Two years ago, I wrote Twenty Four. I didn’t write a Twenty Five because much of last year was a continuation. Now, two years later, I’m ready to give an update on my life, my feelings, and my mindset.

Cooking & 3D Modeling

These are the skills I primarily focused on between 2016 – 2018.

I’ve made progress on them to where I feel comfortable saying “I can cook” and “I can do hard surface modeling.” As someone who tends to generalize rather than specialize, I’ve drawn my lines – I’ve reached expertise levels where I’m willing to stop and say this is good enough for me. The rabbit hole for any hobby is deep and I’m not intending to make either of these primary passions right now. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in learning more about them, it just means I won’t pursue them as eagerly. Achieving something in life requires a developed passion for the struggle, not the reward. Professional chefs savor the prep time and the nuances of nailing a specific flavor or taste. Right now I just want to make meals that taste good. 3D modelers enjoy the process of UV unwrapping, texturing, painting, and baking. I don’t need finely crafted details, I just want to make basic models for testing video game ideas.

However, there are some creations I’m proud of – see them below.

Delicious Creations
Curried Catfish & Coconut Rice

Curried Catfish & Coconut Rice

Korean Style Beef Rice Bowl.

Korean Style Beef Rice Bowl.

Moroccan Chicken Rice Bowl.

Moroccan Chicken Rice Bowl.

There are many others in my favorites-to-remake list, but I have the fondest memories of the above.

Hard Surface Modeling
Hexagon unit.

Hexagon unit.

Robotic Orb (retopology).

Robotic Orb – retopology.

Propeller Plane.

Propeller Plane.

At this point, I believe I have a decent understanding of good topology. I also have practice making modular pieces for level design, but I got too frustrated with the texturing process in Blender to bring that project to a close. I’ve read few serious modelers do texturing in Blender and instead use Substance, but learning a new tool isn’t something I want to commit to right now. If I had to describe my current skills, I’d say I can model modular hard surface placeholders.

Exercise & Social League Sports

I don’t do at-home workouts anymore besides using my apartment gym and pool once a week each. One of my goals this year is to improve my network and be more social so I’ve made my exercise regimen more outgoing: I’ve signed up for kickball, volleyball, and bowling leagues. I’ve already played kickball for two years now, so volleyball and bowling are the new activities I’m looking forward to.

One staple of league sports is going to the bar afterward to drink and socialize. I’m an INTJ who doesn’t like alcohol – I don’t get the rush from it others do – so I often feel disconnected. Going to the bar isn’t as nerve-wracking as it used to be, but I feel alone when I’m there. Everyone else seems to be drinking and having a good time so I feel as if no one understands what it’s like for an introvert. However, dissociation paired with self-assurance is an interesting combination. I push myself to walk around and talk to other teams even when I don’t know any of them. It’s nerve-wracking to put myself out there like this, but it’s resulted in free games (substitutions for other teams), business cards, impromptu weekend practices, and dates with women. I find stretching my comfort zone to usually be worth it in the end.

As for game events, I find myself empathizing with others who seem nervous or unsure. I’m anti-clique-y, so whenever I see someone who doesn’t fit in, I make an effort to be friends with them. A few years ago I realized some of my strongest connections stem from a mutual understanding of being ‘different’ with another, even if that person shares next to zero interests of mine.

I sign up every season as a free agent. Teammates in Austin embrace my eccentricity quickly. But I can’t shake the feeling players accept me because I perform well in the sport and not because I’m my own person. I also admit I’ve been distrustful and unfair to some in the league (Vanessa if you’re reading this, this is for you), but I wonder what people would think if I was just average.

I need legwear that can take a beating from fast sliding. Jeans work very well.

As for playing, I do my best to utilize my strengths. My playstyle is to bunt and rely on speed to close bases, sliding to stop when necessary. My sliding technique is tuned for braking: I turn sideways, then drop and jam my left knee into the sand while bracing my right leg for the base impact. Sometimes the collision is faster than I like, but I always stretch before games. Jeans hold up for this technique better than any other legwear I’ve found, but wearing them causes me to stand out. I’ve become famous for being the “jeans” guy. I daresay I even enjoy the attention of the nickname now. I hear I’m also on snapchat even though I don’t have an account. Am I a meme?

