2019 Q4 Goal Checkin

I set some New Year’s goals and damn it’s Q4.

  1. Weight - to get to 160 lbs: I’m tweaking this goal to 165 lbs. Hmm. Have to take into account muscle mass right?! I’m thinking of changing my strat on this one. I think I should have a checkin or something to be more aware of my progress during the day. Paul Graham has this great sentence: You make what you measure.
  2. Multiplayer browser game: I learned Unity in the beginning of the year and was working towards this goal. But every time I develop anything in Unity with my MacBook Pro, it freaks out. Things keep freezing and slowing down. I get triggered by this. But now? I should have my desktop PC setup so things will be silky smooth! I will make that multi-player game before the end of the year.
  3. Learn Japanese: Nowhere near being close. My friend in Japan said to focus on learning to read as quickly as possible, and to focus on reading visual novels. Hmm. I am taking a 2nd level Japanese class, so I have to cram as much as possible this month and go through a first level workbook. I think I can do this! Woo!
  4. Meditation twice a week: Been nailing this one. I do it almost daily. Aim for almost 30 minutes. The whole topic needs a separate blog post, but I highly recommend it. It’s not some stupid fad. My dad has been encouraging this since 2009 and I’ve finally had enough discipline to be consistent at it. It’s made a world of difference.
  5. Books - read 25: I finished 9 books. Feel like 3 are almost done but have not been picked up yet. I’m reading another 3 in parallel but they’re in the early stages. I’m not rushing to finish books. I’m just enjoying the process as well. But it’s nice to have a goal that you want to go through. What I love about books is that the information content(if it’s a good book) is so dense. With physical books, you can highlight passages you love, write in margins. I always sign my books at the back with location and date when I finish, with one sentence summary of my thoughts. It’s the process of making that copy of the book yours.

In conclusion, I have a LOT of pieces to maneuver to fit this in before the end of the year. I’m more of a Q4 kind of guy. All the good things in football happen in Q4! So I’ll hustle and get it done. Do or do not. there is no try! XD.

Wavelength Theory of People and Sincerity

Steve Yegge talks about how there exists an interview anti-loop interview anti-loop at Google. For every person, there exists a person that will ruin their chances to get a job at Google if you see them in an onsite interview. My belief is that you can generalize this out to life as well.

From my life experience so far, I feel that there exists a set of people, that if we were waves, we’d always cancel each other out. ME + THEM = 0. For whatever reason, two of us never really click. We have to force ourselves to get along. There’s some discrepancy, that no matter how much we talk or how long we hang out, we wouldn’t become close friends. Maybe even friends. I felt like I’ve seen this happen in multiple times. Sometimes, you just don’t get along. I can’t really put my finger on it - is it a personality difference? Were we sworn enemies in our past lives? Biochemistry? Whatever it is, we just don’t seem to mesh well together. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me? Whatever it is, there’s a disconnect. But maybe I’m wrong.

Conversely, despite knowing one another for only a few days, with some people I feel like I could be lifelong friends. The strongest I’ve ever felt this instance is when I met one of my best friends in college. It was like a dejavu kind of feeling - when I met him, I felt a sense of familiarity that I saw him somewhere before. We ended up getting along extremely well. and we had a good run during our undergrad days. We even have our own lingo. Oh snapadoodles… XD.

What triggered this thought is that a friend asked me to wait another 2 minutes to sing happy birthday to a person, for whatever reason, despite all the opportunities to talk to for the past 12 weeks, we never clicked, or talked. I’m not quite sure why. I said nope, I’m not singing. I’m out. I was disappointed that we never got to truly connect and talk when we had the chance, and I questioned whether I would truly be uttering words of happy birthday. Would be a lie on my conscience?

I’m still thinking whether this was the right decision. Out of the courtesy for my friend, should I have stayed? But isn’t it a violation of my moral code if I sang along singing words that I don’t mean? To me, happy birthday means, hey, I’m glad it’s your birthday, and that you’re alive. I’m happy you’re here with me on this wild ride called life. But if I don’t mean it with my heart, should I say these words? Do I really feel happy, or wish someone else that I have zero information, a happy birthday?

