Freedom within boundaries

I eat whatever I want, as long as it fits my calorie and nutrient goals.
I can spend on things I like, as long as it fits my budget.
I can do whatever I want, as long as I do things that I should.

It’s a bit counterintuitive with the common definition of freedom, but it is pretty freeing.

Legend of Mana: A story about love

Legend of Mana just popped into my head lately. I re-read the storyline again [1] and I was like “Holy sh*t, this game had a really cool storyline.”

It was about love, and all its beauty and nastiness. It was a pretty mature take on a topic as cliched as they come. I sort of got to relate to it back then, but I was too immature to really appreciate the message.

In retrospect, it was easy enough to lose the storyline as you get involved in the minutiae of killing monsters, picking up exp/gold/items and solving puzzles. The grind to this game was really endless.

Gameplay-wise, it was pretty unique. The battle system was kind of like a side-scrolling beat ’em up. It was also the first time I encountered farming, pet making/raising, and item crafting in just one game. I haven’t seen anything quite like it in recent times.

I’ll probably get around to buying a PS3 within this year because of this.



Simply put, and fairly obvious given the introduction speech, this game is about love. More specifically, its about both the positive and negative effects of love, and if it is worth the struggle to bring love back in to the world.

This is first hinted at in the introduction with the story of the Mana Tree burning down and mankind growing afraid of love. The purpose of the game is then given with the line “I am love! Find me, and walk beside me.” Thus you begin your quest to bring love back into the world.

Now, rather than just bring love back in, the Mana Goddess apparently decides that you need to see all sides of love, good and bad, before you can make the decision to bring it back. This is the purpose of the three major story arcs that you must complete- each one is an example of the dangers of one specific type of love. Listed below are the three arcs and the aspect of love they best represent.

The Fairy Arc- Romantic Love
The main focus of this arc is the romantic relationship between Matilda and Irwin, and the resulting havoc it wreaks on the world. Nearly all of Irwin’s destructive actions are based on his relationship with Matilda, from stealing her power to Matilda refusing to stop him because she loves him and respects his decision, even if it means the end of the world. Irwin sums it up nicely at the end when he says he needs to be freed “from a spell named Matilda”.

The Dragon Arc- Familial Love
In contrast, the conflict in this story arc arises from Larc desiring to be reunited with his sister, Sierra. The sole purpose of him helping to bring Draconis back into power is so that he can once again walk the mortal world, even if it means threatening the world with destruction. Finally, at the conclusion of the quest line, he decides to suffer through his punishment, even if it greatly delays his reunion with his sister.

The Jumi Arc- Communal Love
The Jumi arc is probably the most complicated, but best implemented, symbol of the harmful effects of love. Prior to the beginning of this quest, Florina had been sacrificing her own life for the benefit of her people. Had this continued, there would have been no conflict. However, Sandra, who had a close relationship with Florina, grew to hate the Jumi for sacrificing someone she loved for their own survival, and kidnapped her. Enter the hero, who, after the quest is completed, sacrifices his/her own life out of love for the survival of the Jumi. The consequences of this sacrifice are brought home to the audience when they see Bud and Lisa’s response to the hero’s supposed demise.

Other than these three arcs, this theme is referred throughout the game by many different characters *cough*POKHIEL*cough*. Once the character witnesses one of these arcs, the path to the final test opens.

The final battle of the game is merely a symbol of the character deciding that Fa’Diel is once again ready to welcome love to the world, despite the darkness that it brings. The character’s fight with the Mana Goddess’s “dark half” shows that life is once again ready to embrace love. I think the Mana Goddess’s final speech is the best way to conclude this, so I’ll leave it in more capable hands :-D

I am the light. I am the darkness. Half of myself is what you have fought in the past. I create, I destroy, and I create again. I am love. Not all of me is just. Not all of me is pure. That is only half of myself. Those who desire my other half cross their swords. People’s freedom is lost, and my truth is buried. I shall show you my darkness. You must defeat me. You will become a hero. Open the path to those who search for me.

Standing on escalators

In Ayala, there’s this escalator that always pisses me off.
Not so much because it’s a one-lane escalator (in Ayala!), but because inevitably
there’s going to be someone who’ll stop walking and thus forcing everyone
to just stand there and wait.

