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Tony Huynh Recommends

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

If you are still looking for some gifts or something for yourself, here are my recommendations for games and books that I have enjoyed. I’ll be updating this list from time to time as I think of more stuff to include.

Video Games
Xbox 360 Pro Console
Xbox 360 Live 13 month Gold subscription
Bioshock X360 l PS3 l PC
Gears of War 2 l Read my review
Dead Space X360 l PS3 l PC l Read my review
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare X360 l PS3 l PC
Call of Duty: World at War X360 l PS3 l PC l Read my review
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core PS2 l Wii
Bioshock X360 l PS3
The Orange Box X360 l PS3 l PC
SoulCalibur 4 X360 l PS3
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn
Oblivion X360 l PS3 l PC
Psychonauts Xbox l PS2
God of War
God of War 2
Resident Evil 4 PS2 l Wii
Civilization 4
Chrono Trigger DS
Diablo 2

Fiction Books
Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
Dune by Frank Herbert
Legend by David Gemmell
Stardust by Neil Gaiman l Read my review

Graphic Novels
Blankets by Craig Thompson l Read my review
Sin City by Frank Miller
Thieves and Kings by Mark Oakley
Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore

Books on Life
Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee l Read my review
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Investing & Business Books
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch
Unlimited Wealth: The Theory and Practice of Economic Alchemy by Paul Zane Pilzer
Art of War by Sun Tzu
The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Built to Last by Jim Collins

Tony Huynh Amazon Search

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Posted in Books, Investing, Video Games, life, motivation | No Comments »

Why and How I Broke My Addiction to Caffeine

Friday, December 12th, 2008

I, like many people, crawled out of bed every morning and sleepwalked straight to the coffee maker. I would not be functional until I had my cup of coffee.

For me the addiction to caffeine started in high school. I was one of those students that took class work lightly and would waste time goofing off until the last possible minute. I would then pull all-nighters to finish homework and study for exams the night before. To help me get through my all-nighters I would boil a full pot of coffee and down cup after cup through the night and into the morning.

I found the benefits of caffeine to be short-lived. My body became dependant on caffeine. I began to need several doses a day; otherwise I would generally feel irritable and get headaches. Caffeine also disrupted my sleeping habits. I did not sleep as restfully and would wake up several times through the course of an evening. Worse still, I found was that I was beginning to get insomnia. This was something I had never experienced before. My insomnia became so bad that at times I would not be able to sleep for several nights in a row. When I did manage to get sleep I had trouble getting out of bed and felt miserable in the morning. As my body grew accustomed to caffeine, I needed steadily higher dosages to achieve the same levels of alertness and to fight off headaches. I combated all of these negative effects with yet more caffeine. I continued these habits all through college. By the end of college I was drinking six or more cups of coffee, four cups of tea and four cans of coke everyday.

When I took account of what I was doing, I realized that I had a physical and mental dependence on a drug. Any substance that could affect me like this was making me weak. I resolved to quit caffeine immediately. The next week for me was hell. I had agonizing body and headaches and was in a general bad mood. Slowly, day after day the effects lessened and after a week they disappeared.

I have not had any caffeine in nearly eight years now and I can tell you that I do not miss it at all. The benefits have been drastic and far-reaching in my life.

1. My headaches are gone.
I rarely, if ever get headaches any more. This is in contrast to when headaches used to be a nearly daily occurrence for me.

2. I sleep more soundly.
I wake up with more energy and while I still get insomnia on occasion, it occurs much less frequently, and the duration is shorter.

3. I have higher and more even energy levels.
I no longer have the caffeine driven ups and downs. Since I work in the video game industry, I am expected to work in “crunch” mode just prior to a product shipping. During crunch, developers are hard at work for 70 to 100 hours a week, six to seven days a week for periods of up to and beyond 6 months. I do not know how I could have met the challenges of intense and sustained “crunches” without the even and generally higher energy level I now enjoy.

If you have never been caffeine free, I would highly recommend that you give it a try and stick to it for at least a month and compare how you feel.

