering. I was afraid to claim ownership of something that might incriminate me in some way. I scanned my memory, “Was there anything bad on that USB drive?” Somehow I felt like I should be answering, “I would like to speak to a lawyer.” But I replied, “Yes!”
He asked me where we would like to meet. I said that I was at my office, but I could go to him. He did not reply for a while. Then he said, “I found your office. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Somehow I was still not sure if I was going to be in trouble so I tried not to act suspicious.
He showed up and introduced himself and passed me the USB drive. He asked me if it was mine. I felt him analyzing my response. I looked at it and said yes. I couldn’t help but wonder how he traced it back to me. It had nothing but photos that mama loaded up for titi M’s digital photo album. But the photos had no names of people and I don’t think I encoded any personal information while formatting the drive.
So I asked him. He explained that someone found it and wanted to plug it into their computer to see what it was. But thought better of it and turned it into the InfoSec department. Then InfoSec ran their battery of tests on it and found no viruses or malware. So they passed it over to Mr Security here and told him it was ‘clean’ for him to view it. Then he said he combed through the pictures one by one to try to find any piece of info that would connect it to its owner. He said he saw a name tag on one of you in one of the pictures that had your first and last name. But he wasn’t sure if it was the mom or dad who worked here. He pulled up everyone with my last name and I was first on the list. And that’s when he messaged me.
I said, “Wow, that’s good detective work.” He said, “Thanks. I used to be a detective.” Then I felt like all the times I had to talk to a cop. Everything made sense now. Why this whole conversation up til now was so uncomfortable. I tried to keep smiling and asked him how he found it.
He said someone found it in the cafeteria. I said, “That’s strange, I couldn’t have dropped there because I keep it in my bag and I bring it up here straight from the car.” His face changed like police lights just went off in his head. He pulled out a notebook from nowhere and started checking his notes. “Ah, okay — he found it in the parking lot.” I said, “That makes sense. I must’ve dropped it coming out of my car.” “You must have.” I thanked him, and said that sorry that it was a lot of trouble to go through for a $10 USB drive. He said it was no problem. Because he had kids too. “The memories are priceless, right?” “Right.” Then he disappears.
That was one of the most uncomfortable conversations I’ve ever had. I felt like I was being informally probed and dissected while he was smiling and being courteous the whole time.

For the past few weeks, we had non-stop rain. The pool filled up. Needed to figure out how to drain the pool from the pump.
Figured it out, drained it. It filled up again. One day we had heavy winds which blew one side of our fences down. I fixed it before our neighbor did, and it turned out to be a great excuse for us to chat. I got to ask him about what he was working on, because I’m always curious about businesses (and opportunities). He was trying to solve how to do OCR on insurance cards so I mentioned that Google had an OCR service and he was excited. But that was just one part of his larger product of handling all the accounting and customer management of private medical practice.

Mama’s grand fish babies
“My celestial pearl danios are in breeding mode. Look at this sexy guy, feeling frisky displaying that racing stripe! Those are sold pricey if bought locally ($6-10/fish depending on availability) and not by mail. Haha, make me some money fish! Also looks like the first batch of deep blue shrimp are past neonate stage, those can be pricey too ($6+/shrimp).

It’s a good day haha! Hope work is being kind to you and that your cough is not giving you too much discomfort. j and I are in a building madness day but we took a short break to snack.

Love ya!”

A few weeks later, mama added a betta to the tank. Bettas are carnivorous, but she thought that since it was a baby it might be okay. A few months later, she discovered that it had been murdering shrimp and fish one after another.

Then a few days later, mama discovered a baby otto. It wasn’t tiny, which meant that it had hatched and evaded the carnivorous otto. The circle of life; and life finds a way 🙂

I realized that I’ll be 36 this year. In my mind, that rounds up to 40.
I have had more frequent moments of fear, remembering that one day I’ll die. Just like that — I’ll stop existing. I’ll be gone forever. That’s scary to know that one day I just won’t wake up and it’ll be all over, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t stop time.
Everyone I love will be gone. I won’t get to see them anymore.
All gone, just like that. I don’t like getting old. Kids don’t fear death. You tell them, “If you run into the street and get hit by a car, you’ll die” and they say OK. And they’ll look at each other and remind each other, “Look before you cross. You don’t want to die.” Then as you get a little older you forget that you will die. But sometime after 30 you remember again.
Maybe I should believe in a God, to make me feel better about death.
Sometimes thinking about it makes my legs ted tingle and my heart skip. It almost feels like a panic attack.
What do I need to do before I die? Should I be doing more? Fuck, I’ve wasted so much time.
I feel anxious because even though, in the best-case, I have half my life in front of me. But I know that one day I’ll be near my end. Maybe I’ll be 80 and thinking about this again. I don’t want to be 80 and clawing to cling on to life, fearing death. I hope I don’t fear death when I’m old. That would be a terrible way to spend my last days.
Man I’m going to miss life. It fucking sucks that there’s nothing after. I can’t console myself by saying there’s a new adventure to look forward to.

Since I’ve been thinking more about death, today I looked at the two of you closely and I thought, “I’m going to miss you.”
The thought of dying has made me appreciate little moments in the day with you guys more. Like J when you held my hand after I told you a bedtime story and I thought about how one day I won’t exist anymore.

Dad the carpenter?

