Archive for June, 2011


June 28th, 2011

Today, a very, very sad thing has come to pass. I filled up my 1TB external hard drive.

One thing I have to say on the topic of hard drives: at the pace of technology today, hard drives usually become out of date long before they fail. This is a wonderful, thing, I suppose.

Unfortunately, the pace of technology today still can’t keep up with my rate of anime consumption.


Song of the Nightingale

June 25th, 2011

People often ask me if I’m a gamer upon seeing the workstation setup in my room. I’m not.

Admittingly, a third monitor doesn’t contribute a whole lot to productivity. I mostly use my third monitor for post-its and Skype or iTunes while I work on my first and second monitors.

College apps are hard for me — I’m a very unfocused writer. I go off on tangents, branching off into completely unrelated realms. Additionally, I don’t write towards a purpose or goal, I write for fun, because I like to write.

Now although this is supposedly encouraged by society (as are many other things), one really needs to be able to write in order to accomplish something. Liking writing really does you no good.

My HP laptop’s Windows Experience Index is actually higher than my PC. I was so proud of my PC before — an Intel i7, four cores, eight threads with HyperThreading (rather gimmicky but well), with 6GB of DDR3 RAM and all that good stuff. (Again, I’m not a gamer so the graphics card in my PC is some generic low-end hardware.) This laptop (I’m typing on it as I speak– er, type…) is an entertainment/gaming laptop; it’s got high-end speakers, a huge display, DVD+RW drive, multiple audio/video outputs, and a good graphics card.

It kept crashing, bluescreening, and just generally not working, even after multiple installs of the stock OS. I installed vanilla Microsoft Windows 7, and somehow that fixed everything. The software cooks at HP need sharpening.

The hardware is quite badass. A fingerprint sensor would be nice, I guess, but again those are gimmicky. So many things are gimmicky these days. Like “4G”. Or 3D TVs and phones and consoles. Or colleges.

I’ll leave that out to over/under-interpretationists to meticulously granulate.

The title: according to Wikipedia (accuracy 200% guaranteed), “Poets chose the nightingale as a symbol because of its creative and seemingly spontaneous song.”

Quite true. This post is as spontaneous as they come.

But, “seemingly”. Aha. Interpret THAT. Was that what I was really intending? Or am I hiding something between the lines?

Oh, how about this?

Homer evokes the Nightingale in the Odyssey, suggesting the myth of Philomela and Procne (one of whom, depending on the myth’s version, is turned into a nightingale). This myth is the focus of Sophocles’ tragedy, Tereus, of which only fragments remain. Ovid, too, in his Metamorphoses, includes the most popular version of this myth, imitated and altered by later poets, including Chrétien de Troyes, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, and George Gascoigne. T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” also evokes the Nightingale’s song (and the myth of Philomela and Procne). Because of the violence associated with the myth, the nightingale’s song was long interpreted as a lament.

Wow, I never knew it but it seems there’s a hidden meaning in this post. I totally subconsciously intended this post to do that.

These days, you can get anything to symbolize anything.

Seriously, I chose the title randomly and then Googled it. Turns out it’s also the name of an orchestral piece by Stravinsky. Cool.

Growing up is overrated

June 24th, 2011

Productivity is so much more difficult than entertainment.

Case in point: these first two weeks of summer. Swamped with invitations, banquets, potlucks, decisions, requests, favors, startups, plans, and whatnot. Keeping up with events on my calendar, following up on emails, managing and leading people, making decisions and planning meetings. It’s all so… productive. I’ve never felt so productive.

Productivity takes a surprisingly large amount of time. I see now why there are people whose jobs are just to “manage people” — it’s a lot of work!

Being productive and managing felt so grown-up, yet it really wasn’t that fun. Like, when you’re a kid you look up to grown-ups so much, and when they do their work on the computer you’re like “wow, so mature.” And now it’s like “wow, so retarded.” Growing up is overrated.

free food Physics Team Potluck

Major event that I wanted to talk about was our potluck. I was burned out after junior year, looking forward to the inactivity and lazy days that supposedly lay ahead.

Sucks for me that I have so much going on. Well.

Vincent, my longstanding role model, among many — there are so many respectable people in the world (I never thought I would hear myself say that — I’m usually way more cynical than that. I guess my personality must be different in the summer. Or maybe it’s just that junior year’s over.) suggested that I plan a Physics Team potluck to celebrate our achievements this year and let everybody get to meet each other.

I, in lazy mode, was initially annoyed at his eagerness to spend time that I would normally find wasteful. I was also kind of annoyed that it would be held at my house.

I had this cool back-and-forth with my parents, and the conclusion we reached at the end was that Vincent was lending me a friendly helping hand by nudging me onstage to manifest my leadership, because I wasn’t normally the type of person to arrange social functions. My idea was that the only reason the Physics Team would ever need to meet together would be to discuss Physics or Team. Groups are complicated.

