The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I saw it in IMAX.

It certainly wasn’t bad. Superb effects, the acting was good, costume design and makeup really well done as usual, and a great score.

But it definitely didn’t have that “epic” feel that any of the Lord of the Rings movies had.

There was really no climax, just an introduction, which is I guess what one should expect since it’s Movie #1 of a three-part series for a single book.

Self-made wealth

I’m more susceptible to respect a wealthy individual if their fortune was self-made.

I respect Justin Bieber’s success due to his passion and hard work that led him to it. He was not predisposed to virtually limitless capital to remunerate music lessons, for example.

Compare that to Jaden and Willow Smith, the son and daughter of Will Smith. Both of which have made an appearance in the music industry. In theory, I have my doubts that this would be the case without the fame and wealth of their father. In other words, I think their fame and wealth were more significant factors than their talent, especially since their independent popularities are negligible relative to Bieber’s.

I’m not a fan of Bieber’s music, but I am a fan of how he achieved his success.

For the sake of it, let me mention my favorite attention whore, Donald Trump. It’s clear I don’t like him, similarly to how I don’t like Bieber’s music. While it’s for many reasons, let me solely address his wealth, as I did with Bieber’s.

Trump’s wealth was not self-made. He began rich, through his father’s work. And I think it’s much easier to play Monopoly when you start off with considerable more capital than everyone else. That said, I’m less inclined to appreciate the wealth Trump has attained. And not to mention how many times he caught himself practically bankrupt, perhaps forcing him to broaden his source of income from other areas: TV (from The Apprentice), bottled water (“Trump Ice”, yes this pathetically existed), his own clothing line, fragrance, vodka, meat, etc. [source]

Though I lack regard for Trump’s fortune, I don’t deny he did not work hard, but I claim that not as much work was required given his initial circumstances.

How about another figure: Steve Jobs. Raised middle-class, and like Bieber, self-made fortune through determination, passion, ambition, and hard work.

Jobs’ success is infinitely more admirable than Trump’s. Not to get too sidetracked, since this claim probably deserves an essay of its own, but if you look up the assets he had, it’s quite apparent he wasn’t driven by fame or wealth.

I particularly find it interesting to make such comparisons because I am a champion of the idea of equal opportunity, where every child should have the same chances of “success”. In other words, if we could statistically calculate the probability of a child’s future success, it’d be ideal if the factor of a child’s fortune (their family’s fortune) were minimized. For example, because education is a factor of one’s success, then one’s intelligence, tenacity, and well-roundedness should be vastly greater factors than fortune in determining their admission into a prestigious school. Rarely is fortune a direct factor, but it is implicitly.

I mentioned “intelligence.” This is vague. But I should point out that this can be bought, in some aspects. For example, getting good grades is usually a matter of hard work and good instruction. Likewise with SAT scores; with money, one can buy private instruction and special classes to greatly improve both. This immediately gives those with wealth an advantage to better education (and I think it’s safe to assume that higher grades and SAT scores gives more access to better education).

To keep it more brief than it could be, I’ll summarize.

The closer we get to a society with equal opportunity, we stimulate the number of cases of self-made prosperity, and I think it’s mostly through access to good education and resources. If Bieber wasn’t in a middle-class household, but in a level much lower than that, perhaps he wouldn’t have the instruments or the equipment to put his videos on YouTube, which were the catalysts to his success.

You probably noticed I’ve been somewhat equating wealth with success. It might not be your definition of success, and it certainly isn’t mine personally. I made this equality to simplify the argument, and I think that was okay to do, given how much convenience and pleasure just a simple amount of wealth can add to one’s life.

Alarm Clocks

I’m proud to say that I haven’t used an alarm clock in several months.

I feel much better rested when I’m not woken up by some arbitrary external effect. I just wake up when I do. And I’m confident that I’ll wake up in time no matter the occasion.

However, to be fair, I think my sleeping habits are anomalous in some regards.

What time I wake up isn’t usually a factor of what time I fall asleep. So if I usually sleep at 12am and wake up at 7am, and one night I fell asleep at 3am, I would still, more or less, wake up at 7am. It’s a good and bad thing – good for weekdays, bad for weekends.

I’ve also had several nightmares and sleepless nights from the paranoia and fear of not waking up in time for something, even if I had an alarm set. Sometimes I’d wake up 3 hours earlier than needed or just never sleep at all. I suppose this is because I’ve had really terrible experiences from alarm clocks failing me.

