An American Millennial

Where are you and where are you going?
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Viktor K
Posts: 295
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:45 pm
Location: China

Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:36 am

Early-June 2018

Just got June's paycheck. Also, I accidentally edited over my May journal entry above. I believe it is gone for good.


ERE graphs

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Net worth has inched back up. However, there's only 1 paycheck left, plus end of year bonus and then I'll be losing some money until the new school semester starts. At least, my net worth has received a positive (in the form of less of a negative :geek: ) increase of some $150/month. See below.


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Assets are down because I took that fat chunk of USD from last month and threw it at my loans. ~20% of loans gone.


Personal
Dog: Feels like a zoo as an animal subsection seems to be a monthly occurrence. My girlfriend rescued some pup off the street. After weeks in a cage getting its vaccines and waiting for an adopter, I finally caved in to her persistent begging to bring it home. It pisses all over the spare bedroom every day and screams bloody murder when she leaves the apartment. Thus, I've been spending time at lunch and after class each day coding at the office to give her a little extra time to beat me home (I usually get home 30 minutes before her), mop up all the urine and walk the mut. The deal was if she wanted to bring it home, she'd have to take care of it all, but I didn't foresee it being such a PITA. It is cute, though, quick learner with regards to training, and otherwise quiet. It also has started chasing the smaller cat. I'm definitely not a dog person. Sorry if my horns are showing.

Health-food: I'm back to the Chinese fast food diet. It's really hard to eat healthy here. Food-health alone is one example, where the only nearby restaurant with a passing health-rating is McDonald's. Everywhere else is a B and below, and some don't even post the rating. Simple carbs, pork, and high-sugar drinks are the norm, which you pretty much need to cook each meal or pay a premium eating out to avoid.

Health-other:In other news, still greatly improved sleep schedule, 8 or more hours every night, unable to stay awake past 10-11 unless really determined to work something through. We've started doing 50pullups program twice a week in addition to continuing the 5-3-1. We got our body fat percentage calculated. I'm at 13.3% which is probably the highest in my life. I want to be something like 10%, but the diet is a huge issue.

Housing: We have 10 days to figure out if we'll stay in this apartment or move. We've talked about moving to somewhere with a more inviting and less infested kitchen. We'd likely have to sacrifice some square footage, which we're fine with. The hope is that with a nicer, cleaner kitchen we may be more enticed to cook more. Another thing we have to consider however is that my future work location is potentially up in the air a bit, so we may be considering short-term leasing options as our first criteria.

Travel: I'll be in the US for two weeks at the beginning of July. This will be a chance to count up how much money I have/need for the next 2-3 months before my next paycheck and bring some USD back on the plane. My girlfriend will be taking a separate vacation from me since we both need to go to different states, and so that we can avoid having the cats need a babysitter.


Professional

Public school: 3 more weeks of class, and 1 of those is where I just sit back and let them watch a movie. Then I'm on summer vacation.

Recording: We did 2 more of these last month (and one was a big, 30 page one) but looks like the pay won't be making it on this update. Should come in the next week.

Web-development: Over the last month I've solved 38 JavaScript algorithms and finished 6 projects. I've made things like a JavaScript Calculator, a Pomodoro Clock, and other things that work with APIs like Wikipedia's MediaWorks and OpenWeatherMaps. I've got two more projects to go before I'll start learning a Front-end framework, likely React. FreeCodeCamp just changed their format, but after my next two projects I'll still be able to apply for my Front-end Certificate since I am a "legacy" user. As a funny twist, my algorithm solutions net me one of their new certificates by default, a JavaScript Algorithms and Data Structures certificate "representing approximately 300 hours of coursework".

Job-readiness: I consider going self-taught developer the most intensive way to get a web development job, since there isn't really anyone (e.g. a bootcamp instructor, a university, etc) to give your learning any credibility. Thus, in the last few days I've started to dedicate some additional time outside of studying/working on projects to prepare myself as a candidate. I made a pretty awesome-looking resume (based on this one) and figured I might as well start sending it out. Lo and behold, I actually got a reply from a company in Hong Kong. Next up, I want to start a legitimate portfolio website that I'll also have my blog on. The blog will just be my journey as a self-taught developer with the main goal of giving employers a chance (if they want) to better understand who I am.

University: I signed the university job offer when it came. As there's a pretty high potential for a 4-day, mornings only work-week, it would be really a much better schedule for studying. Unfortunately, there's a potential ¥15,000 fee for early termination, so if I manage to find a job, it may come at a cost. As well, you have to sign without knowing which of 4 tracks you'll get. The easiest track is general English, and is only 16 classes, 1 lesson plan/week. The most intensive one is 20 classes, seeing each class 3x/week (e.g. 3 lesson plans), and is business English (more intensive), and since it is 20 classes, there's no chance to fit it in the 4-day, mornings only schedule. Fingers crossed.


Financial

Student loans: My lump-sum paid off 2 of my 8 loans. As you can see above, I certainly still have enough in assets to pay off 1 more, however I am trying to balance my emergency fund. The desired emergency fund value fluctuates since my future employment is so up in the air. If I knew I would stay in China for the next year, I would dump more from the fund onto the loans. Ideally, if it was easier to transfer money, then I would be sending money monthly, thus avoiding my interest increasing each month. This last payment knocked off $150/month of interest moving forward.

No-pay summer: Since we're switching employers, we won't get a housing allowance this summer, which really sucks. Maybe this is a good time for me to turn on my online teaching app.


