The Witches by Roald Dahl, performed by the Madera Elementary Drama Club

Please enjoy this recording of a live stage performance of The Witches by Roald Dahl, directed by Lew Williams, and performed by the Madera Elementary Drama Club on the evening of April 11th, 2024!

Lee, proud father of Abigail / “Girl” and “Diner”

Imposter Syndrome: a repost

In case you don’t know, Neil Gaiman is a rather good, rather famous author. I just found out that he wrote what you see below, here.

I’m posting this because I need to remember this anecdote for myself. Maybe you need to remember it for yourself, I don’t know.




(I wrote this on Tumblr. It’s since been picked up and quoted all over the place, and I’m being asked a lot if it’s actually something I said, and if it’s true. It is, and it is. Here’s the original.)

duckswearhats asked: Hi, I read that you’ve dealt with with impostor syndrome in the past, and I’m really struggling with that right now. I’m in a good place and my friends are going through a lot, and I’m struggling to justify my success to myself when such amazing people are unhappy. I was wondering if you have any tips to feel less like this and maybe be kinder to myself, but without hurting anyone around me. It’s a big ask, I know, but any help would make my life a lot less stressful The best help I can offer is to point you to Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence. She talks about Imposter Syndrome (and interviews me in it) and offers helpful insight.The second best help might be in the form of an anecdote. Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things.  And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name*. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

(There’s a wonderful photograph of the Three Neils even if one of us was a Neal at

*(I remember being amused and flattered that he knew who I was, not because he’d read anything by me, but because the Google algorithm of the time had me down as Neil #1. If you just typed Neil, it would take you to Many people, including me, felt that if there was a Neil #1, it was most definitely him.)



and the photo of the three Neils…



Neal Stephenson and I were not standing in order to make it quite clear who Neil #1 was and would always be.

I spent a couple of days in Neil Armstrong’s company. He was as nice, as modest and as wise as anybody could have hoped for. If you ever wondered what my face looks like when I’m going “This is really happening, and I am the luckiest man in the world,” it looks a lot like it does in this photo.

His achievements were the stuff of legend, and I am lucky to have known him, if only for a brief time,  I am sad that he’s gone, proud as a member of the human race that he did what he did for all of us.


Inflatable Hot Tub Electricity Costs

How much electricity does a hot tub use?

In the winter, our hot tub uses about 9kwh/day. With a cover or insulation, it uses about 7kwh/day.
In the summer, it uses about 5kwh/day. I haven’t tracked it with insulation in the summer yet.

Our electricity costs about $0.45 per kwh. So without a cover in the winter, it costs about $120/month and with a cover it costs about $95/month. I asked my neighbors in the area on a FB group and 3 told me it added about $100/month to their electric bill. My neighbor with a “real” hot tub uses about 7kwh/month in the winter, which is similar!

I’ve tried to track costs methodically but it’s hard to do! Confounding factors include usage (sitting in it uses more power than leaving it covered), daily outdoor temperature changes, modifying the hot tub temperature on occasion (our daughter plays in it at 100 degrees, not 104), turning it off or refilling it on occasion, not knowing when another person has changed the temperature, occasional poor note taking, etc. But my numbers above feel about right.

Details: We have a 180 gallon, 180 cm diameter inflatable hot tub. We live in the San Francisco Bay, El Cerrito, CA. See The National Weather Service for a temperature almanac

What this means:
Should I get an insulating cover for my hot tub? Meh. Our $100 Cleverspa cover saved us about $150 until it fell apart. And it was a slight bother to put on every time. Maybe a more durable, better insulating cover would be worthwhile.

Should I insulate my hot tub with foam board insulation? Probably! 2 hours work and $50 of insulation is saving me 2kwh/day all winter, that’s ~$200/year.  And it looks like it’s going to last several years! I used R-Tech 1/2 in. x 48 in. x 8 ft. R-1.93 EPS Rigid Foam Board Insulation from Home Depot


Excellent Inflatable Hot Tub Insulation

With $50 of 1/2″ thick sheet insulation from Home Depot and about 2 hours work, I insulated my inflatable hot tub better than a purchased insulating blanket cover! It insulates as well, saves about 20% on electricity (paying for itself in 2 months), it’s easier to get into the hot tub with no blanket to remove, and this insulation will last much longer than the Cleverspa cover I got last year which fell apart in 6 months from the sun.


How to Adjust the Chain Tension on a Dodowin 6″ Chainsaw

My wife loves me. She got me a 6″ Dodowin chainsaw for Valentines Day! I’ve been trimming all manner of trees up to about 4″ around with it. It’s great. The manual doesn’t show you how to adjust the chain tension. It took a while for me to figure it out.Watch and you’ll see how.

Cleaning the AC on my 2008 Toyota Prius

I used an air conditioner core cleaner on my 2008 Prius. I show you how I got to the drain hose. It was actually really easy.