Similarly, I think about overused words. Words tend to use punchiness and flavor when it’s commonly used. If you say “Good morning” - it must have meant something more than a greeting. For example, what it really could mean is - damn it’s another fine morning. I live to fight another day. Or - SWEET. The rays of the sun are all over the wimpy grass and trees are gently swinging with the wind. A damn fine good morning to get shit done.

I’m wondering if happy birthday is left with the same caliber. Since we’ve used it so many times…

This also reminds me of Pascal’s Wager, Pascal argues that you should believe in Christianity regardless of the outcome. Reasoning: - if you believe and there exists a hell, you avoid it. If you believe and there isn’t a hell then there is no loss on your end. Congratulations! you’ve avoided hell. People quote me this ALL the time, or use it in evangelistic settings, and it drive me nuts. This is also a misquoted version, by the way. Pascal’s argument is grounded on expected value.

My thought is this - taking on Pascal’s wager is worse than not becoming a Christian if you’re not convinced by the Christian faith. Essentially you’re lying to yourself if you accept the wager - you don’t sincerely believe in Christianity from the depths of your soul. Let’s say you believe because you don’t want to go to hell, and profess your faith just off the basis of this fact. But if you believe because you don’t want to go to hell and lie your way through how you feel God’s love, then your worse than a person who flat out rejects Christianity. At least that person is honest to himself.

In Dante’s Inferno, the deepest layer of hell is reserved for people who commit suicide. This is the worst sin according to Dante because by killing yourself is the ultimate betrayal of yourself, who, you could argue is the most important being in your life. Isn’t lying to yourself a similar line of betrayal? To yourself?

At the end of the day this puts me in this situation: be sincere and be careful with your words, and really mean what you say, and be true to yourself. People have built in lie detectors, and unfortunately most of us don’t have superb memories to track all the lies we’ve said. By being sincere, and at least meaning what we say, we can simplify our lives, build stronger relationships, and not worry about keeping track of bullshit.

Conclusion: Unless I mean happy birthday, even to a stranger, I shouldn’t be saying it.

Edit history and other notes that make no sense

This blog post is a compilation of a birthday in the first half of the year, and another birthday of a friend’s friend(who I guess is now a friend!;D) in July in Boston.

Friends who would plan elaborate pranks.

Friends who would bake for you.

overlapping until so people become more evil(???)

Asking

I think it’s important to ask. This is hard for me too, but the worse that they can do is say no, or reject your offer. Again, the worst that they can say is no, and words are very cheap. Literally, you move your mouth, and spew out a few words, and go from there. At the very least, if they say no, don’t you gain information on what you could have worked on? It’s all good practice and sometimes the stakes are so low that you should go for it.

Kind of unrelated, but when my dad taught me the basics of tennis, this is what he told me:

Do not give a shit about where the ball going outside the tennis court. Don’t worry son, I’ll pick it up. NO WORRIES. HIT THAT BALL AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. IT’S OK IF IT IS OUT OF BOUNDS.

I recently got to go home and play with him, and it made sense! You want to push yourself and hit the ball as hard as possible, so you know your limits. Similarly, throw a couple of words out there and see what sticks.

Here are a couple of stories where I’ve had some success. And also failures:

Insurance Claim

I once called up to file an insurance claim, where the estimate seemed to be significantly lower because of how they calculated the amount for the claim. I told them that their method seemed flawed, and within then minutes they raised my claim amount by $500. So within 10 minutes I was able to save $500.

Internet Bill

2017

Last year, their promotional rate was at $40 dollars a month. However, since we’ve been in their service for a year, they decided to hike the rate to $63 dollars a month. So I called them up the first time and threatened to switch to an alternate service provider. And they told me that the best they can do is to lower my rate to $53 and told me to get lost.

