Monday, August 24, 2015

dropping glass balls

Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls—family, health, friends, integrity—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” -James Peterson

On some days, it feels like nothing is going right. I am dropping all the balls, even the glass ones. And it hurts. In some months, those days just keep on coming, back to back, until it is raining, pouring, glass balls dropping and shattering until I can't distinguish the individual crashes, and all it is is a roar, a sickening flood, and every night ends with the thought of, "I failed today".

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Surfing is a drug. Unlike snowboarding

With snowboarding, you are sliding downhill and it's guaranteed you'll get some speed (either through riding or tumbling). But you'll get down.

With surfing, that is not guaranteed. As a starting surfer, I have often been in the water for 2 hours and not caught a single wave. But when I know I'm about to catch a wave, there's a certain rush that happens. For me, the thing that keeps me coming back is not even riding the wave (probably because I haven't ridden many and don't know how good it can get yet). But the thing that keeps me coming back is the gush of dopamine I feel RIGHT before I get up on the wave. When I feel my board catch, and all my brain keeps firing off the question "IS THIS ONE MINE? THIS ONE IS MINE!!". The build-up and climax and rush of bliss felt at that moment is only comparable to.... an orgasm? (I wouldn't know cuz I've never experienced one. Lol jk.) But some moments that I've felt that, I didn't even catch it, because the split second after, I lost balance or misstepped and crashed and burned into the cold surface of the wave and was trashed and tumbled.

Ok, maybe it's similar to jumps in snowboarding. With jumps and tricks, snowboarding becomes a different beast. Because there is build-up. There is the approach to the jump and all the sound of the board sliding against the snow as you make minor adjustments and try not to shit your snowpants. There is the ramp up, which goes by in a flash, as you kind of stop thinking. There is the jump, and you become airborne and all the noise quiets down as if you've just entered the vacuum of space. And it has been bulding-up... to right about now. To right when you land, and you KNOW that you'll stick this one. And you stick it. Or you don't, and you fall hard, and really do shit your pants. (I have come close - to where it took all my strength to hold my sphincter.)

Friday, July 3, 2015

First time to Europe - Partying in Prague then Car Renting in Germany

My transition from Prague to Germany (train from Prague to Dresden, then rent-a-car from Dresden to Berlin and Sachsenhausen) went like this:

  • Put my backpack in a storage locker at Prague's main train station (Praha hlavní nádraží) for a damn good deal (3 euros was it for a small locker? It was the cheapest I could find compared to other luggage storage options). The station's closed from midnight to 3:30 am or something though, but that was fine. I had a 42 liter pack.

  • Go clubbing in Prague at the 5 story club till it closed at 5am. Turned into a bunch of guys, somewhat homoerotic... hehe.

  • Club closes and I check out the Charles river a bit. It was a little before sunrise, so it was fun to play with the camera settings on my One Plus One smart phone (F/2.0 aperture). Short lesson of all I know about photography - there are 3 main elements to it:
    • Aperture: The f-stop number. You can't change this on a smartphone. The larger the number, the smaller the aperture, so F1.0 would be very big and F16 very small. The aperture size affects field of view and how much light is let in.
    • Shutter Speed: You CAN change this on a smart phone. The longer it is, the more light gets let in (for darkly lit shots), but the more blurry things get. To get the photos below, I had to use the countdown timer and leaned the phone against a rock so that I wouldn't disturb it at all (because I had set shutter speed to like 4 or 8 seconds).
    • ISO: I just think of this as graininess vs brightness. The lower the ISO, the less grainy the image seems, but also the darker the image seems. So the photos below had low ISO.
Charles River
  • Anyway, onto the train station! I walk/jog to the station and make it on time, but was a bit scared at first because the displays didn't show my train or platform until about 30 minutes before the train was to arrive (I was still kind of inebriated)
  • I for some reason become obsessed with taking pictures/videos of this train station
Prague Main Train Station
Prague Main Train Station

  • The train looks kinda crappy from the outside, but really nice from the inside!

