Thursday, December 29, 2011

Resolutions for Twenty Twelve

I've given it some thought and I decided to go with one resolution for 2012:

Work out twice a week.

That's it. There's no specific marathon that I'm training for, there's no weight loss number I'm going for, and there's no specific amount that I want to bench press. The goal is simply to get my ass in a gym at least twice a week.

I had a whole entry prepared on how "you are only given one body your entire life" and how "being physically healthy is a key to staying mentally healthy"... but I'll just leave that in draft status. That entry does end with a motivational message to myself which I will include here so I can have something to look back on when I'm feeling lazy next year:

It's scientifically proven that exercise is good for both the body and mind. There are many good reasons to go to the gym and there are many good ways to stay motivated. From those lists choose anything you need. It doesn't matter why or how, as long as you're doing it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ELO Hell and Thinking You Are Better Than You Actually Are

I've been playing a lot of video games. League of Legends (LoL) in particular. It's free to play if you want to check it out.

The gist of the game is you have teams of 5 people (or AI) competing against each other. There’s “Normal” mode which is where you go to play with your friends, practice, try new builds, and have fun. Then there’s “Ranked” mode which involves an ELO system that ranks players and creates competitive matches where both teams are trying to win in order to increase their ELO. So that’s the short version. Normal: play for fun. Ranked: play to win.

Okay, that was a lot of precursor to talk about what I really wanted to talk about and that is an article I read called Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. How this article relates to LoL is that players will often refer to their current ELO as "ELO Hell" which is basically the idea that they are trapped with inferior players. Every loss is because of noobs/feeders/afkers on their team and every win is because they carried the team to victory.

Now as a player of LoL, I will admit these noobs and trolls exist. There are people that queue ranked games who have no idea what they're doing. There are people that queue ranked games with the sole purpose of intentionally screwing over their own team (because for some reason they get their kicks out of that). Fortunately, the creators of LoL have put in match making systems and reporting systems to attempt to weed these players out.

However, I submit that ELO Hell doesn't exist. My explanation of why is a mathematical one. As a card counter I am a strict believer in long term probability over a large enough sample size. If you subscribe to the notion that there is at least one troll/super-noob in every game then, assuming you aren't a troll/super-noob yourself then the remaining 9 player slots have an equal chance of getting the troll/super-noob. In the long term, you'll find that 4/9 times they are on your team and 5/9 times they are on the opposing team, which means you should statistically win more than you lose and work your way out of your "ELO Hell".

More to the point is that in any large sample size, the outside players make very little difference and the only common factor between the games is YOU.

Away from gaming, I’ve noticed this behavior a lot. “Scapegoating” is what I used to call it, but after a long night of psychology reading I think the term is better explained by the Dunning–Kruger Effect. I noticed this before in myself and other people as well. People seem to be quick to blame outside circumstances instead of working on things they CAN control.

The next step in my cogitation led to thinking about which is worse: Lacking confidence? Or having Illusory Superiority? I have decided for now that it's equally important to 1) believe in yourself and 2) realize that there is always room for improvement.

Queue segue music into an entry about New Years Resolutions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sports ESports and Entertainment

What makes something entertaining?

I was thinking about this the other day while I was sitting on the laptop watching highlights from MLG Providence and my girlfriend was watching the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. I’m not really sure what makes something entertaining. My guess is that it's a mixture of appreciation, relaxation, fun, and escapism. The appreciation factor is the one I can relate to the most when it comes to sports.

The reason I like watching Sports and ESports is because I appreciate high level competition. I can watch anything from two guys playing Tennis or Starcraft to teams of people playing Football or League of Legends. My appreciation comes from the fact that all of the professionals have talent and dedication. Pros often times make huge sacrifices in their life to be the best at what they do. That combined with their natural talent set them apart from the huge fields of people who also want to be the best.

On top of the appreciation for talent and dedication, is my appreciation for competition itself. These competitors all have the same goal: win the game. Satisfaction and glory goes to one side… ridicule and heartbreak goes to the other.

All of this combined with endless personalities provides some great entertainment. Intense rivalries, egos, and the cool fact that you can form instant camaraderie with someone you don’t even know just because you like the same team/player.

So that’s why I like sports, I still don’t fully understand what makes Fashion Shows, Reality TV, and Celebrity Gossip entertaining, but I suppose the “What makes something entertaining?” question is the multi-million dollar question that networks have been trying to figure out for years.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What it means to be an "Adult"

Images in the entry courtesy of xkcd.

Very rarely is there a defining moment where we say, “I’m an adult now.” Maybe for some people it was moving out or going to college. For others it might be losing their virginity or turning 18 or 21.

A couple months ago in my Quarter Life Crisis entry, I talked about how people in their twenties and thirties usually categorize success in two ways:

1) Having Financial Independence.
2) Starting a Family.

I think those are pretty decent metrics, but it’s not perfect. There are people who don't want kids that I would consider adults… and there are kids with large inheritances that I wouldn’t consider adults.

The second panel really hits home for me. We have the freedom to decide what it means to be an adult. These past few days I’ve given some thought to what I think “being an adult” means, but I haven’t quite decided yet. Most of my ideas center on personal responsibility, but I think there's more to it than that. I don’t want to decide yet and, more importantly, I don’t have to decide yet. It feels nice to have the freedom to decide at my own pace, it kind of... makes me feel like an adult.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The closest you ever got to Facebook

If you were sitting at home and wondering how your old crush was doing you'd dust off your yearbook and try and find her number. If that failed, you might call your friend to see if they had her number or maybe they knew someone who might. After a week of phone tag, you might have finally tracked her number down.

When you called, her parents picked up and you politely asked to speak with her. It turns out she wasn’t home yet but you could try back tomorrow. The next day you finally get a hold of her and only then could you arrange to meet in person. You would both agree to meet at the mall later that weekend (because the mall is the only decent place to be seen in public with someone).

The weekend finally comes around but she didn’t show. You were left to wonder why the entire day until she calls you later that night. Her mom’s car had broken down.

A week later and you might finally get to see her. Only then could you extend your index finger and press it against her upper arm.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Modern Day Etiquette: Tipping

Why Should I Tip?

The idea of a tip started out as something you gave to a person in the service industry for their exceptional service. In most places in the world, this is still true; tips are not “expected”. In the United States we like to be different (see: imperial/metric measurements).

