Some thoughts

I always say that the best part of traveling is coming back home. Throughout all my trips, I’m always looking forward to my return flight… being able to shower again in my own bathroom… getting a good night’s sleep on my own bed.

But what if the problem lies not in the travel itself, but the types of trips I take, and the places I go?

What if, sometimes, just maybe, the best part of traveling isn’t coming back home, but rather, the experiences you have and the memories you make?

Last week went by too fast.

2020072401

If you really think about it, the scope of the world is a bit intimidating.

Think about how complex you are. Think about the relationships you have, the role you play in your community, and even just the fact that you are com­plex enough to think about this very concept.

There are nearly eight billion people on Earth. Nearly eight billion organisms that are just like you, have their own intricate set of thoughts, and have their own life stories.

I think one of the most dangerous things you can do in life is to focus too hard on your own world. When I was younger, my parents regularly told me a Korean proverb about a frog in a well. To the frog in the well, the sky is nothing close to a formidable opponent. But once the frog exits the well, it’s in for an astronomic surprise. Literally.

Once in a while, something comes up that keeps my perspective in check. Sometimes, it’s just a gentle nudge, while other times, it’s a blazing inferno.

Beginning tomorrow, and over the next several days, I’m going to try and put out a blazing inferno.

2020072404

On a lighter note, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

2020072403

This upcoming trip that I’m leaving for tomorrow is definitely going to be one of those trips where the best part of traveling is going to be coming back home.

I’ll see you next week, Las Vegas.

2020072402

 

—§—

 

I tried to buy a snake plant today

I heard that snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria) were excellent house plants. They have good air cleansing properties, they release a relatively high amount of oxygen, and they’re next to impossible to kill. All of these points are important to me, as I want a plant that’s going to improve my living situation and look out for my health, while also being able to occasionally survive on its own while I’m out on extended business travel.

Today, I decided to buy a snake plant. I searched Google Maps for the closest Home Depot and headed west towards the Garden Center of the Home Depot on the 800 block of South Rainbow Boulevard. I went inside, only to be massively overwhelmed by way too many plants.

I tried to buy a snake plant

After a few minutes of browsing, I discovered a small problem. All the plants out in the Garden Center were potted in flimsy plastic temporary pots, and I would have to move the plant into a better home by purchasing a separate ceramic pot and some dirt.

You may be asking, why is this a problem? Well, I didn’t want to buy a bag of dirt, only to use just a portion of it and have a leftover half-bag of dirt. This scenario wouldn’t matter much for most people, but remember that I live 400 feet up in the air in a high-rise condo. I don’t have a backyard where I can dump the remaining dirt, and I don’t have a garage where I can just store the leftover dirt for future use.

But, for this to even be a problem in the first place, I would have to find a snake plant that I want to bring home. I decided to save some time by asking the Garden Center attendant.

The attendant was obviously wearing a mask, which isn’t too confusing if you’re reading this blog post not too long after I published it, but in case you’re someone from the far future and aren’t aware, everyone needs to wear a mask right now because there is a COVID-19 pandemic. However, this attendant decided to wear her mask so it was covering her mouth… but left her nose hanging out over the top of the mask.

I approached her and stayed six feet away from her like a good social distancer, but she slowly crept closer and closer to me until she was within a foot from my face. From here ensued one of those comical scenarios where two people with different personal space requirements are in a conversation, and one person is functionally “chasing down” the other. I think we traveled literally from one side of the Garden Center to the other while she told me how there were no live snake plants I could buy, but there were some fake ones available, they had a great selection of different plants, and there were also some real snakes for sale if I wanted to go three miles west to the pet store.

I thanked her for her help and left Home Depot.

I don’t get discouraged that easily. I decided that my next stop would be the Garden Center at Lowe’s Home Improvement. I made it there to find that there was as equally of an aggressive selection of plants there as there was at Home Depot. However, I managed to actually find a snake plant. Now I had to go back to resolving my problem of not wanting to buy a bag of dirt.

I flagged down another Garden Center attendant and asked her if I could just pay someone at Lowe’s to move the snake plant from its plastic container to a ceramic pot. She was a bit confused as to why I needed someone to do that, and insisted that the process was very easy and that I could do it myself. I then had to go through an extended conversation where I explained that I live on the Las Vegas Strip and I don’t really have a place to do home gardening, let alone a place to use leftover dirt.

