Facing threats and uncertainty in America as an immigrant

The last weekend was a horrific one. Two consecutive mass shootings took place, killing 30 people in total and injuring many more. They are not the first mass shootings in the US this year. Heck, they are not even among the first 100. What’s even scarier is the rhetoric and motivation behind the atrocious actions by the shooters. The anti-immigrant stance.

As an immigrant living in this country, the threat of getting killed suddenly by some random person on the streets has never truly left my mind. I never felt that way in Vietnam, Finland or Canada, even though people do own guns in the latter. In the US, I strive to stay away from states where mass shootings take place more often than others such as Texas, Florida and Virginia. One time, there was a shooting downtown Omaha, 5 blocks away from where I live. It’s truly mentally unraveling to think that one day, you may die through no fault of your own. Personal safety is one of the most fundamental needs of humans. We use a product or service because first of all, we feel safe with it to some extent. We travel to a country because we feel safe to some extent. If we don’t even feel safe, how can we truly be 100% productive and happy?

I honestly don’t think I need to spell it out, but here we are. As an immigrant, I experienced first hand how horrible the bureaucracy is and how difficult it is to find a good-paying job in America. Immigrants don’t start from the same level as Americans. We don’t speak English as the first language. We come with the baggage of visa and sponsorships which can deter employers. We don’t know fully the culture here. To just even have a shot, we need to abide by the rules and avoid as much as possible any legal trouble. One felony or DUI can significantly sink any chance of getting paperwork or jobs. I believe that any immigrant who wishes to stay here and build a career doesn’t want to break the laws. We just want to get on with our lives and be left alone. Yet, the anti-immigrant rhetoric doesn’t seem to abate. It has gotten worse and worse. The policies have become more unfriendly.

Despite all these, we still come here to study and work. We find full-time jobs, work and pay taxes. Some work low-paying jobs that not every American agrees to do. This begs the question: what have we done wrong?

The sad thing is that in spite of all technological advances, the hope that this situation, whether it is immigration or just gun control, will be fixed is very slim in my opinion. The divisiveness and partisanship in the government will stop anything from happening. Everyone in the public shows no signs of discussing a solution. No matter how much logic is put forward, there are always denial, attacks and steering the conversation to another direction. I tried to reason with a few individuals I knew with different opinions than mine on the gun control issue. I stopped trying. And I know that feeling is not exclusive to me. But when we stop trying, the only way ahead is downhill.

Be smart when working with data

I was given a specific task at work to analyze some credit card data. After spending a few hours on the code and trying to process the data, I realized that the numbers didn’t match with the universal truth accepted around the company. Hence, if I had presented what I have, all the credibility would have gone out of the window in the first couple of slides.

The reason is that I jumped into retrieving this specific dataset too early, eagerly and ignorantly. There are many nuances and things that I still need to learn about the data and logics. What I should have done is to get a foundation data with very few criteria, verify it to make sure it is correct and work my way from that foundation down to a smaller subset by adding one criterion at a time.

If you pull a report from an established source like WSJ or cite an academic article published in a journal, their credibility helps yours. However, when you pull the data yourself and present insights mined from such data, ensuring that the data is accurate is paramount to the success of the analysis. One mishap shreds your credibility and trust in your analysis. That’s the hard part, or at least one of the hard parts of working with data.

I should have done better today, but I learned a lesson, a lesson that I hope will serve me well and that we won’t have to meet again.

Average car monthly payment

I came across this tweet from a Twitter user that is known for passion and knowledge about the micro-mobility area

A bit of tracking down his comment section led me to this article which is likely his source

Source: Nerdwallet

The figure doesn’t include other expenses such as gas, parking or insurance. A monthly insurance can go up to $100 easily and parking fees in my current building are $100 as well. Throw in gas expense and suddenly the cost of ownership can swell up to a significant amount. The estimate doesn’t take into account some ad-hoc expenses such as maintenance, decoration, paperwork…

If your income can easily cover the monthly expenses and a car is an absolute necessity every day; which is the case for many here in America, then owning a car is fine. The issue; however, is that there are many whose income isn’t stable or big enough to cover the expenses. They get themselves into debt and financial troubles for owning a car or upgrading one.

Buying a car is a big investment in my opinion and should be taken seriously.