The bastardized version of tipping here in America is for a service person to receive 15-20% tip, regardless of their service. Now a big part of me (the non-conformist part) says, “Fuck you America. How stupid is this standard? Everyone needs to stop tipping.” However, the part of me that empathizes with people in the service industry says, “Fuck you America. I feel sorry for these workers who are having their pay adjusted on the expectations of tips.” Most employers know that bartenders, waitresses, valets, etc. make most of their money on tips so employers often pay them minimum wage.

When should I Tip?

If you need to know, just ask. “Is it customary for people to tip here?” “Is your tip included in the charge?” Obviously, if you're asking, you should be prepared to tip. Let me go through the list of people that I’ve tipped in the past: Wait Staff, Bartenders, Casino Dealers, Valet, Cruise Staff (cleaning), Hotel Staff (bellhop, room-service), Strippers, Guy playing music while I was in line, Taxi Driver, Movers, Pizza Delivery Guy, Guy who works at the casino who kicked a smoker out of the non-smoking section, Tow Truck Guy, and probably tons more that I’m forgetting.

How much should I tip?

If they are “expecting” a tip, (there’s a line on the receipt for a tip) generally 15-20%. I don’t like that word “expecting” but it’s the sad case for some professions… their take-home pay seriously depends on tips. If it’s something spur of the moment, or something where there isn’t a fixed price, just do whatever feels right. If it’s something small maybe $1-5. Something more substantial like moving heavy stuff? Maybe $20+. Some of these people aren’t expecting tips and if you have any friends who work in the industry they’ll have horror stories of tipping. “Oh this person from Europe was such a bad tipper! I even helped them translate the menu and she only gave me a $2 tip!” It’s a cultural thing don’t take it personally, she was actually being nice by giving you ANY tip because she’s used to giving zero.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness is Bullshit.

It's been a while since I posted a rant and I just remembered that October is coming up.... Which means prepare yourself for countless advertisements and inane slacktivism via Facebook Status updates. Let's be honest here, who doesn't know about Breast Cancer already? Is shit like this really necessary?

Disclaimer: My grandmother died of Breast Cancer, my other grandmother is a survivor of Breast Cancer, and my aunt has been slowly dying of Breast Cancer over the past few years. Our family knows breast cancer well.

Now that that’s been said - Today’s Breast Cancer Awareness programs are all bullshit. Sure, they started in the 2000’s with good intent but they have turned into marketing campaigns for companies who want women to buy more of their shit. Most companies won’t even donate a penny unless you go online and “register your product” for a donation.

Worse than the barrage of pink products are these stupid fucking awareness meme’s. At least the products provide an opportunity to donate. What does posting your bra color, or where you put your purse, actually do for breast cancer? What does that shit do for anyone? Why would you attempt to alienate 50% of the population to "raise awareness"... Does anyone see the faulty logic in that? What a fucking joke.

How about some real Breast Cancer Awareness: Breast Cancer is one of the most well survived cancers. The 10 year survival rate is close to 90%. Sure, early detection and prompt medical detection are the keys to survival, but the fact is that if you get breast cancer today… chances are you are going to survive it. On the other hand, there is liver cancer, which has a 10 year survival rate that hovers just below 10%. Why aren’t companies spending millions of dollars painting their boxes brown to raise awareness about liver cancer? Because no one gives a shit about bringing awareness to cancer, they care about making money. No one wants to think about nasty liver when they can be thinking about boobs.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Becoming a Better Conversationalist

This entry will go over (in nerdy detail) how be more comfortable speaking in groups, how to “small talk” one on one, and how to just be a better conversationalist in general. The goal of this entry is not “how to talk to women” or “how to persuade and influence people” it’s just a simple (or not so simple) list of tips on how to chat it up with someone. This entry is for everyone from the slightly introverted to the Socially Awkward Penguins of the world .

1) Be comfortable talking about yourself. In preparation for being a better conversationalist, you should be prepared to talk about yourself and anticipate the questions that follow. If you tell people you’re into martial arts, be prepared when they ask “What kind?” or “How long have you been doing it?” It sounds simple, but if you’re unprepared talk about yourself, you might come across as awkward or someone who is difficult to talk with. Additionally, if what you've prepared takes too long, that can make you difficult to talk with as well.

2) Engage others to talk about themselves. Just like you’ve prepared, others have also. Be ready with “conversation starters” that get people talking about themselves. I find the trick to doing this is to be genuinely curious. If I don’t care about what they have to say, or vice versa, it’s easy for one party to tell if the other is disinterested in the conversation. I make the conversation interesting for myself by asking questions where I actually care about the answers.

3) Approach conversation like a DFS. What is a DFS? In programming there are two types of searches that you first learn, Breadth First Search (BFS) and Depth First Search (DFS). Without nerding out too much (or is it too late for that?), the basic problem is that you’re looking for something in a tree structure. You can look for it in two ways, either look at all the closest things first (BFS), or dive deeply down one path (DFS).

What does this have to do with conversation? Well, a common mistake of a novice conversationalist is to do things BFS style:
Person A: “What do you do for fun?”
Person B: “I like to snowboard. I went to Big Bear last week and got a cabin with some friends!”
Person A: “Oh that sounds neat. So where do you go to school?”

Hopefully this fake exchange made you cringe a little. Person B created a lot of opportunity to spark a conversation but person A changed the subject too quickly. Person A, although has some great conversation topics, is doing things BFS style (almost like an interview). Although it might seem like a lot of information was exchanged... a BFS conversation is usually pretty awkward.

The above conversation in DFS style might involve person A engaging in a conversation about snowboarding and how much they love/hate/want to go. Or maybe asking about the cabin, or asking about the friends they went with. The DFS approach takes words, phrases, and topics mentioned by the other person to expand the conversation.

4) Cater to the person you are talking to. Do they like to talk more or listen more? Are they uncomfortable sharing information? Are you making them uncomfortable by sharing too much information? How much time do they have?

With experience, you’ll find a list of conversation topics that are generally acceptable “What did you do this weekend?” “What do you do for fun?” “Where are you from?” “What’s your favorite dinosaur?” Be cognizant of the type of person you are talking to, and the situation they're in. This might sound like "common sense" but if you're not used to having a lot of conversations, you might not think about this stuff... which brings me to my next point.