The relieving part about this conversation was that this attendant appeared to know how to wear a mask. … The unfortunate part was that she removed her mask every time she was talking, then placed it back on her face every time she was done talking.

She may or may not have ultimately proposed a valid solution to my problem during our conversation, but I was so confused at how a country could possibly be so incompetent at using personal protective equipment during a global pandemic that I don’t even remember what she said.

The only thing I recall is thanking her for her help and leaving the store without a snake plant.

So yeah, I still need to go buy a snake plant.

 

—§—

 

I watched a $7 million house on fire today

Is that a sensationalistic clickbait title? Yes.

But is it technically true? … Also yes.

 
Living in a high-rise on the Strip with a vast, unobstructed view of the city, suburbs, and mountains has its perks, one of which is the fact that I can always see what’s going on in almost a third of the Las Vegas Valley just by looking out my sliding glass door.

Today, the interesting event of the day was a house fire at 224 W Cincinnati Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102. This is a small, run-down house on the south side of the Gateway District, in an area formerly known as “Naked City” because it was the area where show girls would sunbathe naked in the 1950s. This blog post with a clip of a garbage truck accidentally dumping trash all over the road is dash cam footage from Naked City.

Today, Naked City is just a low-income neighborhood between the Strip and downtown, behind the Stratosphere. When I say “low income,” I mean that in the most extreme way possible—Naked City is often perceived to be the most dangerous place in Las Vegas, and rent prices for apartments in the neigh­bor­hood can be as low as US$500.00 per month for a unit.

Now, the perception of danger isn’t completely unfounded, but the area has gotten tre­men­dously better recently. This area was a hotspot for illicit drug transactions and prostitution, but with government assistance, the streets are much safer now.

This all probably sounds incredibly underwhelming. Why in the world would I be blogging about a random house catching on fire? … Well, it’s because this house is $7 million.

 
Something probably doesn’t add up in your head, and I don’t blame you. How can this house—a house that looks like it’s about to collapse—in an ap­par­ent­ly terrible neighborhood go for $7 million?

First, I guess it would be prudent for me to demonstrate that I’m not just making this up. ABC 13 KTNV Las Vegas ran a story almost four years ago about this property, and you can check for yourself in the price history on the Zillow page for 224 West Cincinnati Avenue that it was indeed on the mar­ket for US$7,000,000.00, originally listed by Simply Vegas, then later taken over by Keller Williams Marketplace, with momentary representation by Plat­i­num Real Estate Professionals.

So, why $7 million? The easy answer is that it’s not about the house; it’s about the land.

 
Remember how I said earlier that the government has been assisting with cleaning up Naked City? The downtown and northern side of the Strip is un­der rapid development right now, and many people are projecting that the area will flourish and prosper very soon. The owner of that plot of land is prob­a­bly expecting the area to explode in growth so much that there will be some entrepreneur who will want to snatch up that “premium” plot of land to get a head start.

There are some substantial flaws with that thought process:

  • The street leading into the entrance of the building is important. If this was a plot of land with a direct opening to Sahara Avenue or Las Vegas Boulevard, then it wouldn’t be as outlandish, but no matter how close this property is to the “busy area,” it still involves driving through shady-looking back streets to get there.
  • The neighborhood still matters. Even though the area is improving, it’s a slow and gradual process, and it’s still not at the “tipping point” where it’s worth it to get in on the redevelopment. There’s getting in early, then there’s getting in very early… and then there’s getting in too early. We’re still at the too early point right now.
  • That lot is zoned as residential. If an entrepreneur were to come along and purchase the plot of land to start a business to capitalize on the im­prov­ing conditions of the north Strip, they would have to petition and go through an excruciating approvals process with the city to convert the land into commercial zoning before they can get permits to begin construction.

 
With that being said, if it wasn’t already just about the land and location… now it definitely is. The Clark County Fire Department and the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Department responded today to 224 W Cincinnati Ave to reports of a fire. I observed the firefighters hard at work tackling the problem.

224 West Cincinnati Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89102

I guess they had trouble gaining access into the property, because they started climbing on the roof and bringing out what sounded like chainsaws. E­ven­tu­al­ly, they put a hole through the roof, and billows of smoke started coming out from the opening.

224 West Cincinnati Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89102

It reached 106°F (41°C) today, but this was captivating enough and standing in the shade of my balcony was tolerable enough that I watched for about half an hour. I was watching this from over 500 feet away, so I obviously couldn’t hear anything they were saying, but what I was able to make out just from my observations was that the house was vacant at the time of the fire, someone else called to report smoke coming from the house, and the fire­fighters had to force entry to ensure the property was clear.

