My Beloved Father Passed Away

My beloved father, Lee J Sonko passed away yesterday, April 29th, among his family. Services will be held in Jupiter, Florida and then in Hackettstown, NJ. Details to follow.


Survival Research Laboratories

The SRL show in San Jose in 2005 rocked my world! Here I am talking about it 20 years later!

Find out what is so astounding. I signed up to their Patreon this week to hopefully see another show and bring Abigail. You’ll have to sign up for their Patreon for the possibility of catching their next show. Join me?


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