Final thoughts

The biggest thing on my mind right now is just how crazy it is that someone actually replied to my resume. Originally, I had set a goal of getting a job by August, potentially moving back to the US to get a nice, high-paying one. The idea here is that by August I will have learned a front-end framework (maybe React) and a back-end language (maybe PHP, or Python, the decision is further away and thus less thought about), and have made many more projects to showcase these. When I found a ton of web developer jobs just across the border in Hong Kong, I figured I might as well start sending out my new resume. One of the employers actually responded, though, sending me back a questionnaire to get to know me better. In my eyes, since its only June, I'm two months of studying and projects away from where I think I would actually be employable, so I can't say I expect anything out of it, but it's a nice reinforcement of the idea that I may actually be able to find work in the future.

slowtraveler
Posts: 625
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:06 pm

Re: An American Millennial

Post by slowtraveler » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:24 am

Dude, you're doing amazing. Your net asset value keeps climbing on up and soon, you'll have a positive withdrawal rate.

I'm proud of the progress you've made on programming. I haven't written a program since my last post out of laziness. This is your competition and you're winning ;) . If you keep up your progress, you'll get that job sooner than later.

Deep down, I'm rooting for you to win and stay in Asia since you seem happier now than your first pages of your journal. But finding a more hygenic place feels so nice. I'd spend hours killing dozens of roaches in my Pattaya kitchen so I feel your pain.

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Fish
Posts: 380
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Fish » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:57 am

Viktor K wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:36 am
Job-readiness: I consider going self-taught developer the most intensive way to get a web development job, since there isn't really anyone (e.g. a bootcamp instructor, a university, etc) to give your learning any credibility. Thus, in the last few days I've started to dedicate some additional time outside of studying/working on projects to prepare myself as a candidate. I made a pretty awesome-looking resume (based on this one) and figured I might as well start sending it out. Lo and behold, I actually got a reply from a company in Hong Kong. [...] I'm two months of studying and projects away from where I think I would actually be employable, so I can't say I expect anything out of it, but it's a nice reinforcement of the idea that I may actually be able to find work in the future.
Have you considered freelancing or contract work? 1) it doesn't commit you to any particular location, 2) you get paid to learn while gaining experience. It would be compatible with a perma-travel lifestyle, while a full-time position would not. It could be a decent alternative if you have any hesitation about taking a full-time developer job at this time. The opportunity cost might not be as high, if it allows you to skip past entry-level if you later switch to career mode.
Wall Street Playboys wrote: Importantly, if you want to go into Private Equity and get a career offer in private equity you *take* it. If you want to go into banking and get an offer in banking…. you *take* it. There is no point in “learning something” to jump later. Always jump straight into the position if possible.
This would be my recommendation to you. For what it's worth, I prefer WSP's resume template. The one you linked has an entry-level vibe because the cutesy infographic format wastes a lot of valuable space. Recommend reading the advice here and see the template link at the bottom. http://wallstreetplayboys.com/resume-template/

Mister Imperceptible
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Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:18 pm

Re: An American Millennial

Post by Mister Imperceptible » Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:57 am

+1 to what Fish said and quoted from WSP.

You’re smart enough that you can learn the nuances of a new gig on the fly.

Contract work often pays more, too, because the employer doesn’t pay to “onboard you.” Health insurance, vacation time, 401k match, all the things you get from an employer, you can manage and optimize better on your own.

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Viktor K
Posts: 295
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Location: China

Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:51 am

@slowtraveler A lot of my progress is due to getting rid of my computer games, which was such a massive time sink and distraction I don't want to really talk about it or quantify it :oops: Another great motivator has been my mounting dissatisfaction and a feeling of "going-nowhere". Your comment made me read back to some of the early entries in my journal though and that makes me feel a little better since I think I am a lot better off than where I started, but still lots of progress to go.

@fish Yes, I have. But I should keep looking. I got a little disheartened when browsing upwork since it seemed a lot of the jobs required skills I didn't have or that I couldn't really understand. I've discussed with my girlfriend the possibility of finding freelance work instead of a full-time job. It would pair especially well with the low-hour high-savings rate lifestyle we'll have in China for the next year and could snowball and lead to opportunities in explore other countries without having to worry about income. Thanks for the tips on the resume, I'm going to get rid of the graphics on the side bar :D

@Mister Imperceptible Thanks for the compliment, but a lot of what I'm able to figure out is really just due to the wealth of information on the internet. Every problem I run into already has an answer on stackoverflow or a well-written blog post about ways to solve it. Maybe I'll try and still apply for some of these jobs that I at least partially understand on upwork. I've heard it can take a very long time before you get your first contract, but then they start coming in at a reasonable rate after that and then its just a matter of steadily increasing your rate. I've also heard a lot of freelance work comes from cold-calling/reaching out to companies with outdated sites. That sort of freelancing I'm less excited about given my past experiences with cold-calling but if it can lead to jobs and later ERE, then I can make the sacrifice.

Mister Imperceptible
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Mister Imperceptible » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:07 am

I think if the massive time sink into computer games is replaced with a relentless hustle toward income-related activity, you will get results. Barge into enough doors, eventually you will find yourself in a room where they are playing a game natural for you to learn or the people in the room just don’t have the energy to throw you out.

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Viktor K
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Location: China

Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:06 am

End of June 2018

I want to get back on track to posting at the beginning of each month.

I felt like I wasted a lot of time the last couple of weeks figuring out what to do next, but I feel a lot better after writing this update. Ah, the therapeutic benefits of keeping a journal. Still, I think I can get even more done than I did these last two weeks. Also, my spending is out of control.

ERE graphs

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Cold hard fact of the update: I have spent all the money I’ve earned the last 3 months.