“Maybe, she’s just tired.”
“Maybe, his legs hurt.”
“Maybe, she’s having girly pains.”

Oh the thoughts that I force myself to think to calm myself down.

Then the slow ride is over and I’m calmed down.

Good thing that the next platform has twin, dual lane escalators.
Then somebody stands in the left lane of the “fast lane” elevator.



It’s 2014.

This year will be a year of building up habits.
Building up the ones that I’d like to have.
My goal, at the end of the year, is to have these habits built up:

  • Workout
  • Sleeping/Work
  • Hygiene

Just 3 things.

I’ve managed to find a workout routine to stick to.
It’s simple and easy to follow and it’s beginner-friendly. I hope to follow through with this until my membership expires on April and by then, should have a good enough habit base that getting a continuing membership is a no-brainer. I’m happy to teach anyone who’s interested in the program. :)

Diet is still a tricky thing for me. I’m getting back into recording my meals in My Fitness Pal.

Sleeping/Work habits is just different sides of the same coin. Right now, I wake up at around 10 to 11 AM. I’m only able to work by 2pm and I stop at around 6pm until 12 midnight, where I go to the gym between 10PM and 12MN. From there, I try to get into the flow again until I become sleepy, which is around 2 to 3AM. Oftentimes, I’m left with the feeling that nearly my whole day went out the window.

I want to change that habit to something like: Wake up at 5AM, work until 8AM, have breakfast, work on non-coding stuff between 9AM until lunch, 1PM to 4PM should be coding work again and the rest of the day will be spent on dinner, gym and leisure. Not married to the actual times, but it’s more of being awake more in the day and spend more of the evening actually sleeping. I actually like being up early in the mornings. I just don’t like getting up.

I also want to incorporate daily reviews to what I’ve accomplished in the day and what I need to do the following day.

I’ve got my hygiene regiment down, I just have trouble sticking to it every time.

Okay, I’m sleepy!

Have a happy new year everyone!

Making Squid a transparent proxy

..has absolutely nothing (almost) to do with Squid.

It’s a single firewall rule like so:

-A PREROUTING -p tcp -m tcp -i wdev0ap0 --dport 80 -j DNAT --to-destination

That’s an IPTables rule, normally but Arch (at least the version I was working with) was using UFW so that goes inside my before.rules in /etc/ufw/before.rules, right at the top.

-A PREROUTING -p tcp -m tcp -i wdev0ap0 --dport 80 -j DNAT --to-destination

Make sure to restart ufw.

ufw disable && ufw enable

From Squid side, you just have to make sure that Squid is listening to a port transparently.
http_port 3128
http_port 3128 intercept.

That should do it.


I wanted to use a FQDN for the splash page though, so we used DNSMasq for DNS.
pacman -S dnsmasq

Then we just edit the /etc/hosts file and put in the FQDN that we want to map to the local IP (not localhost). Of course, this only ever works if your device has a static IP (which it should).

# /etc/hosts: static lookup table for host names

# localhost.localdomain localhost
::1 localhost.localdomain localhost

# End of file

In order for you to use the DNS on the device, you have to make it your first/default DNS. So, configure that on your network settings.

From here, I can change the Squid splash page config accordingly based on where my allow access page is.

Next steps:

  • Pass along default DNS setting during DHCP
  • Start squid and dnsmasq on startup
  • Remove Node.js apps from startup
  • Install Nginx
  • Map default Squid error page from the static HTML error to default web server on localhost (might not be needed)
  • Dealing with SSL on a transparent proxy setting
  • Changing upstream from eth0 to usb dongle

Thanks to Madumlao for all the help. :)

The key to happiness: a good bed, nice chair and healthy food

If you want to spend on yourself, here’s what I suggest you spend on: A good bed, nice chair and healthy food.

(Ha! I bet you didn’t see that coming!)

This image would explain everything.

Yes, that's the same image as the featured image.
Mmm. Pie.

My list of “things to spend on to invest in myself” is much longer. Those were the top 3.


I amortize costs over the lifetime of the product. I often say, if I spend X amount on this and it lasts me Y (months/years), then I’m just paying Z per (minute/day). Sometimes, I say, if I spend X amount on this and I use this Y number of times, then I’m just paying Z per use when applicable. This way I can compute costs on a daily/monthly/basis.