Social Networks I Use and Why

I’m a member of a stupendous number of social networks. Maybe stupendous isn’t the right word. But I’m only active on a handful of them. So here’s a rundown of which ones they are, how much time I spend on them, and why.

Facebook

Ever since I’ve been out of school, I’ve been exponentially less active on Facebook. It appears that I’ve become a lurker. The last status/post I’ve made was in July. All I’ve really done is updated my profile picture from time to time and respond to other people’s wall posts.

So why am I still active? Really, it’s the Facebook Chat that’s keeping me attached. I’d be perfectly content with deactivating my Facebook account if I had a convenient way of keeping in touch with some of my closer friends. And email just isn’t the same as IMing. Not everyone has an iOS device (for Messages) or Gtalk (or they just don’t login as frequently). Everyone has Skype. But nobody logs in unless they have a Skype date. But everybody has Facebook. And everyone lurks on Facebook. So it works.

There’s another, but minor, reason why I won’t deactivate, though. I have countless friends I don’t talk to anymore. And keeping Facebook is a good way for me to maintain the notion that I haven’t disowned them. So when they post something comical, or something I can at least somewhat relate to, I can Like it as means of saying, “Yeah, we’re still cool.” I also send my birthday wishes for the same reason. And I can keep this up all without any smalltalk, which is something I’ve become very good at, but also something I try to avoid.

I don’t spend very much time on Facebook itself – maybe a minute per day. But I regularly use it for chat while I’m doing other things or on my phone, and that’s more difficult to measure.

Twitter

I’m an active Twitter user. It has taken Facebook’s place. Many people use Twitter for the sole purpose of following others - celebrities, news outlets, etc. That’s how I started, expept I mainly followed clubs and groups at my school to keep posted with cool stuff happening on campus. Now I have more uses.

I use it now for connecting with new people with similar interestes. There are several people I’ve never physically met who I occasionally make discourse with. But furthermore, when you follow someone, there’s usually nothing personal about it. With Facebook, on the other hand, I’m very careful with the friend requests I accept, because I’m choosing who I’m fine with knowing so much about my life. Becoming Facebook friends is personal.

I also use it as a microblog. My posts here are of more calibre. On Twitter, I share links and thoughts (and others’ via retweeting), More subtly, it’s like a diary, albeit a public one.

So it begs the question why I make status updates on Twitter and not Facebook. I have complicated, but interesting reasons for this.

When I post to Twitter, I know it’s public. I know everyone can see it. So I regularly think thrice about what I post. With Facebook, I don’t as much. And things I would post on Facebook would inherently be more personal. There could be some posts I’d rather not have particular friends see, I have no idea, but it’s a possibility. And that’s too complex for me to evaluate every time I want to post something.

Another reason. I don’t care about people commenting on my posts. In fact, I’d rather people couldn’t. Except I’m not too sure why I feel this way. All I know is that it’d be a similar reason as to why I have no comment sections here.

Foursquare

This one’s weird. You check-in to places to tell the world where you are and perpetuate the semblance that you aren’t unproductive by nature.

But there’s another compelling reason I use it. When I check-in somewhere, I get a bunch of tips for that location. Really useful for food and you see tips like “Must order X!” or “Avoid the Y!”

Reddit

There’s no better way to consume some of the Internet’s best and most original content, coupled with being linked to awesome content elsewhere.

It has its flaws, but that would deserve an article of its own.

I spend about 15 minutes per day on reddit.

Quora

I spend a good 30 to 60 minutes on here every week. I really enjoy it, I learn a lot. It’s simply a question and answer site with a social twist – you can follow very specific topics (“boards”) from “What is it like to do X” to generic ones like Evolutionary Biology and Skyrim. You also have a feed of trending questions in the topics you follow and the activity of the users you follow. Some people have described some boards to be like a more personal and interactive Wikipedia.

A very notable Q&A I saw was “What is it like to murder someone?” The top response was extremely thorough, and was answered from a prison, I believe. And you usually get that with Quora – very great content created by its users.

It’s the only social network I enjoy getting weekly digest emails from.

YouTube

Rarely am I on here. I just go on to listen to live music or watch videos that I’m linked to. That’s it. I never go on here for discovery. I don’t have the time.

Github

An account on Github is essential for my career or area of study. It’s a network where individuals and organizations share and open-source their projects, making the code available to everyone. It’s more than that, but that’s the gist of it.

So with most of the projects I’m working on, the code is maintained there for anyone to look at for reference, improve, or whatever.

There’s no content discovery component to it, but I suppose that’s what Hacker News is for.