5) Practice and have fun! This list probably seems like a lot to think about, but I’ve overanalyzed the stuff that will come naturally with practice. All of these skills develop by having more conversations with more people. The best way to learn isn’t by reading this entry or observing people having conversations, it’s to put yourself out there and have more conversations with people you don’t already know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Midnight In Paris, Golden Age Thinking

Midnight In Paris is the best movie I’ve watched so far this year. It caused a lot of introspection and I found myself thinking a lot of the same things the main character did. Warning: The rest of this entry contains spoilers. In the movie he travels back in time (I’m a bit of a nerd for time travel) and talks with Hemmingway, Picasso, and others. It was a really cool idea and I loved every moment of the movie which took place in the past. Later on, the main character has an epiphany about how people become too enamored with the past.

“Nostalgia is denial - denial of the painful present... the name for this denial is Golden Age Thinking - the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in - its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

I couldn’t agree more. I have always been a big fan of living in the moment, trying not to lament things in the past, or feeling “that we are victims of the time we live in.” The movie ends with the main character getting a new resolve to live in the present and make the most of the time that he has. The movie points out simple things that we take for granted like modern medicine or the ability to travel all over the world. You watch him come to terms with his reality, his present.

I really enjoyed the film, from the acting to the overall message. My favorite character is the Hemmingway character, who is absolutely amazing. I’ll end this entry by sharing an awesome monologue of his about love:

“All men fear death. It's a natural fear that consumes us all. We fear death because we feel that we haven't loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same. However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears. Because when you are sharing your body and heart with a great woman the world fades away. You two are the only ones in the entire universe. You conquer what most lesser men have never conquered before, you have conquered a great woman's heart - the most vulnerable thing she can offer to another. Death no longer lingers in the mind. Fear no longer clouds your heart. Only passion for living, and for loving, become your sole reality. This is no easy task, for it takes insurmountable courage. But remember this, for that moment when you are making love with a woman of true greatness... you will feel immortal.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dealing with your Quarter Life Crisis

What is a Quarter Life Crisis?

It’s the overwhelming feeling that everyone is somehow doing better than you. If you’re in your twenties or thirties then you probably categorize your success in two ways. 1) Having Financial Independence and 2) Starting a Family. These two things come from the traditional definition of “being an adult” (I have my opinions about that but I’ll save that entry for another time). Below are some of the symptoms of people experiencing their Quarter Life Crisis:

  • Disappointment with your job.
  • Frustration with relationships.
  • Bored with your social life.
  • Feeling “not good enough” because your job isn’t at your academic/intellectual level.
  • Insecurity about your current accomplishments or insecurity about the future.
  • Nostalgia for high school or college years.
  • Intense loneliness or depression.

The Quarter Life Crisis can be thought of as an extreme case of “the grass is greener.” The reason people our age experience this feeling is because our paths have been similar up until now (we all went to school). So, as our paths diverge it is natural to form insecurities in all the areas of life. The strongest catalysts for a Quarter Life Crisis are lacking a meaningful relationship or lacking meaningful work. Due to a variety of factors (economy, apathy, and intellectualism to name a few) my generation contains a lot of people who are dealing with their Quarter Life Crisis and it is becoming almost as common as the Mid Life Crisis.

Read on if you’re having a Quarter Life Crisis the rest of this entry is designed to help you get through it.

You might already feel better knowing that it’s a real thing, that you aren’t alone, and that all the people around you have similar anxieties and insecurities. I went through my own Quarter Life Crisis just last year. Given my experiences, I think these steps are a good way to deal with a Quarter Life Crisis:

Step 1) Figure out what you want.
Step 2) Figure out what you’re willing to give up for it.
Step 3) Go to work.

It may sound easy or oversimplified but, trust me, it’s not.

Step 1. What do you want? Sounds easy enough, right? This step was incredibly hard for me. I honestly had no idea what I wanted. I could come up with a reasonable list of the "What’s" that I wanted, but then I gave some thought to the "Why" part. I spent night after night struggling with mortality, religion, and psychology. Why do I want those things? Is it societal pressure? Is it something that would genuinely make me happy? Is it material? This step might be easier for you than it was for me, but the point is to really think about the things you want and why you want them. You should break them down into things that will make you happy in the short term, in the long term, and in life.

Step 2. What are you willing to give up for your goals? This will be a wake up call if your goals are possible or not. If Step 1 is the "What" and the "Why", then this is the "How". It’s okay to dream big, but if you have no idea how you’re going to do it then all you’re doing is dreaming. Step 2 balances being realistic and being sure that risk and failure aren’t holding you back. This may often require you to go back to Step 1 because reality can change what you want. This step led me to a lot of self discovery. I discovered that I was wiling to give up a lot for my goals. I once gave up my social life to work on my depression. I once gave up a steady paycheck to take the leap and find a new career.

Step 3. Going to work doesn’t mean actually go to your job (although it could be). It just means “going to work” on your goals. No more lazy cop outs. You might still be “finding yourself”, “soul searching”, or “going through something” but at least you have a plan of action. As long as you did Step 1 correctly you should be doing something that will lead to your happiness in the short term, long term, or the rest of your life. It may not be easy but (if you did Step 2 correctly) you’ll know that it’s realistic and that it’s worth it. To me, Step 3 seems like the easiest step because when you truly want something nothing can get in the way.

By completing these steps you’ve given yourself purpose (through goals) and happiness when you reach them. These two things alone can help you make it through your Quarter Life Crisis. Looking back, the Quarter Life Crisis wasn’t some terrible event that caused my stress and depression, it was just an opportunity to re-evaluate my intended course through life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Horse Betting

Some people are curious about what the hell I actually do when I go to these horse races here in San Diego. There are tons of ways to bet, but this entry will go into the different bets that I place.

My first bet is what’s known as the Favorite to Show, which is normally my large bet. Since the horse is considered the “favorite” for the race, the ratio for the return isn’t very high, which means you have to place a large amount to make it worthwhile. I'd say about 60-70% of the time the favorite will at least Show (which means place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd). My second bet uses 50% of my projected earnings (from bet 1) and is usually in the form of multiple Trifectas, Exactas, Doubles, etc. depending on how my previous bets are going and how long I want to stay. These bets are much harder to land, but pay extremely well, they require things like picking the exact order in which the horses finish or picking the correct winners for multiple races back to back. My third and last bet uses 25% of my projected earnings to place on the longshot to Win the race.

