Strength and Honor

Like many stories about us, it all kind of started as a joke.  It was a typical Sunday morning at church and we were doing the usual messing around in between services.  We were done being seniors in high school and were enjoying the last few days of Summer.  On this day we conversed with our Sunday school teacher, Ben, as he indulged in our nonsense.  This was somewhere around the time we were transitioning from calling him Ben-Dover to Ben-gaged to just Ben (because now he was married).

I forget what lead to it, but Ben just started grabbing each of our arms and saying “strength and honor” in a deep raspy voice.  Of course, a couple of us caught his reference to the beginning of the movie, Gladiator.

We chuckled and played along with Ben, trying to do our own impression of Russell Crowe’s voice.  For various reasons, this stuck in our minds.  

Later, on one of our last hangouts at Stu’s house before college, we were getting ready to go our separate ways, when, instead of saying “goodbye”, I extended my hand and said:

“Hey, Strength and Honor…”

There was a small pause as we all looked at each other with smirks on our faces.

“Yeah.. Strength and Honor..”, Matt said.

And so, it became it our thing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Matt, Stu, Caleb, Marty and I went to schools that were still pretty close to home.  So it was very common for all of us to be at church together on a given Sunday.  After a week of school, homework, projects and tests, it was a joy to see one another again.

“Strength and Honor”

It was a greeting, a goodbye, an exhortation.  It kind of encompassed it all as we said it and made eye contact.  Eye contact that was akin to heading off to another battle (ie. another week of school).  Though it was just jokes, it felt very brotherly and real.  It was pretty cool.

We were college freshmen when this all began and it carried on until we were juniors.  Not so much because we grew out of it, but probably more so because we each started to spend more weekends on our respective campuses.  We enjoyed the novelty of it so much that it actually inspired the College Winter Retreat theme for one of the years I was the director.

“Strength and Honor: when Beauty and Religion just don’t cut it..”

Again, this was our thing.  So of course we wouldn’t acknowledge Jackie when she extended her hand for it.  She parodied it with my sister and the rest of their friends by making up their own, “beauty and religion”.  Hence, the tagline for the winter retreat theme.

I kind of miss those days where we used it so liberally.

A Review of 2016

I was laid off and became unemployed.  And after ten weeks of diligently looking, I was offered a job at Kaiser Permanente.  You may read all about that here:

[ Part 1 ]  [ Part 2 ]  [ Part 3 ]  [ Part 4 ]  [ Part 5 ]  [ Part 6 ]

I said goodbye to a good friend.

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R.I.P. Titus

I reached legend in Hearthstone.

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I 4-0’d my first prerelease.

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Eldritch Moon, Midnight Prerelease

I saw Little Mermaid at the Hollywood Bowl.

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I went to Disneyland

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I was gifted a Fitbit, which has made me all the more healthier and motivated to exercise.  Though I wish my results were as visible as my girlfriend’s.

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I travelled to San Diego twice.  First to celebrate Cheeseburger Eddie and Katrina’s engagement and then to celebrate a cousin’s high school graduation.

I travelled to Sacramento / San Francisco with family to visit my sister.  You may recollect that here:

[ Day 1 ]  [ Day 2 ]  [Day 3 ]

I travelled to Portland with friends.  You may recollect that here:

[ Day 1 ]  [ Day 2 ]  [Day 3 ]

I travelled to Las Vegas with my extended family for Labor Day Weekend.  It gave me a chance to try Shake Shack for myself.

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I travelled to Joshua Tree National Park for Cheeseburger Eddie’s Bachelor Party.

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I travelled to Pismo Beach, for much needed catch up time with friends.

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For the first time, I officially served as both a camp director and a camp counselor.

I served in women’s tea.

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I went to what felt like so many weddings.  Congratulations to the Sha’s, the Cheng’s, the Chan’s, and the Ho’s.

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I won a charity auction.

I successfully escaped 4 exit games.  First with my Hikoi small group, twice with my coworkers for team building and once more with my family.

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Villain’s Lair @ Exit Game [23% completion rate]

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School of Sorcery @ Exit Game [40% completion rate]

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The Lab @ Exit Game [45% completion rate]

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The CSI Room @ Logiquit [30% completion rate]

On to 2017…

The Good Feels

Let’s talk about things that feel good.