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I will further reduce my assets by next update by way of paying off student loans. However, since I expect some ¥22,000 end of the year paycheck, I think this chart will look more or less the same, just with more RMB and less USD.


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I would like to introduce you to my new chart: Income vs. Saving (as change in net worth). I talk about this more in Financial: Savings Rate below.


Personal
Dog: We sent the dog off to her adopters, so peace has returned to the home.

Health-food: Our diet is a big focus for both of us moving forward. We have started and are committed to spending ¥20/weekday lunch for a vegan buffet (they only open for lunch). I think they may use a lot of oil, but they have higher food safety ratings than most, offer something like 15 unique dishes each day, are around the block from our new apartment, and add a lot of micronutrients that our diets are otherwise missing.

Also, we have a new apartment and it's much nicer for food prep. I want to start preparing complex carbs (quinoa, brown rice, whole pasta, oatmeal), giant salads on the weekend (buffet is closed), crockpot beans, and the occasional chicken breast or canned fish. Alternatively, I may purchase protein powder for the convenience. I want and think that I can get my food spending down to <¥1000/month.

Health-other: I still feel really happy with my exercise routine. I’m going to try and snag some free-trials at some of the big gyms to not miss any of my workouts while traveling.

I increased my deadlift by another 15kg in the last two weeks. I was leaning too far back at the start, dragging the bar over my shins, adding a lot of friction, and not really engaging the right muscles. Don’t let this trick you, I still look like a skinny little boy, but I think this consistent progress will pay off.

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Still skinny.

I’m still concerned about the air quality here. Thankfully, it won’t be too terrible again until winter, and I may get a mask then ( I said this last year too, but never did).

Housing: We found our new place. The college has 3 campuses and our apartment is equidistant from each. It is one and a half blocks from our current apartment, it’s much smaller, it costs half as much per month (~ 225 USD/month savings), it’s newer and cleaner since its commercial housing, and it has a more suitable kitchen. We will be fully moved in by the end of this weekend.

There are some downsides. The internet is slower, with the fastest plan only 12 Mbps compared to our previous 200 Mbps. As well, since it is commercial, the utility rates are twice as much (except internet which is less/month but also way slower speed). We will need to be more conscious of our consumption (aided in part by less square footage) and I may get a laptop and work at a coffee shop if the internet isn’t fast enough (speeds degrade significantly over VPN). Also, no more balcony.

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He will be sad.

Travel: I'll be taking most of my Chinese bank account with me to the US to deposit and put towards my loans. I leave next Tuesday and will be gone for 2 weeks.

Time-management: Quitting video games has been a huge success for me. However, after finishing FreeCodeCamp’s front-end track, I wasn’t really sure what to do next. Thus, I’ve started writing an action plan for the next 12 months.

Before, my success rate with setting goals was low. I set them because I heard it was a good idea to. But in the last week I started to crave goals and a schedule of things to do to reach them. I have all this new productive time and I want to focus it.

Here’s the annual goals, which I’m in the process of breaking out into month-by-month, quantifiable targets:
  • Start a blog
    1. 95 posts and 95 x 95 x 48 social media shares
    2. 1 eBook, 3 Udemy courses, 2 wordpress themes
    3. Keyword research every 3 months (October, January, April)
  • Become a freelance developer
    1. Apply for 480 freelance jobs
  • Be job-ready
    1. Add PHP, SQL, React.js, Node.js, GitHub, Wordpress, SEO, and blogging to resume
    2. Finish 12 more projects (including SQL, PHP, Node.js, React.js, and e-commerce)
    3. Finish game (?)
    4. Complete portfolio website
    5. Complete LinkedIn
I only wrote these last night and I am still working on them. You can help me out a lot by giving feedback. What do you think about my goals?


Professional

Public school: My last day is tomorrow. Feels good!

Recording: I am all caught up on pay which is included in the graphs above. Also, in a crazy turn of events, our favorite studio relocated this month and just so happens to be in the same building as our new apartment! Our 90 minute commute reduced to a few flights of stairs.

Web-development: I finished my last two projects and now have two certifications from FreeCodeCamp. Afterwards, I started to feel aimless. Still, I was able to get a decent amount done in the last two weeks. Here is an overview of what I accomplished in rough chronological order:
  1. Finished Tic-Tac-Toe game
  2. Finished Simon game
  3. Finished 1 of 3 SQL courses on Codecademy
  4. Easily solved 12 SQL algorithms on HackerRank
  5. Purchased domain
  6. Purchased hosting and pointed DNS servers
  7. Hand-coded portfolio site with blog attached (no CMS)
  8. Learned about CMSs and how PHP relates
  9. Started Introduction to PHP track on Codecademy
  10. Read all about SEO, keyword research, content writing, and website monetization
I have learned a lot making my own website in the last couple of weeks. I have a better understanding now of how PHP and SQL fit into web development and their importance.

You can learn a lot in online coding classes and writing projects on code sandboxes like CodePen. I don’t think I was wrong to learn it that way first. However, if you are in relatively the same position as me, then I would highly recommend you starting your own website and coding there.

As for my website, I plan to break it down into two parts. I will dedicate a sub-domain for employers which will include my resume, my portfolio and code examples, an about me, and a contact form. I will use the main domain for my blog and e-goodies.

Blog: I wrote a blog post and then fell into possibly the biggest rabbit hole on the internet: researching blogging. I ended up reading about all sorts of things like SEO, monetization, content-generation, keyword research, etc. If you value your time, be careful learning about blogging.

My idea is to use a blog to drive traffic to my website, and then sell online courses (static like through Udemy), ebook/s, and potentially wordpress themes.

