Change of job: what to do with the savings in the 401k plan

I talked a bit on this topic in the past (see a post here). The one thing I may add is: I didn’t do very well in most the IRA (self management, mostly buy / sell stocks in the small scottrade IRA account). The value mostly bounced back since I bought the Huntsman (NYSE:HUN) in last couple years, but I lost quite a bit trading the coal stocks (and Palm stock) back in those days. So I decided to put money into Vanguard funds (and IRA account) in 2014 when the old 401 plan asked me to move my money (I worked on a contractor job in part of 2013, for 7 months).

Today I received a letter from my old employer Arch Coal, the director of benefits about change of the asset manager for the 401k plan. Note Arch Coal went through a bankruptcy in last few years, also note bankruptcy alone has no effect on employee’s 401k plan (the money is separate). But I did compare arch coal’s 401k plan performance vs the Mercy plan (managed by Fidelity, the No. 1 or 2 asset manager), and Arch’s performance is not as good. So this is something I will think about: 1) roll it over to my current employer; 2) roll it over to Vanguard; 3) leave it as is (the new manager is transamerica).

I have not decided it yet. Still thinking…

Stay away from work over weekend

My older daughter just finish 1st grade. One thing I learned is first graders do have some homework, at the same time they usually don’t have homework over the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). In other words, homework usually won’t be assigned out on Friday and due to Monday. This is something I like to talk about it today. Over the years I worked professionally, mostly for employers, I did encounter tight deadlines or last minute assignment which means I have to work or “hinted to work” over weekend and holidays. I recall in some scenarios we need to come into office and work. There is the line I want to draw: don’t commit to it if all at possible. In fact this is mostly a sign of bad management or planning when at Friday afternoon, the boss (project manager, someone who manages our work) came in, and say something needs to be done that urgently, and we need to work non-stop over Friday evening or Saturday, or even Sunday. This is both non-sense and counter productive.

We as knowledge workers usually don’t completely stop working even after normal work hours, sometimes we will (I know I do) think about the technical issues on the way from work to home, and sometimes we recall something like “ah, I may have done something wrong there, I will go back and fix it”. In fact I did something like that in my early career. Some other times, we monitor a long run job at home, or we test out new ideas coding on a company laptop. But we need break as human beings. Force us to work over weekend basically took away that, not to mention people who have families.

The downside of mandatory “overtime” in weekend (esp. coming to office) is that the workers never get rest in a normal weekend, thus hurting the productivity in the following week. In the example I gave earlier (the supervisor asked us to show up for work), looking back I think even him did not believe by coming in work on Saturday we will complete the project on time. This is mostly a show from management side, to let the upper management know that we are working hard. One of the dumbest thing I saw in my 17 years professional life.

On the positive side, I do have a few successful stories where I worked or thinking hard on a problem, and was able to solve a critical problems, all on a voluntary bases (nobody told me to come to office, I understand the urgency of the issue).

Apple TV 4th gen – initial impression

I finally decided to upgrade to the 4th gen Apple TV, which I had it as a developer kit about 2 years ago. I had not used it as the gen 2 Apple TV worked out fine mostly of the time, until recently it appears “play on Apple TV” feature did not work well on my old iPad mini (it could be caused by the old router too, oh well, I will replace it one at a time). I recall last time (a year ago) when I tried to use it, the TV comes as dev kit was locked, so I went ahead and did the “restore” in iTunes first. After that the setup was fairly smooth, it seems the main improvement over gen 2 was the voice recognition (Siri) and touch control (the touch control is not as precise as the four way control in the old remote in one case though).

Installed PBS kids app, and the screen saver looks new! Over the weekend I bought some TV from iTunes store (peppa pig, for younger daughter). It showed up fairly quickly on Apple TV.

Now the next step is for me to find the box for the old gen 2 and post it on eBay.

Some thoughts on United Airlines and the industry in general

Over the years I have rode quite a few United Air on my trips from US to China. Amid the most recent incident on the UA (warning: the video may not be suitable for little kids), I am thinking of a few UA trips I took, such as this one on March 2007, which worked out ok. Another trip (Summer 2002), which is also my first UA flight, was also eventful. The UA857 (from SFO to PVG) was spotted some fire (presumably under the wing, per some passenger) during the take-off. The plane had to drop most of the fuel above the sea, and turn back to SFO. And we had to reboard another plan to PVG. Here are some of the pictures of the plane releasing the fuel. I recall one flight attendant specially mentioned how much weight was the fuel, and the unit price of fuel, I calculated it was about $350,000 worth of the fuel.