Using a CPAP is Awesome

I’ve been using a CPAP for 9 years for mild-moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It’s great. If you think you could have more energy, you’re sleepy during the day and you snore and/or have apnea (stop breathing) many times a night, you should definitely ask a doctor about getting one.

First, do you have a problem?

Take this 2 minute quiz, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), to find out. I score a 1, which is great.

Do you wake up groggy every morning? That may be because your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen at night!

Do you often wake up with a sore throat in the morning? That’s because you snore!

Your bed-partner and/or an app can tell you if you snore or have apnea. SnoreClock worked great for me! And my then-fiancee told me how my snoring woke her and she’d freak out when I’d stop breathing for 30 seconds at a time.

But I don’t want to have to wear weird medical equipment!

Don’t worry about it’s appearance at all. The only person who will see it, your sleeping partner will LOVE that you aren’t waking them up with your snoring! They will demand that you wear it!

I love mine! I spend less time sleeping every night, have more energy, and think more clearly. And there’s a lot of science that says it’s good for a host of long-term health conditions like dementia, heart disease, etc

There’s sources that say it will take several weeks for you to gain benefit from it, that’s bunk! The very first night you have it dialed in and have a good night’s rest, you’ll know it’s working! It’s like getting 8 hours of sleep every night instead of 4, because it quite literally is!

Some Details

It took a full year to get my CPAP fitted correctly. In the end, it was a stupidly simple fix that 4 (expensive) sleep doctors couldn’t identify. I kept ripping the mask off after 1-4 hours of sleeping because I felt like I couldn’t get enough breath through the mask. The doctors said, “Well, that’s better than nothing” and I’d just stare at them with accusing eyes. The solution: I told a tech at Kaiser I needed to try different masks and despite his mild objections, he let me try some on. With 15 seconds of trying on in the office, I could easily tell it was the right call. I changed from a medium Resmed F20 mask to a large one. The VERY FIRST NIGHT was awesome and it has been ever since.

If you are struggling to get it to work your doctor says that getting 4 hours sleep with the mask is “enough”(that’s what all my doctors said), they are an idiot, don’t go back. It’s true that medical “compliance” is measured by whether a person uses the machine for at least 4 hours per night but that cut-off is for certifying commercial drivers and pilots and such with apnea . If it’s working, you’ll sleep all night with it on; if it’s not working, you’ll sleep 0-4 hours with it on.

I tried a lot of things to help improve my CPAP usage. Now, the only things I do are:

  • wash the mask cushion every 2-4 nights with hot soapy water. Maybe monthly I’ll use isopropyl alcohol for a deep de-oiling
  • Shaving before bed helps, I do it about 1/2 the time
  • If I used a humidifier, I’d probably need to do more cleaning

With Kaiser insurance, my mask replacement parts are free. But when I had a PPO, it was cheaper and easier to buy parts on Amazon than use the janky insurance system.


previously, previously, previously



Insane All You Can Eat Music

TL;DR: All-you-can-eat sushi restaurants in LA play loud, fast, jangly music specifically to keep people from eating too much. This scorched-earth policy ensures that no one actually goes to their restaurants!

We recently went to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in Los Angeles, Fuguya Sushi in North Hollywood while our family was on our way to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. As we were getting settled for the meal, we noticed that the music in the place was loud, jangly, fast-paced, eurobeat, simply not conducive to eating. We looked over the sushi menu, and knowing that Abigail could really put away the fish, we thought we’d get her the all-you-can-eat special. When the server came over, we ordered all-you-can-eat for Abigail and she told us that either we all got it or none of us; I rolled my eyes. Whatever. Then I asked if she could turn down the music and she tells us in broken English that the music has to stay on, and has to stay loud “for the all-you-can-eat”. She described how all of the all-you-can-eat restaurants in the area play such music so people don’t overstay their welcome.

OMG! They were specifically playing loud, jangly music to push people out of the restaurant as fast as possible! Ugh! It made for literally a tortured dining experience!


Here are some of the tracks we listened to on full volume while fish churned in our stomachs

Anti-VEGF Treatment for Macular Edema and CRVO

I have been getting treatments in one my right eye for macular edema related to a CRVO (central retinal vein occlusion) off and on since 2017. I am very happy with the treatments, without them I would have gone blind in that eye within a few months! The treatment has only existed for about 20 years, if I had been born earlier, I would be partially blind now!

The treatment is to get Anti-VEGF medicine, Avastin (bevacizumab) injected by needle in my eye every 8 weeks. In some people, the leak cures itself after a while, in others it doesn’t. When I first was treated in 2017, the treatments were every 3 weeks, tapered to every 8 weeks and then stopped! But 2 years later, the issue reoccured and I’ve been on 8 week call-back for something like 2 years now.


Summary of below: one doctor’s treatment routinely knocked me out for a whole day while the other treatment doesn’t, but both save my vision!