I have another idea of either selling 1-on-1 coaching or hosting internet classes and teaching programming languages. I think it is a good combination of my experience as a teacher teaching foreign languages and my growing skills as a developer. As well, I think both ideas have potential for scaling (higher rates for 1-on-1s, more students/class and/or higher rates for internet courses).

I think jacob mentioned blogging being a rockstar-career once. I’m also well aware that the field is very saturated these days. Let me know what you all think. The content generation will take a lot of time, and won’t necessarily serve me well unless I get and convert traffic into leads.

Without traffic conversion, I’ll only have the blog posts to show employers my interest in the field, personality, some bits of web development knowledge, etc. I consider these of lukewarm importance. What do you think? The cost in time will be relatively high since I could otherwise spend the time studying and coding.

University: I still don’t have any updates about which course I will teach. If you are from the U.S., you’ll find Chinese culture is much more comfortable with uncertainty. You may find out key details like your schedule, what subject you’ll teach, what campus you’ll teach on, etc. only a couple of days before you start. You can read more about cross-cultural differences if you’re interested and you should definitely read about them if you’re considering traveling abroad.


Financial

Remittance: I plan to take the maximum of ¥15000 home on my flight. I would like to take more, but don’t feel like risking customs. This will leave just under 1000 USD in my bank account in China before I get paid.

I will test out ATMs in the US to see how the fee structure works. Withdrawing from ATMs worked really well in Japan, hopefully it can also work in the US. My girlfriend was back in the US recently but only pulled out $20 from a different bank’s ATM and was charged $6 but didn’t think to check what the fee structure was. I hope it was more of an non-ATM fee than, say, a percentage. Obviously losing more than 25% would be outrageous.

No-pay summer: I expect a final paycheck of roughly ¥22500 in July. I should easily be able to make that last until my next paycheck in mid-September. I’ll need to pay for food, housing, and discretionary expenses for July, August, and the first-half of September.

Debts: I keep telling my girlfriend to send me the balance I owe her for our hostel reservations and flights in Japan, but we keep forgetting about it. At one point, I’ll need to transfer something like 300 USD to her.

Savings Rate: I find this chart to be quite eye opening. I realized over the last 10 months I raised my net worth by a mere 38% of my income. This metric includes things like taxes, Chinese insurance, and housing costs.

Going forward, I expect my baseline saving rate without discretionary expenses to be around 55% at the new job and new apartment. I am counting ¥1000 for food (I’ve spent nearly double this the last few months), ¥1800 for housing (half of the current housing), 215 USD for student loan interest, 57 USD for whole life insurance, and a 15% tax rate. Without taxes (which should happen this year and get back-dated for last year), it bumps up to 70%.


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Eating here every weekday will cost ¥440/month

I base this off of a ¥15000 monthly income. My new job pays ¥10000 monthly and ¥3500 housing after-tax, so I will need an additional ¥1500 in recordings to reach the base amount.

I hope to land freelance work to increase my salary and savings rate. I think the worst case scenario for me will be spending the next year without any freelance work or online income. However, even if that’s the case, I think I will still end up with a strong enough resume and portfolio to get a web development job in the US.

Lack of savings in last 3 months: So I’m pretty embarrassed and was at a loss for where all my money went. Seems the big culprits are taxes and housing (but those always happen), cooking almost nothing at home and eating more (my food spending could easily be more than 300 USD/month in the last few months), paying girlfriend like 1000 USD for Japan (credit card issues meant she paid for everything), discretionary spending (online shopping), student loan interest (also happens every month), no part-time teaching, security deposit on new apartment, cat getting sick, going from doubling money in cryptocurrency to breaking even, plane tickets home… Basically, I need to spend less and earn more moving forward. The money got away from me.


Final thoughts

Despite high spending, I feel uniquely positioned to finally capitalize on my low-work hours and live up to some of my potential. This is a little earlier than I’m ready to debut, and this may change before my next post, but here are my goals for July.
  • Blog
    • Install WordPress theme
    • Customize a child theme
    • Brainstorm eBook
    • Brainstorm Udemy course
    • Brainstorm blog titles based on keyword research
    • Write blog to-do list for each post
  • Freelance
    • Sign up on Upwork
    • Create Upwork profile
    • Take skills tests on Upwork
    • Create Upwork portfolio
  • Job-readiness
    • Finish Codecademy Introduction to PHP
    • Write PHP in WordPress child theme
    • Finish all of Codecademy’s SQL courses (including Node.js)
    • Redo and save 10 JS algorithms (solutions were lost when FCC updated)
    • Finish and save 10 SQL algorithms
    • Make subdomain for portfolio
    • Polish 3 projects on codepen
    • Upload polished projects to portfolio as web pages
You can help me out a lot if you let me know what you think about my goals. Lastly, I'd also appreciate some affirmation that I'm on the right track here if that seems to be the case to you or what I can do to get there if not :D. Without a doubt, I need to start saving more. As for the goals, I’m not as sure. I feel like I’m doing the right thing, and I do try and research best-practices in any undertaking before starting, but everyone has different perspectives and experiences, so let me know if you see things differently.

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singvestor
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by singvestor » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:25 am

My personal ¥0.02:

[*]Suggestion 1: Make a business plan first before focusing on activities
[*]Suggestion 2: Focus on unique selling point: you are an American guy in China, who can write, code, teach children and adults, rock climb and plenty other renaissance man stuff - why focus on upwork with all the relentless cheap competition instead of crafting an unique selling point out of this?