Mr K let us borrow his miter saw

Not the safest of workspaces

Not the sharpest of carpenters

Ladder desk (in progress)

Ladder desk (done!)

I’ve resurrected my old desktop to use with the new desk. It’s nice to have somewhat of an office again. The ladder shelves also gave me the chance to bring in all the books that I’ve been meaning to read back from the garage. I found the Travis McGee book “A Deadly Shade of Gold.” That’s where I stopped in the series. The other books I have on my shelf are like: “The Rice Diet Report”, “I Steve – Steve Jobs in his own words”, “Fred Astaire”, “Kate remembered”, “Walt Disney – an American original”, “You gotta have balls”, “What Cops Know”, “Why don’t students like school?”, my advertising references by Caples and Ogilvy, “Eight Million Ways to Die”, “Carver – Collected Stories”, “The poetry of Robert Frost”, “Selected Stories – Anton Chekhov”. Ah, I want to get back into my reading habit. It got disrupted by the move to the new house. I miss filling my brain with new perspectives on the world — from the past, other people’s lives, or imagination.

We also made a piano stand. Mama and I are starting to feel more comfortable working on furniture. But wood is expensive and it is a pain in the ass to cut/assemble/prep it. So now we’re looking out for old furniture to refinish. She found a desk that you want painted red. All we have to do is sand/prime/paint it. We’ve also started buying unfinished Ikea furniture to customize.

Meanwhile, I assembled the back of the outdoor sofa (finally). I estimate the sofa project to be 50% done. I cracked the poplar on the last screw. Damn. I glued it back and hope no one will notice.

I realized that working with wood has taught me quite a bit about how to be a better engineer. When working with wood you have to respect it. The wood comes in whatever form it is. Wood does what it does. When I shop for wood I feel like a sushi chef hunting for good tuna at the market. It doesn’t care about what you want to make with it. It wants to bend a certain way. Its grains grow a certain way. After cutting, some pieces may be longer than others, some edges aren’t perfectly square. But to move on you have to accept that things aren’t going to be perfect. And how you organize imperfect pieces together is how you make the final piece slightly more perfect.

I remembered why I put the outdoor sofa project on hold. I wasn’t confident it would hold up. I wasn’t sure if the design was strong enough to sit on. But now I’ve collected some experience and I’m in a more confident position to press on. I know now that it’s impossible to design it perfectly with my limited knowledge. I have to press on, confident that I know just enough to make it work later.

Oh yeah, now that the piano stand is done I still have to design and build the piano bench.

What I’m working on
We achieved our goal of 1000 images per second after plenty of blood, sweat and tears.

Bike progression
I got a new bike! First thing I did was service the forks. The previous owner said they couldn’t be serviced. He even sent it back to the manufacturer, who didn’t do anything because they were out of production. I found some aftermarket seals and gave it some new oil. Then changed the tires from aggressive trail to fast-rolling XC. Then replaced the grips with the new grips from my old bike. Then cleaned it up little by little whenver I could. Got a new helmet too. I wanted a helmet that was safety-certified because I was seeing too many of my heros get paralyzed. And I also wanted a skate-style helmet.

Evil Sovereign MK1

I have committed to learning how to Manual. I’m in the frustrating phase where I can’t see the end of the tunnel. I don’t know how long it will take me to learn it. Because each time I go out I can do it slightly better 1 out of 50 times. But I still don’t quite know how to do it predictably. I remind myself that it’s about collecting the hours and building up muscle memory. And I try to just go out and practice, without expecting too much. Just collect the hours. And hope that each practice lets me touch a place I haven’t touched before. That gives me a little more insight. Sometimes you can’t see the whole picture. But when you collect the hours, the clues you get along the way reveal more and more of the whole picture. So the only way to see the whole picture is to collect the hours. Go out and practice and trust the process.

New developments
When mama was out with abu today and j you were home with me. I was surprised by the difference between you and J
You were perfectly happy lazing around with me chatting and just playing your paw patrol toys around the coffee table. But J, you tend to need me to engage you more. You get bored.

When the heat turns on you kiddos race for the floor vents and lay over it.

Curious convos
J: I love you more than a thousand candy canes
j: I love you more than my ginger bread train
J: I love you more than the stars in the sky
j: I love you more than the constellations on the ceiling
J: I love you more than all the monkey bars
I love you more than the days of the week
I love you more than the seconds in a minute
I love you more than all the atoms
j: I love you more than the play mobile
J: I love you more than the animals
j: I love you more than the happy hollow carousel
J: I love you more than the lights on the world
j: I love you more than the Christmas lights
J: I love you more I love you more I love your more
I love you more each day
that was from the I love you baby book


After coming back from the bathroom, I nudged you j to make space for me on my side of the bed.
j: “Mama I love you”
I stayed silent and kissed your forehead.
j: “Can I kiss you?”
I lean my cheek next to you
j: “Don’t worry J mama can already do that for me.”

family bed everyone in
I’m last
Me: excuse me j I need some space
j talking in sleep: dad it’s easy to move me when I’m sleeping like that
you just… push push (gesturing with hands extended)
Me: okay good night love you
Kimi was at my feet

dad I think you can do something mama does when she keeps looking at her phone
you can look at it under the blanket that’s what she does
sorry j I put it away
I picked it back up to jot down this note

Interesting things
The King’s dessert – 16000 honey strands

More food math:

How the inventor of Mario designs a game

Wim Hof method

Helicoptering Christmas trees