To have this make more sense, I’ll give you an example with numbers:

1st bet) I place $100 on the Favorite to Show. Winning this bet will give me $200, or a $100 profit (the winnings won’t be exactly be $100, but I’m using this as an example to make it easy)

2nd bet) I place $50 on a bunch of Trifecta/Exacta bets (Usually a $2 minimum. I use a Box to place a bunch of these bets quickly) If I hit even ONE of these $2 bets I’d win $1000.

3rd bet) I place $25 on a longshot to WIN. Winning this will give me $1000

So with these bets in place, I normally lose my 2nd and 3rd bets but win my 1st bet and walk away $25 richer after the race. The best case is obviously if you hit the longshot or one of your exacta/trifectas but it’s very rare for this to happen. It gives you plenty to root for in the race (scream your heart out if your longshot is nearing the finish and has a reasonable chance to win). If your longshot isn’t doing so great, you can always root for the favorite because when the favorite places that’s always a good thing. After the race, it gives you plenty to do (you have to check the boards for your trifectas and you’ll almost always have a ticket to cash). When you cash your ticket it gives you an excuse to go up and buy more beer and place more bets!

Make sure you have enough to survive if the favorite doesn’t show 3-4 times. If you’re really unlucky and the favorite doesn’t show in multiple races… it can definitely hurt your wallet, if you are playing catch-up just bet on the Favorite to Show and don’t do all the other bets. Most of my trips end up with me breaking even or winning/losing a couple hundred. The best trips are obviously when that Trifecta or longshot hits!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You don’t think I get embarrassed? That’s ridic.

One of my friends said, “I can’t picture you getting embarrassed. I just don’t see it. You’d laugh it off or play it cool or something.” As much as I’d like to to be Mr. Cool-All-The-Time, I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing moments. My bad hearing has led to some really embarrassing miscommunications and in my younger years I had plenty of mouth-before-brain comments. I think everyone has a moment tucked away in their memory somewhere that causes them to cringe or swear audibly when they think of it. My most embarrassing moment came one night because of a silly abbreviation I made at the dinner table...

When I was a kid I used to think I was the shit and I abbreviated everything under the sun. “Yo mom what are we having for breck?” (“breck” was short for breakfast) “I’m going to MV to hang out with Bran and eat some J-Bo’s.” (Mission Valley, Brandon, Jack in the Box). I thought I was some kind of badass talking in a code language. Looking back, I sounded like a complete moron.

Set the stage to Thanksgiving dinner, I was 10 years old. I’m sitting at the table with my conservative grandparents and the rest of my family. Part of my badass persona at the time was the fact that I could eat a lot of food and that I could eat it quickly (I don’t know why this was cool, but I thought it was). So after I quickly finished my first plate I waited for a moment where no one was talking and announced, rather loudly, “I want some sec’s!” Everyone kind of froze, my grandmother and my parents were jaw dropped, a baby started crying in the background. Confused, I repeated, “What??? I just want some sec’s!!” Still silence. I looked over at the abundance of food (we always have way more than anyone can eat) and just repeated the statement to myself in my head until it dawned on me. Oh fuck. “Noooo! I… Nooooo! I meant I want seconds!! Not ugh… I… Seconds!!!”

You can imagine the rest. My bright red face must have been on the verge of tears. Silence was inevitably broken by manic laughter and jeers. “Wow he must really like the food!” “He’s growing up so quickly!” I wanted to crawl under the nearest rock and die.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

25 Cheap Date Ideas. Because being romantic doesn’t have to be expensive.

  1. Watch a Drive-in movie with a home-cooked picnic.
  2. A walk in Balboa Park to a quiet pavilion, featuring hot cocoa and a Powerpoint presentation detailing exactly why and to what degree I like this girl.
  3. Drive out to the airport. Park in a secluded area and take turns making up stories about the planes taking off. Also, hang out in the arrivals area and watch families reunite.
  4. Art crawl followed by coffee.
  5. Volunteer at a soup kitchen then wrap up with a bottle of wine and Netflix.
  6. Watch the UCSD or SDSU events calendar for interesting lectures or events.
  7. Check out a knot-tying handbook from the library and learn a few new knots. (This might be a little creepy for a first date...)
  8. Midnight hike to a remote hilltop for moonlit slow dancing. (Thank you iPod and portable speakers)
  9. Photography word jumble. Hit the town and take pictures of letters to form words and sentences for a collage.
  10. Take laptop and speakers to the top of a parking garage with a view of downtown, play movie on laptop.
  11. Bottle of wine and finger painting. First on paper, then on bodies, then...
  12. New recipe date to Whole Foods.
  13. Dog park followed by ice cream.
  14. Ice cream followed by bookstore.
  15. Ice cream followed by whatever. I love ice cream.
  16. The $20 Thrift Store Challenge. Find the best tux/prom dress you can at a thrift store for $20 or less. Get dolled up. Go out for dinner in Coronado or some other wildly-inappropriate place. Tell everyone it's your anniversary.
  17. Go fishing with a cooler of beer.
  18. Go to the grocery store and make a scene. Pretend you are in a ridiculous soap opera and accuse your significant other of taking advantage of your amnesia to sleep with your brother. Really go over the top dramatic: tears and lamentations (WHYYYYYYY?!!?!). Bonus points for throwing a costume-jewelry wedding ring or something.
  19. Carve bell pepper jack-o-lanterns and watch scary movies for Halloween in May.
  20. Go to the library and pick out some books. Sit next to each other on the couch and read until you fall asleep.
  21. Drive to a small town at least an hour away in order to eat lunch at a locally owned restaurant. Pick up a trashy romance novel and read it to each other while driving, complete with voices.
  22. Teach her how to shoot a .22
  23. Bonfire out in Julian roasting marshmallows and hot dogs. Alternatively/Additionally - Grab a guitar and a mandolin and make sweet music on the porch until the wee hours.
  24. Build a couch cushion fort, roast marshmallows over the stove top, make smores, and have a Futurama/Family-Guy marathon inside the fort.
  25. Appear as extras in movies/music videos. Search Craigslist (or know some people) for gigs.