Random ideas:

[*]Local climbing guide for rich American expats in China
[*]Study hard and become an athlete at the same time: English intensive class / sports climbing camp for Chinese kids
[*]Programming and wordpress support package targeted at language schools
[*]English sports class: a workout + English class at the same time
[*]Tap into the market of bored expat wifes (not politically correct to say, but so many guys get sent from the West to Asia on cushy expat terms and bring their wifes. They are so bored and a huge market for all types of activities, e.g. networking, sports, small business, volunteering, language, children etc etc)

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Viktor K
Posts: 295
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Location: China

Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Jun 30, 2018 3:32 am

Good to hear from you singvestor. And great advice which I’m definitely going to follow. I’ve made a few business plans before and they always help, but I didn’t even think to make one for this. Great ideas too, you’ve set my mind working.

I have a long 15 hour flight on Tuesday. I should be able to get a good bit done then.

slowtraveler
Posts: 625
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:06 pm

Re: An American Millennial

Post by slowtraveler » Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:34 am

Post how ever often feels good Viktor, if more feels good, sweet. If not, we still happy to have you on here.

Health:

20kg is a big improvement. I've always dragged against my shins since it keeps center of mass more consistent but leaning too far back isn't something I've done.

Recording:
That's a sweet coincidence. Congratulations on the serendipity.

Web Development:
It sounds like you've made huge progress here and that getting a tech job is your top priority. This can easily create a multi-directional pull since there's a huge plethora of ways to contribute via tech work.

Financial:
Savings rate, to me, excludes tax completely because this is a part of income.* Loan interest and life insurance (if you're getting this money back) are part of savings as well.

*I'm saving more in taxes by moving abroad then I've been spending so tax efficiency is very important and worth tracking but I don't see it as a consumption expense.

Goals:

I notice you're very passionate about many goals. The Chinese proverb comes to mind, "Man who chases 2 rabbits catches none." I do better with 1 or 2 big goals, letting other changes comes as is natural and not doing more than a big change at a time. Maybe you're the type who thrives with many goals but "Before, my success rate with setting goals was low. I set them because I heard it was a good idea to." seems like you experience similar challenges. So many things seem essential that you must do all of them and you know that every juggler has limits before balls start dropping.

Honestly, only focusing on getting my expenses in check this year has felt like enough. Doing that with working, travelling about, trying new foods, walking, etc. And I don't have to focus on it. It is something I've naturally felt pulled to. I used to have tons of goals, daily schedules, incentives in place, I went deep into the productivity field. Now, less is more. And it is far less stressful.

I used to be strong as hell, deadlifting 385lbs, squating 335 (sets of 3-5), at about 180lbs. I did not try to do this as a set goal. I'd just work out 3 times a week, track each day, and gradually push forward while taking care of recovery. Every time I tried to get that strong again failed. I didn't feel it. And I'll see the effort as a nuisance then which makes the whole thing fall apart. I see the effort on cutting spending and improving financial efficiency as thrilling now so it's natural to do.

Out of all those goals, which deep down do you feel most motivated to do every day?

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Viktor K
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Location: China

Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Fri Jul 20, 2018 3:11 am

Good point about the life insurance as savings! I totally forgot about that. For me, wrt to goals, the biggest thing for me right now is to finally secure a higher annual income. I keep telling my girlfriend lately that I'm trying to actually get somewhere in life. For most of this journal, I've just felt content to coast along. Especially in the beginning when my ultimate plan was to just wait for someone to promote me at my grocery store. I think learning and practicing web development makes the most sense for me right now, and I think by the time this year is over, I'll be competitive and able to secure a good salary in the US.

Scott 2
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Scott 2 » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:55 am

I thinking find a good paying job in IT is highly attainable for you, and you are on the right track.

One thought - you seem focused on business to consumer interactions. IMO the easy money work is supporting business to business interactions. They are less fickle. My company's product website looks like crap, nobody cares. The only SEO we have is on a public website, but that is minimal and gets outsourced to a marketing consultancy, because the public website is not worth the development team's time.

We get to spend the days managing non-visual complexity. Nobody is bitching about pixel placement or designs that work on mobile and wide screen monitors. Arbitrary changes to search rankings are not relevant to us. There's a depth of specialization paths available, because enterprise scale apps require it. Again, specializing on one aspect of the tech can be easier than trying to be competent at everything.

The con is the work can be more boring, you can be mired in process for the sake of audit compliance, but it is easier.


Do you video yourself lifting, then review the form? An easy trap to fall into deadlifting, is letting the hips come up first, putting all the load on your posterior chain. That can lead to leaning way back and dragging the bar up your shins. I've been taught to contract my hamstrings strongly at the bottom of the movement, then keep them tight, so I can also pull my quads in and turn it into more of a standing leg press. I'm not sure it lets me handle more weight, but it definitely is easier on my back.

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Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Jul 21, 2018 6:44 am

Heck ya Scott, good to hear from you again.

I feel like you're on to something with the business-to-business interaction stuff, but I'm not following 100%. Can you clarify for me? Is there a certain line of study/type of project that I should be pursuing over another, or am I way off on your meaning here? Let me know please!

I don't really like the design side. Usually, if I'm starting a project, I look at a previously done similar web page and just use it as my design instead of going and creating my own. I don't really have the "eye" for what's new and good, I just like taking what is already defined and making it with code :D.

As for audit compliance, doesn't sound fun, but at the salary I'm aiming for and the spending levels I'm accustomed to, I don't expect to be a salaried employee too long. Unless I somehow go spend-crazy and get dollar signs in my eyes when I finally land a decent salary :lol:.