Here are some methods and tips on how you can break your own addiction to caffeine.
1. Quit cold-turkey
If you consuming large amounts of caffeine, you will get withdrawal symptoms. Block out a good week where you can have the least amount of impact on work, family or friends to deal with the effects.

The first few days are the worst. After that the withdrawal effects lessen day after day.

2. Gradually lessen your caffeine dosage
If you can’t quit immediately, try dialing back the amount of coffee you have each day. Try switching to caffeine free tea for your middle of the day beverage and slowly lower the amount of caffeine you are drinking.

3. Reward yourself
Breaking an addiction is not easy; do not forget to reward yourself when you reach a milestone. This can give you the motivation to continue.

If you are still having problems reaching the goal of breaking the caffeine addiction see my other article.

8 Ways to Make Your Goal a Certainty

Good luck!

See these articles also:
San Diego Versus Chicago
Money: What Steps I Have Taken to Save It
The iPhone 3G & AT&T Service Review
Environmental Heresies – Wired Magazines Contrarian take
Bet on the US, I am

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Posted in life, motivation | No Comments »

The iPhone 3G & AT&T Service Review

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Having owned and used the iPhone for several months now, I feel I can make a much more accurate assessment of the device.

Let me begin by saying that I have never had a smartphone before my iPhone. My previous phone had no special features other than it was supernaturally durable and reliable enough to take 6 years of abuse at my hands and would have easily have taken another 6 years had I not replaced it with the iPhone. My previous phone would get signal anywhere even in elevators and underground in both San Diego as well as Chicago. Over the course of six years, I can count the number of dropped calls on one hand.

When the original iPhone came out and I got a chance to play around with it in the Apple store it was amazing, but I would be buying the phone as primarily a mobile internet device and without 3G, I could resist its siren call. When the 3G iPhone came out I had no more excuses and my girlfriend and I braved the long lines on opening weekend and got our phones after a 6-hour wait.

The Service
AT&T inadvertently signed us up for two separate family plans instead of one. After I got the bill and saw the discrepancy I called up AT&T. After a 10 minute wait I finally got on the phone with a real person and after some explaining they assured me that everything was cleared up and I paid the single family plan bill. Two weeks later I found out things were not cleared up when, without warning, my phone service and data for the internet on the phone were both deactivated. I called AT&T up again and they wanted to charge me for both family plans as well as a reactivation fee. I again explained the situation to an incredibly rude phone operator and got objection after objection. I then had to use actual math on her and detailed out the bill for her before my logic actually took hold. She half apologized (being clearly wrong) for her mistake and reduced the amount to the correct amount I had stepped her through. It was an incredibly frustrating process and needless to say I am not happy with AT&T’s customer service.

The service for the iPhone itself is not great, but passable. I get service in most places, but not underground or in elevators anymore. Drop calls are infrequent, but happen enough to be annoying. The 3G coverage for Chicago has been good, but you will occasionally enter into areas only covered by the much slower Edge network and in these areas you might as give up on the internet.

Enough about the service let’s dive into the device.

The Device
The iPhone has become such a large part of my life now that I do not know how I got by without it before. The phone is one of those things that you didn’t know you needed until after you have it. Since getting the iPhone, I have been significantly more productive. Every single blog post I have written at has been written largely, if not entirely through the iPhone. My 20-minute commutes on the bus in the morning and evening have turned into the most productive time of the day for me. I check the weather and e-mail in the morning while getting ready for work on the iPhone. It has really been a dramatic change in my routine.

The screen is bright and beautiful. The touch interface is where the iPhone really shines. It is so far ahead of anything else I have seen on the market. It is very intuitive, double tapping to zoom along with the pinching works great. After experiencing the iPhone, I cannot imagine using nav keys or a stylus. The keyboard takes some getting used to, but once I did, I have grown to like it. After writing so much with the keyboard my speed has become surprisingly fast with it.

The 3G internet connection is just fast enough that surfing the internet is not annoying. The browsing of full (non-mobilized) websites is simply amazing. The ability to watch Youtube videos is incredible. The Safari browser was much less reliable early on and would consistently crash, however several updates have made it a much more stable and dependable browser. The iPhone also provides full e-mails, PDF, word document and excel file browsing.

