Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Last one at the Oracle

Tomorrow evening will be the final Golden State Warriors basketball game to be played at Oracle Arena. Next season the team will move to their gleaming billion-dollar palace across the bay in downtown San Francisco. Moving on up, as the song goes, but the old childhood home has still got one night of magic left yet. We certainly hope so, anyways.

I don’t have quite nearly as much personal connection/memories to Oracle Arena as other more ardent Warrior fans; I’ve only ever attended one game: a playoff game back in 2016 against the Portland Trail Blazers. It was a game in which Steph Curry didn’t even suit up due to a foot injury, which selfishly spoiled my opportunity to see him play in person. Despite his absence on the floor, the Warriors won the game easily, marking my record as a good luck charm in attendance as perfect.

That record remains the same to this day; Oracle Arena may be up there in the years, but it doesn’t stop the team from charging contemporary prices worthy of a three-time champion. The hefty ticket price just to get into the building for nose-bleed seats, coupled with the fact it’s all the way in Oakland, stopped me from attending games. Which is fine, because not paying to watch lives sports is one of many reasons how I manage to afford a Porsche 911.

With the new state-of-art arena in San Francisco, tickets are sure to be even dearer in price, though from a transportation perspective it’s significantly easier. A half-hour ride on the T line light-rail train will take me to the Chase Center front steps from my house. I reckon I’ll wait a few years until the initial demand for the new arena experience dies down, and I can get upper level seats at a semi reasonable price, before I attend a Warriors home game in San Francisco.

Before that, there’s one more game left in Oakland; a game 6 to even the Finals series and send it back to Toronto for a decisive game 7. I am super excited; this one is for Oracle. Let’s go.

The one time I made it inside Oracle Arena for a game.

Michelin Cup 2 tires are phenomenal

The San Francisco Bay Area is experiencing a heatwave, one of the few each year that balances out all of the parties we’ve been having in enjoying our typical mid 50’s weather, no matter the season. This particular heatwave is quite severe, though: not since Labor Day of two years prior - where temperatures in the city reached beyond 100 - has it been this bad. 94 degrees for three days straight really puts a strain on the nerves.

Especially when buildings in San Francisco aren’t equipped with air-conditioning.

Indeed, every time one of these hot weather patterns rolls around, I always declare that this will be the year I finally buy a portable air-con unit for my room, but it still hasn’t happened yet. Admittedly the not insignificant financial outlay for a machine only to be used a few days out the year is not so easily palatable. Add to the fact that usually by the time I’m ready to click buy, normal cool weather have returned, inducing me to procrastinate.

Let’s see if this year will be different, and I may have a secret weapon. Lately I’ve been super diligent on ensuring I get the appropriate quality of sleep, and a huge factor towards that is room temperature. Apparently, humans are evolved to get better sleep when the weather is cool (I certainly do during the winter months), so needless to say the last few days of this heat have not been conducive to me falling into slumber quickly; not when the bedroom is hovering in the 80s at midnight.

So, spend money to assist with something we do for a third of our lives; makes getting an air-con unit reasonable and justifiable, doesn’t it? I might get a chiliPad too while I am at it.

This first heatwave of the year did allow me to take the GT3 out this past weekend, the first chance to assess just what the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires can do when it’s within its optimal operating temperature. The verdict? So. Much. Grip. Astonishingly so. Only now did I realize that driving the Porsche around in San Francisco’s typical middling weather gives almost no information on the Cup 2’s true capabilities.

Is it possible to fall in love with a set of tires?

With the Michelins properly lit up, the GT3’s front-end is simply mighty. The communicative beauty of the 911’s steering shines in letting the driver know via the hands the grip level of the front tires, and in this maiden outing in hot weather, I’ve never felt more confidence-inspiring sensations through the GT3’s rim. I can truly trust the front-end: the tires dig and bite into the tarmac, no matter the amount of steering lock is inputed. The 911’s inherent understeer is still present, but it’s easily correctable when the tires are willing to do the work.

Obviously, the enormous 12-inch wide rear tires welcome the hot weather in equal measure to the fronts. Thanks to the engine being situated behind the rear-axle as is its signature, the 911 offers traction I dare say no other rear-wheel drive car can match. The Cup 2s with proper heat sticks to the ground immensely, but reassuringly so, allowing super fun mid-corner adjustability. Throttle-steer to tuck in the nose a bit or kick the rear-end out for some brief slip-angles: it’s all possible in the GT3, and easily accessible.

The 911 chassis reveals itself splendidly when the tires are on, and I’m ironically eager for more hot weather so I can sample the Cup 2s further it its absolute element. It’s so much fun.

Maybe I will get that air-con unit after all.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

From my friend who’s traveling in Europe.

Imposter syndrome at work

Having grown up poor and seeing how both parents work low-wage, labor-heavy jobs just to provide, I’ve been imbued with a sense that you earn your money by working hard - physically hard, that is. If you’re not constantly doing something during work hours, then you are definitely not earning that paycheck. That mentality have served me well in my younger years as it’s all about the hustle and doing the most in order to standout amongst a crowd. Now that I’m decently established in my current job, the inherited thinking from my parents causes a bit of internal conflict.

