Friday, March 11, 2011

iPad 2 Release Day

Long story short, my brother's birthday is coming up soon and I owe him a sizable gift. Originally I planned to buy him a new Xbox 360 with Kinect but, at my parents' (read: mom's) protest, this will probably now become an iPad 2. I personally dislike Apple products but my brother's a fan -- and it's his birthday after all.

Just read the following post on Engadget concerning people waiting outside in long lines for the iPad 2 (I still envy that brand power!). The post can be found here:

I refer to the post because I just read a hilarious comment made by a reader. Now, the recent tragedy in Japan (earthquake + tsunami) is no laughing matter and I fully express my condolences to all those affected. But the comment is simply hilarious:

Commenter 1: These guy deserved a tsunami more than Japan. Joy to the sight of iFans piling up together griping their iPads and looking for an apps to help them out. Do you have an apps for that?

Commenter 2: iSwim and iDrown. Unfortunately iSwim didn't want to let Apple take their 30% protection fee.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Personal Struggle: Hypocrisy

One of the (numerous) struggles I've been dealing with of late is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy in my definition is "performing an action or dwelling on a thought, while knowing very well of its vices and undesirability". It essentially means believing or acting against one's better judgement. The funny thing is, we can trick ourselves to supersede our better judgement. This is perhaps best illustrated with examples.

First example: Paycheck = measure of success or identity?
As a Christian, this is completely against my beliefs as one's wealth should not be measured by materialism. Our treasure is not stored in vases on Earth but in heaven. On another level (though not unrelated), I understand that money has little correlation with happiness. This is evidenced by stories of people's lives ruined due to wealth -- whether they be professional athletes or lottery winners. Greed is very real and a terribly consuming sin.

The above being said, I must admit it is difficult not to judge others by the size of their paycheck and subsequently measure myself to them accordingly. (This problem is compounded by the fact that I work with HR data, e.g. salary). When the person you measure to earns more than you with others things held similar -- for example, age and experience-- it is hard to not lose self-esteem. Or reduce personal self-worth.

Second example: Myopic-ness
I take some pride in my ability (or bad habit) to plan for things, especially for future events. I like to, say, establish a monthly budget or set goals to hit. This habit is evident in a previous post, about my personal goals for the next months and years. Yet in spite of this ability to plan, I often fall short of my personal plans. Not sure if this is a result of insufficient conviction or will, but it does happen much more than I like. Case in point: surfing the internet aimlessly when the better course of action is to develop software skills (blogging included), etc.

I believe the fundamental problem here is short-sightedness, or temporary myopic-ness. I say "temporary" because I am able to keep goals in mind. It is mainly in the moment that I sometimes lose sight of things and hence prone to satisfying momentary desires. Only thereafter do I realize I probably could have done something vastly better than, for instance, surf on the internet and reading about basketball news for a few hours. Or daydreaming about this girl called Mandy...


Over the past couple of months, I have been essentially addicted to Craigslist. (It's been a little longer than that actually...maybe since graduation). At first the need to find a paralegal job led to Craigslist because these jobs were relatively short term and law firms often needed to fill positions quickly. I have applied to other jobs through Craigslist before but they did not seem to go anywhere. Odds of success (measured in a recruiter response) was probably less than 10%.

Lately the use of Craigslist has been to find housing or furniture in the Washington D.C. area. To this end, I believe Craigslist is the most effective means of searching; effectiveness is measured by the time, relevance, and number of responses received. For a cash-strapped young professional, the ability to search for local deals while restricting prices shown is extremely well-received. (I have no objections to buying second hand for the right items -- which probably is not the case with everyone.)

Amongst examples of my success with Craigslist:
  • Finding housing for much lower than market value. Although the housing I found is shared with strangers, it has worked out well for my needs. For instance, I currently pay $450 a month for a room in a 4-bedroom apartment in Arlington VA...all utilities and internet included. It's not within walking distance to a metro station but good enough for me.
  • Acquiring matching bedroom furniture for about $200 altogether. I purchased mostly Ikea furniture: queen bed frame ($60), desk ($25), book shelf ($10), dresser ($20), and a nightstand/cabinet (free). The most expensive acquisition was the mattress, which I purchased for $100 (for a Simmons Beautyrest Classic). I'm still a little bummed about the latter but it wasn't a bad deal in hindsight.
The biggest downsides to purchasing on Craigslist are (1) time taken to search, (2) possibility of scams, and (3) transportation to pickup items.

The first is perhaps the biggest obstacle: unless one has vast amounts of free time to search out desired items, one isn't going to find good deals. Time accounts for the amount spent on search, correspondence with seller, and time taken to actually go through with the transaction. In retrospect, I have spent more than the optimal amount of time on Craigslist looking for things to purchase. The "Free" section in particular sucks time away like no one else's business -- due to the fact that people are giving away things for free. Every now and then, the "free" item can be quite valuable.

Secondly, there are scams present throughout Craigslist. It is everywhere from jobs, to housing, to sale of items. My personal experience has been with housing. When I started looking for housing, I initially came across a listing for a 1-bedroom apartment in Arlington VA for about $900. (For those unfamiliar with housing prices in Arlington, a 1-bedroom located within walking distance to the metro costs at least $1300 per month). What's more, the ad said utilities and internet were all included! After a few email exchanges with the poster, who claimed to be a disabled wife of a international volunteer intending to rent out their apartment, I became skeptical because I was told to wire a deposit before I could see the apartment. I almost bit since the deal seemed almost too good to be true. Ultimately, I realized the scam after looking up the destination of the wire transfer: Western Union, a bank notorious for the so-called Nigerian scams. There was another instance of a possible scam, but I was wiser this second time. Lesson learned: always inspect the place before making any decisions.

Thirdly, one has to have at least a car to purchase items from Craigslist. While public transportation is possible, it is both unreliable and unwieldy if the desired item is sizable. This is especially true of furniture pieces like futon, tables, or couches. One of the reasons most of the furniture I brought were Ikea was because they could be broken down (still took me a number of trips to transport everything). Now, my Honda Civic pleasantly surprised me of its ability to fit large items (e.g. A QUEEN SIZED MATTRESS) but I recommend a larger vehicle. This means that if you don't own or know someone who owns a truck or a van, it will add additional transportation cost.

I personally recommend Craigslist for things like furniture, because it can be purchased at least half of retail price while still in very good condition. This is particularly true of tools -- less true for things you come into daily contact with, e.g. a mattress. Think of it as a means to protect the environment too.