I accepted and a month later, I saw an ad for an alternate service for $40 dollars a month. I called my ISP once more, and told them unless they were willing to lower my rate, I would be switching. And that I just got off the phone with the other ISP(which is true, I was fine with pulling this trigger)

They put me on hold and 10 minutes later came back with $43, which I accepted.

I’m happy they did this. I could now avoid staying at home and monitor the service man setting up internet!

In the grand scheme of things, this 20 dollars isn’t much. But in terms of absolute savings percentage wise, it’s closer to 30%. It leads me to wonder - how many opportunities and things are we missing out, just because we’re a bit afraid to be a little more assertive, and ask?

2019

However, the following year, they jacked up the prices again. I lowered it by 5 dollars, but didn’t have the strength to dance between them. Plus, my parents might end up making the move, so I wasn’t sure if I could aggressively bluff and say that we’re going to switch to another provider since the other provider requires a 2 year contract. Maybe I’ll take another stab next time I’m home.

Job Negotiation

OK, this is the one where I bricked. But it’s fine, I learned a hell of a lot from it.

Basically, I got a job offer, and the starting salary was a lower than expected. I gave the recruiter a legitimate reason why my salary should be increased. But I asked for too much - way too much considering the original amount. He told me to take the original offer or leave it.

I called them a day later, and asked again. But this time, I talked to the company I was contracting part time and they were considering bringing me full time when I told them I was about to accept a full time job.

When I told the first recruiter about this, I suddenly noticed a chance in the tone of his voice. He became very interested in what the other company was offering. But I didn’t have any concrete numbers, and I wasn’t willing to bet on losing the first job offer, so I screwed up and played the situation wrong. The best he said was he could move it up 5k. I got tired of playing the game and was in a bit of a rush so I said I’ll take the original offer. In retrospect I should have pushed for that 5k. Sure, 5k is nothing but a couple of dollars per week and it’s not a lot on a grand scale of things. But if it’s such a small amount, then why shouldn’t you have it as well?

I learned two things: First, it’s always good to have alternatives and a counter-offer. I think this is fundamental. It shows that you have an out, and are desirable. Without this so called alternative, I don’t think any company would budge on their price or be flexible.The jump from 1 to 2 offers is huge, and the minute you have 2 offers, you signal there is competition for you!

Second, if the recruiter said something like, “Hey Mr. Panda, I think the most we can do it 5k. But I’m not sure. Let me do my best and get back to you.” IF he got back to me and said something like, “I’m really sorry panda man. I couldn’t get the management to approve 5k, but I fought hard and got us 2k!” If he did that, I’d think - man this guy is great. And if I knew any other friend that was interested in joining this company, I’d hook this guy up even if I left. So - he’s playing the short term game, and that’s fine by me.

If you can’t meet their initial demands, you should partially meet some of their demands. They’ll appreciate you for it.

It’s also said in the Book of Proverbs too - if a friend comes to you asking for an absurd amount of money, and you turn him down, the friendship is dead right there. Same thing happened with a distant family relatives. Their relationship never fully recovered.

Instead of doing that, meet their demands to the best of what you think is reasonable. Something like, “Hey, I really can’t give you the amount you’re asking for. But I can give you this much - no strings attached. Don’t have to pay me back.Hopefully it all works out pal.” You save your friendship because at the end of the day you still helped!

So yeah, I’m not going to be recommending that recruiter, or have a high opinion of him. His loss.

Gym membership

I went to a boxing gym workout at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, and the owner said it costs $50 dollars to train per week. I went up to him and asked him for a discount. He asked me for a number, and I gave him $35. Thought it was reasonable since the group lesson was a bit pricy. He was down with it, and I got myself a discount. Ask.

Eye Exam Bill

I got charged $250 for an eye exam. It was ridiculous. They didn’t even get me conclusive results after the exam - they referred me to another hospital. I got another bill from the other hospital, and they charged me $178. I thought this was reasonable, so I didn’t call them up fighting for more dollars. I could have, but I felt like the price was fair.