When it’s Saturday morning, cold in your room, but extra warm and comfy in your bed.  It feels so good you don’t want to move or get out so you stay in bed for most of the morning.

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Having a satisfying poop after a large meal (KBBQ, AYCE Sushi, or Holidays).

A hot beverage on a rainy day.

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Ramen or Pho on a cold day.

Lazy Sunday afternoon naps.

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When you’re super congested, so you eat food with extra hot sauce or wasabi, so that when you blow your nose all the mucus comes out and you can breathe again.

Sitting down after a long day of walking or standing around.

When you get something out of your teeth that was stuck there.

That one burp that makes it so you don’t feel bloated anymore.

What are some other good feelings?

To Drink or Not to Drink?

When I was a little bit younger, I remember that the idea of turning 21 was so excitable.

Amongst my friends and me, we patiently awaited the day that we could legally purchase and consume alcohol.  The same way we anxiously waited to turn 15 ½ to get our driver’s permits.  The same way we waited to turn 18.  Some of my peers at my high school celebrated turning 18 by going to a 7-11 to buy cigarettes and scratchers.  They didn’t use those things, but they bought it just because they now had the freedom to buy it.  Silly, I know.

Movies, television and advertisements do a good job making alcohol look appealing and/or cool.  Sitting around a campfire or lounging around the house with a cold beer in hand; I looked forward to doing these things with my friends, that is, drinking responsibly and socializing in a closed safe environment.  Take those same pictures or moments and replace them with a glass coke bottle, and it’s not quite the same.  Media is powerful.

Side note, I once had a fun conversation with my brother about smoking.  The topic was, “would you smoke if there were absolutely zero consequences to it?”.  With no damage to your lungs, health, teeth, body odor or fingernails, our consensus was “yes, we would”.  Why?  Because media makes it look so cool!

Anyways, I remember my 21st birthday.  It was a cool Summer evening and my friends wanted to celebrate.  We had plans to do some biking and play some spider tag, but before that, a couple of them had me stop by their house, for they wanted to make me my first drink.  The anticipation and excitement, I finally get to partake in the joys of being 21.  I forget the name of the concoction, but it was a spoonful of Amaretto poured carefully atop a shot glass of Bacardi Rum, lit on fire and dropped into a cup of bud light.  The idea was to chug it, but not so fast that the shot glass punches you in the teeth.  We cheered and counted down to drink it together.  I brought the cup to my mouth and as soon as the alcohol touched my lips, I was repulsed.

I couldn’t do it.  My friends finished chugging their drink and looked at me in disbelief.  They kept coaxing me to finish it, but I couldn’t find anything enjoyable about it.  The taste and smell were too potent.  This suddenly changed my views on alcohol.  I wanted nothing to do with it now.

Remember all those things you learn about peer pressure in middle school?  It’s all very real.  Friends, strangers, family.. It didn’t matter, everyone just wanted me to drink.  I guess the idea of a young adult male that didn’t partake in alcohol was so baffling.  In fact, for many gatherings, events and weddings that had alcohol, I would probably be the only male in the age range of 21-35 that was sober.  That’s like Feebas rare.  They would shove beer cans into my hand, to which I would kindly place back down onto the table.  They would drag me into doing group shots.  They would berate me.  Oh the marvels of interacting with inebriated people.

Relevant Day[9] video:

Yeah, there were instances where I would try it again.  A sip here and there and I would find that it all tasted the same, disgusting.  I attempted to become a wine snob, but when I thought about it, I was just trying to fit in.  My friends would try to tell me that it’s not about the flavor, it’s about being drunk.  To which I thought, “why would I want to be drunk?”.  People have their reasoning, but as for me, I had no reason.  Taste aside, seeing my friends in tipsy stupor further solidified my reasoning to avoid alcohol.  Later on in college, one of my other friends would say something along the lines of:

“I don’t drink because I want to protect the few brain cells that I have.  I’m not that sharp, so it’s better for me to stay as sharp as possible at all times.”

He meant it in a half-joking sense, but that kind of stuck with me.  It gave me encouragement to fend off the peer pressure and confidence in knowing that I didn’t need an alcoholic drink in my hand to socialize.  Besides, I probably say or do enough silly things on a regular basis, no need to do more under some influence.

So, that’s why I don’t drink.  It’s not my cup of tea.

