2015 – getting old but staying young

I almost forgot to write my yearly update until one of my friends reminded me so here we are. Let’s start with the big events followed by reflections:

  • I was promoted at work. I’m close to another promotion (hopefully becoming a debug engineer which would mean my goal is achieved a year late).
  • I got a new car – just upgraded my red 2011 GTI to a white 2015 GTI, haha.
  • I separated from my long-term girlfriend Kathy.
  • I went on a 2 week trip through Europe with friends.
  • I got a motorcycle: 2005 Yamaha R6, Raven Edition.
  • I realized the importance of friends and family.

My career at Microsoft is going swimmingly. I’ve become a senior engineer and a technical resource for others to rely on. I’ve started thinking in a one-to-many fashion – what training can I create, what tools would make people’s lives easier, what processes can I help optimize to further the business. There’s not much else to say except there’s a great deal between me and the company: they compensate me well for what I do and I am challenged at a sustainable rate. Seriously, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, the ship is rolling forward with a lot of great changes and it’s exciting to work here even though I’ve been in the same “department” for years.

I got a new car initially because Kathy only wanted to learn automatic. It was also a good excuse to upgrade. Here’s a picture:

I love the GTI series – the performance, the class, the handling, and the styling. The square LED headlights are unique and it drives like a refined brawler (in sports mode). The tech is nice but the system is underpowered (slow bootup). Definitely makes sense that it won 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

I separated from Kathy because our compatibility level simply was not high enough. I did not see marriage in our future so it was best to not waste each other’s time any further. I might have talked about this concept of compatibility levels before but I truly believe in it. You set your compatibility threshold (settling level, basically) and if you stumble upon someone who meets it, you might pair up for life. Love is complicated and whatnot, but it comes down to: if you’re willing to work for it, the classic life partner model is a very stable and successful one. Everyone’s threshold is different but just remember that you may not find a suitable partner if you set it too high. I mean, there could be one out there but unless you travel often and meet a lot of people, you might not find it. I really dislike the notion that you are waiting for love. You have to go out there and find it.

The two-week trip through Europe was a whirlwind. We hit Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne, Munich, Berlin, and Reykjavik. Great memories were made, our view of different cultures and people was expanded, and bonds of friendship tightened. My friend A-hing has hours of GoPro footage that he needs to compile into a scrapbook video / highlight reel… it’s been months A-hing!! :)

I got a motorcycle because it was on my bucket list and I needed a new hobby with some risk as I had turned newly single. It also satisfied my need for manual gear shifting. Here’s a picture:

2005 Yamaha R6

I’ve only dropped the bike once so far – I think it was the second day I had it or something. It’s been fairly smooth sailing since then. I ride with all the gear, all the time (ATGATT) because it’s stupid not to. You’re putting yourself at a lot of risk because you’re so exposed without a safety cage so you might as well take the protection that could save your life. My parents had no say in the matter but they were surprisingly quick to accept it.

Now for the last bullet point: friends and family. There are 2 ideas anchoring this latest revelation – not really even a revelation but a reinforcement of what is supposed to be common wisdom – that friends and family are really important. First, we have Dunbar’s number which basically states we can only maintain 100-200 stable relationships. Second is a recent blog post The Tail End by writer Tim Urban.

I’m not saying I’m going to die soon. In fact, I’d love to live to 100 so I can declare, “I’m a centenarian, bitches!” followed promptly by an overdose of heroin because I’m sure I would have lived enough life by then. I’m 27 years old. I spent 4.5 years in Charlotte away from some of my closest friends and family. I made great new friends and learned a lot along the way. I have no regrets about my life path. But I do get homesick. I still call Boston my true home because I’ve spent most of my life there and it’s where all my immediate family live. In fact, I’m typing this blog post at my friends’ apartment while on a workcation for the holidays in Boston. I don’t have any awesome quotes to close out with but just the idea that you should really enjoy your time with people on this earth because you don’t know when you’ll lose access to them.

2014 – a year of change and growth

let’s start with my goals from last year and see where i stand:

  • i did buy a townhome and i’m loving it
  • Kathy did move in with me and we have a dog named Remy
  • Queen City Thunder did not make it to regionals but we made a good attempt considering our region was the most competitive it’s ever been
  • i don’t have a six pack. in fact, my annual Microsoft health screening says i’ve gotten a bit less healthy ;(
  • avoided getting a blister this past summer
  • i did get promoted at work. i had my best review since starting at Microsoft and i’m really enjoying my work. i’m working hard in hopes of getting 2 more promotions before the end of the fiscal year.