Society is complicated.

Vincent had selected three hopefuls, the brightest sophomores from this year’s AP Physics B, and the last, as Arcadia High School would be phasing out AP Physics B for sophomores (which makes little sense). I’d petition the administration, but there’s basically no chance of restoring the class.

Oh, on a tangent, Calculus D was also killed. It especially sucks for me. I was really looking forward to taking that class.

There was an overage of food, of course, as Asian parents coursed in with armfuls of eatery munitions. We played badminton, basketball, ping-pong, Wii, and even a little soccer. The best part, I think everyone could agree, was our Ultimate Frisbee game.

Usually I don’t have fun during social functions. But maybe, just maybe, they’re tolerable.

Startup, Inc

As much as I try to learn from Vincent and his outgoing persona, social command isn’t all it takes. You do get places by telling people what to do, and having people work for you, but that’s somewhat dissatisfying and unsettling.

Our hush-hush project began with a clang– with a hotpot. Jason Jong loves hotpots, and I see why now. Hotpots are the perfect meal to eat at business meetings. It totally fosters a sense of eating out of the same bowl, and working together to cook the meat. Symbolism aside, it also tastes really good.

The hotpot restaurant we went to (next to the 99 Ranch Market, the leftmost one– for some reason there are two hotpot restaurants in the same plaza right next to each other) wasn’t very good, but I still enjoyed it.

I found myself unfamiliar with the teenager hangouts of Arcadia as we later went to that tea shop next to 99 Cents on Duarte and I ordered my first tea shop snack.

Life’s good. To be specific, mildly spicy with a numbing aroma (麻辣). Sweet potato fries.


That was all… two weeks ago. It’s all stuff that should have been blogged in detail, but weren’t, and only now get a brief amount of coverage.

I missed talking about the various gatherings of my Skype group, LSG. Happy really belated birthday, Hanchan!

Aeris dies.

Because of various circumstances, one week ago (hey, we’re making progress!) I started playing Final Fantasy 7.

Now, don’t be mistaken. By “play,” I don’t mean I was playing the game.

My ineptitude at gaming is legendary.

One of the most vital points towards my college application will be the claim that I have never once completed a game in my life. I’ve never beat any of my Pokemon games. Never beat Sonic Adventure 2. Never beat Crash Bandicoot 3. Never beat Ocarina of Time — I’m actually at Forest Temple, roughly the halfway point. That’s a record for the farthest I’ve ever gone in a game. And that was with cheats (load/save state on emulator). My two little siblings beat me constantly at Wii Sports.

I was reading synopses, character bios, game walkthroughs, scripts, and watching YouTube videos. I’ve given up on “playing” games. It’s impossible for me.

FF7 is so deliciously complex.

I also like the name Mint. It’s brilliant.


Today (wow big timeskip) I visited my new office.

Yes, you heard right. I was amazed too. I get my own office? …

Turns out I had to share it with this other guy, but that makes me feel less bad at getting my own office.

Wow. I get my own half office.

Looking forward to starting my research with spacecraft fault protection and interconnection on Monday.

Dang, I feel so privileged.

Coffee makes me sick

I hate coffee.

This morning I was at a coffeeshop waiting for someone, and, being considerate of the coffeeshop, decided to buy something. I was thinking of getting one of those cold milk-coffee drinks — Frappiccinos or something?

I don’t know coffee terminology.

Well, “cappuccino” sounds like “Frappiccino” so I ordered one. I expected sweet, I got freakin’ bitter. I expected milky, I got freakin’ black. I expected iced, and I got hot.

Stupid coffee.

College Apps

Let’s not talk about this.

Strawberry Shortcake Post

June 21st, 2011

Alright, alright, I haven’t had a real post in weeks. The last two “posts” were just me passing on an interesting article (it’s almost like Twitter now– retweeting! heavens, what is this world this blog coming to?), and posting some lame quotes that nobody cares about.

Even my last “real post” was just me complaining about my life. Oh wait, that’s what I always post about anyways, isn’t it? Just kidding.

God, that wasn’t even funny. I’m losing my touch here.

Oh yeah, I’ve started using the Senior Year (10-11) tag on my posts since summer started. It really gives out a good vibe — I feel like a senior already because I’m using that tag. Uwaahh.

What tag would I use in college? Meh.

If I go to an East Coast school I’ll probably have to relocate my server, eh? Ping from Dallas to Boston has got to be over 100ms, even with those top-tier university networks I’m so excited about getting my hands on.

I wonder if there are people who go to college just for the impossibly-fast internet connection.

Also, I was thinking of doing something about those old anime posts. They’re extremely embarrassing. Every time I click on “Random Post” and see one of them I cringe shamefully. I want people to click on “Random Post” and go to one of the many deep and thoughtful posts written by me and my one-person staff who hasn’t been posting lately (*semi-threatening glare*).