[insert scene from Community where Troy is about to drink his first drink on his 21st birthday but doesn’t when he sees what alcohol does to his friends.]

Un-Tilted: Perfektenschlag

Around the end of my 8th week of unemployment I got a call from a number I recognized.  It was the recruiter that initially got me an interview with Kaiser Permanente.  She told me that the guy that Kaiser gave an offer to turned it down to pursue other things.  So, she was reaching out to me again to see if I was still job searching.  It was a short call; as soon as I confirmed that I was still looking, she said she’d get back to me to see if Kaiser was still remotely interested in revisiting me.

I didn’t think too much of it as wasn’t being too optimistic.  But she called back the next day to set up a third interview with Kaiser.  I went through the motions again of showing up and putting my best foot forward.  The following Monday, they extended an offer.

A job offer.

After all this time of unemployment and tilt, I didn’t have any zeal in me to feel excited.  At least, initially any way.  It took me a bit, but I had to remind myself why I was excited about this job the first time around and why I had a good feeling.  Flexible hours, super close to home, good work benefits.. It all came back to me.  There were some points of inner debate as I essentially got a job offer from LA Fitness in Irvine a few days later, but I ended up turning them down.  For it would later be revealed to me how right of a fit Kaiser was for me.  They asked me if I had any pre-planned vacations and I told them about camp, which they approved without question.  As my aunt puts it, God blessed me for prioritizing location.  Close to home, close to church, where I can continue serving in my ministries.

I wouldn’t start right away though.  Kaiser and the recruiting firm would need to run a ton of background checks over the course of two weeks.  But at least it was a stress free two weeks where I wasn’t job searching anymore.  Total time of unemployment?  11 weeks (including the background checks)

So, since I’m a gamer, I like to think of my job history in terms of pro gaming teams.  As such, it’s been..

SIM Josh
RCS Josh
FLV Josh
FLN Josh

And now.. KSR Josh.  And it’s been cool so far.

Un-Tilting: It Wasn’t All Bad Stuff

Throughout all of this, I was in a bit of a funk.  Thankfully, I’m still living at home, so it’s not like I was paying rent.  I was arguably in the most comfortable environment to be job searching.  Although, I found it hard to take interview advice from my parents.  They are the type of people that only ever needed to interview once, and many years ago.  So, a lot of things they tried to advise me on were obvious already (dressing up, bringing a resume, how to talk, etc.).

There was some good that happened during this time period.  For starters, I was able to work on cleaning and organizing parts of my room.  I also had a chance to conveniently take my car into the mechanic for an oil change, and eventually a smog test later.  I ran errands for my parents, including picking up my sister from the airport for her spring break.  All serious stuff aside, I did get to have some fun.  Driving down to see my girlfriend was easier, and I had time to reach legend in Hearthstone (something that I never thought I would have time to do).

The thing that sticks out the most involves my neighbor across the street.  There was one morning where I heard the doorbell ring.  I thought it would be a package delivery or a solicitor, but it turned out to be the neighbor’s grandma.  She needed help contacting the sanitation department.  They skipped their house because they forgot to leave their gate open.  Really, all that I did was give her a phone number and instructions on what to say and do, but she was very grateful about it all.  A firm believer in everything happens for a reason, I started thinking to myself:

“If all this time of unemployment was for that little moment of helping my neighbor, I guess I’d be okay with that..”

However simple that was, it boosted my spirits a little bit.

The Tilt: Losing My Footing

gR2tBNUYeah, it kind of felt like that.  When Whitebeard tilted the world with his powers..

Despite being unemployed, I still kept a sleep schedule as if I was still working.  That is, I still slept around 11 and woke up around 7.  I did this so that I could just jump into working again if needed, and not have to break out a cycle of sleeping at 3am and waking up at 12pm.  Aside from phone calls and applying for jobs online, a typical day included regular exercise and making some extra money via Amazon Mturk.  I tried to keep busy to refrain from becoming nothing more than a washed up couch potato.

As mentioned before, there were a lot of minor inconveniences that were rather annoying.  They were probably amplified more so because I was going through it during unemployment.  For starters, I put on a few pounds.  Not a lot, but enough for me to notice that my pants were feeling tighter.  I guess my metabolism decided to go down a few notches or maybe my situation was affecting it.  Despite my jogging and dressing-less salad for lunch everyday, I was producing negative results.  It wasn’t the end of the world, but it made me feel bad.