I do, yes. Actually, my girlfriend takes a video and then I look at it. That image above is actually just a still from one of the videos. We try to watch eachother's form but we're just amateurs and beginners. I'm going to try the contracting the hamstring tip this week and see how it goes. Thanks for the tip! Man, before I started this workout program, I had no idea how technical lifting actually is. I'm only doing 4 exercises plus pull-ups, and it's like a never-ending process of dialing in the form.

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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Scott 2 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 12:56 pm

Glad to see you still at it.


Using video for lifting feedback is really helpful. At one point I'd downloaded a bar path analyzer program for Android. I was all over the place. Tightening that up, so my lifts moved in lines similar to seasoned lifters, was a good objective metric. I did also benefit a lot from working with an expert in person. Not to say I'm built by any means, but I am lifting regularly without pain, having been at it for 25 years.


It's hard to succinctly describe my point between on business to business vs. business consumer.


At the lowest level, when I think of a personal website or a wordpress site for a small business, there's just not enough margin to pay a programmer well. Companies with low revenue or tight margins are bad customers, unless you abuse them. I would only pursue their work for learning. In addition to not paying much, they are probably going to expect full stack expertise, maybe even ranging from configuring DNS to tuning database indexes. Impossible to do it all well. You can also become the "one guy" everything relies upon. It's not an easy person to be. I think it's the direction a lot of self taught programming heads down.

Marketing consultancies make a business out of this. I worked at one for 2 years. It is hard work, always a hustle. 50+ hour weeks were the norm.


The transition comes in moving in scale from a website, to a web application. IMO the money and quality of life is in specialization. Work for a company in a high margin industry, on a product that produces value for their core business (opposed to being a cost center), at a scale that supports a team of people, enough so you are not the only person doing your type of work. Avoid cool jobs.


What we see on the public internet is only a very small percentage of the software development that happens related to a web application. Even in a heavily consumer facing company like Facebook, the websites and apps we use sit upon a massive framework of supporting code and products. They are moving data around internally, doing analytics, selling it to other companies, processing invoices, paying staff, keeping track of how many desks are owned, etc. It all pays.

"I built the like button for Facebook" is sexy. It is also highly competitive. 50+ hour weeks will be common for these rock star jobs.

On the other extreme, "I build reports for the inventory management system Facebook licensed to count desks" is not. The competition is not the same, expectations are not as high, but it is still a working programmer. The product is needed by customers with money (ie Facebook) and it is the core business for whoever makes it, so that programmer can be paid well. Maybe not rock star levels, but that removes a lot of stress. Good chance you are clocking out at 5pm.


When you start looking for work like this, you'll find people don't hire a "web developer". They want a junior MS SQL server DBA, a reporting analyst with expertise in R, a developer specialized in .NET web service integrations, a test developer specialized in Selenium, a penetration tester, a security analyst with a CISSP to deal with audits, tier 2 support with SQL competence, etc. Nobody cares if their reporting analyst knows what a favicon is, he's just writing SQL and R all day. Most of these specialized roles avoid front end web development at all costs. It tends to be valued less highly and is easy for stakeholders to criticize.

This is not to say that the front end web dev is a bad way to learn fundamentals. You are doing it, you are learning, that is awesome. The fundamentals repeat across all these specialized roles. You need to understand iteration, version control, an IDE, etc. At some point, those fundamentals need to direct down a path of specialization, to get you in the door of a good opportunity. With luck you can get in someplace as a junior dev with just those fundamentals, but it's still going to be heading down a path of specialization. IMO it is good to choose that proactively.

I do wonder if your comfort moving between China and the US can offer a competitive advantage here somehow. Maybe a sales support engineer or something along those lines? Or acting as a liaison between an outsourced Chinese development firm and their American customers? One of the hardest part about doing business internationally is crossing the cultural barriers. You are already good at and seem to enjoy doing that.

I've purposely not suggested a learning path. It depends on how you specialize. And I've not been at that level for a long time. My advice would be massively outdated.

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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Fri Jul 27, 2018 7:54 am

Sounds like a good app. I know bar path is important. I think I'm pretty good on it since I worry about it on overhead press, but the other 3 exercises not so sure. I'm testing again on pull-ups tomorrow. When I first started pull-ups, I did 9 on my test-day. I just did 11 at the end of my set yesterday so I'm hoping for a good result!

Thanks for explaining more. I get what you mean on being the "one guy". That's more of my long-term, ERE, hobby-income goal. A little bit of business once or twice a year can go a long way I think. Until then, a marketing consultancy might be my entry-point.

Seems like you're describing what my amateur-level understanding reckons to back-end vs. front-end. It's also one reason I agreed to stay in China another year. I feel like where I'm at now is the same that anyone else with 1-2 months of study can reach, and what the nowadays prolific recent bootcamper can probably beat me at. I'm hoping by the end of this school semester I can fill the less competitive niche you're describing.

As for the cross-cultural skill, I also have my eye out for that. I'm more focused on just using it to make my application a little more interesting than anything though, but you never know.

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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Wed Aug 01, 2018 9:31 am

July 2018 Recap

Here we are at the beginning of the month. Time to take a look back at July.

This was a busy month. I was on vacation in the USA the first two weeks, then I had two weeks back in Shenzhen with my girlfriend before she left for her USA vacation. She won't be back for a month so we spent most of the last two weeks hanging out together.

ERE graphs

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Net worth went up 1.58% this month. Now I'm income-less until September 15. Let the free fall begin!

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Three student loans down, five to go. The RMB is tumbling right now which isn’t very good for me. Then again, given my paltry salary, it isn’t too big of a deal.


Personal

Health: I definitely miss how easy it is to eat healthy in the US. I've done pretty good anyways since returning to Shenzhen. Loading up at the vegan buffet during the weekdays, and eating pretty light during the weekend and evenings.