Someone once told me that romance is the ordinary made extraordinary. Bearing this in mind, the general formula for a fun date is to take something everyday and do it in an intentional, interesting, or unusual way.

Friday, June 17, 2011

San Diego Bucket List

Inspired by my other San Diego post, this will answer the "What should I do if I'm just in town for the weekend? What do I need to do before I leave? etc.

I'll try to make this a list of generally fun/nice/pleasant things to do. Since everyone has a different style, I'll make the list as diverse as possible:

  • Visit Marine Street in La Jolla, it's beautiful.
  • Drive down sixth avenue into downtown. You have the harbor to your right, Balboa to your left, and downtown at 12 o'clock with planes going over your head.
  • There's a spot down by the airport, right across the street from Terminal 2 that has these benches that sit right on the water with Coronado across the bay and downtown in front of you. It's a great view.
  • Obviously Balboa Park, the museums and the zoo.
  • Lestat's has great coffee and is open 24/7.
  • San Diego was NPR's "Beer City, USA" last year. The Breweries and Brew Pubs: Stone, Port Brewing, Lost Abbey, Coronado, Karl Strauss, Alesmith, Green Flash, Blind Lady Ale House, The Local, The Ritual Tavern, and Hamilton's
  • Hike at Torrey Pines.
  • Visit Sunset Cliffs (at sunset...).
  • Gaslamp for the night crowd. As of today the popular clubs are On Broadway, Fluxx, Stingaree, Ivy, and Boudoir.
  • Visit Seaport Village.
  • Sea World is fun. Take the skytower ride, see the sea otter show, and check out the Clydesdales.
  • Visit Coronado and the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Peohe's is a nice but expensive restaurant.
  • Rent some kayaks in La Jolla and go out into the cove and caves.
  • Hike Cowles Mountain. It has the highest peak in San Diego and a beautiful view.
  • Visit the Silver Strand.
  • Visit Mission Bay and Belmont Park.
  • San Diego Maritime Museum aka The Star of India. Also the USS Midway.
  • Seasonal things: Miramar Airshow, races at Del Mar, Comic Con, a game at Petco, hot air balloons in Solana Beach.
  • If you're into people watching, Imperial Ocean Beach has world class hobos, Pacific Beach has world class bros. (thanks Anabel)
  • Point Loma Lighthouse for whale watching.
  • Excellent dive sights if you can tolerate coldish water: Wreck diving off of PB, Kelp forests of Point Loma and La Jolla Cove, Coronado Islands, Catalina.
  • Ocotillo and the eastern deserts. Spring is great for fluoro cactus flowers. Best place for meteor showers. Plenty of hidden jewels and hikes: Mud caves, wind caves, hot springs, "The pumpkin patch", Valley of the Moon (In-Ko-Pah), the lookout tower, etc. Also great 4WDing.
  • Julian, a little mountain town about 1.5hrs out of SD city. Hikes and apple pie.
  • Santee Lakes and Mission Trails, Old Mission Dam, and the many lakes scattered around east county for hiking or fishing (or ice blocking at Mission Trails golf course).
  • Paintball on the Viejas reservation.
  • Rock climbing (outdoor) various locations all within an hour from SD.
  • Children's Pool in La Jolla for some seal watching.
  • La Jolla Indian Reservation for tubing.
  • Meditation Garden in Encinitas. (Thanks Syp)
  • Local Farmers Markets (Recommend Little Italy if you like Sea Urchin!)

I'll be adding more as I think of them or if there's something I missed put it in the comments.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Be yourself is shitty advice

I cringe when I’m asking for advice and someone says, “Be yourself.” Don’t get me wrong, people often say it with greatest of intentions. What they mean is, “Stop pretending to be someone you aren’t, stop trying to fit in, start standing out, and be your true awesome self.”

So that is great advice when that’s exactly what you need to hear. If that is your problem, then this is the best advice you can get. The problem is, people say “Be yourself” when most of the time it’s shitty advice for the situation. Here’s why:

1) If yourself sucks why would you want to keep being it. Obviously the current version of yourself isn’t getting the job done, that’s why you’re asking for help.

2) It’s lazy advice. It’s something people say when they want to sound supportive but can’t help you. They either don’t care or have no experience or useful advice to give.

3) There are no steps. If I can’t be myself already, then how is flatly telling me going to help? It’s like asking for someone for help because a bridge is out and I can’t get across the river and the person says, “find a way to get across.” Even if I can use the advice, it’s doing nothing for me.

4) It deflects blame. If you “be yourself” then the advice giver can’t be held accountable. It gives the person taking the advice a way out also. If you are being yourself and it doesn’t work out, it becomes someone else’s problem. It is basically saying: The world should just accept you for who you are! Why try to better yourself when you can just sit around being you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So you’re looking for a job?

So you're unemployed, looking for work, looking to make your switch, or fresh out of college. I hear the same excuses over and over about the job market and I've been asked how I made my switch. What follows are some job-hunting tips that I notice some people are just not following at all:

1) Practice interviews. With friends, with employers you don’t care about, with anyone willing to sit down with you and practice. What sucks worse than not being able to get an interview is blowing the interview when you get the chance. I could have a whole entry about the importance of interviews, but this bullet should suffice. Interviews are important. That’s why this is #1.

2) Continue education. That doesn’t mean sitting in a classroom and taking classes, although it could be. Educate yourself on what the job will entail, know the lingo. Talk with someone who will be your peer, or someone who does your job title at another company. If you already know what you’re going to do when you start it paints a picture in the employers mind of what it will be like when you're hired. In addition, educating yourself in relevant subjects at a school shows that you have commitment, interest, and dedication.

3.a) Tailor your applications. Have you really sent out 100 applications? I doubt it. If you really sent out 100 applications last month then you are doing one of two things wrong. 1) You aren’t targeting jobs that you would make sense doing. 2) You haven’t taken the time to tailor your resume each and every time you send it. It makes me cringe when I see a cover letter that says “To whom it may concern”. Also, try ordering your experience by relevance and not date. Try to be succinct, but go over 1 page if you feel like it's necessary.
3.b) Don’t tailor your applications. If you’re applying for a job and not a career on a massive website, then the shotgun approach isn’t bad. Quantity over quality works when you are looking for work quickly.

