Some thoughts on 2018

The year is almost over and it’s a good time to be reflective of what has happened this year, where I went, and just how I feel about it. 

First of all, I got married in 2018!! 👫

Trips

I recently came back from Portland and I decided to jot down some places I visited in all of 2018.

Places I went to this year:

  • New York City
  • Las Vegas
  • Arizona (couple of small cities)
  • LA (SoCal area)
  • Portland

It seems like I went more places this year but I guess not. Weird because I felt like I took off time here and there that was for traveling but I guess not so much. 

Learning & projects

I’ve had a good time with learning new things this year. I decided to learn some more Vue.js and Node.js fundamentals. Learning node.js was actually more enjoyable because I could put together a whole “web app” after setting up a basic Express server.

I also started working on Bookends and I’m trying to spend more time working on it but the past few months have been unexpectedly busy which is not bad but it leaves little time for me to work on things at home.

For 2019, I want to continue learning new things. Hopefully, I’ll look into things like Ruby and Go, now that Weebly is part of Square.

Pets

Samson is a year and a half now. He’s super cute. Heisenberg is very cute still.

Me & Samson

Music

I wanted to post my top songs of 2018:

A surprise #1 but others are not so surprising. 

My top personal favorites:

  1. Raoui by Souad Massi
  2. Vienna by Matt Costa
  3. DNA. by Kendrick Lamar
  4. Malembe-Malembe by Bonga
  5. Kerala by Bonobo

I liked those because I was obsessed with each one for awhile at some point in the year.

Learning a bit of iOS

For years, I’ve told myself I’m going to learn iOS. I have had an iPhone since 2011 and I use tons of apps on my phone every day. Since the introduction of Swift, iOS has become even more appealing. 

So about 2 weeks ago, I started working on some tutorial apps and getting myself in Xcode for at least an hour. By now, I have a couple of small “useless” apps on my phone that I am surprised were pretty easy to build. They don’t do anything that would require larger app design thinking for now, I mostly made them after following some tutorials to see if it’s even possible.

I created one app outside of the tutorials for a friend who wanted just a “prototype” of an app for school.

Now, I’m thinking of building some replicas to see just how easy or hard it is to build some popular apps. I often forget how long it took to make some apps that seem “simple”, in both the well thought out design and also in the lack of UI. 

In addition to building the iOS part, there’s also this rest of the app infrastructure that needs to be taken care of. I haven’t really learned much about how data is saved, design is done dynamically for multiple screen sizes. I’ve played only with a few mobile-device specific sensors like shaking. So far, I’m swooning over iOS. 


P.S. I miss Samson. 

Conspicuous consumption and other thoughts on spending

I want to talk about how Conspicuous Consumption has led me to write this post, in a hypocritical state of mind if nothing else. As I posted late last night or early this morning, I am in Portland and it’s been a fun few days. I contacted a few friends to meet up and we’ve been catching up. One of my friends works at Nike and he gave us passes to get into the company store, so we went there today. 

I bought a bunch of stuff, and that’s not to brag, but instead to say it’s a bit disappointing that I did that. But hey, it was a “good deal”. 

The reason I am posting about conspicuous consumption is because this term got introduced to me while I was watching Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. In simple terms, it’s when people buy stuff to show off to other people. If you’d like to read more about it, check out the Wikipedia article on it.

It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind recently and I’ve been thinking about examples of where I do this and don’t even realize it. Today’s trip to the Nike store has been a big one. I bought two pairs of shoes even though I have 4 pairs at home. The ones at home are all due to reasons I use them for, one for biking and everyday wear, one for a big more comfortable walking. And two “dressy” pairs of boots. 

I see conspicuous consumption all around me but it doesn’t bother me, it gets me thinking about how it’s something that the person wearing it had thought of doing. But hey, maybe most people don’t think about it like I do, most people just buy things because they like them and they don’t give it much thought. I don’t want to judge people wearing nice things, instead, I want to understand what they’re trying to show. Is it a lack of something else that is being covered up, or are they just trying to match. I am betting it’s the latter more often than the former. 

Conspicuous consumption is not bad in itself but it can be detrimental to a society when the patterns become reproducible and destructible. Reproducible in the form of marketing, repetitive hype cycles, and large sales throughout the year. Destructive because it can lead people to spend more than they afford, it can lead to jealousy instead of intended envy which can result in negative emotions of many kinds, and it can also lead to a retail cycle that’s too short for people to feel satisfied. 

I believe this pattern will get worse a lot more before it becomes a trap people will want to avoid falling into. 

I’m often reminded about how my parents don’t really think about brands (except for cars). They don’t see the appeal in a brand name or especially a brand name over clothing if the clothing is to be worn to cover you and not to make you a walking billboard for a particular brand which you paid money to wear in the first place. 

In Portland

I’m in Portland right now. I’m here for a few days and I wanted to write that down so I can remember on my blog. 

I’ll be making a post for the whole of 2018 while I’m here but I’m just feeling like I should post often enough to keep a cadence going.

I’m currently reading a few books at the same time so it’s a bit hard for me to focus on one book 🤦‍♂️.