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This is Mekong Fish cooking on our table. The cooking style translates to "grilled fish on paper". The big highlight here is that it's super easy to eat around the bones of this type of fish. Typically we avoid fish in China since they don’t debone the things and it’s quite the chore to eat around bones armed only with a pair of chopsticks.

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This popular sushi place is within walking distance and pretty good for China. We got this, a hand roll, and an unagi rice bowl for ¥100. Seeing as how it has a pretty good reputation and we didn’t get sick after eating, I think will likely end up here a few times a month for date nights.

I'm getting my teeth cleaned tomorrow. Haven't been to the dentist in a couple years since moving to China. My girlfriend went to this same dentist two days ago and didn't have any cavities, so fingers crossed I'll be in the same boat.

I finished my pull-up cycle. When I tested a month or two ago I did 9 pull-ups in a row and now I can do 15. I'm hoping I can do 20 by the end of this month and then start adding weight.

I also finished my 7th month of 5-3-1. The weight felt super heavy this week, and our spreadsheet ends on month 7, so I'm going to dial back 2-3 months and start another 7 month cycle.

Housing: Finally got to live a couple weeks in the new place. Who knew you could be so much happier living in 1/5 of the space? Wait a second, this is the ERE website.

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This is what ¥3180/month can get you in Shenzhen outside of the city center. The other room there behind the sliding glass door has the kitchen, the bathroom, and the washing machine. This picture is taken from the bed.

Travel: Pretty solid vacation. I got to see all the immediate family. Also got to see a 4-5 foot red diamond rattlesnake whilst hiking near Laguna Beach. I snagged a free week at LA Fitness while in California, whereas in San Antonio I made good work of my Dad's pull-up bar and bikes.

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Some of the trails on this 15 mile bike ride in San Antonio were flooded, but we powered through anyways. My best buddy from high school just finished college and got his first big-boy job in Austin, but took a vacation day and came down to San Antonio to hang out for the day.

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Some retired family members' super loud hobby pictured here. My dad actually did this for 10-15 years as well before selling his car to a guy that went pro shortly after. I didn’t get to see them run this time, but my family member was kind enough to start the blue one up for me. That nearly broke my eardrums.

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We camped out here next to the stream in Texas. Camping, swimming, and tubing in freshwater is definitely one of my most missed pastimes from living in Texas. My dad is quite the renaissance man and fixed up a flood-wrecked travel trailer. He’s getting close to retirement and plans to make good use of it in the next couple years.

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We caught an early morning boat ride from Newport Beach. We didn’t see much besides some dolphins and seals, but it pretty cool to be out on the water. I can get the same sort of experience here in Shenzhen on the cheap, so I might start taking advantage of that every now and then.

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A very photogenic picture of one of our cats sent to me by my girlfriend while I was on vacation. She sent pictures of the other one too, but, since he never stops moving, he just looks blurry.

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I caught this image in the taxi on the way back home from the Shenzhen International Airport. I had a delay in Beijing, which meant my travel home ended up taking over 24 hours from start to finish. Thankfully, it was a nice day in Shenzhen and I loved the contrast of the arid scenery in LA with the super tropical climate of Shenzhen.


Social: Have been a lot more active socially since getting back to Shenzhen. I've had a few nights out with friends, and more planned in the next week or two. As well I've started a short D&D game. While I was back in the US, all the D&D stuff my Mom had tried to mail me coincidentally was returned to her by the USPS 6 months after she sent it. I brought that back here and I'm running a 3-4 week game for a group of us.

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LA isn't nearly as tropical as Shenzhen, but litter-free parks with dirt trails beats anything Shenzhen has to offer. When you’re trying to get out in nature, paved roads and staircases leading you up the top of the mountain just doesn’t quite feel as good.

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This D&D group and a couple WeChat groups will get me out of the house a couple times/week while my girlfriend is in the US.


Professional

University: We got our class assignments. I'm teaching general English, which means I see each class once a week for 45 minutes. My girlfriend got the more intensive Australian Finance exchange program. She'll see each class 3 times/week for 90 minutes (5-10 min break between each 45 minutes). She got her schedule though and lucked out. We were a little worried that I'd be the only one to end up with the nice, mornings-only schedule but she got it too! I'll get my schedule on the 15th or so of this month. Fingers crossed!

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On campus for some visa paperwork on a rainy day. This is one of the three campuses and the newest of them.

Recording: We were supposed to have a pretty big recording this month but the papers that came in had too many errors so they've pushed the recording back while they work with the school to fix everything up.

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Shenzhen skies are pretty clear during the summer. Honey Lake is about 45 minutes metro ride from us and was super picturesque on this day. We ate a fancy restaurant down here on the lake, which cost us 17 USD for three people.

Web-development: I was a little busy with travel and making the most of my time with my girlfriend before she left for vacation but I still got some things done.
  • Wrote a business plan for a blog
  • Realized my idea wasn't really competitive enough for me to commit the time, so decided to scrap that for now
  • Uploaded 2 new articles to my portfolio website
  • Used PHP to include a header for my website instead of copying it to each and every new page
  • Finished Codecademy’s Introduction to PHP
  • Finished Codecademy’s Learn Node-SQLite
  • Finished 6 JavaScript code challenges and added them to my portfolio
  • Made it more than halfway through Codecademy's SQL: Table Transformation
  • Combined my two game files into one and made quite a bit of progress on that

Financial

Remittance: I withdraw ¥15000 and brought it back to the US in my carry-on bag. Then I brought it back to China because the exchange rates went from (in China) 5% off the market rate to (in the US) 25% off the market rate! Fortunately, I found that you can get the market rate from any ATM and just have to pay the ATM fee. I ended up moving several thousand US dollars this way from my Chinese account to my US account. There's still tight currency control in China so I had to work around daily foreign ATM withdrawal limits. There are also annual limits but I didn't have enough money to worry about those this time around.