  • The 2 hr train ride from Prague to Dresden is really beautiful. But I was really sleepy. But it was also really sunny!
    Prague to Dresden Train Ride

  • I finally get the Dresden, and make my way over to the avis rent-a-car, located pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Dresden actually has 3 Rent-a-car locations, and the city looked MUCH bigger than it did on google maps. The place I got the car from was: Dresden Downtown, RD7 Friedrich Strasse 24. I pre-paid online for their online-price, and it came out to 93 euros (including everything except gas) for 24 hrs. I specifically wanted the "BMW 3 series or similar" notch because I wanted to experience driving the ultimate driving machine on the autobahn. The process was extremely painless. I just needed to show them my US California's driver license (I don't have an international driver's license or anything)
  • I got to Avis and they gave me a VW (WTF!!!). It's a VW Tiguan and they say it's in the same class. It might be in terms of comfort, but I wanted horsepower, and it was lacking :( 
  • My return location was Berlin Center Budapester Str 43 (I chose that because it was near my hostel and open 24/7). Fuel ended up being about 43 euros.
  • Driving on the autobahn was a fun experience. 
    • Most areas are 2 to 3 lanes
    • There are zones with speed limits and zones without
    • You should always stay in the right (slow) lane unless you're passing
    • There was one time I was passing some slow cars and took a little too long in the fast lane, and noticed an Audi roaring up behind me, so I quickly go to the right lane
      • The Audi followed me.
      • I was confused as to why, until I saw the Porsche roaring gunning behind the Audi's ass and then burning past both the Audi and I. (And I was flooring it, going about 200kmph)
      • I burned a police car and was about to brake check right when I saw him, but realized I was on the autobahn, and continued to floor it
      • Most people don't floor it because it wastes gas. Most people drive similar to US freeway speeds
  • I drive past Berlin and go see Sachsenhausen concentration camp. (It's kind of out of the way from downtown Berlin, so I thought this was a good chance to see it, instead of dealing with public transpo).
    • Sachsenhausen was a "model" concentration camp that other camps were modeled after. 
    • Sad and disturbing place. You can form your own thoughts about it. The exhbit that disturbed me the most was the "hospital" and "post mortem" area, where the Nazis dissected humans.

  • Anyway, with that visit behind me, I go back to Berlin and pick up my buddy from the Hostel to get Ramen and we cruise. It basically feels like we're back at home in the US again. (He had already gotten there and checked in after taking the train directly from Prague to Berlin because he didn't trust my ability to drive without sleep and speed limit. Pfftttt)
  • There's an amazing tunnel that goes under the Berlin Hbf (central train station).

Friday, June 19, 2015

Finally starting to understand MVC

This node.js MEAN stack tutorial just might have been the best web development tutorial I've gone through:

I've gone through the django polls one as well as part of an RoR tutorial, but either those weren't as clear or (more likely) I was too dumb and needed it see it explained several times in different ways, this MEAN stack tutorial made a lot of sense.

On the server side:

  • Model (*.model.js) = the database
  • Controller (*controller.js) = has all the CRUD calls (create, retrieve, update, delete...)
  • View? (*routes.js) = handles the REST calls from the client (web browser) and calls the appropriate functions in controller.js

Admittedly, I have no idea where the V(view) is supposed to be. I guess that's the routes.js? And I also don't know why the whole thing works javascript wise (e.g. the functions are written very smartly, in a way I'm not used to writing them). Guess I still have no idea what's going on :(

And the difference between REST and CRUD is explained very well here:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

You never know

Wasn't sure if I locked the car door today when I got to my desk. So I got up and walked back to the parking lot. As I was approaching it,

Monday, June 8, 2015

When to Give Up

Caught up with a friend of mine who was in a similar life-situation, but a little more motivated.
The life situation of "how the fuck do you live life".

He provided me the following thought experiment about when to give up on something you believe is right:

If you were teaching your child how to walk, and at first he doesn't get it, do you give up?