I’m a believer of YAGNI so I don’t really buy the latest and the greatest (read: most expensive) unless I need them. I fall right in the middle/upper-middle most times. Just enough for my needs, and some bells and whistles.

My longer list with approximate cost ranges is as follows: (All figures in Philippine Pesos)

  1. Good bed, read: mattress (3k to 9k over 3 years or 2.75 to 8.25 per day)
  2. Nice chair (2k to 6k over 2 years or 2.75 to 8.25 per day)
  3. Healthy food (200 to 300 per day)
  4. Flattering clothes (15k to 20k over 1 year or 41.00 to 55.00 per day)
  5. Fluffy pillows (500 to 1k over 1 year or 1.50 to 3.00 per day)
  6. Decent Keyboard & Mouse (1k to 2k over 1 year or 3.00 to 6.00 per day)
  7. Good enough desktop/laptop (20k to 50k over 3 years or 18.50 to 45.75 per day)

I’ve prioritized the list using these reasons:

  1. Bed: The effects of quality sleep affects your every waking hour.
  2. Chair: Good posture is a sort of “prevention is better than cure” thing. More short term, it helps alleviate building up of stress which would affect your quality of work. This also contributes to quality of sleep.
  3. Food: It keeps you alive. Why not spend on it?
  4. Clothes: Find the kind of person that you want to be, and dress like him/her. Imitation is the highest form of flattery or Dress for the kind of job you want, not for the job that you have. The clothes make the man. Or it doesn’t. This deserves its own post.
  5. Pillows: Goes with the bed.
  6. KB&M: My hands are my bread & butter. RSI and CTS can be literal career-ending injuries.
  7. Workstation: I spend at least 8 hours on this thing. I would want to have enough for what I need.

That comes out to 269.5 to 426.25 per day or 8,085.00 to 12,787.5 per month. [1] Factor in bills, rent and other consumables and you’re looking at close to 15,000 to 20,000 per month to live a comfortable life. [2]

I’m at this point in my life wherein I’m content, materially, with everything I have so far. The only significant purchases I have left are a laptop replacement, a vehicle and a house. The last 2 are just luxuries with my current lifestyle and wouldn’t probably buy them for myself anytime soon (i.e. in the next 3 years).

Optimizing for happiness

Happiness is having everything that you need in the world. The first step to being happy is finding out the minimum that you need. It’s entirely subjective.

The next step to happiness is optimizing the these things that contribute to your daily well being. If you feel well enough on a daily basis, then I think you’re 80% there to general happiness. [3] The rest is tougher to crack: healthy relationships, sense of purpose, et al. But it sure becomes easier once you’ve got a solid base.For the low low price of Php 20,000 a month, I can pursue the rest of my 20%.

Am I happy? Currently, yes. But it’s a process.

[1] I actually have another round of computation, wherein the costs are weighted based on how much I use the thing. I’m being lazy so I didn’t include it.

[2] This is for a single, no dependents person. For a family that is sharing a lot of the things above including rent and utilities, this would be significantly less per person. But of course, you’d have to multiply per head so it comes out larger in lump sum.

A totally pulled-out-of-my-ass formula is : x = number of people, amount = x * 20,000 * (0.9 ^ x). This yields:

1 20,000.00
2 32,400.00
3 43,740.00
4 52,488.00
5 59,049.00
6 63,772.92
7 66,961.57

[3 ]Pareto principle, the 80-20 rule. Generally speaking, 80% of output, comes from 20% of input.

Motivation and Decision-making

I like reading about psychology. Especially psychology related to motivation and decision-making.

Here are some links that I find myself visiting time and again. Some of them, I can relate with (to some degree) while others are references I come back to time and again.

Featured image care of Marco Bellucci

Obligatory Birthday Post — 24 of ???

It was more of a birthday weekend, more than anything.

I did not have any plans whatsoever. All I knew was that I was pretty tired because of the week that just ended.

I’d like to thank everyone who were there during my “surprise” birthday party.