Singing

I’ve been told my entire life I have a great voice, but I never expected singing to be one of my most challenging endeavors. I’m often too nervous to do it in front of others because I’m self-conscious of how I sound. My tessitura isn’t wide yet, so I flip into falsetto more than I like. I practice for ~45 minutes every other evening. The most frustrating part of singing is that the technique is not something I can solve – my vocal chords need consistent practice over time to expand and come together. There’s no way out but through, and I’m the personality type that despises being told there’s only one way to acquire a skill haha.

I’m currently taking lessons through Ramsey Voice. I highly recommend him!

My vocal lesson schedule has been inconsistent due to unexpected life events. The fact that I’m working on a video game means my budget is tight, so when major things go wrong (like my motherboard dying a few weeks ago), I have to make cuts for that month. Realistically, I intend to stick with singing for at least the next two years. It’s mostly a matter of time.

I wish I had a YouTube video of me singing that I could insert here, but I do not yet feel adequate enough to make a recording.

Style

My stylist stopped doing hair earlier this year. It took me a few months of searching and trying new stylists to find one I like. Nowadays I happily see Jill at Bex & Co – she nails the asymmetrical hairstyle just right, and Kate at Spoleti Salon does a great job with highlights!

My hairstyle: short on one side, layered and swept on the other!

Short on one side, layered and swept across the other.

I also donated most of my clothes to Austin State Hospital earlier this year. I’m not a minimalist, but I like some of their philosophies. People who have more things are generally unhappier than those with less, so if there are clothes I never want to wear, why keep them?

(Sorry mom, those polo shirts you bought me had to go. I never liked the Asian golfer look.)

My wardrobe consists of comfy and stylish tees, and stylish button-downs. I prefer a style that is unique but doesn’t stand out, the kind that makes people take a second glance at you if they happen to notice you in the first place.

Dating in Texas

Austin has a near-equal gender ratio, making it a great city for dating. Like most people, I’m looking for both chemistry and compatibility.

My dates in the past year have given me insights into the kinds of people I have chemistry with. I play in social sports but have never felt a strong connection with a woman over athletics or talking over a drink so it’s not an avenue I primarily pursue anymore. Deep down I am an introverted nerd fascinated with worlds, ideas, and psychological concepts. I still read fiction books. My ideal first date is walking and talking about stories, TV shows / anime, video games, and movies at the park. I want to relate to a girl in ways that stimulate the mind. My second preference is a healthy lifestyle and third is open-mindedness toward trying (or re-trying) new things.

eHarmony is my preferred online dating site. Most of the user base is female, the inability to search members means women actually read messages since their inboxes aren’t exploding, and the sign-up process weeds out most who aren’t ready to be wife material.

My best first date ever was two weekends ago from an eHarmony match with a girl named Bailey. Unfortunately, she didn’t want a long distance relationship (she lives in Denton), but the connection we shared still lingers on my mind. Ever have the rare date where the other person thinks and behaves in a way that makes you feel like you’re on the same page? The kind of date that feels like you’re already in a wonderful relationship with the person even though you’re not? That’s how I felt, and it’s hard to let go. The chemistry was stronger than what I had in my previous year-long relationship. I feel awkward about the date I have this week because I feel like I’m not yet over Bailey. Dating is tough on the heart. With time I will move on, but I doubt I’ll forget how I felt. I think it’s what I want.

I’m taking a reverse-engineering strategy to dating. The majority of women who fit my preferences aren’t attending social activities like parties, clubs, and networking mixers. Most of them only go out with the accompaniment of close friends. They are self-described ‘hopeless romantics’ whose presence is primarily online. Unfortunately, I’m an independent introvert who often goes out and does things alone, so it’s difficult to get non-selfies of me in my element to produce a strong online profile. I’m considering hiring a photographer for a day to take pictures of me at my favorite places. Either that, or grabbing a friend who is good with Instagram.