Startups aren't exactly the same, but it was a good analogy.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

First time to Europe - Cheap but cool, poor but sexy

I went to Europe for the first time a few weeks ago.

  • Total trip duration was 15 days, with 13 full days in Europe.
  • 6 countries (6 cities: London, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Coppenhagen, Stockholm)
  • Total expenditure was around $2800 (including everything - e.g. airfare, food, hostel, trains, cash withdrawals, bars, strip clubs, concerts, getting scammed/conned by street artist for 75 euros, etc.)
  • During this time (May 2015), the Euro was about 1.12 to 1 USD (close to record low)
  • May's the best time because it's not too hot, not too cold, not too touristy, and still has super long days (sunrise at 5am and sunset at 920pm)
  • Purchases prior to flying out to Europe:
    • Flights to Europe and back - bought about 1 month before trip
    • Eurostar train ticket fm London to Paris - bought about 1 week before train ride
    • Flight from Paris to Prague - bought about 2 wks before the flight
    • First night's hostel stay - bought 2 days before trip
  • Trip planning: I used Trip Advisor heavily. It's nice because each city from Trip Advisor has its own offline map and reviews. So no need for internet. For the week before my trip, every day's poop-break was spent on that app starring places I wanted to see. (Basically I'd try to hit up the top 5 rated attractions in each city). Also, I tried to take as many over night trains as possible. I traveled with a good friend that had similar traveling qualities: laid back, frugal but down to spend money and have fun, willing to split up to see our own stuff

The itinerary looked like this (with description of that day's main activity or expenditure):
  • May 7th, day 1, Thursday - Leave Los Angeles at 7pm
  • May 8th, day 2, Friday - Land at London Gatwick at 1pm
    • Pie and mash meal
    • National Gallery (free!)
  • May 9th, day 3, Saturday - London, then 2.5 hr Eurostar ride to Paris (get to Paris around 930pm)
    • Walking tour of all the touristy stuff
    • British museum (free!) - saw the mummies and left
    • Got to Paris, checked into Hostel, then immediately went to Moulin Rouge area for strip clubs for some reason. (About $120 gone in the span of 10minutes. Paris strippers are ruthless). First time I went to a strip club :( 
  • May 10th, day 4, Sunday - Paris
    • Versailles tickets (about $15)
    • Walk up the Eiffel tower so we didn't have to wait in line
  • May 11th, day 5, Monday - Paris
    • Llouve tickets (about $15)
    • Bike around the huge ass traffic circle around Arc De Triomphe 3 times
    • Underground jazz club in a cave (this was amazing, made me want to practice guitar more)
  • May 12th, day 6, Tuesday - Paris, then flight to Prague
    • Sacre de Coeur (my favorite momnument in Paris. Free to enter)
      • Got text-book conned by street artist for 75 euros via shell game, right outside the amazing church because I'm a dumbass (Literally text-book with Foundation work, approach, build up, etc)
    • Picnic at Eiffel tower
    • Got to Prague at night. National hockey going on. We went to a bar that turned out to be a free strip-club.
  • May 13th, day 8, Wednesday - Prague
    • Great walking tour
    • Then strip club.
  • May 14th, day 9, Thursday - Prague
    • Lunch at a Michilin Restaurant
    • Rent bikes to bike up a hill to see the Europe's largest bronze equestrian statue
    • Parnas ensemble concert (5 strings) at the Rudolfinum (Great concert, but kind of a way to get money out of tourists.) 
    • Regular clubbing till 5am, no sleep, no hostel (wasted too much money on strippers)
  • May 15th, day 10, Friday - Leave Prague for Berlin
    • Train to Dresden at sunrise, rent a car, then drive past Berlin to Sauchsenhasen concentration camp
    • Drive back to Berlin and get ramen and curry wurst (in the rented car, of course)
  • May 16th, day 10, Saturday - Berlin
    • Holocaust museum
  • May 17th, day 11, Sunday - Berlin, then night train to Malmo Sweden (train went to the north edge of Germany, then was put on ship, and went to Sweden)
    • Walking tour
  • May 18th, day 12, Monday - Wake up in Malmo, Sweden, take train to Copenhagen, do Copenhagen for 8hrs, then go back to Malmo and take overnight train to Stockholm
  • May 19th, day 13, Tuesday - Stockholm (arrived at 7am)
    • Walking tour of Sodermalm neighborhood
    • Nobel Laureate's museum cuz it was free after a certain hour (and totally worthless to go to)
    • Jazz club (this one sucked ass)
  • May 20th, day 14, Wednesday - Stockholm
    • Vasameet ship museum
    • Took a ferry to the archipelagos (checked out Grinda island)
    • Clubbing till 5am (shouldn't have gotten a hostel)
  • May 21st, day 15, Thursday - Fly home at 10am

