Official Transcripts and fees

I was having my coffee at a shop in Austin when I ran across this piece on the local newspapers that is really annoying.

Official_Transcript

On top of high tuition fees and textbook prices, students have to pay for a host of other fees that in some cases are truly outrageous. In this particular article, it’s just ludicrous when an official transcript costs $10 to $20. A few weeks ago, I had to pay $75 in total to receive my two official diplomas, something that was beyond me. Official diplomas should be automatically free for graduating students, instead of costing almost a week of food. Plus, students have to pay $100 to borrow a gown for 3 hours on our Graduation Day. Graduation Day is a glorious culmination of months of hard-work, supposedly so, at school. Yet, in order to taste the sweetness of our hard-work, students have to pay an outrageous amount of fees which can amount to a significant sum for low-income students and families. I just think that it’s not right.

Public Transit

Landing in Austin, I immediately went to Uber and Lyft apps to look for a ride to Austin Downtown. Each came back with an estimate of $20 for a ride. I thought, well, it is what it is. In my defense, it is kinda a trained reaction after living for a while in America, where public transportation can be disappointing in some cases. Anyway, I decided to give it a try and ask the Information Desk about buses to Austin downtown. It turned out that buses run every 15 mins, even on Saturdays and most Sundays from and to the airport. The charge? $1.25/person/ride. It took me only 25 mins to reach Austin downtown, not much different from the estimated time of an Uber/Lyft ride. But I saved $19.

Imagine how much money & time we could collectively save from using more public transportation and less personal vehicles. No more scrambling to find a parking slot, no more parking fees in your building, no more car insurance and safer transportation. A well-designed public transportation network will be a great investment of tax payers’ money and a spoon for low-income folks who should not be forced to buy a car for daily commute.

In Omaha, one of two biggest cities in Nebraska, if not the biggest, there are more bus routes from downtown than other parts of the city and on the weekdays. If you live reasonably far out, no matter the direction, from the city center, there is no bus at all. On the weekends, there is only one bus every half an hour or every hour. To popular places such as Social Security Administration or DMV, there is usually one bus every half an hour, even on the weekdays, and it usually involves transiting from another bus. Trust me, it’s hugely frustrating and unnecessarily time-consuming. On top of that, drivers in Omaha are terrible. I don’t know about drivers in other cities, but a busted car front is not an unusual sight there. If you are not an experienced driver, it can be dangerous and daunting. Oh and it is even worse in the winter. My boss told me on Friday, the first day of winter, that she had to turn around and come home after 2 miles because there were a lot of accidents and the roads were too slippery.

P/S: After telling me about the bus, the lady at Austin Airport’s Information Desk promptly gave me a quarter for my bus ride. Talk about first impression from a new city!

 

 

Gratitude

If you get to know me these days, I have a tendency to go on and on about how much I am struggling between two Capstones and a job. I am not good at programming, but I have been hustling to write line after line of Javascript, Python and HTML. Hours and hours of being glued to my desk and sometimes the code didn’t work. Imagine that monumental amount of frustration.

This weekend, I am on a quick getaway trip to see a good friend from Belgium, who is in the US right now for business. So while on the planes and during layover, I have some time away from all the coding, Slack messages and fear that the code won’t work. Time to reflect.

Before this semester, I kept saying to whoever cared enough to ask: I can’t wait to graduate. 5 weeks from graduation, I am; however, often overwhelmed by the feeling of uncertainty. What will I do when I am no longer a student? Being an immigrant in the US these days is not easy or enjoyable. Finding a job and getting the paperwork to work is challenging, requiring quite a bit of luck. Even though I have a clean track record (I don’t even have speeding/parking ticket) and my employer indicates an intention of keeping me permanently, my fate rests entirely upon some stranger in the Department of Homeland Security. There is nothing else I can do, but to wait and pray.

There are things that I don’t like about the US. It’s normal. I don’t think there is anywhere I wholeheartedly like. But I have gained quite a lot here. I wouldn’t have learned about coding had I still stayed in Vietnam. Instead, I am able to write some code now to the point that I enjoy doing it. Who knows? Maybe it will lead me to a great opportunity one day.

My job teaches me a great deal about enterprise IT infrastructure. Without coming to the US, how could I have known about cloud computing, storage, next-generation firewalls, etc…? (sounds smart heh?). Trust me, I am a newbie with a mountain of knowledge to learn. It’s like Himalaya. It keeps rising higher and higher.