4) Use your network. Annoy your friends until they help you find a job. I know which one of my friends is looking the hardest because those are the people asking me for help. People should be recommending you. Nepotism exists, get over it. Yes, there are places where you have to know someone to get in, make sure you know that someone.

5) Volunteer. Especially if it’s in the area you hope to get into. Downtime on a resume can look bad, keep yourself busy doing this or #2. If you are unemployed, spend 10-20 hours a week volunteering at something that makes your resume look better and spend 40 hours a week job searching, tailoring your resume, and making connections.

6) Look harder but smarter. Jobs posted on Monster, Craigslist, and CB get thousands of applications. To find jobs with a low number of applicants, scour the websites of obscure companies that you may not know about.

7) Call them. Like I mentioned above, some jobs can see hundreds if not thousands of applicants for just one position. Guess how many of those people call? Have a talk with someone in the office to express your interest. Treat it like an interview. Don’t be annoying, don’t call 100 times, but show that you have the initiative. By the time you get to the interview hopefully they will at least have an idea of who you are and they’ll pay more attention when you talk.

Good luck on the job hunt, it is possible to find work in this economy... I'm proof!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What should you know if you're moving to SD

The question comes up on Yelp, Couchsurfing, WAYN, Reddit, etc. from time to time: "Hey I'm moving to SD! What should I know?" Instead of hand-crafting a response (which I have on a few occasions now), I'm just going to keep this saved in my blog so I can copy pasta my response.


What should you know?

We are extremely diverse. I consider myself rare because I've lived in San Diego my whole life; most people I meet nowadays are transplants. Try not to judge books by their cover, I may look like I'm Asian, but I act like I'm White, dress like I'm Black, and eat like I'm Mexican.

We have two seasons, Summer and Spring. Summer lasts from April to October, where it's either perfect or hot or somewhere in between. "Spring" are the other months where it looks like it might rain and sometimes it actually does... the other times it clears up and it's perfect. Although we don't have tornadoes or snow days, I have had a week off because of fires (two in the last 10 years). The only noise that earthquakes make... are on your Facebook and Twitter.

There's a high military presence. What does that mean? Well we get air shows from the airforce and more importantly it means we are one of the few Red cities in California. Don't worry, everyone has a laid back surfer-attitude about everything. People are openly gay and secretly Republican. Aside from some bumper stickers and signs when voting comes around, you'd never know. Another thing the high military presence means is that you can find a strip club or casino within an hour of wherever you live.

Mission Valley, to me, is the absolute center of San Diego due to Qualcomm Stadium and the huge hub of public transportation that goes through the malls there. Not that anyone actually uses public transportation, if you live here you probably own a car. Most people drive like the speed limit is actually 10MPH over whatever is posted, everywhere.

The cost of living is considered high (known as our "sunshine tax") but our salaries are decent. There's also plenty of stuff to do - we have beaches, parks, communities for everyone regardless of age, race, or sexual orientation. We have a couple sports teams that people remember when they're doing good too.

The food is obviously great due to the amount of diversity, but it's not as good as say LA or SF. There's plenty to discover in SD, welcome to the home of Comicon, Shamu, and YOU!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Modern Day Etiquette: Holding Doors

I wanted to do an entry about tipping, but I'll save that one for later.

Holding doors is a nice thing to do. It doesn't take you much effort and it saves the person you're holding it for the effort of holding a door you already opened anyways.

When do I hold doors?

My main rule is that if I open a door and it would swing shut on someone, I should hold it open instead.

Depending on the traveling-speed of the person and closing-speed of the door this distance can vary quite a bit. For most doors and most walking paces, the distance is about 10 feet.

Any further than the close-on-them rule, and you might create the situation where the person feels obligated to quicken their pace to get through the held door. Remember the whole point of holding doors is to make their life easier, not to make them jog!

Another must-hold time is when a person is carrying something through the door. If it would be difficult or impossible for them to get through the door without your help, this is a big must-hold time!

So now you know When, but How should I be holding the door?

Silly I know, just hold it whichever way that works! You probably already hold them in different ways in different situations and don't even realize it. A few things dictate how you hold the door. Some factors include: which direction the door opens, their gender, how much of a rush you're in, how much of a rush they appear to be in, the destination of the place that you're holding the door for.

There are generally two ways to hold doors.

Way 1) Holding it from the handle and letting them pass in front of you.

Way 2) Holding it from the inside and placing your palm on the door.

Way 1 is the Rolls-Royce of holding doors for people. It's the ultimate courtesy, you're allowing them to pass ahead of you and get to the destination before you and you are saving them the effort of opening the door. What a gentleman! This is the way I hold doors for females (at all times) and also for people carrying things. I'll also do this at super-busy doors of establishments depending on my mood.

Way 2 is used the most often. To me this is the standard way people should open doors. It saves the person the effort of opening the door, but you also get to your destination in the same order you arrived. What's great about this method is that they usually check behind them and do the same, creating a door-holding chain! Awesome! Also, this way should always be used if there are multiple doors in a row. If you've ever held a door in Way 1 only to have them hold a second door for you later, your goal of making their life easier failed.

tl;dr - Hold doors for people in any way you'd like. It's a nice thing to do!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No More Speeding

Well it finally happened, I got my license suspended. What's really stupid about laws in this state is that I can't even apply for a restricted license to get to/from work. They only reserve that privilege for people with DUI's. That's right, people who drive drunk are apparently safer drivers than people who speed but never get into accidents. Go figure.

It's my fault for breaking the law so I can't be too upset about it. So for the next year I can't get another ticket or my license will get even further suspended or worse, revoked. In addition to that they can impound my car for up to 30 days. Which means I better not get pulled over for anything stupid like a light or something.

No more speeding for me! I learned my lesson.

New Job, From Software to Business

I've been at my new job two months and I have to say that it's pretty awesome. Maybe I haven't been hardened by the long hours and stressful deadlines. Perhaps I'm still in my "new toy" phase. Whatever the reason, I find myself looking forward to coming into work each day. It sounds weird actually saying that, but for the first time in my life I actually feel that way.

So what do I do at work? Depends on who's asking. I have answers that range from: "I'm a BA." and "I do a mix of programming and business." to "Heh, please." (Courtesy of Barney Stinson)

Here is the long answer. My official title is Business System Analyst III. My job consists of two major functions: The first is doing business reporting for executives. I use SQL (pronounced "Sequel") and VBA (Visual Basic) to pull data and create reports (usually in Microsoft Excel) that high level executives use to make business decisions. The second part of my job is optimizing internal business systems. Basically, people ask our team to make their lives easier and we provide technical solutions.