Crazy Rich Asians

Go see this movie. It’s a rom-com with an Asian cast that features many East-versus-West cultural clashes not often explored in the genre. It’s especially relatable for me because of Rachel Chu’s experience in the movie.

I’ve never met my biological father, nor do I have memories of him. Similar to Rachel’s mother, my parents divorced when I was young. My mom eventually married my stepfather and we moved to America. My mom and I are the only Asians in a predominantly Caucasian family here. Most of my family is very welcoming, but it hasn’t always felt that way in the past.

The next rom-com I’m looking forward to is A Star Is Born. Lady Gaga’s character says a line that hits me right in the feels:

Almost every single person has told me they like the way I sounded, but that they didn’t like the way I look.

I can’t relate specifically, but that line speaks to me. Check out the trailer if you haven’t!

Career & Personal Growth

I’m ready to leave GM IT. It’s a company that offers great starting pay and benefits but has definite growing pains. The most important skill I’ve learned here is how to operate within a corporate environment. What concerns me is the rate at which I am learning. Since we don’t use cutting edge technologies, I believe every year here is sapping my career growth. I speak with a new LinkedIn recruiter once a week, and there are companies in Austin using the latest tech without the restrictions of bureaucratic red tape. My career is still young and I want to learn as much as I can while I don’t have the commitments of a family. I’m looking to hop to a leaner company next.

The main factor keeping me here is the 401k company match that vests after 3 years. I have 9 months left.

One statistical concept I am cognizant of is regression to the mean, which is the idea that over time we start to become more and more like the average in our environment. Most people do their jobs and go home. I don’t want to ever stop growing. Last year, I switched from DevOps to Front-End after learning the basics of the Angular framework in my spare time. Unfortunately, the app we’re making at work is for internal use, so I’ve been developing my own at home to show potential employers (and because I love webdev).

Sizzle

Work-in-progress as of 08/21/2018. Recipe images are placeholders.

It’s a recipe management web app with complementary shopping list feature. The name Sizzle is temporary. I started this project after realizing I often remake Blue Apron recipes using different ingredients and wanted an easy way to access my modified recipes anywhere.

Tech stack:

  • Angular 6
  • Bootstrap 4
  • Google Firestore / Google Compute Engine

SEO takes a hit for being a single-page application, but I intend to learn about server-side rendering (Angular Universal) to rectify this.

Zems

I’ve been producing an online card game since 2014. The startup ran out of funding in 2016 but I do what I can to keep it alive. I won’t describe the game here – watch the trailer instead.

I started the project because I believed the world deserved a systemic online card game. A systemic game is one where almost everything matters. For example, the weather isn’t just a visual effect, it affects gameplay. Elevation matters. If your character has traits, those matter too – for example, a dark wizard would have difficulty casting spells on holy ground. Basically, in a systemic game, internal systems are coded to interact with each other. Zems combines the online collectible card game genre with systemic tactical gameplay.

There still doesn’t yet exist a systemic online card game. I feel it’s up to me to launch one, like one of my life missions. I intend to see the project through, even if I have to maintain a running expense after launch to keep servers running. I’m aware that may seem illogical, but that’s how much Zems means to me. Make no mistake, I do intend to monetize it, and it will take some trial and error to get right.

Am I happy with the progress in the years after we ran out of funding? No. We haven’t held a public showing since 2015. The scope has expanded since then to incorporate well-received elements from recent games. We’re also working on a new environment:

Work in progress as of 08/21/2018. Many objects are placeholders.

Unlike my hobbies, I haven’t drawn many lines on the scope of this game. I evaluate new ideas critically, and while I’ve cut features in the backlog, the truth remains that the project has less funding, less manpower, and yet more requirements than when the team had both of the former. Much of the work that has taken place in the last year has been a re-architecture of internal systems to allow for the increased scope. However, the timeline for release, which was already uncertain, has become even more distant.

It’s possible I need to compromise on what I think is currently acceptable for a release. My plans right now may be unrealistic. But even if we need to make cuts, I am confident the game will launch to a level of quality the team will be proud of. The future looks exciting.