i started working on my first real coding project. you can find all the details at https://github.com/maxxwizard/inhouseBot. i’ve never felt the desire or motivation to code for fun or have a hobby project until recently. your brain changes immensely over the years so for all those who feel like they haven’t hit their stride or found their calling (e.g. me in college), stay positive and don’t be an asshole – your time to shine will come if you stay grateful, humble, and somewhat hungry (for life/success).

life is really stable nowadays so i do get antsy. it’s good that i live with a bunch of roommates and a girlfriend because there’s always something to do and people to hang out with. also, charting out future goals gives me something to strive for:

  • finish this inhouseBot by Thanksgiving 2014
  • escalation engineer [debugging code] by end of FY15
  • principal engineer or executive by the time i’m 30 years old
  • at least $3M when i retire at 65

2013 – My Yearly Blog Post

i realized it’s been over a year since i’ve written a blog post so i thought i’d put out an update on my life. it’s interesting going back and reading some of your old written works because it’s always like: “did i write this?”

so where am i in life right now? i’m working at Microsoft as a support engineer for Exchange. it’s a great opportunity and job. there is so much luck behind how i ended up here that the story seems a bit far fetched in retrospect. it was really tough at first – having to move away from a girlfriend and family – but i’ve put down some roots in Charlotte and it’s been great.

there’s one more year of waiting for Kathy, my girlfriend of over 2 years, because she’s about to be a senior in college. we’ve been through quite a lot and while perhaps i don’t enjoy admitting it (due to some “flaw” in my personality where displaying PDA makes you seem weak), i love her dearly for all that she’s done for me and continues to do.

at work, they’ve recently switched my specialization. for the techies out there, i used to support on-premises Exchange installations but now i support cloud Exchange (aka Exchange Online aka Office 365). there was the usual month of discomfort at having to try really hard to catch up to where the other support engineers were at. it’s especially difficult when you consider that you didn’t start out as an industry hire yet you’re supposed to match them. as the proverb goes though: “no pain, no gain.” i feel confident that in the next year, i’m going to have a lot of opportunities open up for me simply due to the amount of work experience and Exchange knowledge i’ve gained. it’s going to be an exciting time…

which is not to say that every day isn’t exciting. they say that one of the best ways to become happy is to be appreciative. waking up everyday with a job, family, and health is more than enough for me. i know people who aspire to get on the covers of magazines or change the world, and sometimes i feel selfish that my aspirations aren’t as high – that i should be contributing to society more. i want to say that as long as i’m not being a detriment to society, then that’s good enough? :)

so back to the topic at hand… a snapshot of my current life. i guess we can talk about Charlotte a little bit. i’ve grown to love this city. i’m really glad my friend Amy gave me that final persuasive nudge and told me to accept the job offer from Microsoft. changing cities really gives you perspective. others find it when they study abroad or work abroad. it’s amazing that just moving within a country will be enough. as cliche as it sounds, there’s so many new people to meet, places to see, things to do. but most of all, the people. if i had to compare Boston to Charlotte, the most prominent difference is that there’s a community down here. maybe it’s because there’s less people and you feel more responsible to them and the land we live on. maybe it’s because everyone seems genuinely more hospitable and friendly. right now, i’m lucky to be able to afford monthly trips to Boston to visit my girlfriend, friends, and family back in Boston. constantly seeing those 2 worlds and how they sometimes interact is great… most of the time.

what’s the future hold? well, i guess i could list out some of my goals and see if i end up hitting them.

  • i buy a house since the market is allegedly real cheap
  • Kathy moves in with me
  • my club ultimate team, Queen City Thunder, makes top 8 at regionals
  • i get a six-pack
  • i don’t get a blister ever again from the scorching weather of the South
  • i get promoted at work
  • i stumble upon a fortune and buy a Hello Kitty lambo before Zhen can gift me one
  • i continue to keep my health and happiness

see you next year.

Useful DOTA 2 Commands and Key Bindings

You want to create this file if it doesn’t already exist: %programfiles(x86)%\Steam\steamapps\common\dota 2 beta\dota\cfg\autoexec.cfg

Inside it, put this:

// Enables console (without it popping up on game start).
con_enable 1

// Disable camera zoom.
dota_camera_disable_zoom 1

// Display and position net_graph
net_graph 1
net_graphproportionalfont 0
net_graphinsetbottom 437
net_graphinsetleft 80

// Force right click deny.
dota_force_right_click_attack 1

dota_disable_range_finder 0

// You'll have to hit this key to re-exec this script to override the GUI bindings after connecting to a game.
bind "F8" "exec autoexec.cfg"

// Set max fps for 144hz monitor.
fps_max 144

// Notify user of this script's execution.
echo "==== AutoExec.cfg Executed ===="

North Carolina Driver’s License Cheat Sheet

i gathered all this information from a bunch of sources. hope this question dump helps potential test takers on the ridiculously stupid and irrelevant exam that is the NC driver’s license exam.