Fast forward, the industry had another meltdown during the financial crisis, and has since come back. The regional carriers, such as the one had the incident on Sunday night, was never the money maker. In fact, I recall in year 2009 (Colgan 3407) there was an fatal accident on a flight from NYC to Buffalo NY. And I learned from that accident that those regional carrier’s pilots are not really well paid or trained. This combined with my observations of over the years, when the airlines tries to charge the baggage fees, and on those regional flights, people would just check in the baggages at the gate (to save the money). Then at the destination, esp. when during winter time, you will see a long line of people picking up the luggages. It just feels America is a 3rd world country at that time.

Last but not the least, my friend Wang Jianshuo wrote on similar topic almost 10 years ago.

Replacing iAd with admob etc.

Recently I picked up my old iOS app as the framework it replied on Parse was going sunset (the date was Jan 28, 2017). I picked up Google firebase after reading a few posts including the one at In the process I also upgraded CocoaPods, and replacing the ads from iAd to admob. About 3 months passed by since the initial launch of admob, it seems the performance of admob is much better than the iAd. Note I only used the banner ads for now: this is similar to the iAd banner ads it replaces with. Per Matthijs Hollemans (the famous iOS dev, also tutorial writer), interstitial ads is more powerful when possible, but I have not successfully made it work yet.

Going forward, I am thinking learn about the Swift language, as David Smith and Marco Arment mentioned in recent Under the Radar podcast (State of Swift), this is increasingly urgent now, for iOS native app dev.

Back to ads, for me I have seen the steady declining of my blog website viewership, and the income from google ads. This admob thing gave me some hope. This also confirms the trend of people increasingly switching from desktop to mobile, esp. smart phone.

Many roads to Rome

I mentioned sometime ago that LaunchCode is a great way to get into programming / software development world for a grown-up whose background is not computer science or information science.

But that’s not the only way. More recently I noticed some friends made the transition from research position at Washington University to industry. Again there is more than one way. One friend took a lot of statistical courses from coursera, combined with the background in statistics, R and computer at Wash. U., that particular friend is a senior data scientist on healthcare. A couple more friends made transition earlier, from research technician to statistical analysts after getting a MS degree (all at Wash U.), then transition to industry.

So there is really no single approach to Rome. :-)

There is one thing in common though: one has to learn, either via nontraditional degree programs, such as online sources coursera, or launch code, or a degree program. So in other words there is no free lunch, or no pain no gain :-)

2016 year end review

This is the beginning of the 2017, and it’s also the customary review season for me. This weekend is a bit interesting as we got freezing rain on Friday (and I had to work from home on that day), also due to the fact about a month ago we had freezing rain on a Friday afternoon , the rush hour traffic just blew up. This time no one was taking the chance, from weatherman, to MODOT, to the city/county officials, to the business. Friday was pretty much closed, or work from home for many. It’s Monday (MLK day) today, looking back Friday is also the only bad weather day we had in this weekend: due to the low temperature the road is frozen in some cases, which made driving or walking a bit dangerous. But the situation was not as bad as in 16-Dec-2016. On that afternoon/evening, I heard two friends got into car accidents, and my neighbor who works for the same employer (normally 30 mins drive) as me, spent 5 hours on road.

Weather forecasting/treating road/on-call pager support
Sometime I felt this weather forecasting/MODOT treating the road is a bit like the on call pager duty I do. Both do not have a scientific or definite answer beforehand, but if one misses it, bad things can happen, system went down or people stuck in traffic. On the other hand, if one cried wolf and in the end the wolf did not come, people would second guess you.

I feel I became much more confident on my day job as this is also my 1st complete year (after 7 months I put in year 2015), mainly because I feel familiar with the things there, both technical and non-technical. At the same time, I feel the faster growth of both girls (now 6.5 and 2.5 years old respectively), and the time I spent with them is both precious and sometimes could be tense. I think ideally an indie like work/life may work out better (maybe a few years down the road).

I do understand this is not easy, and I saw some indies are working hard on this aspect, but just like most small business in the US are not making tons of money, most indie software devs are doing similar. So better have a bank account loaded before going solo :-)

Is there too much emphasis on coding?
Launch code, hour of code, girls who code, girls in tech, etc. Interestingly enough my wife who is not a techie, decided to take the LC101 course from LaunchCode at local community college. Note St. Louis is where the LaunchCode started. She is pretty into git these days. I think from the diversity point of view, getting girls/women into coding/tech world is very exciting and in the long run will benefit the industry and society.