And then my computer started having issues.  One day while using it, it suddenly started moving at the speed of an iceberg.  Yes, my desktop is 5 years old, but it was running completely fine up until that moment.  Luckily, I still had my old college laptop to use; it was sufficient for responding to emails and searching job boards.  It took just over a week of researching on forums, dismantling my computer, switching parts and running scans until I found the issues.  The battle was on two fronts.  One, my liquid cooling heatsink wasn’t working anymore, so I had to buy and install a new one.  And two, the anti-virus software my dad gave me was so up to date, it was causing infinite loops on my Windows 7 machine, causing the sudden slowness.  So I reverted it back to free antivirus software.  I was so relieved to fix it, as people were already telling me to abandon it and buy a new one.  Still, it took a fair amount of my time.

And then I learned that my Hikoi pairing didn’t have the popular vote during NomCom meetings.  It was hard to hear and I literally volunteered for this.  Because, to a certain extent, it reflects how good of a counselor I was.  Did I support or guide him enough?  Did I make sure he planned and did what he wanted to do well?  And more importantly, did I fight for him hard enough as I sat there in the meeting?  Hard to say.  But alas, what’s done is done and perhaps it is for the better.

I would go on to have two pretty good interviews at Kaiser Permanente.  After getting my hopes up and telling friends and family that I have a good feeling about this one, they didn’t extend an offer.  Back to square one.  Shot down again.  Around this time, I had been unemployed for 7 or 8 weeks.

The Tilt: Interviews

Dwight-Schrute

My old manager told me to tell recruiters and companies that I applied to that I was still working.  He would even vouch for me since he was still at the company.  With severance, I would technically still be on payroll and if they called my manager, he would tell them that I might be called in to finish something up despite being laid off.  I had never done that before, nor have I heard anything about it, so I figured I would go with that approach.

If you’re curious, it’s hard to say if this approach was effective.  Whether or not I was working still never had any relevance during any of my interviews.

As mentioned before, I got a lot of phone calls.  All I did was drop my updated resume on Dice.com and then my phone kept ringing and my email inbox kept began filling up.  It was kind of cool to know that there were jobs out there and it was up to me to capitalize on it.  There were a couple afternoons where I was pretty much on back-to-back phone calls.  It’s kind of funny, there were a couple of interviews that had to be scheduled really far in advance, and I would think “I’ll probably have a job by then”.  I would end up needing to go to those.

When it came time to interview, it was a very diverse process.  Some companies asked technical questions and some focused on my personality and background.  A couple of companies sent me timed programming tests and one sent me a quiz to test my terminology.  One company had me take an aptitude test, which was basically a 20 minute condensed version of the SAT.  You have to understand, every job offer I’ve gotten came from a company that liked my personality (no technical questions or tests); I was almost searching for that perfect interview/company again.

I’m a pretty competent programmer, but if you asked me to tell you the differences between an Abstract class and an Interface, I wouldn’t be able to go into that much detail.  Or at least not as much as a recruiter wanted.  And then there was that test that asked me to optimize a multithreaded system.  Despite landing a few 2nd round interviews, the first wave of interviews and phone calls resulted in nothing.

I began to question my abilities.  Feelings of inadequacy crossed my mind.  I wasn’t depressed or anything, just tilted.  Although, sometimes I couldn’t even blame myself.  Mid-interview process, there were a couple of companies that decided they wanted to fill a different position, so they would close the job opening.

After a shaky interview down in San Clemente, I was given some words of encouragement from my girlfriend and her dad.  When I told her dad that there haven’t been any job offers or good interviews yet, he said:

“..then we’ll keep waiting.”

A reminder for patience.

Before that interview, my girlfriend said

“Even if you bomb an interview, if God wants you to work there, you’ll get the job.”

A reminder that God is in control.

And so, I kept moving forward.

The Tilt: The First Snag in the Road

I’ve been unemployed before, so I wasn’t super sad.  And again, I wasn’t let go due to my performance, the company was having issues.  I told everyone that needed to know what happened pretty much immediately.  On top of that, I emailed recruiters that I was in contact with in the past.  In good old Josh fashion, I attacked the situation right away.  I didn’t take a couple days to recoup or anything like that.