  • In densely packed snow you should use chains or snow tires.
  • If you must drive during heavy snow / fog / snowstorm, use your low-beam headlights (NOT high-beam or parking lights).
  • Alcohol-related highway deaths account for 38% of all traffic fatalities.
  • If you accumulate 7 or more points on your traffic record you may attend a Driver Improvement Clinic to deduct three points from your driving record.
  • The traffic conviction that adds the highest number of points (5) to your driving record is passing a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading children.
  • “Secondary roads” are roads where hills are more likley to be more steep and curves are likely to be more sharp than on primary roads.
  • Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit in cities and towns is 35 miles per hour.
  • To have a revoked driver license restored, you must visit a driver license office, pay a restoration fee, and reapply for a license.
  • When three vehicles reach a 4-way stop at the same, the right of way belongs to the car on the right.
  • If you have a leaky exhaust pipe, it can cause harmful fumes to enter the vehicle.
  • If a vehicle sways freely, leans heavily to one side during a turn or seems to bounce continuously, there may be a problem with the suspension system.
  • If you experience a breakdown, you should call a law enforcement officer (NOT pull to the side of the road).
  • To maintain a safe driving distance between your car and the car in front of you, you should use the two-second rule.
  • If you take any medication before you drive, you should find out what effect the medicine has.
  • If you are planning a long road trip, you should stop and rest every 100 miles.
  • Before passing another vehicle, you should look ahead to ensure that there is enough room for you to pass.
  • When driving down a very steep hill, you should shift into a lower gear to control your speed.
  • If you run off the side of the road, you should gradually take your foot off the gas pedal.
  • When travelling on rural highways, farm equipment usually travels at its maximum speed of 15-20 mph.
  • If you are driving into a circle you should yield to cars already in the circle.
  • If you are in a crash, you should move your car off of the road.
  • School buses are required to stop at all railroad crossings.
  • In city traffic, you should be alert for drivers who make quick stops.
  • Truckers have serious blind spots into which cars can disappear from view.
  • Unless there is a sign indicating no turn on red, you can turn right on red after stopping and making sure that the turn can be made safely.
  • For any underage person who aids or abets another attempting to purchase any alcoholic beverage, the law requires a one-year driver license revocation.
  • Your license will be revoked immediately for 1 year if your blood alcohol concentration is at least 0.08 percent.
  • When aproaching a road that is blocked from view you should stop and proceed with caution.
  • Defensive drivers check their rear view mirror and side mirrors roughly every 10 seconds.
  • Bikers sustain more injuries in a collision with a car (forgot the rest of the question).
  • If going 45 miles per hour, how far ahead should you signal before turning? 200 ft.
  • If you plan to turn and are not in the proper lane to do so, you should continue to the next intersection, then turn.
  • The most common type of accident on a highway is a rear-end collision
  • When driving behind someone you should not use your high beams
  • To dry wet brakes, gently apply the brakes
  • “Don’t hang out in the No zone” refers to not be in truckers’ blind spots
  • When approaching a railroad crossing slow down and prepare to stop
  • If you pull up to a red arrow, the turning lane is the only lane that should stop
  • if you are a pedestrian walking along side the road at night, you should carry or wear something white
  • Use high beams when driving on a highway and no car is approaching
  • Slippery roads are most likely to occur when it has just begun to drizzle or rain
  • When traveling behind a farm vehicle on a two-lane road wait until the farm vehicle has the chance to pull over to the side, then pass with caution
  • Large trucks (tractor trailers) have large blind spots to the side and rear
  • When preparing to make a right-hand turn turn on your turn signal and approach the right-hand side of the road
  • A “shoulder check” is a quick glance over your shoulder on the side in which you intend to turn or change lanes
  • When you get tired on a long trip, you should stop and rest
  • When taking a long trip, you should plan to stop and rest every 100 miles
  • If you are following a car at night, how do you know if the road is bumpy? You watch the tail-lights.
  • It is dangerous to drive slowly after the crest of a hill.
  • What causes the biggest hazard on the road… Women drivers, slow drivers, elderly drivers?
  • Littering is … punishable by a fine not less than $250 and not more than $1000.
  • All registered motor vehicles in NC must be inspected every 12 months.
  • Most accidents occur at… intersections.
  • Why should you pay close attention on country roads?
    • Scenery can be beautiful
    • Cows have the right of way
    • Slow moving farm machinery may use the roads
  • If your car broke down on the highway, you should…
      • lift up your hood
    • stay in front of your vehicle
    • stay behind your vehicle
  • When a school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop at:
    • Two-lane road with center turning lane
    • Divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation
    • Road of four lanes or more with a center turning lane
  • When do you adjust your rear and side view mirrors? Every time you’re about to drive somewhere.