I’ve gotten treatments from 3 different doctors at two different practices. The treatments I received from all three doctors (Dr. Jumper and Dr. Johnson of West Coast Retina, and Dr. Vora of Oakland Kaiser Permanente) all had similar, excellent outcomes. The crosshatching and poor vision in the middle of my vision in my right eye would decrease and the acuity would improve over the course of about 2 days, with noticeable improvement in about 3 hours or so. All treatments have been effective for about 6-9 weeks.

The short term outcome of my treatments was dramatically different between my West Coast Retina treatments and my Dr. Vora treatments. There are two important areas of difference: the time to clear the bubble in my eye and my extreme fatigue after an appointment.

After a West Coast treatment, the bubble of medication floating in my eye would take about 2 hours to clear well enough for me to see clearly. Since I usually travel to an appointment on my own, this means I sit in my car for 2 hours after an appointment, waiting for my vision to clear.

More importantly, after most treatments at West Coast Retina, I would have moderate to extreme fatigue. After about half of my West Coast appointments, I needed to go home and sleep for 4 hours, even if the appointment was in the morning. Being generally in very good health, I found this disturbing; I don’t ever need to sleep in the middle of the day. I would say the level of pain would register as a 3-5 on a 10 point scale, which “shouldn’t” cause such a reaction, but it did! I came to count on being “done for the day” after a West Coast Retina appointment. I am reminded that a few years ago, my wife had synechia in both irises, which caused all manner of odd symptoms including headaches, fatigue, increased need for sleep, and irritability but did not cause eye pain per se.

I react to Dr. Vora’s treatments differently. Dr. Vora’s treatment generally feels like getting punched in the eyeball, about 3 seconds of pain at a level of 8 out of 10 and then it’s done. West Coast treatments are more like… I don’t know, getting a needle stuck in my eye, which is a bit slower of a process. Neither experience is better or worse as I am ECSTATIC that I get to keep my vision. But I can tell the procedural and pre-procedural techniques are different. With Dr. Vora, within 10-15 minutes, I’ve recovered emotionally and physically, and the bubble of medicine in my eye has dissipated so that I can safely drive. The pain is at a “2” and falls to 0 within an hour. After every treatment, I’ve been able to go about my day right afterward, which is definitely a better short-term outcome!

There’s no telling if it’s related but the treatments I received in 2017-2019 from West Coast Retina caused a remission of the symptoms, but my more recent treatment from Dr. Vora hasn’t caused a remission, I’ve been getting treatments every 8 weeks for a while now.

I don’t know exactly why these treatments have different short-term outcomes. I’ve asked the doctors and they didn’t have any comment. I’m sure that each is performing techniques they believe are best for their patients.

Getting into a Bathtub Full of Ice Cubes

I have this very intense memory from when I was about 5 years old. I was standing in front of our yellow-beige bathtub not knowing what to do. I was delirious and discombobulated and my parents were talking about me very seriously, my mom’s clear-toned, concerned voice was filling the room, and my dad speaking in his low, serious tone. I don’t remember it but they were both crying. I was flailing my arms a bit, not knowing what to do but to trust them. The bathtub was about one-third full and had all of the ice cubes in the house floating and bobbing in it. They told me to get into the tub.

I recently asked my mom and dad what happened all those years ago and their memory is a bit more clear than mine. I thought I was just standing around confused but they said all three of us were crying before they told me to get into the tub. My memory was that I just got in and although I thought it would hurt, it didn’t really. But my parents both said I screamed a lot as the ice cubes swirled around my hips, knees and toes.

A little backstory: my father has two sisters, Rita and Marcia. Marcia passed away in 2014. She lived at home with her mother, my grandmother Irene, her entire life. She worked for the Sears Roebuck catalog company for as long as I could remember, working as a telephone representative. I’m guessing she took catalog orders and such. She had a raspy, piercing, crass voice that cut the air like a rusty serrated blade. When I think of Marcia, I think of her at family gatherings hollering to my grandmother like a wild mountain goat, “Maaaa? Maaaa! What are you doin’?” She always had that piercing, negative tone, but the rest of the family was accepting of it, so I was too. I often thought about the poor souls who called Sears and she’d tell them what-for.

Back to my story: My dad said that when Marcia was a little girl, she fell off of their bunk bed and banged her teeth into the dresser. The teeth were shoved into her gums and she apparently got an infection because she developed a high fever. My grandparents called the doctor but he didn’t know what to do. My dad said to me with supreme frustration in his voice, “talking to the doctor was like talking to a taxi driver. He didn’t know what to do.” The doctors eventually had Marcia take an ice bath to try and bring her fever down before her brain got cooked. But it didn’t work. The fever got very high and my dad said that Marcia was never the same after that. Before that accident, “she was just like any other little girl”. But the high fever gave her brain damage. It deeply affected her entire life.

So there I was with a fever, my temperature was 104 and climbing despite medicine. We were all rightfully scared. I was delirious. So into the tub I went. And I am forever grateful it worked!