More importantly, I have met some incredible people while in the US. Some will still be my friends a few years from now. Three days ago, a friend from Germany that I met while in Omaha, texted me out of the blue on Whatsapp, saying: “Minh, how is it going? Closer to graduation? Just want to let you know that if you want to find a job in Germany, don’t hesitate to ask”. I made my day and days after that.

What I am trying to say is that I am grateful for what I have got during the last two and a half years. Has it all been perfect? No. But I am grateful for it.

I spent an illegal and unacceptable amount of time on debating with myself: if I could do it all over again, would I still come here? Trust me, such a debate could drain you. After all, I left behind everything I had up to August 2016 to come to the US. No friends, no family, all the professional credibility and network in Vietnam that would mean nothing , and a personal relationship that would be broken at some point.

But whenever I am not in a bad mood, at a low point, drunk or bone-tired because of work and school, I feel grateful to the US and all the people that I have come across. Really. Would I still do it? The answer is yes.

Poor User Experience on CRN

If you go to crn.com, you will come across some articles with pretty annoying design and poor user experience. Look below

CRN Web Experience

The article is split into multiple parts and pages, forcing users to navigate to other pages to read it in its entirety. The first page features one photo and 5-6 small paragraphs. It’s a very annoying experience for audience. I don’t know the real rationale behind this design, but I think it is aimed at increasing page activities and lowering bounce rates. Obviously only the folks at CRN can tell whether this design does whatever it is aimed to do, but as a user, it is the sole reason why I don’t read CRN. Even though it’s a known brand in the technology media sphere, but I prefer siliconangle.com, or lightreading. There is not much on CRN that can convince me to click 5 or 6 times to read an article.

Cost of user acquisition keeps rising. It’s not easy to acquire users and it’s damn sure not easy to retain them. If you already convince people to read your site, at least make it a pleasant experience.

Born a crime

If you haven’t read “Born a crime“, I urge you to. It’s a great book by Trevor Noah. He chronicled his story growing up in South Africa in an insightful and humorous manner. It cracked me up a couple of times. As the books I read are quite serious, the humor, positivity and his experience in the book give me a quick escape sometimes, especially on bad days. Like today. Here are some quotes I particularly love:

“Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.”

“I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.”

“When you shit, as you first sit down, you’re not fully in the experience yet. You are not yet a shitting person. You’re transitioning from a person about to shit to a person who is shitting. You don’t whip out your smartphone or a newspaper right away. It takes a minute to get the first shit out of the way and get in the zone and get comfortable. Once you reach that moment, that’s when it gets really nice. It’s a powerful experience, shitting. There’s something magical about it, profound even. I think God made humans shit in the way we do because it brings us back down to earth and gives us humility. I don’t care who you are, we all shit the same. Beyoncé shits. The pope shits. The Queen of England shits. When we shit we forget our airs and our graces, we forget how famous or how rich we are. All of that goes away.”

“Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says ‘We’re the same.’ A language barrier says ‘We’re different.’ The architects of apartheid understood this. Part of the effort to divide black people was to make sure we were separated not just physically but by language as well…The great thing about language is that you can just as easily use it to do the opposite: convince people that they are the same. Racism teaches us that we are different because of the color of our skin. But because racism is stupid, it’s easily tricked.”

The downside of extreme individual freedom

Personal freedom such as freedom of speech or freedom to do whatever we want is important to every single one of us. I mean who doesn’t love it? The freedom is especially emphasized in developed countries. In the US, it’s the first Amendment in the Constitution. The positive side of individual freedom is often mentioned. What is not is the other side of it.

Everything has two sides to it and so does individual freedom. What I usually read and hear is that anyone is free to do whatever he or she wants. To the extreme. In that sense, it’s acceptable for anyone to commit murder or spit out insults to other folks. Why wouldn’t it be if we were allowed to do ANYTHING we wanted? In reality, murder or intentional insults are not acceptable. They are condemned. They lead to punishment. If it were acceptable that somebody could injure or insult us, why would we take legal actions then?

It goes to show that absolute individual freedom doesn’t come without baggage. There are two options. Either we accept its less-than-extreme version that comes with some collectively formed restrictions or we have the extreme and should talk more about its downsides. For instance, if we must have the extreme freedom of speech, expect that somebody will come at us with hate speeches or insults. Coming to this awareness may not change some people’s unfavorable behavior such as bigotry, racism or hatred. Nonetheless, we should know more about the two sides of freedom so that we know what we can choose and what we can expect.

I know my choice. I love freedom, but I don’t prefer the extreme version of it.