My labs, Angel — thanks for the birthday gifts and for all the love. <3
Our head honcho, Ma’m Deng and Julianne — double thanks for arranging everything!
Joanna and family
Madumlao and Alex — thanks Mark for the cake!
Jerix, Gerry, JP and Liz
Karl, Allan, Jeffrey, Rexell and Tandz
Kenan and Matt

I spent the whole of Aug 18 with my family and my dogs. We went out and watched Percy Jackson.

It’s raining pretty hard outside though.

I’ve got a lot more in my mind, but I’m sleepy.

The Un-fun game of eRepublik

I play Erepublik and have been playing consistently for quite some time now.

Okay, playing is probably an overstatement. It’s more accurately described as I’ve-been-logging-in-and-clicking-around-10-times-before-logging-out. It’s an exercise in patience.

After doing the usual routine (which takes me probably a minute), I always stop and think what exactly this game is missing. It’s got a very engaged community, decent UI and I would presume sustainable enough sales.

It’s not fun.

Trading effort for progress

There’s only trade a lot of money for a little bit of progress.There’s no mechanism for me to put in effort to gain a little bit more of progress ahead of everyone else that does the bare minimum (login, work + train).  This kind of reminds me of Neopets at the other extreme, where there’s just so many things to do that you can easily sink a whole day in it and not be done with everything you can do daily.

Some of my ideas here are:

  • Side stories / side quests
  • Make training much more interactive
  • Make working much more interactive


One other thing that makes it not-fun is that everything is predictable. There’s absolutely no chance involved. The larger a country is, the more population it has, the more resources it produces, the more territory it can conquer. This is a 100% sure thing.

On the other hand, small countries’ (like ePH) resistance wars is an exercise in futility.

What a huge thing a +- (1-10)% random bonus per war could give both sides. It would make war strategy much more exciting other than “I need to have more people/energy bars than the other side have.”

Some of my ideas here:

  • War module: random bonus/penalty (based on RL weather?)
  • Economy module: production bonuses/penalty (based on RL stock market?)


Erep’s simplicity undermines its potential.

The economy sucks because it’s too simple. There’s not enough room for players to turn a profit. The only ways to turn a profit is either build Q6-Q7 weapons factory and hire other people or buy from major markets and sell in smaller markets.

The war module kind of sucks because it’s too simple. There’s not much strategy further than “we need to find more high str players with lots of bars/weapons than the other side”.

Daily activities suck because it’s too simple. I just need to go work for the highest bidder and work everyday (read: click the work button). I just need to level up my training grounds and train everyday (read: click the train button).

The political system sucks because it’s too simple. Everything is entirely subjective and lawmakers are not given insight to country data to effectively address macro-level issues. Analytics over time would be a huge boon to proper lawmaking.

“Make it as simple as possible, but not any simpler.”

Erepublik is kind of enviable in a way that despite the game’s deficiencies, people still stick to it. It’s community finds fun within its own meta-game. For a game developer however, I think that’s a pretty pathetic state to be in.

Hopefully, there’s no other way to go but up. Unless Plato suddenly gets one of his bright ideas.

Opportunity Cost

One of my favorite micro-economic concepts is opportunity cost.

Simply put, if I have a limited resource, the total cost of spending that resource on something is the face value plus all the foregone opportunities by spending that resource on something else.

It’s highly personal because it has been one of my driving factors on why I still am not back in school.

I still had 2 more years to go before I graduate (assuming I didn’t fail a subject). When I had thoughts to go back, I kept on thinking, “What can I do in those 2 years?” and so many things come up.

I could learn mobile.
I could be better at getting customers.
I could be better at keeping customers.
I could learn more design patterns.
I could study how to keep engineering talent.
I could do this and that.

I could learn more by spending my time somewhere else. The underlying truth is, I didn’t want to be a computer scientist as badly as I wanted to be other things. If I wanted to learn specifically about computer science, sitting through lectures is probably the most efficient use of my time. But it’s not what I want to be.

10,000 hours of deliberate practice is what it takes to master anything.The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The next best is now. You become good at things where you spend your time [1]

Are you spending your time on things you want to master?

[1] There’s an argument to be made here between talent and hardwork, but that’s a topic for another day.

I have a nagging feeling that I’ve written about this before already.

Featured image by G.X. He’s 12 years old now.