Reverting back to a simpler version of social media and socializing on the web

I was reading yet another article about how Facebook has been abusing user trust by dealing with their data among third-party companies (BBC). This is just one example of a couple of other recent “trip-ups” Facebook has had in the public: 

I could keep posting links like this but the reason I am starting my post with this is because every time I see one of these, I think of myself “where did I find this news?” and “is anyone talking about this on Facebook?” The answers are pretty obvious at this point, news like this is never found on Facebook, oddly because a majority of my friends are pretty well-informed about tech news so someone would definitely post it. So whether it’s Facebook’s filters hiding it from me or nobody cares enough to talk about it, I’m not seeing it. I often find news like this on any other places where I consume news like Hacker News or Reddit. 

Facebook is the perfect poster child for what now seems to be a bigger problem than just Facebook itself. The state of social media in 2018 is pretty glum because the companies have lost sight of their users in many different ways. 

Let’s take some other companies for example, Snapchat and Instagram. Instagram (IG) has been killing it with new feature launches and if they had unlimited money, they would keep making an experience that’s better each week but that’s not the reality. The reality is that IG is Facebook’s answer to Snapchat (SC) which at one point was threatening Facebook’s dominance over social media and IG was a less sophisticated version of itself. After stories came to SC, they quickly came to IG and the engagement was through the roof on IG compared to SC. At this point, SC was losing users to IG pretty quickly. Today, that’s old news. Snapchat doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of social media as an advertising industry. All social media companies survive off of ads (even Reddit), they take user data and turn it into conversions for their advertising partners. This isn’t news to some but it’s something to be fully aware of when using social media. Snapchat couldn’t figure out a good way to turn that engagement data into conversions, well enough to keep engaged users and also well enough to sell ad space to advertisers. 

Social media is not going away any time soon. Socializing in the form that companies promise in their press releases and product updates is not a real thing on social media of today. There needs to be a change to that approach. My approach to this is to use my blog my actively. Not everyone can do this and most people don’t want to do this. They already have a platform with many followers in places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. So I’m not telling others to do this. I’m going to try this where my social media and socializing consists of blogging and email/instant messaging. If you’d like to talk directly with me, you can email me or message me on Signal. 

It’s time to go back to socializing one on one, small groups, close knit communities, and having a dinner party with friends over to talk about something interesting. When you have the whole internet watching, commenting, liking, voting, and trolling, you have to have so many filters or so much content moderation, it doesn’t remain natural. 

Late October Update

Wow, this been a whole month since I published any updates. I’ve been pretty busy at work, I’ve been wasting my time at home with Battlefield 1 on the PS4 and I have been steadily riding my bike.

Besides that, I took a trip to New York City earlier this month, that was really fun!

One odd observation I’ve made, the week and the month go by so quickly. The fastest is the day though, 15-16 waking hours feel like 5-6 hours instead.
My goal for November will be to concentrate on making more time for focused activity and burn away less time throughout the day.

Nightmare #1 (Jetski of the sky)

I’m writing this right after waking up from a nightmare so it’s fresh and as accurate as I can remember it.

I am on a call with my wife and she’s talking about cheap tickets to somewhere like Cuba or Puerto Rico. We haven’t really talked about those in a long time so it was weird that it came up. So, the next thing I notice, I’m in a tropical hotel in Puerto Rico. Tropical because the hotel had trees and beaches inside the hotel. So, I take the elevator to go up (not really know where I’m going) and I end up on a floor that’s like an amusement park, I’m looking around, it’s all beautiful and peaceful. At this point I decide to come back home. (Go figure it’s a dream). 

Gyrocopter from Far Cry 4 (image from Ubisoft Forums)

The only thing I can think of that’s relatable to what happened next is flying on a jetski of the sky (what’s what I was thinking in the dream), it wasn’t clear to me how I was flying this thing or anything. It looked like this image above from Far Cry 4. It would be just my brain processing things if I had played this game recently but the last time I played it was almost 2 years ago! 

So while I’m in the air, I take my phone out and look at the map and since it’s a dream the flying happens at light speed or something because one moment I’m taking off from the tropical hotel in Puerto Rico and the next I’m flying over California looking for a place to land. And of course, because this dream was leading me somewhere, I noticed that my flying jetski was running low on gas. This btw was not part of the thing in the game, so something completely invented by my brain. 

I start descending into a beautiful and quaint looking farming town. The farming was for looks after the first minutes I looked around. There were a couple of large buildings and one sat on the farm but it was so clean and beautiful. The image above is something I googled when writing this and hadn’t seen it before but it pretty much sums of what I saw from my view when in the sky. 

On landing I saw something like the following image. 

So I start looking around and I couldn’t figure out what town I was in and I walk towards the hotel and I still couldn’t figure out what was happening because I didn’t recognize anything. The whole 

Something just led me to a small house where I went inside because my parents were living there! Of course this was weird but since I was in a dream, I didn’t think much of it. I put my stuff down and just started hanging out. 

I was eating and talking and everything was great. Then I told my mom, I wanna take a shower and get ready to sleep. I go grab a towel and go into the room where I’d be sleeping to get some of my clothes. 