The GPS along with Google maps is great especially for somebody with bad direction sense like myself. I do wish that the phone had a built in application or somebody would make an app for the App Store that gave you voice directions for the occasions when you cannot look down at the device without endangering yourself, like while you are in a car.

Battery life is not awful, especially if you set your e-mail updating to manual, turn off auto-brightness and lower the default brightness down a touch. I use mine almost the entire day for music, browsing the internet and blog writing, yet the battery does not have trouble keeping up.

To top all this off, the crowning achievement of the iPhone is undoubtedly the Apple App Store.

At the time of this writing there are over 10,000 Apps currently available for download on the store. Many of the apps take full advantage of the GPS and tilt functionality of the iPhone. I will list out a few of my favorite Apps.

Pandora Radio
Pandora Radio functions exactly like the desktop version, but for the iPhone. You simply type in an artist or song you like and it plays it for you. It creates a song list of similar artists for you to listen to, hopefully introducing you to some new music. Buying a song is as simple as a few clicks and you are ready to download.


This is a pretty fun little game that has you moving a metal ball barring through a maze with holes that the ball can fall into. The movement of the metal ball is controlled by the way you tilt the phone and controls very realistically.

Urbanspoon uses the GPS to find a restaurant near you that matches 3 different criteria. The criteria are location, type of food and price. You can lock in any of these three criteria or none of them and then shake your iPhone and it will give you a suggestion. It’s been great for finding new eateries in a big city like Chicago.

AIM, just on your iPhone

This is decent for keeping up on your stocks.

The iPhone has a few negatives also.

No copy paste functionality.
Not having a copy paste feature is really annoying.

No Undo function
This is particularly irritating when combined with the backspace lock bug.

Backspace lock
Occasionally, while hitting the backspace the button the phone will become locked and will continue deleting everything you have written at an incredibly rate. You have to react quickly to stop the locked backspace by pressing another button. For this reason I back up what I am writing by e-mail it to myself every so often to prevent this from happening.

No video recording or video conferencing
You have a 2-megapixel camera and an 8 or 16 gigabyte HD built into each iPhone, yet it does not have video recording. That does not make sense. Come to think of it, why doesn’t this thing have video conferencing?

Monetary Cost
The monthly cost of an iPhone service plan is nearly twice as expensive as my old phone. However, this cost has been more than justified by how much more productive I have been with iPhone.

AT&T customer service
As I previously stated after my experience with the ineptitude that is AT&T customer service I am looking forward to the day when I can leave them. For now they are a monopoly and I have little choice after signing a mandatory 2-year service contract with them.

All in all, the iPhone is an amazing phone tied down by a monopolistic terrible company in AT&T. Despite this, I would still highly recommend the phone for the amazing UI, 3G speed of the internet and Apple App store.

See my other related articles:
TapDefense Reviewed Through the Eyes of a Game Designer

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Posted in Chicago, San Diego, life | No Comments »

8 Ways to Make Your Goal a Certainty

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Fuck the Detractors
Thanks to Berenice Limon for the use of her image.

I am sick of people telling me to take the safe route and to not take chances. There will always be people that will advise you to live comfortably and not take on any risk or hardship. Get away from these people. They will only derail you from achieving your goals. Being comfortable never prompted anybody to change their situation or achieve their goals. Being comfortable should make you feel uncomfortable. People will allow themselves to be pushed around and bullied in order to remain comfortable. People will act in a painful situation to ease the pain or remove the source of that pain. Security and comfort is not afforded by a job, it is provided by your ability to produce.

“When you are tough on yourself, life is easier on you.” – Zig Ziglar

1. Achievement starts with a goal

Start with a goal. Desire and enthusiasm without direction is wasted. A goal will give you a direction to channel all of your enthusiasm and desire. How do you know your goal is a worthwhile goal? Ask the question of “why you want to achieve this goal.” If your answer is strong enough, then you know that you have a worthy goal.

2. Imagine the pleasure of achieving your goal

Close your eyes and see yourself in the future having achieved your goal. Think about all the benefits, pleasure and possibilities that will open up to you if you attain your goal. Doing this will help you visualize in your mind and emotionally commit yourself to achieving your goal. Remember that feeling of pleasure at reaching your goal. Latch onto this image and it will help you manifest your mental creation into the physical.