Winter Tires & Double-layer Window

As it is cold enough every day to force everyone to wear extra layers of clothes, winter is about to enter our life. In an unpleasant way. I, for one, don’t welcome its presence. The darkness makes it hard to get up in the morning. I feel a tad more listless in the morning and the change in weather can easily get any of us sick or at least a sore throat over night.

Every winter, I can’t help but notice a couple of differences in a way Americans deal with the snow and cold, compared to how I saw Europeans do so.

Winter Tires

As far as I am concerned, winter tires are not usually required legally in America, or at least some states such as Nebraska. On the contrary, cars in Europe are required to have winter grippier tires to make driving safer. Given that schools in the US are cancelled when there are only a few inches of snow already (that’s perfectly normal in Finland), it’s surprising that we don’t have regulations mandating the use of winter tires.

Double-layer Glass

I have seen any building in Nebraska that has more than one layer of glass, unlike what I saw in Finland where apartment windows are equipped with two layers of glass. One of my friends in our building had to buy some tapes to stop the cold air from going through the one-layer glass window since it cost too much to keep it warm. Collectively, if we had more cold-resistant windows, how much energy/electricity would be saved?

Changing this blog’s domain

When I first started this blog, I couldn’t think of a proper name so I took the name that it has right now to convey what it truly is: just my thoughts. No big deal. Nothing special.

Gradually, I came across a concept that captures the essence of my intellectual curiosity and quest for constant personal growth: 1% every month. I am committed to growing myself by 1% every month. At that rate and with the help of compound interest, theoretically, I’ll grow by 100% after 5 or 6 years. Not bad for a return, isn’t it? If I start at the ability value of 100 and grow at 1% every month, below is how much my ability value in theory will be after a few years

Ability value

The target of 1% seems reasonable and realistic. Nothing dramatic to exhaust myself every month. I have no idea how to quantify personal growth, but I believe that if I keep reading, writing and learning every day for a few hours, the target will be hit at the end of the month.

With that being said, I’ll switch the domain justwhatminhthinks to onepercentamonth to express my commitment. Plus, it sounds a tad cooler and more professional. A quick research today on the topic revealed that the current followers might not see updates from this blog on their channel after the switch, but I figure the sooner the switch, the less baggage there will be. Hopefully, as there is more skin in the game with the changed name and the upgrade plan, I’ll have more motivation to write more often and write better.

 

 

Clumsy 1st poem

Always wanted to test the water in the poem area. Some clumsy words put together:

  • During a day at times I brood over you
  • All the things we did together
  • The love, the laugh, the cry
  • You were THE love I ever knew

 

  • 5 years is a very long time
  • But we let it all squandered away
  • You did screw it up babe
  • But some of them were also mine

 

  • I am sorry for how it went
  • I drank myself to sleep sometimes
  • Thinking how different it should have been
  • All the notes I wrote but never sent

 

  • I wish you would say how sorry you are
  • “This is the truth I never told” truly
  • Though it hurt and bruised a heart
  • Wouldn’t it be a great start?

Living in the moment

As the summer is drawing to a close, I make every effort to be as much in the sun as possible. Winter is coming. It’s long. It’s harsh. And it’s cold. We’ll miss the sun. Having lived in Finland and here during the winter before, I still don’t get comfortable with it.

Whenever the weather and my schedule allow, I like to sit in the sun. Read a book. sip some coffee. Work if I have to. Or just do absolutely nothing and watch the town in its warm gorgeous form. I don’t know how much longer I can still enjoy the sun of 2018. Time flies by. Almost 9 months of 2018 has come to pass.

I used to plan ahead for everything. Work, personal relationships, travel. The goal was to keep myself being busy. No minute should be wasted. Gosh, I even thought of putting water on the stove before I went to brush my teeth in the morning because the water would be boiled by the time I was done brushing my teeth. How stupid I was.

I don’t remember the exact time or the exact reason, but I guess it’s called growing up. I changed. I hardly plan any more, unless it’s absolutely necessary. I book flights last minute, sometimes only one-way. I don’t plan my itinerary while on vacation. I just go and see what unfolds in the new city. My goal every day is to have the freedom and the flexibility to see what comes up in the moment.

I still spend so much time in front of a computer or on the phone. Work, study and some stupid activities and all. It’s a work in progress. But for now, whenever asked what my goal is, my answer is to be happy and healthy. To be in the moment. I can’t change the past and living so much for the future didn’t make me happy. To some extent, I wasted some years that could have been more memorable, that could have been more spectacular.