No-pay summer: I'm coasting with what I've got in my Chinese account until September 15. I calculated how much I would need, plus a little extra. If anything comes up, my girlfriend should have enough to bail me out.

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A sign of things to come on the trail in California...

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This still from the video doesn't do it justice but here's the Red Diamond Rattlesnake crossing our path.

Debts: Cleared up all my Japan expenses with my girlfriend. Wasn't as much as I estimated in my last post. As well my VPN subscription came out this month so her half of that meant I ending up having to send her even less.

Student loans: Used all the money I transferred into my US account to pay off another student loan. That will save me something like $30/month moving forward.


Final thoughts

I’ve got a month to myself over here in China. Please wish me luck. As for goals, I'm simply rolling over my goals from July. Having the goals helped by way of giving me a road map on my journey to becoming a web developer but the goals and the deadlines don't make any sort of difference in my overall productivity. Thus, these are my goals, but I’m not setting any timeline to complete them unless otherwise noted.
  • Sign up on Upwork
  • Create Upwork profile
  • Take skills tests on Upwork
  • Create Upwork portfolio
  • Apply for a gig on Upwork
  • Learn and/or work with wordpress
  • Finish Codecademy’s SQL: Table Transformation
  • Finish Codecademy's SQL: Analyzing Business Metrics
  • Finish Codecademy's Introduction to jQuery
  • Finish Level 1 of my game
  • Upload 10-15 more code challenges to my website by the end of August
  • Post 3-5 more articles to my website by the end of August
  • Redesign my portfolio page on my website
  • Make a web app for doing ab exercises
Thanks for all the feedback last month slowtraveler, Scott 2, and singvestor. I've no idea where I would be without this journal and people like you all for inspiration, motivation, and encouragement.

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Re: An American Millennial

Post by slowtraveler » Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:02 pm

This is one of my favorite journals. I'm happy to help back. It seems you're making good progress on all fronts. That's nice to see, I'm happy for you.

Good luck with blogging. Many have tried to monetize but it seems unless you find a new niche as it's bifurcating off from a larger niche, it's hard to get the audience size needed to make good money.

I'm starting to get more curious about East Asia. For living in China (or even visiting), is there anywhere you know of that's cheap with passable air and decent infrastructure?

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Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:48 am

Thanks man. I feel a little less productive right now since I’ve got SO much free time on summer vacation. I’m getting about the same amount of stuff done, but it’s not in between classes and exercise and such so I’ve still got a lot of time where I’m not studying or writing code so it feels like less.

As for blogging (or even YouTube vlogging), I think it is something I would want to do one day, but it’s a lot of work. Right now I think my time is better spent building a freelance portfolio and web development skill set. That way at the end of this school year I can, fingers crossed, finally earn a decent salary.

As for China, I wouldn’t really recommend it for any of those reasons :p. Shenzhen is one of the best places you’ll find as far as decent air quality and good infrastructure, but there’s a lot of opportunity to spend a lot of money and there’s not much to see here since it’s such a new city. There’s your normal things like boat rides, hikes, and night life, but you won’t see temples and such. Japan is much better for that sort of thing. Otherwise, I’ve heard Xiamen also has similar air quality and has a bit more to check out. Beijing is pretty much off limits. I thought I was still in the clouds when our plane touched down on the runway, so that’s pretty terrible pollution. Shanghai has some okay days but hard to predict. There’s also a couple cool places in the West of China that have better air quality and lots of culture. I can’t remember the name off the top of my head. Infrastructure is probably good in most cities. Avoid traveling in the winter when the pollution is worse because of all the home heating.

Overall I wouldn’t really recommend China to most and am looking forward to leaving next year.

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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Scott 2 » Sat Aug 04, 2018 7:52 pm

Some more motivation - I was talking to my boss about how the application process goes for open jobs. I guess it's not uncommon for us to post stuff and get zero hits. That's how high the demand for programmers is, in the US right now. You're on a good path.

The pictures are cool. Your apartment looks highly livable.

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Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:26 am

That is some good news Scott 2. I'm a little worried about the rise of bootcamps and people just like me applying for Junior roles. I've read varying reports about how competitive and/or over-saturated that specific job market is. I think this extra year in China is going to make a big difference for me though. I think/hope my website and documenting my journey, the fact that I'm directing myself and dedicated enough to learn on my own, and the potentially 1 year of freelance experience that I'll have will all combine to make me more competitive. I've heard once you get a year or two of experience under your belt, the job market opens up like crazy.

There is some concern with my girlfriend as I've told her it may be more about where I can get a job versus where I want to get a job. There's obviously a huge job market in California, but she's not too stoked on that. She's very freaked out about the fault in particular. Fortunately, every week that goes by I see more and more job offers that I can read through and say, "Hey, I meet every single on of these qualifications," and a few others where I'm like, "Well, if I spend a week or two studying this and studying that, then I'd be qualified for this one, too."

The apartment is going great. It is a very small space for two people, especially when I like to chill out most of the day and keep to myself. That pretty much doesn't exist. However, that's why I got the laptop for when school starts I can go chill out at a coffee shop for a few hours with my headphones on. Aside from that, the apartment is perfect for me. Everything is nice and close at hand. I'm about to babysit a friend's cat for three weeks, so it'll be me and 3 cats living here... Um. Yeah, not much else to say about that right now. :lol:

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