My job is mainly to help people when they need technical assistance with technology in a classroom. If an instructor have trouble plugging a Macbook Pro into the ceiling projector, I am his Huckleberry. As is the tendency of this kind of work, some days we get an endless amount of phone calls, and others there’s nary a troubleshoot to be had. It’s on those less busy days where I am sat waiting for the next call that the feelings of an imposter and not fully-deserving of my salary, creeps in.

I can’t seem to reconcile my upbringing with the fact I mostly get paid for my knowledge and expertise, and only a small portion is for actual physical work. Indeed this is what a typical white-collar job looks like, and I guess my blue-collar childhood carries some residual effects on whether or not I think myself worthy of such a role. That’s my unique sort of imposter syndrome: am I doing enough to deserve this job? I constantly ask myself this.

Indeed I’ve achieved the hopes of my parents, to not have to trade physical labor for a meager salary, and I am profoundly grateful for it. However, sometimes that gratitude can corrupt itself into an adverse sense of fear that it can all be taken away in short order. So I work hard justify my position, and mentally stress about my competence level. I’m sure in a perverse way that thinking has helped me get to the place I am today, but looking forwards I really could do without with the unnecessary stress.

At some point I need to be confident in what I can do and not worry about the tangible amounts in I am doing. It’s simply the nature of the work.

Indeed it does, writing-on-the-bathroom-wall guy.

Want happy? Be less stressed

There’s lots of people out there chasing the ever elusive goal of happiness. Bookstores (okay; Amazon) and the Internet is filled with books and articles on how to be happy; that somehow once we attain it, all would be okay and we can live peacefully onwards thereafter.

I’ve certainly tried to find my happiness, and I have to say it’s as fleeting as it is difficult. The moments of joy in realizing a goal - like buying a Porsche - is a momentary dopamine hit that doesn’t last. Worse, once it wears off I am back to base one, back to before I started on the goal. I’d immediately need of another aim to deliver me that same joy once more. It seems that for me, happiness is indeed like the hedonistic treadmill, rather than something constant, which is I think is what we’re all after.

Is it possible to be happy all the time - as the default state of mind? I’d imagine the answer is quite idiosyncratic. If it were so easy then there wouldn’t be a vast cottage industry to provide answers for those seeking it. Personally, instead of adding things to my life and hoping those things will fill up the happiness meter permanently, to achieve somewhat constant happiness, it’s about paring it down: to do less, to want less, and really focus on only the truly important.

Via negativa.

These days I’ve realize that instead of chasing happiness, it’s far more constructive to eliminate stress. The side-effects of stress are readily apparent: my resting heart rate is elevated, I grind my teeth at night during sleep, and pimples sprout out on my face, even though you’d think at age 31 I’d be forevermore done with those marks of puberty. Nevertheless, it’s been a bit of an aim lately for me to be conscious of when I am feeling stressed, and to address the underlying cause.

For example, when I am wake up every day, my mind tends to wander to the work day ahead, even though I’ve yet to even leave the bed! Pondering about those various tasks fills me with anxiety and stress, needlessly so because I can’t do anything about those things until I actually get to work. It’s not something I should be thinking about while I go through my morning routine; if anything, I ought to be calm and relaxed so that I can perform my best later in the day.

There’s procedural examples, too: I gave up driving a car for the commute precisely because it got too stressful to deal with the massive amount of traffic every day. Taking the bus have been one of the best changes I’ve done last year, because riding the bus allows me to zone out and listen to my podcasts, rather than worry about other drivers on the road.

Obviously, not all stress are bad; some are crucial in kicking me in the ass to do better, like my daily checklists of tasks, and a self-promise to keep this website updated regularly. The stress from those pseudo deadlines are super helpful; what I am looking to eliminate are the frivolous and unnecessarily stresses.

As with anything in life, it’s a constant work in progress.

Messing around with symmetry and light.

Bad luck for car enthusiast

As a car enthusiast, sometimes luck simply isn’t on your side. I’m not talking about the big sorrowful events like horrible accidents, but rather mundane annoyances that strikes at random (like a scraped bumper), and should you be so unlucky, a cluster of them seems to hit you all at once.

Mind you I am not talking about me, thank heavens, though back in April just about the biggest rock chip I’ve ever seen was thrown into the upper portion of the GT3’s bonnet. Actually, there was also that rear tire puncture as well, which turned out to be quite the chore to fix. But no, compared to my brother’s year with his mark 7 Golf GTI, I’d consider myself fortunate.

Indeed, said brother have only had the car for one year, and within that time-span the following misfortune occurred to his precious little hot hatch. First was the time during his move back to university for the Fall semester, and my clumsy dad absentmindedly scraped the rear quarter panel when he attempted to stuff the mini fridge into the rear passenger compartment (it didn’t fit through the aperture, obviously). Shortly after that, the GTI got broken into whilst parked in the lot of a restaurant, necessitating a replacement of the rear passenger window, plus that annoying tiny triangular glass at the corner that doesn’t really do anything.