Details Below:
  • May 7th, day 1, Thursday - Leave Los Angeles at 7pm after full day of work
    • Fly Norwegian air to get in/out of Europe. They're the cheapest airline i found. Cheapest flights that I could find that fit my dates was: 
      • LAX to London Gatwick direct for $180 (including all taxes/fees). 
      • Stockholm Arlanda back to LAX for $323.77. I specifically wanted to leave on a Thursday.
      • I didn't care about what cities I went into or left from, because it was my first time in Europe (I'll take it!)
      • Those prices did not include meals nor check-in baggage (but why tf would you have check-in baggage for a 2 week vacation...)
    • This day was kinda ridic cuz I woke up at 2am on Thursday morning to do laundry (cuz I had none to pack). Then packed and went to work for 11hrs because I was super behind on work. But I like it that way because being on a plane being fully rested and NOT sleep deprived is stupid. I couldn't sleep on the plane much though cuz of the movies.

  • May 8th, day 2, Friday - Land at London Gatwick around 1pm
    • I went to my Hostel (London Generator). I'm super tired, hungry, and out of willpower (This made me sad because I had about 7hrs of daylight left, but not enough energy, so maybe I should've slept more. After I check in, I get food because I hadn't eaten in 36hrs due to being so cheap. (But I actually like fasting and not being mastered by my hunger, and I don't get to do it enough.) So my first meal is classic english food - pie and mash (I thought the pie was like a Marie Callendar's chicken pot pie, except it had meat inside, and mash was just mash potatoes).
    • The food gave me enough willpower to go to the National Gallery. I was lucky because it was Friday and the place closed at 9pm instead of 6pm. It's also at Trafalgar square, which is kind of like London's downtown. 
      • Distances from London to other cities are often calculated from Trafalgar square. (I know, who tf's Trafalgar right?)
    • Being a "gallery", everything at the National Gallery was paintings. But a lot of them. 
      • I walk around for 2 hrs and realize that I don't have a good appreciation of art. I don't understand why some paintings I thought looked like crap were famous, and others I liked were not.
        • On a side note, a lot of people were taking pics of like every other painting with their phones/cameras, which I thought was weird because if you wanted to see the painting in detail, you'd go home and google it. But then I started doing it too.
        • In order to increase my appreciation of art, I join a free guided tour. The first stop of the tour was on some painting of Jesus. There's a bench near-by and I sit down and proceed to knock out. When I wake up, the group had moved on, and therefore I move on and discover the following:
    • The National Gallery had 2 Leonardo Da Vinci pieces. One of which was in its own small room (I.e. this room had nothing except for this cartoon drawing: The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist)
      • Inside the room there was a man sitting there looking at this drawing. I asked the man if he was a worker there. He said no, but that he just likes to come on Friday nights he doesn't have work, and enter this room, and stare at this painting and meditate about it for a few hours (holy shit!). We have a very nice conversation and he teaches me a lot about Leonardo. 
      • The other Leonardo piece was this one (Virgin on the Rocks, of which there's another one by Leonardo in the Llouve in Paris, which I went to go see a few days later)
    • After the National Gallery, I walk to the edge of the river, check it out, and go back to the Hostel and knock out.