Anyhoo, I didn’t think the first $250 exam was fair. I sent them an email, saying how I enjoyed being at their establishment, how they’re doctors were nice. They were. But I told them I had a problem with their bill, and I couldn’t recommend them to my friends or leave a honest to God positive review. I told them that the fair price for the exam should be $150.

They called me and said they’ll refund me $100. I thought this outcome was reasonable, considering that I didn’t have any powerful leverage. The transaction was already done, and it was more of a courtesy. That or they care about their long term prospects and online reviews.

Yet another tangent, but here’s what would be an interesting experiment. I go to a ton of stores, and try is variations of the above sending different emails to lower the original invoice. So maybe I should only mention reviews. Maybe I should not have started out with the compliment. Or maybe I could vary the extravagance of compliments. It would be fascinating to quantify the effects of what I’ve written and see which strategies are most effective to reduce costs.

Summary

Here are a few key takeaways:

Likability

I read this from a book. It’s an amazing exercise. Here we go: Imagine a person you hate. You can’t stand this person. You want to hurt them…

Now that person is asking you do pay you loan you some money.

Will you do it?

HELL NOPE.

The principle behind this exercise is that - if you hate the guy, then you will not help them out. Similarly, if the other party hates you because you’ve been rude, and selfish, they will not help you. At a fundamental level, they have to like you to match your demands. I think this is key. The more they like you, the more they are willing to help you out.

Consideration for the Other Party

If you throw out a number that will screw over the other party and treat them as an idiot, they will not be kind to you. They will not like you. In fact, they might end up hating your guts. So for example, if you know that a price good is $100, and offer them $10, you are downright insulting their intelligence. People on eBay do this shit all the time, and it ends up just pissing me off. Because it’s insulting my intelligence. Why?!

Have some consideration for the other party.

Last updated 8/9/19, originally drafted 03/01/2018.

Teachings from a Bee

Sometimes the littlest things in life can teach us great things. I believe that no matter who it is, there’s something valuable we can learn if we challenge the way we see things.

Here’s one that I saw when I was meditating that latched itself onto my mind. I’m constantly thinking about this.

A bee(or wasp) was trapped in the window while I was meditating. As it way trying to escape, it was doing the same thing over and over and over and over.

It tries to climb up, and then fly out. Over and over and over and over. If this isn’t the definition of insanity, then I don’t know what is. As Einstein said - it’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. What the hell. I was so fascinated by this, that I took a video of it:

20190627_141448.mp4

Yo. If you want to accomplish stuff, but you continue fail to make progress, then you need to change your strategy.

It made me think about why the hell we keep doing that won’t work without changing anything. Part of it is probably because people in general are super-resistant to change after their teenage years. I think this is the time when you crystallize most of your thought processes and value systems. Also, think about it - instead of a bad habit, what if you had an amazing one? Wouldn’t you want to maintain that and continue to ride the gravy train? The same mechanism that prevents you from changing is also the same mechanism that maintains great things about you. So yeah, change is hard but not impossible.

To get back on track, don’t do stuff that doesn’t work. Again, you need to change your strategy. Not losing weight? Don’t say I’m going to lose weight this time and go for that run tomorrow. Hell no. You need to change your strategy. You say I’m going to for that run. Now. In the middle of the night at 2 am. If it’s dangerous outside, fine - run in place. Or maybe you’ll put a scale in front of your door before you go to work to keep in mind of what you measure. If you don’t go for that run tomorrow morning after you put a scale in front of your door, you’re definitely going to feel guilty. Maybe you should start counting calories - you optimize for what you measure right? Or give up the control of getting groceries to a more sensible human being. Or sign up with a trainer who will make sure he will gas you to Mars. There are so many different options. Don’t just do the same thing expecting different results.