Google+

Haha, just kidding.

One Year Forecast

A Twitter friend of mine, fellow UofT student and hacker, @JohnHok, posted an article about his “One Year Forecast” and suggested his readers do the same. He explains,

So you know how public companies often give a forecast to guide investor expectations for the coming quarter or beyond? Wouldn’t it be cool to release your own personal forecast? Okay maybe it wouldn’t be that cool but it seemed cool to me.

I need more to write about anyway, so why not. I think it’ll be interesting to read and address again a year from now. But I don’t know if anyone is investing in my future or not, heh.

I’m not sure if I should use the same headings as he did, but they seem generic enough so I’ll stick to them in the same order.

Spiritual

I’m not spiritual by any means. I never was, nor do I anticipate becoming so. To be brief, and to avoid a tangent (which is difficult for me to do), it’s simply not something I’m interested in. It is of no value to me personally and I have enough matters in my life to engage in, so it makes little sense to add another commitment, which would feel more like a liability.

In terms of religion, most people know how I feel about it, but I want to quickly mention how I plan to address it. First, I’m completely open to other’s people faith as long as it doesn’t adhere to hatred or violence, isn’t imposed on others, and leaves myself and the scientific community alone. If an individual crosses that line, then maybe I’ll fuss about it. Otherwise, I leave religious people alone, and let them continue to do what makes them happy.

This is the stance I foresee to abide by indefinitely. But we’ll see one year from now.

Financial

In the past several years, I’ve been extremely conservative financially. More recently, I’ve been taking quite a different approach. I’ve become much more laid back. I’m beginning to realize how important it is to have a lot of fun at my age, and to enjoy it as much as possible. And yes, I believe buying things do make you happier to some extent. I’m spending more money on clothes, electronics, great food, and beer – and I feel great about doing so, and I think this trend will continue for a bit. Mind you, to be clear, I am certainly saving money as well. I still save at least 50% of my salary.

I haven’t been too active lately in stock market investing; but to do it “right”, it really requires attention – attention I can’t seem to spare at this juncture. But I’ll change that soon, maybe.

Work

I’m taking a year off school to work in San Francisco. The people at the company, Marin Software, are a great bunch. They’re friendly, vibrant, and smart. I’ve been pretty lucky with the jobs I’ve had and the people I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

As for the work I do, the most challenging part is generally writing code for a very sophisticated application that’s been around for several years. I like to do things the right way. That said, it’s annoying when things weren’t done properly in the past, and having to refactor mountains of code so it is done properly.

Aside from what technologies I’m working with, what I’ve mostly learned is how to write really good code. I’ve had invaluable feedback from really experienced engineers. That’s just something you don’t get in school.

I’ll be at Marin Software until next May at least, and I haven’t yet planned what I’ll do for the summer. I’ve been thinking about doing another internship either in SF, somewhere else abroad (like Germany), Toronto, or doing research. I simply want to continue to learn.

In addition, I have my own personal projects that I’ll be continuing to work on. It’s hard to say what I’ll do with Love at School, but as for other projects, you can check them out at my Github page or on my Projects page here. These won’t be the only ones I’ll do in the next year; there will definitely be more. I have so many ideas, and it’s only a matter of time before they come to reality, hah. But I wish I had more avid people to collaborate with!

Physical

I’ve been working out at least a few times a week for the past month or so. Already seeing a difference. Will continue this habit for a number of months. I don’t have a “weight goal”. I care more about how I look overall. My weight wouldn’t indicate that so well.

Social

To start, I’m slightly reserved and usually have difficulty becoming close with people; I typically keep a distance, with the exception of select individuals. I don’t consciously conduct myself this way and I don’t know if it’s a bad thing, but I’m frankly not sure how much more open I care about being. I’m an INTJ, after all. On the other hand, sometimes I do feel like I want to open up to more people, but it just doesn’t happen.

To be more specific to my situation for the next several months, I do want to continue meeting more people by going to (tech) meetups, conferences, bars, and through friends I’ve already met. It’s a good idea for me to expand my network here, given the decent chance I’ll settle here permanently within the next few years. (Whoa, bold statement. We’ll see what I think about that in a year from now). And hopefully there will be a few people here I will become close with.

Dating

I just decided to add this section, because I think it’s also important. Like many others my age, I’ve been on and off dating for at least a few years. And there was at least one or two relationships that I imagined being “the one”. After mentioning my last breakup to my mom,  she remarked, “Well, you’re too young to be in a serious relationship, anyway.” I don’t know why, but that made me feel very relieved, even though I didn’t want to agree. I thought, “No! I’m grown up! I am ready!”