We signed up too many classes for Serenity
Serenity has 5 extra curriculum activities (note we did not count the after-school Chess or computer club class here): they are Children’s choir, ballet, piano, skating, and drawing. This is a bit too much.

Last but not least, I took the review idea initially from theSunsFinancialDiary and Kirby Turner (whitepeak software)

Apple Watch 2 first impression

I decided to get Apple Watch last week and I have used it for a few days. The main reason for using Apple Watch was for consolidation. I have two iPhones (one work, one personal) and I have used two wearable devices recently: the Fitbit (from Charge to Charge HR), and the Martian Notifier. Both are good, but either has some weakness. The Fitbit Charge broke shortly after using for a year, they were nice to send me a refurb Charge HR as replacement. The issue with HR is there is a electro-magnet related pain induced by wearing that non-stop, also the battery lasts about 2 days from 5 days 6 months ago. So with Fitbit, I have used their app since Jan 2014, and their device June 2015, liked both their app and websites. But not their devices in terms of build quality and ergonomics.

Martian Notifier was good. Not much complaints. The reason I got it for work was due to the need I don’t want to miss work-related text messages (on-call pagers). It did its job. But I like to have a combined text message notifier and fitbit tracker. Apple Watch seemed fit this bill (no pun intended). I was fairly impressed by its build quality. And the apps for the most part. A few things I can recall:

1) During initial setup, I was a bit confused by the standard “unlock” message, finally I figure out I need to lock the iPhone, unlock it so that the apple watch will also be unlocked.

2) The Sleep tracking. It seems we are going back to the good old jawbone way “push a button before sleep”, “push another button after wakeup”. I did not realize this is not given thinking this is a $369+ device. I am already spoiled by Fitbit seamless sleep tracking. Since my Fitbit Charge is not totally broke, I think may use it combined with the “Sleep++” app.

3) The need of at least iPhone 6 for Apple Pay still applies here. Thought about pairing the watch with my own 5s and found the Apple Pay is not supported. I think this is one downside from Apple: they tend to support newer devices for more iPhone sales.

Source code control

Or version control. My wife is taking a class at launchcode and she just started learn git, one of the most popular source code control systems. Git has a steep learn curve, in my opinion, but it’s getting popular, widely used and I think that’s the reason they picked it. But I think that could also be a frustration point as I saw some BAs (business analyst) really hated git when it was introduced at my former employer (mercy). It was a switch from SVN to git. For people never worked in software world, version control is also sometimes under appreciated. Although most people can understand the basic concept. Because if we use .001, or .old, .new etc, things can easily get out of control even for one person. I had my first hand experience when I was a grad student doing some coding for FEA software. Sometimes the operating cost of source control is quite high, I recall when I was with ugs, in the earlier days of perforce deployment, it took hours to refresh local repository. And once I did the dumb thing, I kicked off this hours long process twice, had to call my teammate in cypress (right next to Anaheim, the happiest place on the earth, at least for kids), for help. In some places, mostly small shops, I saw people not using source code control. Note I used the word people, not developers, because I believe developers use source control. Two main benefits of source control: 1) back up so that the cat does not eat the code; 2) time machine: we can go back to the good version or release version, so that we have a benchmark in which certain feature used to work :-)

Macbook Pro Rentina late 2012 model battery cannot charge

I had this issue on my 3.5 year old macbook a few months ago. Googled and did the SMC reset as suggested in this article. Worked for a while but before Christmas the problem returned, and the SMC reset trick is no longer working. The symptom is it no longer charge after exhausting the battery. So I brought it to the local Apple store.

Last time (shortly before I bought this macbook), I had an issue with the work macbook air, and I brought it in Apple store. The fix was cheaper, about $230.xx something like that. At the time the symptom was I saw some spark at the MagSafe plug, and after that I could no longer charge. Maybe just a replacement of the MagSafe board at the time. This time they had to also replace the logic board. The cost is about $511. It took about a week (5 working days) to fix, I recall last time it was slightly faster. It could be due to the holiday (Christmas) season. I am still happy it got fixed though, as I did not back up all the data on the Macbook. Now I will be more careful.

A new (old gen) Macbook air probably costs starting $700 to $800 at this time, for comparison purpose.