The team that I work on is pretty badass. From the moment I started at the company I knew my team was exclusive. I wouldn't say we are hated on, but I detect a little jealousy when talking with my new hire peers. First of all I never had to go through the boring 9 day training that new hires go through. Second, they put me into my own office (less than 5% of the employees here work in an office). Third, they gave me a company laptop and told me that I could work from home whenever I wanted.

All these perks came from being on an allstar team, everyone is good at what they do and we're one of the best (if not THE best) reporting teams in the company. Most teams consist of 50+ employees with some people strong at business and some people strong at programming. Our team is only 10 people (including me) and we completely blow other teams out of the water. We produce accurate and fast results and we have a strong reputation within the company.

With all that awesomeness though, comes the huge pressure to perform. The reason I didn't do the 9 day training is because I had to hit the ground running. I put in tons of hours at the start and the learning curve was extremely high. I didn't know any SQL or VBA coming into this position (well, a little in college) but I was able to pick it up fast. Not only did I have to get my technical skills up to par, but I had to wrap my head around the business aspect as well. Programming was no problem, I have 4 years of schooling to help me pick up code quickly. However, picking up business was something brand new. Fortunately most of it was "common sense" and I already had a strong passion for business to begin with, so all of it came quicker than I anticipated. Now, two months in, I've finally caught up I'm getting settled in. Although, it seems like every single day I learn something new.

Overall, I'm loving my new job. Having a dynamic job can be difficult but I enjoy having each day be different. I have lost myself in my work a few times since I've started and I've had some extremely long weeks... but I honestly don't care as much as I did before. I think it's because I'm learning so much and I really like my group, my company, and what they have me doing.

I'd consider this a pretty successful transition from software to business. However I'm not sure you can really classify what I'm doing as strictly "Business". Either way, I can see myself at this company for a very long time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Modern Day Etiquette: Teaching Kids Manners

I watched my aunt scold my nephews the other day about above-the-table texting and having their ipod buds in their ears. I have no problem with scolding them (I think those behaviors are rude also) but she never explained why they're rude. If she simply explained to them that it's polite to give your guests your full attention then it would probably sink in better.

I thought it was rather amusing that the type of etiquette she was teaching was so... modern. It makes sense that as times change, rules and etiquette should change. In the past, men worried about defending the honor of their families, now, it's about where we hold our phones and have our headphones. I think the important thing to teach kids is that most of etiquette boils down to politeness and practicality. I never remember actually sitting down with my parents and going over a tedious list of manners, but I can remember having a fancy dinner and hearing my mom say, "We use the utensils from the outside-in because it's closer to our hands." I also learned that holding doors, pulling seats, and walking on the outside are gentlemanly things to do because it makes things easier (or safer).

I don't think chivalry is dead and I don't think it's as hard as people make it out to be. As long as parents teach kids to keep others in mind, being a polite gentleman should be natural.

At least you aren't

It bothers me when people try to compare drastically different situations.

For example, I'll be telling my friend about a problem I'm having and they'll say something like, "Well, at least you aren't in Japan right now!" Well, no shit. I guess their point is that my problems pale in comparison with those across the Pacific and that I should be a little more grateful for the things that I do have. I concede that my problems are not as bad as being crushed by a wall of water or dealing with nuclear radiation, but I am bothered by that kind of comparison-based thinking.

Just because someone has it worse than you doesn't mean you can't be sad. Just because someone has it better than you doesn't mean you can't be happy.

I'll admit that I'm guilty of that kind of thinking too. Just the other day I saw my brother struggling with a video game and I thought to myself, "Bah, kids these days are soft, back in my day there weren't online forums or guides."

When is comparison based thinking a good idea? I suppose when the person you're talking to has lost a grip on reality and really needs a reminder to get out of their bubble. If a person is having a heart attack because they broke a finger nail it might be appropriate to say, "Calm down! At least you aren't a starving kid in Africa!" However, if a person is telling you their problems looking for sympathy or empathy it's probably a bad idea to trivialize their problems by saying, "It's okay! At least we aren't Jews during the Holocaust!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When I'm done I'm done

It came up about a month ago, playing badminton with some friends. I am an A-Type when it comes to sports and I love to compete. I usually try to be the best at whatever I am doing. On this particular day though, I was on a team where I knew I was going to lose... so I just "checked out" and ended up mailing it in. Afterward, someone called me out.

I was a bit embarrassed, to say the least. Not because of my performance on the court, but because I preach to my friends all the time about the importance of effort in everything. Here I was being a complete hypocrite.

Why is it so important to try even when you know you're going to lose? I think it's those situations that build the most character. You see what you're made of and how passionate you are about what you're doing. Additionally, it's important to try even in the can't-win situations, because those situations give you the most opportunity to improve. Everyone likes to win, but if all you did was beat on lesser opponents all the time, you wouldn't get any better.

I am trying to figure out if this idea can be applied to personal relationships too. Nowadays, I tend to just "check out" on people when I decide they aren't worth any more of my time. I rarely give second chances and I'm wondering if there is something that I am missing out on. My initial reaction is that it seems stupid to put effort into people that aren't worth it... but maybe there is some sports-like opportunity for self-improvement by trying to work through it. I'll try it a couple times in the not-too-distant future and report back on my little social experiment.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When you squeeze an orange

I lost my favorite fortune-cookie fortune today!

I got the fortune cookie about a year and a half ago when I was going through some pretty tough times.

Originally, I kept it in my wallet and showed it to people randomly. I brought it out to make fun of how terrible or lost-in-translation some fortunes are. "Are they even trying anymore? It definitely looks like a candidate for fail blog or"

Eventually, I discovered that this fortune cookie is the first sentence to a famous quote. The second sentence reads: "When you are squeezed, what is inside comes out." When I discovered this, it gave the fortune more meaning. At that particular time, I was being "squeezed" (in the sense of being in a rut) and the fortune motivated me to dig deep and work through it and see what I was really made of "on the inside".

Nowadays, the saying has a little different meaning to me. I think about it like you only get what you want (orange juice) when you put in the effort (squeezing).