Time to start focusing on an actual topic for this post

Recently I’ve begun using headers like these to divide my emails into topics. It makes long emails less tedious to read, I believe. I’ve been writing a lot of long emails lately. It’ll probably become like a running joke this summer. Ben and his long, elaborate emails. Oh no, I got off topic again.

I think I’ll change my posting style from long, elaborate posts (why is everything I do lately long and elaborate?) to short and sweet. Like… strawberry shortcake. It’s short. And sweet.

The pun on “short” in shortcake was totally not intentional. I was trying to think of something sweet, and I happen to love those strawberry shortcake ice cream bars. Ugh. What I would give for one right now.

So here’s my first strawberry shortcake post of the summer. Ta-da!

What, that’s it, Ben? You’re ending here? You didn’t begin a single topic! You didn’t talk about anything specific at all!

Shush. It’s a strawberry shortcake post.

Junior Year Featured Convos

June 17th, 2011

This post is directed at my Skype IM group.

» Read more: Junior Year Featured Convos

Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation

June 14th, 2011

I know you guys probably don’t take to heart much of what I prattle about here, but I hope you will listen openly to what Harvard’s Admissions Office has to say.

This is the best thing I’ve read in forever. It’s amazing. Read it.

» Read more: Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation


June 8th, 2011

I wanted to post during camp. I wanted to post lots and lots, describing every last minute detail and juicing every last drop of emotion, lest they drift away as memories do, eventually rendered forever incommunicable.

I’ve disappointed you, my dear reader, yes, but even more, I’ve disappointed myself. Oh dear. Here’s to an attempt to atone for two-and-a-half weeks of no posts.

It’s so hard to post after not posting. Because then you have to post something good enough to make up for not posting. And to write a good post, you spend a lot of time and thought, further prolonging your post debt.

Well, I’ll start by finishing. I spent an inordinate length of time brainstorming and revising ideas for my Math Team captain speech. Being as dumb as I was in my childhood (as again, everything that happened to me before yesterday occurred “in my childhood”), I focused on things that would actually (hear the cynicism kick in) help the team.

That’s weird, I’m not in the mood for cynicism right now. I was brimming with it just this afternoon. Cynicism really doesn’t help you win any friends, after all, so I’m careful to not let it out. When it spills, troublesome things happen. Awkward conversations and strained relationships. First hand experience from just last week. But just let me finish here.

Besides the typical bragging (I hate bragging… I really can’t respect myself for doing that) about leadership and math skills, I brought up as a big topic my idea to keep members from “flaking” — ditching meetings and not doing work. Reduced to a single sentence or two, the idea was that every two months, if a member was absent for more than three meetings then they would have to make up the missed meeting time at home, studying by themselves. At the end of every 2 month period, we would set a moderate cutoff on the team selection exam for these people. This way they would be heavily pressured to make up at least as much time as they missed; in reality, more. And if they didn’t care enough about Math Team to study, they would be kicked. No changes for people who attend regularly; they are in no danger of being kicked. Simple.

The other point was my computer skills, of course; I offered to create a website for Arcadia Math Team just as I had for Physics Team, posting our weekly meeting agendas, homework assignments, and math resources, and providing a central hub for the team’s communications and scheduling via forums and calendars.

The question I was offended by during the “interrogation” session after the speeches was from Erik Krogen. Would you still create this website for our team if you weren’t selected as captain? Are you really dedicated to our team or are you just doing this so you can call yourself captain?

Ms. King was on my side for this question but I’m still thinking about this. Fine. Still angry about this, I’ll admit. Are you really qualified to ask me this question? I’m staking my entire captainship on a bulletproof anti-flaking system that will (and did) cost me the entire cake. Nobody will vote for me, because they don’t want to be kicked off the team for flaking. That’s how people vote, after all. It’s real phony, but what isn’t. It’s not how good or dedicated they think people will be; it’s who gave them candy, who’s their friend, who will keep them on the team next year. Do you think I’m doing this just for the name? Do you really have the right to accuse me of flaking, myself?

The above is what I should have said. Minus the emotional and angry tone. I suck at being emotional and angry off the page. Some people can do it and be effective, successfully intimidating people. My mom can do that. I can’t — I just sound wimpy and people laugh or bully me. At the very least, nobody takes me seriously and listens to what I have to say. That’s why I try to keep myself calm. May peace prevail in the world.

James totally deserves the captainship. I was rooting for him all the way. He was my only friend as a freshman in Math Team, and although we haven’t talked much lately, I remember walking down to Le Roy with him after every Math Team meeting. Now, allow me to be cynical about David Liu. Kind of a different sort of cynicism. Cynicism plus, what, admiration? He is amazing; in a class of his own, for being able to incite such excitement, enjoyment, and camaraderie radially around him. It’s even stronger than electromagnetism, whose force decreases by an inverse square law — I’m sure his powers are proportional to the first power inverse. (That was my attempt at the lame physics joke you were probably partially expecting of me today.)