I turn on the light and it flickers and turns off, so I came prepared (since it’s a dream 😁), I had a backup light bulb that I took out of my bag. So I put this new light bulb in and I flip the switch once more. This time it flickers a few times but stays on but I notice something different in the room. I see a little kid (3-4 years old) standing on top of a dresser. He was playing with a toy, a kid I’ve never seen before. Nothing scary or frightening about this. He was just looking at his toy, didn’t notice me.

At this moment, I start feeling a slight “energy” or change behind me, specifically the back of my shirt. My shirt is slowly being lifted up and I look at the kid, he’s still standing there, no change in his demeanor or position. But my shirt is move up and I start getting lifted up and I look behind me and there’s nothing there. Then I’m carried outside the room, slowly into the hallway, and very quickly I’m in the living room floating in mid-air with no control over my body. My sister who’s sitting there watching TV sees me and gasps and I start screaming and this point my heart is racing and I start feeling some shaking and someone grabbing my arm. It was my wife in real life and she said “are you okay? you’re screaming!” and I woke up. 

—-

Gyrocopter image from Far Cry 4, source: https://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/895227-15-Crazy-Things-You-Can-Do-Only-In-Far-Cry-4-Forums

Farm images from http://beautiful-places.de/en/babylonstorensouth-africa-luxury-farm-hotelwinerywithingeniousorganiccuisinein-the-cape-winelands/

Late September update

So I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog recently. I also deleted social media apps except Reddit off my phone. At the beginning of September, I was mostly not on the computer after work. I was in a weird phase where I wasn’t interested in anything after work. Maybe it was my obsession with Handmaid’s Tale or maybe I was just feeling burnt out from work. Last week, about 3-4 days ago actually, I decided to open up my computer at home. And for the first time, it actually felt different.  I didn’t feel like I was working at home, or just on social media wasting time, reading some Q&A sites for something new to learn about, or even just browsing Wikipedia which for me ends up being a big drain on productive things at home. I sometimes sit and read Wikipedia articles for hours and what I mean by that is after about 30 mins of reading them, I’ll get up, get something to eat, come back and start reading again. At this, you might be thinking, well that’s not so bad, you’re learning something but that’s not really learning. It’s not expanding my horizon of thoughts, it’s just more information or fact gathering that will not come into play at all for anything useful.

So after these random thoughts, I’d like to point to my recent want or need to start writing code for fun again. I have been pleasantly able to sit and work on a problem for a good 2-3 hours in one go (this again hours in the same manner as reading wikipedia). The biggest struggle I have now is figuring out where to focus my time on when I am writing code. Writing scaffolding code, boilerplate code, and reinventing the wheel will not keep me entertained or grow me as a programmer. The growth part is important to me now because I realize how often I’m not learning something new you spend more and more of your time doing the things you’ve done before to finally get to a limit of your understanding at which you can stretch your existing thought processes.

September has been a crucial month for me, I’ve become more introspective and in an actionable way instead of a mocking, regretful, depressing, or even plain negative way. Work has been a good kind of busy. At home, we started cleaning our house and getting rid of things. We had a garage sale, we donated things, we gave away things on craigslist, and finally we threw away the things we couldn’t really reuse. This led to the house being less messy, less noisy, and extremely more comfortable. 

I’ve been slowing down on reading and listening to audiobooks, this is not desired. It just hasn’t occurred to me. The amount of time I spend walking around has decreased (mostly b/c it has been replaced with cycling). Walking meant I would be listening to audiobooks about half the time. So the hope for October is to increase reading books and listening to audiobooks. Why do I care about this over just reading in general? I have a weird fascination with books, I believe learning from books usually is beneficial as it hones in on a topic (typical non-fiction books, not textbooks) and then gives you a lot of different things to reinforce the topic. 

I’ve started working on Bookends a bit more. I worked on getting the code on to Heroku instead of DigitalOcean. I was spending too much time on devops things instead of writing code. I got a rudimentary version of the search functionality working but the book info is not great yet. I’ll start working on getting more information to show up but I was just feeling lazy today after spending 2-3 hours debugging why my heroku deploys weren’t working and then I realized I was not copying the dist folder to heroku 🤦‍♂️.

The Handmaid’s Tale, wow so far!

Spoilers and plot reveals ahead. 

This past weekend, I finished watching the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale. If you don’t know anything about the show, I highly recommend watching the first episode at least. 

Before I started watching the show, I really thought it was similar to Downton Abbey because from the show’s photos and outfits on Hulu, it looks like a show set in pre-modern times. But I was very wrong. Well…not really, there is that “back to Puritanism” look but not how I expected it to be. I would describe the show as a religious dystopian drama. 

Elizabeth Moss is the star of the show and her acting is amazing throughout the series. 

I was hooked from the first episode. I think there is some grotesque sexual content that’s a bit too much for me but the rest of the show is what keeps me coming back. 

The part that makes it eerily powerful is the flashbacks. Each flashback usually shows a regular ole American daily life event or some conversation that people have everyday all the while there’s a religious group taking over the country. 

I’ve enjoyed the show so far and I hope that the third season is just as good as the first two seasons have been!