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” –Gloria Steinem

3. Imagine the pain of failing to reach the goal

Now close your eyes and imagine what the consequences are of not reaching your goal. What type of painful existence would you live or continue to live if you did not continue to move forwards and achieve you goal? Embrace that feeling of pain and let it drive you. Pain can be the greatest of all motivators.

4. Remind yourself of your goal

Reinforce your goal everyday. Keep you goal fresh in your mind. By doing this you will prod your mind to work out the problems in your way of achieving that goal. A goal that is constantly bubbled up in your mind will allow your genius to work on figuring different methods on how to achieve it. Never underestimate your genius.

Some of the methods to remind you of your goal is to write your goal on the ceiling of your bed so that you wake up and see it every morning and every evening when you go to bed. The headline of my IPhone task list is always the goal I am currently working on. I check this list several times a day to keep on task and remind myself of my goal. Whichever way you remind yourself of your goal do it at least once daily.

By keeping yourself focused on your goal you will remove distractions. I do not know who originally said this, “When you eliminate all other possibilities other than success, you are left only with success as a possibility.”

If you look up at the sun, you seldom see the shadows. – Helen Keller

5. Public Accountability

Tell others what your goal is. Arnold Schwarzenegger related a story about how he used public accountability to get the burning desire in his belly to achieve. While still in Austria and with little ability to speak English he would tell people that he was going to America to be a great actor. Because he let people know his goal, he used public accountability to strengthen his desire to achieve a goal that seemed impossible. Even when he arrived in America he was told his accent was too thick and his body too weird to ever make it. Despite it all he willed his way through all of his detractors and made it by never giving up on his dream.

Blog about your goal and give frequent updates. Here is a video of a guy that used public accountability to get to his goal. He posted a picture of himself on his blog everyday as he used public accountability to achieve his goal of weight loss.

Make a deal with somebody you care about. For instance, you could make a deal with your wife that you will quit smoking if she does the same.

Tell your co-workers about your goal. “I am going to quit smoking for the next 2 weeks” and give them frequent updates. Doing this will even encourage people to ask you for an update about your goal when you neglect to update them.

6. Do something each day that will get you closer to accomplishing your goal

Before going to bed each evening, take out a note taking device and create a stack ranked list of what you need to tackle tomorrow to get you closer to your goal. Start on the list from highest priority and focus on it until it is complete.

By doing something everyday to get you closer to your goal you will be surprised at the progress. This will also make your progress steady instead of having peaks and valleys of activity.

7. Fail your way to success

People are so afraid of failing and making mistakes that it often stops them from even trying. This mentality is completely wrong. If you want to succeed faster increase the rate at which you fail. We learn more from failure than we learn from success. Embrace and learn from failure and get back up and keep swinging. When obstacles arise you change your direction not your decision to get there.

After Thomas Edison failed 9000 times trying to create a practical electric light he was asked by a reporter whether he felt like a failure. Edison replied, “”Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” Edison invented the practical incandescent, electric light after he failed 10,000 times.

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!” – Rocky Balboa

Each misstep is an education. There are two reactions that a person can have when hit by an obstacle. One, give up. Two, redouble your efforts. When you get knocked down, how you react to it shows your character. Bottom line is: do not be afraid to start something because you could fail and if you do fail learn from it, get back up and attack. An example is investing in the stock market. Invest slowly with money that you are not afraid to lose. If you do lose money do not let it stop you from investing, instead learn from your mistakes and consider it as an educational tuition fee. You will never learn, let alone succeed if you never try.

8. Create a mantra

Mine is: “I will do what it takes.”

We need more people that don’t know what can’t be done. – Henry Ford

May all your dreams but one come true. – David Gemmel

This has been my most personal blog to date and I was very hesitant to publish it. Nonetheless, I hope this post is helpful to you.

If you enjoyed this post you might be interested in my other articles:
Why and How I Broke My Addiction to Caffeine
Bet on the US, I am
Money: What Steps I Have Taken to Save It

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Posted in Investing, life, money, motivation | No Comments »

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