I was a student for 2.5 years in a town where public transportation is horrible and have lived in the US for 3 years. I don’t drive and I can honestly say I survived quite well. If even I can do it, it’s possible.

Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act vs BELIEVE Act

A few days ago, the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act was passed by the House. If it’s passed by the Senate and signed by the President, it will have dramatic implications for immigrants coming to and living in the US. That prospect; though, faces challenges from a few Senators from both sides of the aisle.

Apparently, no country in the world is allowed more than 7% of the total green cards handed out by the US government every year. For workers from China and India, due to high demand, there is a current backlog of applications that it can take up to 50 years to receive the green cards.

The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act plans to eliminate the capped amount per country. Doing so will benefit high skilled workers from China and India the most, but at the expense of, well, almost everybody else from other countries. The backlog of current applications from India and China will take years to clear and after that it will mean 8-10 years for folks from low-demand countries like myself from Vietnam to get my turn.

The bill essentially seems to tackle only one problem in a myriad of problems with immigration. Hence, it is said to create other issues, per path2usa.

Senator Rand Paul introduced a different immigration bill called Backlog Elimination, Legal Immigration, and Employment Visa Enhancement Act or BELIEVE Act. The act is aimed to change immigration on a broader level and tackle more issues than the Fairness for High Skilled Immigration Act. Cato.org has a pretty good summary of what BELIEVE Act can deliver here. This is a snippet, in case you are too lazy to click and read the article

There are a couple of problems with skilled immigration that the bill doesn’t address—including the outdated H-1B limit and the burdensome and nonsensical labor certification process for employers—but overall, the legislation would make the United States far more competitive for foreign talent than current law and prevent the removal of hundreds of thousands of skilled workers. This legislation would benefit the U.S. economy enormously.

Cato.org on BELIEVE Act

Goal setting, self-comparison and happiness

Kylie Jenner, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett are American business icons and billionaires. The difference between them? Mark Zuckerberg and Kylie are former and current youngest self-made billionaires at 23 and 21 respectively while Warren Buffett’s reached 10 digits when he was in his 50s. 99% of his net worth came about after his 52nd birthday

Source: The 10X Entrepreneur

If your goal is to become a billionaire, would you consider yourself a failure or a success at the age of 45? Or if you become one at the age of 80, yet still have a hell lot of more money than thousands of people on Earth, will that still be a success?

Or just having enough to take care of yourself, your family and to have enough freedom to enjoy the life will be enough? If you make $100k a year while living in an inexpensive city like Omaha, will you be happy about it? Or will you feel jealous of those your age making $150k in California?

Setting goals is one of a proven methods to get things done and become a better version of yourself. Yet, the art of setting goals is, in my opinion, tricky. Too ambitious a goal will require more effort and time, sometimes leading to burnout, stress and the risk of missing out on a lot of what life has to offer. A goal that is set too low is unable to unlock full potentials and lead to under-achievement.

Often times, we tend to look to others as a yardstick to measure ourselves and our goals against. There is a fine thin line between purely comparing ourselves against others to know where we objectively are and jealousy which is detrimental to our mental and emotional health.

The intricate relationship between goal setting, comparison of yourself to others and happiness makes it more of an art than a science. I believe it’s not possible to have a formula or a mould that can be universally applied. Each person is different and hence so is how the person approaches this issue.

Random poem #2

Determined to get better at writing, I forced myself to sit down till I actually put together something. Here it is, a short poem.

Come here if you wanna know

How Midwest summer really is

Green leaves blossom on the trees

Happy faces are all that you see

——————————————-

By dawn, the night bids its goodbye

Making way for the gorgeous sunlight

15 hours long, it will be

For the sun truly takes its hike

——————————————-

Contrary to what you think

Work in the summer is not easier

Beautiful and enticing sun

Makes us nothing but much less efficient

——————————————-

Every day I look out from the office window

Longing badly to bathe in the sun

To walk, to hike and to bike

To really revel in the summer fun

Random late night thoughts of a 29-year-old

Struggling to sleep early and tired of reading, I thought about jotting down some opinions that I hold personally. And while I am at it, why not getting on the bandwagon of having as many thoughts as your age? Since I am 29 now, here are 29 thoughts on various topics that I have. I am not trying to give out hot takes. I am just bored and need to honor my commitment of regular writing