After reading this list, I highly recommend taking this practice exam. You can hit your browser’s back button and redo each question until you get it right.

source: http://stevefrey.com/2010/07/30/north-carolina-dmv-drivers-license-test-study-guide/

The Hidden Price of Education

as you get more educated, you start to see the world in more clarity. but at what price? the side effect of gaining knowledge seems to be that you also gain apathy.

for me, it seems that as you ascend the education ladder, or rather the pyramid, you have less and less people to communicate with. as your knowledge of the world increases, you actually start to feel disillusioned. once you start gaining insights on how things and people work, everything becomes less mysterious, less interesting. though that kind of seems like what we humans do – pry and prod until we’re no longer curious. when it comes to people, we experiment with each other, study the effects, and form theories – so everyone does psychology. i’m not saying we’ll ever get to a point where we can predict each other – or at least, i think a professor once said it’s impossible due to the random nature of electrons – but i suppose we can start guessing people’s behaviors better. that must be where this whole idea of wisdom comes from – live a long life and you’ll start to know and understand the patterns. or become a psychologist and try to gain as much insight as you can.

so what was the inspiration for this post? the realization that i have started viewing people more and more like computer systems: a sophisticated machine that reacts to interrupts (emails, wall posts, text messages, etc.). a friend that majors in psychology says he also can’t help but view people through the lens of some psychoanalysis. but i suppose it’s all okay – just drink real hard and you won’t have enough brainpower to view anyone through any lens, hahaha.

My New Computer

so the specs:
Antec 902 ATX Case – $80
Intel Core i5-750 Processor – $176
Corsair 2x2GB DDR3 1600 RAM – $80
Diamond Radeon 5770 Graphics Card – $138
OCZ 700W StealthXStream PSU – $38
MSI P55-GD65 Motherboard – $141
WD SiliconEdge Blue 64GB SSD – $130
Cooler Master Hyper 212 plus CPU cooler – $30
total $813

i didn’t take pics during the build process because i was lazy… and you can see plenty of those anywhere on the web. build time was about 4 hours? it was a lot of fun. much thanks to Eddy Wong for helping me out.

this computer was built mainly to play Starcraft 2 on max settings. i’ll update once i try a couple of games on it =D

UPDATE: starcraft 2 works on max settings on 1680×1050 perfectly. need to grab myself a cheap 24″ monitor for some 1920×1080 action.

UPDATE 2: processor is OC’ed from 2.66ghz to 3.2ghz and RAM running at 1600mhz. doesn’t reach 60 degrees C on full-load with prime95.

UPDATE 2017-Jan-3: This computer is over 6 years old but still running great. The processor was actually OC’ed to 4ghz stable [which is a stupid overclock for air cooling]. Various parts have been been upgraded such as the graphics card and extra RAM and a new monitor, but the core mobo and processor remain.

We’re all crazy, seriously.

so here’s where i drop some pseudo-intellectual knowledge based off my measly 21 years on this earth, 3 of which were spent in an overpriced university. feel free to flame me.

i was talking to my friend. she, like many girls, loves to date assholes. well, for her, it’s not so bad since she’s still on her first asshole. anyways, i told her she’s crazy just like all the other girls out there. she claims she’s not. then i decided to change my claim: everyone is crazy. and here’s why…

i think we all tether on insanity. you hear about such things as people going insane or having a breakdown, etc. the human brain is great and can endure a lot of things, but it obviously has a limit. everyone has random thoughts – everyone dreams at night – these random mashups of our life experience and knowledge is what makes us human and can inspire us, or can make us do terrible things. my personal opinion is that everyone is capable of atrocities – it is the natural savage in us – society has contained it because it is beneficial. but if we are stripped of everything, we can lose our sanity.

so back to the crazy girls – and crazy everybodies. if i were to get paralyzed, i’d probably get depressed and maybe just off myself. or perhaps someone were to murder my entire family in front of me. would i lose my sanity? would i go on a murderous rampage of vengeance? let’s take it to a lesser extreme. a smart girl is highly competitive in academics. she gets shafted by her friend somehow – like her friend sabotages her application to university. would she murder her friend? would she contemplate it? the thought probably crosses her mind. she thinks about it and using her society-instilled values, she passes judgment on the action/thought.

so what i’m trying to say is – we’re all crazy because we all have the seed of chaos – the innate savage – inside of us. i suppose, people are crazy to different extents, or rather, their stability – their mental wall – varies in strength. and once you know someone long enough, you can judge where this wall stands in relation to others and might even place concrete examples on it. of course, many people will not reveal their inner crazy – i mean, society tells you to hide it. so now you’re wondering: what random thoughts pass through my head? wouldn’t you like to know? :)

The Religion of Love

It seems like I’ve grown so… peaceful. I feel like a hippie. I enjoy biking around because to enjoy the weather and the motion. The other day, I even felt like doing volunteer work. It was quite an odd feeling. What is new in my life that is causing this change? Maybe it’s just all the little things that add up.