I’m not in the most fortunate situation since I don’t plan to settle anywhere for another few years or so. I’ll be all over the place until then. It’s almost as if I have to avoid a serious relationship, except I don’t want to necessarily.

This will be the only section I won’t have at least a somewhat concrete forecast for. I don’t know what I want. I think I’ll just go with the flow on this on.

Wrap Up.

Not much left to say, except to apologize if I made it seem like you were peeking into my diary. But rarely will I get this personal here.

So if you haven’t invested in me yet, perhaps you should reconsider, heh.

Helios Kickstarter

Just came across this Kickstarter called Helios. Here’s the video:

I don’t know, is it just me, or does this seem like the most useless gimmick you could buy for $100? Has this solution not already been solved solely with video conversations? I can show my long-distance partner where I am and what I’m doing easily enough with FaceTime. This little turd of a device would just make that moment feel so tacky and lame.

Let’s be frank. Video conversations is telepresence. All this really does is put the video on wheels which accomplishes what, exactly? My favorite line from the video has got to be (1:30),

“For developers, we will have our SDK ready for you to empower Helios, or build extra arms, legs, or even propellors to fly it around.”

I don’t know if I should continue writing this article because I feel like I’m being trolled.

There’s no way this guy’s serious.

PROPELLORS? Not only is that fucking weird, it’s not even practical to make. Arms and legs could be cool. It’d give phone sex a whole new meaning.

Another use case they suggest is that you can watch your pet or kid while you’re away from home. So it can work as a monitoring tool. But who’s going to leave their phone at home?

This whole project makes very little sense to me. It doesn’t solve any existing problem, but rather creates new ones.

It’s almost as if they worked backwards. They knew what technology they had and outlined what they could do with it, and then tried to market it, which ultimately led to a useless product. It’s the wrong approach. Instead, you start off with a problem that consumers have, and then you work your way to solve it.

 

How are you doing?

I’m doing good.

No. That’s not correct. The correct response would be

I’m doing well.

You see, adverbs describe verbs and adjectives describe nouns. Here, “doing” is a verb and “good” is an adjective. See the issue?

I come across people making this mistake all the time and it swells the neurons in my brain. If it’s said verbally (opposed to be written), it’s not as likely to be a mistake, but rather an indication of the speaker’s ignorance.

Now let’s practice.

How did the soccer practice go?

It went well.

Get it? Good.

What have you done that’s so great?

This is a big pet peeve of mine: when somebody makes a remark along the lines of “that person must have way too much time on their hands.”

The last time I heard it was when I told a friend to open Terminal and key in “telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl” and press enter. It’s basically a text-based animation of Star Wars: Episode IV. His remark? “Wow, whoever made that must have way too much time on their hands.”

I find it incredibly insulting.

And you generally hear such comments in the context of art, too.

My initial reaction is something like, ‘Okay. What have you done that’s so great?” I mean, have you created something that people from all over the world have seen? You may not be able to relate to it, but you can appreciate the hard work that has gone into it.

I like to acknowledge and value hard work, effort, and initiative when I see it.

Most people don’t have initiative to begin with.

What I’m Doing Now: Part II

Here’s Part I.

  • I’m reading The Greatest Show on Earth.
  • I’m watching Breaking Bad.
  • I now use Twitter regularly.
  • I go surfing on the weekends at Pacifica, and get burned every time. Think Pikachu.
  • Been discovering the bar scene in SoMa. It’s pretty sweet.
  • I’m building a command-line utility for quickly downloading websites for offline use. It’s about 50% complete.
  • Checked out some places outside of SF like Muir Woods, Yosemite, and Carmel. Carmel reminds me of a place where hobbits would live.
  • I’m working on marketing solutions for LoveAtSchool.com. Just recently deployed lots of new features to the network. Now it’s time to focus on promotion and profitability. One of these days I really have to write an article on its technologies and development. I’ll also, at some point, perform some interesting data mining on the database and publish it later this year if there’s any compelling information.
  • I’m looking for a bike to buy.

5 Favourite RHCP Songs

Just a post to highlight my favourite songs from my favourite band, Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Breaking the Girl from Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
By the Way from By the Way.
Easily from Californication.
Under the Bridge from Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
Can’t Stop from By the Way.

but I liked almost every song from their latest 3 albums – By the Way, Stadium Arcadium, I’m With You.