  1. The ability to focus and be consistent is among the greatest competitive advantages that one can have, especially in this age of technology
  2. We used to have more happiness with fewer materials in the past than now when we have so much more, but arguably much less happiness
  3. Slaves in the past had to exchange labor and hours for food, shelter and money. We now have to work for hours for food, shelter and money. What’s the difference? Only when we can survive without having to work will we stop being a modern slave. Know why we feel good during holidays and weekends? Because we are free
  4. There are a few universal truths. Besides that, no one really knows anything for a certainty. If you really think about it, many things fall into the “there is a fine thin line” category. They can always go either way
  5. Travel. Don’t just go to Paris or London. Go to Africa. Go to the poor neighborhoods without water in India. Go to areas in Vietnam where folks live under $2/day. You’d feel a whole lot better about your life
  6. Most people advertise their yearn for the truth, yet the majority don’t really want it
  7. To be impartial and free of bias, news outlets must stop featuring Opinions pieces and using words to stir emotions. Otherwise, they are just glorified biased blogs
  8. Mastering languages and knowing exactly which words to use and when is magically powerful. Only a few can
  9. The best way to keep yourself humble is to ask: if you were that good, why would you still be where you are now? Without a fat bank account, a household name, a hot spouse, a large villa and freedom to do what you want? See, easy to keep your feet on the ground
  10. Many hail and call for decentralization. If it were all well and good, what have we had for the past thousands of years? We must have done something right to be where we are now
  11. It’s easier now than ever to acquire a skill, but it’s also more challenging than ever to be competitive. For the exact same reason
  12. Folks who tweet “Unpopular thought/opinion/take” or whatever along that line care more about appearing contrarian than the message itself. Why? Which one comes first? The message or the “unpopular take” phrase?
  13. To be contrarian, first you have to be right and then you have to be different from everyone else. Usually, the determination is external. It’s strange to see many who self-proclaim to be contrarian
  14. Blue Ocean strategy is simply about finding your competitive advantage. As long as you find your edge, you’ll have already ended up in a blue ocean instead of a red one anyway
  15. The more diverse a society is, the less effective democracy is, compared to its theory
  16. It’s utterly unfair to force consumers to give out tips as part of workers’ compensation. Which part of handing a muffin over the counter deserves a tip?
  17. The more we own, the more responsibilities we bear. Be it a house, a kid, a company, a car. It’s queer to see many who yearn to be free strive to own so much
  18. The core concept of “American Dreams” isn’t exclusive to America. It was there long before America was born and will be after. The outrageous successes stemming from this country, technologies and special circumstances help populate the term “American Dreams”
  19. Don’t feel bad if you forget most of the books you read. We all do
  20. Given the chances, we will be happier if we feel we contribute to a community, if we belong to somewhere
  21. When I was young, I dreamed that my name would go on to be in a history book. I was silly. What’s good of all legacies if we are 6 feet underground and all left of us is dust?
  22. Gerrymandering, electoral college and lobbying make America’s claim of democracy overrated
  23. If you are famous, some people will defend your transgressions, even the most outrageous ones. Not so when you are a nobody. Humans are weird
  24. It’s utterly remarkable that humans physically inferior to other animals “rule” the planet. We can’t hold breath under water as long as other sea animals. We are essentially snails compared to horses or cheetahs. In terms of agility and quickness, we are nothing compared to monkeys. Yet, here we are
  25. Marriage is a form of increasing “switching costs”. People divorce all the time. Some end up in a nasty fashion even. If two people are committed enough, what’s the point of having to go through all the legalities and expenses related to weddings? Even a marriage can make folks think twice about a break-up, like any other switching costs, it doesn’t guarantee to work all the time
  26. Everyone lies. In some circumstances. In some fashion
  27. Equivalent to winning a lottery: being born healthy and full, getting along with your parents, finding great and honest friends, knowing what you want to do early, being born in one of the developed countries
  28. Humans are our worst enemies. Scientists didn’t invent dynamite or nuclear to kill in mass. Despite the advances, many die from not being able to afford insulin. Boeing risks a score of lives just to make money
  29. News outlets would save a lot of money by not having journalists in athletes’ faces EVERY day asking, in a lot of cases, very stupid questions. What’s really the odd of their saying something exclusive and worthwhile that wouldn’t be covered by other media?