I’ve been seeing the best in the people… or rather, I forgive them for the things they’ve done or do. I’m not saying some people are emotionally or psychologically doomed, but I accept people for their shortcomings. I suppose I should be careful not to pity people or be condescending else it would be interpreted the wrong way.


I need to read more books because I’m losing my vocabulary, or rather, my ability to piece together eloquent sentences. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve stopped mid-sentence, trying to look for the word that conveys my thoughts most accurately and succinctly. Probably should stop drinking so much? Haha.


I’ve found that I’ve gotten more annoyed by some people, even close ones. My patience is not there, but I think it’s partially from work. I’m by no means unhappy, but working 7 hours a day programming can take its toll on your patience. There are ups and downs. I was frustrated for a whole day trying to debug some shitty code. I decided to scrap the entire module that was written by someone else and write it again, borrowing ideas but implementing it in a vastly more efficient and legible way. I slaved away for a couple of days and I’m nearing completion now. The sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a big piece of code or even a novel piece of code is amazing. But back to the point: programming every day can take its toll. You’ve spent all your patience debugging code. Today, I literally started laughing while coding. I just saw a bunch of “ifs” on my screen and somehow thought it was funny what I was doing… the very concept of programming, creating a maze of logic for a computer to iterate through.


One of the things on my mind recently is the fact that people stay in shitty relationships. Humans live according to their culture. Everything has to be taken into context. But take the context of the modern day idea of romantic love, the desire to be lifelong companions with someone else. For some, it is as if we subscribe to the religion of love. That’s why you hear people say “I [don’t] believe in true love.” Those who know me know that I am not a fan of religion – the idea of having blind faith in an idea or person. I’m a programmer – I try to think logically about most issues. Sure, I’ve been stung by this thing they’ve called “love.” It’s an emotion that most sane people feel at least some time in their life. Obviously, this struggle with romantic love affects everyone. You usually hear about the pain that comes with it: sleepless nights, crying, the numbing pain that grips you. However, these ideas are given to us by the media. Literally, I’ve been brainwashed [or programmed, haha] into being a hopeless romantic. It’s become a drug. It’s like a guilty pleasure, watching a tear-jerking romance movie. It’s an inconvenience when it hurts, but it’s great when it’s working out. I suppose you could consider it another form of entertainment. Get a boyfriend or girlfriend so you can pass your time with them.

Anyways, back to the point. Why is it that I hear about people complaining about the shitty relationships they are in, yet they refuse to end it? I would like to think i’m a socially acclimated person, and I know that the stories they are telling me are grounds for termination of the relationship. Yet it doesn’t happen. But I suppose this is where it vagues. I haven’t ever been in a long term relationship. I can tell them to break it off, but would I have the emotional strength to do so myself? The closest I’ve ever gotten to true love, it was severed from me. I clung on for as long as I could. I couldn’t let go. Back to the silly idea of how I [and many others] subscribe to the religion of love.

And now I will end this fairly long post with this video I enjoyed courtesy of my Facebook feed… a video of dark humor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUhCKFNuj3Q

Excited for Spring/Summer

winter is nearly over. that means better weather, better conditions for playing ultimate. the first tournament of the spring is this coming weekend. i have really high hopes for BU this year – we will definitely make regionals. getting edged out by BC last year was one of the most disappointing losses ever. we’ll be sure to punish them this year for it, haha.

life is going well. i got a job lined up for this summer at Verndale again. it seems like ever since i started web development, i’ve slowly fallen deeper into the rabbit hole. not too long ago, i was messing around with an HTML page with a CSS stylesheet attached. now, i’m working on web applications to be used by hundreds of strangers all over the world. it’s stressful trying to learn new technologies in order to achieve your goals, but there’s a sweet satisfaction each time you reach a milestone.

so much is going on in my life that i feel like i should be able to write pages about it, but my mind is surprisingly blank. oh well, time to go play Starcraft 2. i deserve it after the 6+ hours i input in my CS460 project, right?