Truth be told, I was already passively looking for another job before it all went down.  Getting laid off just helped push me to do it more.  As I told people, I saw all this as a blessing in disguise.  Although he was next on the chopping block, my supervisor (Enterprise Architect) was still at the company.  He called me a few times and assured me that I would be able to get a job really fast since he would give me glowing reviews and that he was confident in my abilities.

So I was in good spirits as I woke up the next day.  I initially got a lot of phone calls from recruiters, both new and old.  And I even had a couple of phone interviews scheduled right off the bat.  I was so confident that I would be working again that I didn’t sign up for unemployment benefits.  Had I known that it takes a couple of weeks to kick in, I would have done it right away.  Lesson learned.

Which leads me to my first snag in the road.  There were a lot of moments during this stage in life where things weren’t going quite right.  They were minor inconveniences really, but they can add up.  The following week I applied for unemployment, but there was a mix up.  Apparently, when I input my SSN into the system, another man’s name appeared.  I was afraid my identity had been stolen.

I had to come in the next day with my passport and SSN card to prove that that was in fact my SSN and that I wasn’t the one trying to steal someone else’s unemployment benefits.  Again, they input my information and that same man appeared on their computer screen.  The lady at the front desk had to bring it up with upper management to fix it.  It took a fair amount of time, but it turns out that man signed in with the wrong SSN many years ago and just left the account to sit there since 2008.  It was hard to believe, but they told me this happens all the time.

It tilted me to know that I had to devote all this time and energy getting this sorted out.  And that was precious time and energy I could have spent applying to new jobs.

The Tilt: Back Here Again..

3/7/16

I guess I can say I saw it coming.  I mean, there were a fair amount of red flags.  The CIO got fired, my project manager was released, no new projects to work on, a decree to halt the production of current assignments, and my supervisor being scolded for essentially no reason.  All signs that my time at First Legal Network was going to be cut abruptly short.  This all slowly happened over the course of two months, so it’s not like it all clicked right away.

It was a Monday morning and I had been doing my usual routine of pretty much nothing.  It had been a comfortable two months as nothing was really going on and my workload comprised of small bug fixes and cosmetic tweaks to my only project.  The HR rep came into our side of the office and had a quick private conversation with the IT Director (not my supervisor, just the most senior guy in the room that morning).  After, the HR rep came up to me asked me to follow her to the CEO’s office.

“Am I in trouble?” I asked while walking out of the room.

“No, you’re not.” she said assuredly while chuckling.

I was able to relax myself as I sat down in front of the CEO’s desk.  I thought to myself, “if I’m not in trouble, then I’m probably fine, it’s probably project related”.  And that’s when he initiated the hard conversation of laying me off.  At that moment, my heart sank.  He went on to say that they were cutting the entire development department (all programmers).  The company needed to figure things out and restructure a bit first, rather than just pay programmers like me to sit around and do nothing all day.  They were nice about it and it all made sense.  They even gave me severance and promises of glowing recommendations; it just wasn’t something I was ready to hear on a Monday morning.  I felt bad for the other programmer who was still on vacation, and had to come back to a conversation like this.

Funny fact, my initial sadness came from the fact that I had packages coming in that week and I wasn’t sure how I would retrieve them.  Luckily they came in later that day.

I still finished out the working day.  I asked the accountants for final revisions to their program before I packed my things and said my goodbyes.  After I turned in my keys and parking badge, it was an eerily quiet drive home.

I got laid off.  I’m unemployed again.  Great..  Even though it’s not like I got fired for being an incompetent worker, it was still tilting.

What’s tilting?  I did a quick Google search to help me define being “tilted” or “on tilt”:

The origin of the term comes from pinball machines where players would try to cheat the system by tilting the machine to move the ball around in their favor.  In time, pinball machines were designed with a way to detect people tilting the machine and so the machine would shut down if they tried to cheat.  Such is the case if you bumped the machine too much in Space Cadet Pinball from Windows XP.

“On tilt” then became a poker term used to describe someone who is letting their luck affect the way they play. For example, if someone has lost a bunch of hands in a row he or she might start playing recklessly to try to make up for it.  This playing out-of-line is called playing “on tilt”.

Tilt is a poker term for a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive in their play.  The term is also commonly associated with multiplayer video games and the players that play them.

If you didn’t know, It’s not like I announced it or anything.  Because it would probably have went something like this:

As for my journey of unemployment?  More on that next time.