California saw its wettest rain season in many years, so road conditions this winter was not very good. My brother drove over a set of light-rail tracks thinking nothing of it, but lurking adjacent to far rail was an enormous pothole. It obliterated the front left tire, requiring an emergency trip to the nearest tire shop. Now my brother did take this opportunity to swap the crappy stock all-season tires with a solid set of summer performance boots, which I have to say utterly transformed the GTI’s character. However, I’m sure his wallet holds a different opinion.

Lastly, a month ago an errant stone chip to the windshield proved a bit on the too large side, causing two parallel cracks to form at lower left quadrant, directly in the sight-line of the driver. My brother is still in the process of getting that replaced, which is another chunk of change that with better luck could’ve been avoided.

That’s all part of owning a car, isn’t it? To keep a car pristine, stuff in a garage forever; otherwise, it’s simply things a driver has to deal with. A person could go for years without a puncture, then suffer multiples of them within a short time. I jokingly told my brother that he doesn’t have to deal with any of this if he’d only take the bus instead.

Like I do. Sort of.

A veritable jungle on campus.

The old Apple is back

Apple at its best, and what drew me into the company back in high school, is when they announce products in the pro tier of their Mac lineup. Lust-worthy items with exorbitant prices that I desperately want, but cannot hope to afford. I remember when the 30-inch Cinema Display was first introduced: a display so unimaginably large that costs more than entire computer systems! I wanted one immediately, though sadly had to wait for that display technology to trickle down to the hundreds of dollars range many, many years later.

I also remember the first ever Mac Pro, a monster of a computing machine for three times the costs of my poverty-spec Macbook laptop. I couldn’t possibly utilize all that number-crunching power (much less pay the price), but the 'cheese grater’ tower just looks so damn awesome. Apple is clever like that, aren’t they? Their superb ability to make people pine for their products is one of the biggest reason I upgrade to the latest iPhone every year, even though for my purposes I’d still be okay currently with an iPhone 8.

So today it was a throwback of sorts for Apple at their annual developer conference, where they announced a brand new Mac Pro tower, and a 6K display to do along with it. The unit starts at $5999, and the monitor is $4999 for the panel only; the aluminum ‘Pro’ stand with the fancy hinge mechanism is another $999 on top! I could hear the collective groan from the audience over the keynote livestream when the guy on stage announced the stand was separate and costs the same as an iPhone. This is Apple pricing madness at its best, and it brings me back to youth.

Of course, the specs of the new machine and the display is out of this world, and just like a decade before with the old Mac Pro and pro display, it’s way more computing power than I can ever use in my current capacity as a photography hobbyist and a writer. The difference now is that I don’t want the new Mac Pro at all, even though I can somewhat afford it (just have to put a few things up on eBay). Perhaps its my adult sensibilities coming into effect: I no longer buy things for the heck of it; the item has got to serve a purpose. My two years old 27-inch iMac is still up to the tasks superbly, so there’s no reason to replace it with a far nicer box for marginal gains in speed.

Indeed, the new Mac Pro and Pro Display is strictly for the professionals, the type who can expense such extravagant acquisition on their respective company accounts. I’m definitely not one of those people, the type to work with three simultaneous streams of 8K footage, or mix 1000 tracks of sound at the same time.

Who am I kidding, though; I still want it.

Just some late night filings…

Twitter imposter syndrome

Sometimes twitter can be quite depressing, but not in the way that you’d expect. No, I am not one of those people who lacks self control and get absolutely entrenched into twitter flame wars and arguing matches on for hours on end. I am a nobody; my follower count as of this writing, after nearly a decade on the platform, stands at 186. Half of those I’m convinced are bots.

The thing about the twitter that depresses me is the sheer amount of intelligence on display. The reason I can’t quit the platform even though it’s one of my biggest time-sucks is because I learn so much from so many people, from all areas of life. The sheer knowledge and the way people can articulate it within the framework of 280 words per single tweet is something I am in awe of almost every day. Nowhere do I feel more like an imposter than on twitter, where everyone seems to be and probably is smarter than I am.

That’s not exactly a negative - I learn plenty from those people ,after all - but it does make me doubt my own abilities and knowledge sometimes.

I have to remind myself the witty and eloquent people on my feed have immensely more experience than I do, and their smarts don’t invalidate my current standing - we’re simply on different life levels. Those people have been immersed in their respective industries for decades, so of course someone like me in his early 30s isn’t going to have remotely comparable knowledge or eloquence. My false move is equivocating a similar standing between myself and the people I follow. With enough hard work and continued learning, I will get to the same level someday and be a wizened master dishing out tactics and qualified opinions.

I mustn’t skip ahead of myself.

Back in my early college days when I was active in a local car club, everyone else seemed to be driving far cooler cars than my lowly Toyota Corolla, or people with the same car had more modifications and extra bits on theirs than mine. The inadequacy I felt was intense, being so one-track minded (and very immature) that I failed to detach from the situation and see that those with more/better were simply further in stages of life. Of course the fully-realized adult with a full-time job is going to have a far nicer vehicle than me who’ve only started university.

A decade later I am able to detach and look at the macro view, but sometimes I still want to run before I’ve fully learned walking.

A rainy day for SMU commencement.