Shortly after they put the hole through the roof, the smoke poured out then stopped, so I imagine they were probably also able to gain access through the back as well to extinguish the source of the blaze.

 

—§—

 

My Glock 19 now has a white frame

It’s probably no surprise that Glocks are my favorite firearms—they’re simple, reliable, and capable. It’s also probably no surprise that my pistol of choice is the Glock 19—it’s not as large as the classic Glock 17, but it’s still big enough that I can comfortably grip it as someone who is almost six feet tall with proportionally-sized hands.

If you know me, it also probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I like white things. I find white to be a clean, crisp, modern color, and if I have a choice to purchase something that’s white (if that “something” isn’t already ubiquitously white), then I will seize that opportunity. I have all white furniture, bed sheets, towels, most electronics, rugs, lamps… you get the idea. I particularly like things that are white when they are not traditionally white.

One thing that is obviously not traditionally white is firearms. As far as I’m aware, as of today, the full line-up of Glocks consists of black (or dark gray, depending on how you interpret it) firearms, except for the Glock 19X, which comes in coyote (which is a brownish tan color). Glock does have some red and blue firearms, but all of those are for training purposes only—red for no firing capability, and blue for training ammunition for law enforcement only.

Of course, this made for a great opportunity to turn another one of my possessions white.

So I did.

Glock 19 Gen 5 with snow white Cerakoted frame

No, I did not take a can of spray paint to my gun. If I want something done, I like it being done right, and I knew for a fact that regular spray paint on the frame of a firearm would start coming off after my first few firing sessions just from the sweat and friction from my palms. Instead, I got it done by Magill’s Glock Store in San Diego, California.

The Glock Store converted my frame from black to white using a process called Cerakoting, which is applying a thin-film ceramic coating to an object to permanently customize its color.

If you want this done to your firearm as well, you can check out the customization options on GlockStore.com. If you already own your firearm, you can ship it to San Diego and they will apply the customization and ship it back directly to you. If you want to purchase a new firearm from them, they will apply the customization to your new firearm then ship it to a local FFL transfer facility for pick-up.

Glock 19 Gen 5 with snow white Cerakoted frame

Glock 19 Gen 5 with snow white Cerakoted frame

Overall, I’d say that I am mostly satisfied, though there were two minor issues with the customization.

First, I obviously only wanted the frame turned white and the slide, barrel, and hardware left alone. This was mostly followed, though there was a small section on the slide near the muzzle that had some overspill of white. The area of overspill probably measures around 1 millimeter by 3 millimeters, so it’s microscopically tiny and most people probably wouldn’t even notice it, but being the detail-oriented person I am, it did stick out to me right when I inspected the firearm.

Second, I had ordered a colorfill of the lettering on the slide of the firearm. I had put in a request for the Glock logo and the “19 Gen 5,” “AUSTRIA,” and “9×19” text to be colorfilled white. However, they only did the colorfill on the Glock logo, as well as the serial number on the other side of the slide. Unfortunately, they actually sent me photos ahead of time before shipping the firearm to me, and I somehow did not notice the missing colorfill in the photos, so I approved them and now mostly consider it my own fault.

In the second photo posted above (with the slide locked back), you might notice that there are also some additional black spots around the corner-edges of the frame. Those spots actually did not come like that from the Glock Store; those spots actually showed up after I had holstered and unholstered the gun a few times, which leads me to believe that it is a friction spot from rubbing against the inside of my holster. On top of that, I also noticed that it might be black discoloration on top of the white Cerakote, so I actually anticipate that the black spots would come off if I took some really fine sand­paper and gently scrubbed those spots.

 
One thing I’ve been asked about a few times is the concern that my firearm could potentially be misrepresented as a toy gun. That’s a valid point, so I decided to address it:

The main reason I’m not concerned about this is because I think white is still technically a “professional” color. If you go to your search engine of choice and look up “real guns disguised as toys,” those are the kinds of firearms that we should be concerned about—there are some pretty absurd and ridic­ulous patterns, and some criminals are going as far as to paint the tips of their real guns neon orange to make them actually look fake. There are also red guns as well, which, as I mentioned before, could potentially be mistaken for a practice firearm.