Sidenote: My biggest problem is losing stuff by letting my room devolve into compete chaos. One way I’m thinking of mitigating this is to build in cleaning break while I’m working. Take a break, instead of watching some stupid YouTube video, maybe I can turn on some tunes and spent 5 minutes cleaning to reduce clutter. Or maybe I should do this before I go to sleep and think about how to build a trigger into my routine. Maybe put like some sort of stuffed animal or something to remind me? Hmm.

To get back on track again, don’t be like the goddamn bee. If the bee went in an opposite direction, then - done! Escape! It’s a legitimate strategy is go to the opposite direction - a direction we’ve never considered before.

One more thing - this bee here also teaches about local minimums. From a complete, localized view of the bee, you are making the right decision at every step. However, if you zoom out and see the world from my point of view, it’s a completely wrong way to approach the problem. It works both ways - it’s a duality. It may be making the wrong move locally, but globally it’s actually on track.

In life, you may think that you are going in the right direction from your localized point of view, but it’s the wrong way to go. Similarly, you may think that your life is completely screwed up and your current situation is a dumpster fire, and you’re completely off track, but if you look at the global perspective you’re actually going in the right direction.

So what happened to the bee?

I got back to my room later in the day, the bee wasn’t there. There’s a lesson in that too - keep trying! You’ll be able to make it!

Now, the bee, free from the grasps of my evil window, continues his quest to obtain the finest nectar the streets of New York City can offer. Our bee braves this journey so one day it can give offer his nectar to his beloved queen, who is dying.

Dying in an oven. Also known as New York City.

Family and Fourth of July 2019

I had the pleasure to go back home for the Fourth of July holiday. My brother was coming in from Seattle for a wedding. Around this time is also mom’s birthday!

It felt like the right time to come back home for a bit. I needed a health checkup. I also had to dump off some of my stuff(including a lot of books), and build a computer for dad. There were a bunch of other paperwork that I needed to do. Ugh -.-.

I had a really good time with family. We ate a ton of Korean beef, ordered our usual sushi platter, caught up, and my parents gave me advice as usual. I don’t think we did anything other than… talk.

My dad gave me his talk on life - the things that he usually says to me when I come by:

“This is why life is hard.”

“I’ve found that even if I try do have something happen, it only happens when the stars line up and heavens will it.”

“You always try to go too fast - take it slow and take care of yourself.”

For my mom, it was always to focus on spirituality and pray.

My brother on the other hand seems to be enjoying life on the West coast. He’s learning a lot on his new job, although his side venture is on a bit of a downturn. Hopefully it will swing back up.

Whatever it was, I just felt a overwhelming flood of thankfulness and appreciation. As a family, we’ve been through a lot - more than most. But it’s my firm belief that for some people, there are extreme lows as well as extreme highs. If there’s a surprisingly low point that brings you despair, maybe there’s a equally high point that brings you ecstasy. Hopefully this applies to us.So it seems like I’m a trajectory up, and hope to ride that wave up and prepare for the eventual cycle downwards.

I laughed to my heart’s content - at times I couldn’t stop smiling. I enjoyed the time I spent with my family a hell of a lot. It’s nice to know that there’s people in life - bounded by blood that will always be there for me through thick and thin. So I’m thankful.

But there’s a tint of sadness. At the back of my mind this phrase lingers:

This too shall pass.

Probably, 30, at more 40 of everything.

30 more birthdays for mom and dad.

30 more Fourth of Julys.

30 more Thanksgivings and Christmases.

It could not ring any more true. I know that one day I have to say goodbye to my parents and my brother. It will come. Eventually. This is why moments like this are so precious.

As it says repeatedly in the book of Ecclesiastes - eat, drink ,and be merry. Enjoy work under the sun. Sure, but I’d like to add the following - spend time with loved ones. Cherish fond memories. Let laughter and hugs fill your home.

Side note: I had a chance to read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. It’s so well written. What I learned was that - dang, the colonies had a LOT of things that made them unhappy.

We tend to focus strictly on the beginning of the Declaration. But I found the ending to be equally, if not more powerful as well:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Sounds like a brotherhood of men bounded by a common purpose!

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