I know it seems like a lot of thought for such a silly fortune cookie but I still smile every time I think about it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

No Regrets? The Story of Lilly

Mike was my good friend and Michelle (Mike's sister) was good friends with Lilly, so it was inevitable that our paths would cross. Although I can't remember the exact time we first met each other, I just remember us being very young, like maybe 10 or so. We were both the quiet type, but somehow we became close friends and hung out pretty often on the weekends. Eventually, she became the kind of childhood friend that you'd sit on the sofa with for hours, not really doing anything other than watching cartoons, eating those strawberry wrapped candies, and unconsciously enjoying the innocence of youth. I was put in the friend-zone quite early, but honestly I didn't mind (and only realized it later). The emotional connection that we shared was something different than anything I had ever experienced before.

Fast forward a few years to a rainy day in February when she called me to tell me that she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I had no idea what CF was, but she told me all about it and all I could remember was zoning out after I heard the words "possibly fatal". Her voice was so relaxed about it, no tears, no anxiety, no anything. Part of me thought that she had no idea what was going on or that she couldn't understand the gravity of the situation. I attempted to comfort her, but she insisted that we didn't focus on that when we spent time together. Months passed and she underwent various treatments. The thought of being there for her and supporting her made me feel like I had a purpose. My purpose in life was to help her get over her disease.

In my junior year I started to skip classes to go to her school and see her. I would bring her boba from Tapioca Express and pretended to be her older brother. I would be lying if I said I didn't grow to love her. As she got worse, my trips were no longer to Tapioca Express, they were to the hospital. All of her other "friends" and our mutual friends mysteriously disappeared. I guess teens would rather think about homecoming dances as opposed to death and I can't really blame them. They weren't as invested as I was, she gave me purpose and it was too late for me because I had already fallen for her. One day I caught myself thinking, "Maybe if she gets over this we can go to college together. Then, maybe we can even get married and have a real life together." Lilly, simply put, held everything for me at the time. Pinned on her was my future, my desires, and my first sense of deep love for someone else.

On Monday, September 15th at 5:50 AM (my birthday), Lilly passed away. The whole day I sat quietly in all of my classes realizing that she was the only person I had ever truly loved (as much as a naive 17 year old can love something anyways). Sure, I had a "crush" on my friend Tam before, but this? This was love. Yet it was the one thing I had never told her. I proudly tell people that "I have no regrets" about the things in my life, but deep down I know that if I could change this one thing, I would. I try not to blame myself for not saying those words that every movie tells me a young girl would have wanted to hear, because at 17, love is such unknown idea. But I knew that I did. I should have said it. I knew it back then as much as I know it now: I loved her with all my heart.

I am 24 now and consider myself pretty well established. I have done all of the things that I promised to her when she was on her death bed. It's strange to think about her sometimes, because in my mind she is still just a girl. When I look back and see her picture in my mind, she isn't even a woman yet, so I find it hard for me to envision loving her as such a physical thing, but I suppose it is our memories together that I will always keep. I'll always treasure the time we spent together. Rest in peace Lilly, I love you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I put my money where my mouth is

In general, people seem to talk about doing things and never really do them. Some of the more common ones that I hear often: "I'm thinking about going to Vegas." "Mardi Gras in New Orleans is one of those things I have to do once before I die." "I'm gonna quit and find a new job." "I'll eventually go to grad school."

I try to think about what causes people to make these kinds of statements when they know that they'll never follow through. This phenomenon isn't new either, people have been doing it for ages. That's where all these cliches come from: "Actions speak louder than words." "Talk the talk and walk the walk." "Put your money where your mouth is."

I assume that most of the time people blurt out these empty sentences to fit in to the current conversation. On a deeper level though, I think it has to do with people being afraid of failure. They can't take the leap, (go on that trip or quit that job, etc.) because they are afraid of what might actually happen.

All people are afraid of the uncertain to some extent. No one likes to run into situations with no idea what to expect. The reason I push myself to make my "crazy" decisions is because my desire and passion outweigh my fear.

Recently, I was stuck in a vicious loop. I was stuck at a job that I didn't like and had no time to find a new one. I had already applied and got denied for a company voluntary layoff, twice. Although they never gave me the reason, I presume it was because I was too cheap, too young, too skilled, or my group was doing too well. I waited and waited, worked and worked, paralyzed by my fear of failure. "The job market is terrible right now." "This economy sucks!" "I should get something lined up first." In the summer of 2010, I hired a headhunter from some agency to find jobs for me. All he found were contract positions (temp jobs with full-time contracts in the horizon). That would be a major step down given my current position, but I nearly took them. I wanted a change that badly.

A stint of mandatory overtime was really the beginning of the end. For the better part of three months, I was absolutely miserable at my job. I told myself it was over (after I got paid for a fat winter vacation). I made a new years resolution to find a new job. It is now only a few weeks into 2011 and I now have a few companies to choose from, all of which would bring me in as a full time employee. The job market wasn't as bad as I thought. The economy is recovering too. And who needs another job lined up if you know how to save and invest properly?

Needless to say, I'm extremely happy with my decision. I'm glad I didn't let my fear of failure keep me stuck in that loop any longer and I'm really happy that I took the leap. It was very scary though. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid for my career and finances. I went from getting steady paychecks to making zero dollars, I quite literally put my money where my mouth was.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Doing things for a reason, not a season

Each year I make resolutions. A lot of people roll their eyes at the thought of New Years Resolutions or Lent or Valentines Day or even Birthdays.

Admittedly, I am one of those people. I often spout phrases such as, "Why haven't you been doing that all along?" "How come you place so much importance on arbitrary dates?"

Why is it then, that I make New Years Resolutions with the masses? Well, I'm not so hipster that I can't like the idea behind it. I think that the process of "bettering yourself" is a great thing. Any reason to better yourself is a good reason. If people need an excuse or want to wait for a random date to start changing, that's fine by me. As long as it's leading to good results, who cares how it happens?

For me, it's almost a matter of laziness. It's much easier to tell someone that my sudden change in behavior is due to "Lent" or a "Resolution" then have to explain my "spontaneous decision to improve myself".

This process of "improving yourself" takes a lot of time, it's not instant. Sometimes it takes so long that we forget how or why we started in the first place. Character change is a glacial movement... but it has to start somewhere. Any day is a good day to improve yourself, why not New Years?