Second, the main reason you would even want a disguised firearm is to deceive law enforcement. If I do ever end up in a situation where my firearm draws unwanted attention with law enforcement, I won’t actually be troubled at all. Having formerly worked in law enforcement, I know what to do when interacting with a peace officer while armed, and I have all the licenses I need to carry firearms.

 
… and yes, for all the CS:GO and other FPS players, this is indeed like having a “real-life skin” for my gun. No, you were not the first person to point that out.

 

—§—

 

Apparently I felt an earthquake in Idaho from Las Vegas

I was going to write about this yesterday, but I was concerned that people might think I was pulling an April Fool’s prank, so I decided to wait until today instead…

On March 31, 2020 at 4:56 PM PDT, I felt my first high-rise earthquake.

There were some pretty severe earthquakes in Ridgecrest, CA nine months ago that should’ve been felt from Las Vegas, but I happened to be in Re­don­do Beach at that time, and I was in Tempo‘s PUBG team house rather than at home in my condo. There had been nothing too noticeable since then, until two days ago when I heard my building creaking and crackling.

For those who don’t know, I live in a high-rise condominimum complex on the Las Vegas Strip. I live in one of the upper units, putting me around 400 feet above ground level. High-rise buildings on the Pacific Coast have some pretty good anti-earthquake measures, but that doesn’t stop them from making discomforting sounds and swaying back and forth for a while.

After I noticed that my building was indeed dancing, the first thing that popped into my mind was whether Southern California was hit by “The Big One,” a nickname for the long-overdue catastrophic earthquake that’s an­tic­i­pated to cause $200 billion in damages along the San Andreas fault. Even though Las Vegas is hundreds of miles away from SoCal, we’re still going to experience some mild shaking when The Big One hits—though with no damage, obviously.

I messaged one of my co-workers a minute after I confirmed that there was indeed an earthquake happening somewhere, and asked him to check Twitter to see if our good friends in California were sending out distress signals. In the meantime, I was still scratching my head in confusion, wondering why my building was still rocking back and forth, and concluding that earthquakes are a lot spookier in high-rise buildings than I thought, because it takes a while for the building to become stationary again.

Not long after, my co-worker got back to me with an update from Twitter… apparently I had felt an earthquake that was epicentered in Idaho. … Idaho?

At this point, there were two possibilities. The first was that there was also an earthquake somewhere else at the very exact time, and it was just a massive coincidence that I had felt that different earthquake at the same time that a fairly severe one hit Idaho. The second possibility was that “a fairly severe one” was an understatement, and Idaho was basically liquefied mush at this point, because the earthquake was actually so strong that it was able to be felt from about 600 miles away.

I dug into it a bit afterwards, and apparently, I was wrong in both predictions. The United States Geological Survey did report an earthquake in Idaho, but it was a magnitude 6.5 epicentered 70 kilometers west of Challis.

How did I feel this earthquake in Idaho from Las Vegas?

Now wondering whether or not I was having hallucinations, I did my own searching on Twitter by querying the keyword “earthquake” and restricting geotagging to the Las Vegas Valley. I was relieved when I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt it—other people on the Strip and in the downtown area also reported feeling the earthquake. (And of course, there was also the fair share of people claiming that we were lying just for the attention—which I don’t blame them for, because I agree that it seems pretty impossible that we felt that Idaho earthquake.)

I imagine that this is just going to end up being a part of high-rise life that I didn’t account for until just now. Similar to how a flick of the wrist while holding a whip can cause the loop of the whip to reach the speed of sound and create a sonic boom, it appears like even the slightest ground motion can send the top of a high-rise building rocking back and forth for a minute or two.

 

—§—

 

Two more things I’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic so far

At the beginning of last week, I wrote a blog post about how I discovered that I had been inadvertently selfish my entire life, and how the COVID-19 pandemic opened my eyes to empathy—not quite literally the concept itself, but rather, the fact that just because you’re aware of a concept doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve fully manifested it into your life. Since then, a whole lot more has happened.

I’m glad that people around me seem to be responding accordingly. I found out yesterday that the homeowners’ association of my condo taped a red “social distancing line” on the floor of the main entrance to protect our concierge and security staff—which was hilarious, but also gave me faith that the HOA was taking this seriously and keeping our workers safe.

Social distancing line

So, with these recent developments and stronger responses from the community, there are two more things that I learned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Apparently I’ve basically already been self-quarantining my entire life.

    It seems like everyone is complaining about having to make drastic lifestyle changes and how they are bored out of their minds… but I feel like I’m just living my normal life. I’m almost sort of jealous that people seem to be finding unity in struggling through self-isolation, while I can’t join in on the fun because this actually isn’t a struggle to me.

    I also seem to be exceptionally well-prepared for self-isolation, because I didn’t have to go out and “stock up” or “prepare” for anything. While other people are cluelessly going out to buy egregious amounts of toilet paper and bottled water, I already have a stockpile of toilet paper (I take left­over toilet paper rolls from hotels I stay at, and I travel a lot), and I already have a few extra water filters in my cabinet. The only thing I don’t have is frozen or canned food, but I have enough faith in the government that I won’t actually starve to death, and if I get close and every single grocery store and restaurant is shut down, then there will be alternative methods available to get my hands on food.

    Anyway, I keep myself busy and don’t really have free time, and it’s remained that way throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While people are sitting on their couches mind-numbingly watching hours upon hours of Netflix, I’m just continuing on with what I normally do on a regular day—just with an elimination of the very little human-to-human, in-person contact that I did get before.

    On a mildly related note, a lot of people who have a ton of extra free time now have been reaching out to me to reconnect—people who I didn’t realize even remembered that I still existed. They just assume that, because they have a lot more free time, I do too… which isn’t exactly the case. But, of course, I always say that, if you are important enough to someone, they will always make time for you, no matter how busy they are. My own philosophy is being put to the test as more and more old familiar names are popping up in my messages…

  2. Other people now understand why I take a lower paycheck to have a fun job where I can work from home.

    I’ve generally always been the type of person who hasn’t really placed “making money” at a very high priority, but when I decided on my full-time career, I decided to take a lower-paying job at a young company within an unstable and new industry just so I could do what I had fun doing. Prior to esports and gaming, I was on track to going to law school and becoming a criminal prosecutor—which, again, is one of the lower-paying legal jobs, but it still would’ve equipped me with a Juris Doctorate and made me a barred lawyer.

    Instead, I believe that doing fun work, having control over your life, and being able to work from home are extremely underrated com­po­nents of a career. I had the great fortune of finding an opportunity that provided me with all three of those—I get to work in the esports and gaming industry, I determine my own schedule, and I get to work out of my home office.

    Throughout the last five years, I’ve had people regularly question why I am doing the work that I do right now when I could instead go back to school for a few more years, then double or triple my salary. I’ve always explained to them that both the concrete (personal time and mileage ex­penses) and abstract (mental health and well-being) value derived from not having to commute to a physical location is worth far more to me, but people generally think I’m wrong.

    Now that people are forced to work from home, a few are coming back to me to let me know that they now understand why working from home is so amazing.

    I’ve seen people’s commutes range from half an hour to two hours in each direction, and if you account for how much of your life you’re losing to that, it adds up extremely quickly. Some people take public transportation, but others drive, and operating and maintaining a vehicle is usually more expensive than people think.

    Most importantly, not having to force yourself to wake up at a specific time or be bound by someone else’s commands can be a freeing and em­pow­ering experience. There’s a psychological phenomenon called reactance where you experience displeasure when other people tell you to do something, even if you were going to do that task anyway. If you’re particularly prone to reactance, you may notice situations where you were planning on doing something, but if someone happens to tell you to do that thing before you actually get around to doing it, you no longer want to do that task anymore because it feels like you’re only doing it because that other person told you to do it, rather than out of your own free will.

    Reactance can be extremely dangerous for productivity, which is why, when I lead others, I try my best to equip them with the tools and resources they need, then have them come to the conclusion as to what they need to do to achieve our goal. I may nudge them towards my task or create a situation where they will inevitably come to the conclusion that they have to do what I want to do, but the important part here is that they decide on that themselves, and they’re doing it because they want to, not because I told them to.

    If you work when you want from where you want, that’s one of the most powerful ways to increase your self-perception of self-worth, thus leading to much greater confidence. You feel like you’re in control of your life, your attitude and outlook on your future improve, you are more motivated and dedicated to your own tasks, and your productivity skyrockets. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put a concrete dollar amount or salary increase in exchange for sacrificing something like this.

    Now that other people are getting a taste of what my everyday life is like, I’ve gotten a lot more acknowledgement for my career choice. I’ve never really been someone to care too much about what others’ think, but it’s still nice to hear from people that I was right all along.

 
Stay at home.

 

—§—