Meh, let’s drop the topic.

I’ve had an issue with whether or not to be completely honest on my blog about things that would offend others. Something to contemplate. I like the motto of thinking twice before talking. Unfortunately I never seem to think twice when I open my mouth like an idiot and demonstrate the fool I am, and I always seem to think too much and eventually decide to keep my mouth shut when people take advantage of me and push work onto my shoulder for not talking and complaining and expressing my opinion.

The optimist in me (it’s somewhere inside all of us, I swear) tells me to just keep swimming, or something. Just try not to drown, and you’ll turn out all right eventually. Eventually. I think.

I’ve talked a bit about not letting cynicism spill out; keeping myself calm and not getting emotional or angry in front of people; keeping my goddamn unwarranted honesty to myself.

Jeng has been giving me a lot of work. Now before I present anything, I will tell you that I was wrong, and Jeng was absolutely right. First, some background on why I’m so mad about Jeng’s work.

It was only a few days before I left for Maryland. I had Vincent’s material from the previous year’s camp, which put me at a huge advantage (as I now know) in terms of making the traveling team. Basically all of the traveling members this year are returners. The camp is simply too difficult to do well in on the first try. There are so many new concepts to get used to. The second camp is basically the same, including the material, so knowing the material beforehand put people at a huge advantage. I had the material from a previous year. I could have had that huge advantage.

What I didn’t have, however, was time to study this material. Unlike those who were homeschooled or go to private school (which I wish my parents had done — let me homeschool myself), I had to make up all the work I was “missing.” Because I seriously learn stuff from this. Sarcasm. On a tangent, I also have to deal with annoying things like attendance, tardy sweeps, and mandatory homework in the first place. These things are made to deal with the problem students, the people who aren’t able to learn quickly and on their own and need school faculty to dish out punishments for not showing up and homework to force them to care and spend time. How much better my life would be if I had dropped out of middle school.

I’ll talk about the stupidity of public school as a part of my eventual post about US Physics Team and the camp.

I had this… unpleasant conversation with Jeng. It stemmed from an email I typed to her at the airport, at Baltimore Washington International while waiting for the other members’ flights to come in. I had done a boatload of work for her class, fearful for my English grade which tottered at a dangerous 92%. We had a group project, short stories written by women. Group projects in normal English… are impossible unless you do all the work. If there is one achieving person (notice how I didn’t even write “overachieving”)…

It’s not that I don’t respect non-achieving people. You don’t need good grades. You don’t need college, heck. My buddies at Methodist are the most optimistic, upbeat dudes ever. I love that job, and I have my first training session with somebody next Thursday. I’ll do my best to seem way cool.

Anyways… she noticed I did all the work for that group project. Worried, unlike some English teachers who don’t care at all, she sent me a friendly email asking about the project.

Alright, there I am in the airport, with what, five hours on my hands to commune with my netbook. (Now that I think of it, I should have spent this time chatting with the other members — they are all so exceptionally fantastic I wish I could have made more friendships than I did.) Alas, stupidity struck, and I listed the contents of my mind regarding her class and her work. Stuff like, this work is stupid, I don’t learn anything, there’s no helping my doing all the work for the project.

Well, I thought it was politely phrased and that she would appreciate getting to know my internal thoughts. After all, I really liked her. At the time I thought she was the teacher who knew me the best. When I got the email, I was extremely happy that she cared so much. I wanted her to know what I thought about the project, and while I’m at that, about the homework she gave, and the essay I had to do, all by my departure date.

Again, I am pissed that she gave me all that work, because otherwise I would have intensely studied Vincent’s material and had a greatly enhanced chance of going to Thailand. I am fairly confident that, on the semifinal exam, I was in the top 5. That’s why I got so emotional when I was talking with her after I got back, perhaps, in hindsight. Actually, I probably wasn’t thinking about that. I was mad that she “pretended” to care in her email to me but now is being my enemy. It was more of a semantics thing during the actual argument, I think, of whether or not she cared about me.

Moral of the story: Don’t goddamn spill out your innermost thoughts to some random stranger who you think cares about you. Nobody wants to hear your freaking honesty. Nobody really cares about your life story. If it comes to it, even, just lie, just lie and be done with it. Say “oh yes, I totally love your class, and your homework has helped me learn so much!” and make your teacher smile. See? There. You’ve made the world a better place.

My mom promised me she would deal with it. She promised she would deal with Jeng and my English grade and all my work. She told me to not worry about anything at camp, that she would take care of everything, and that I could just focus on what was in front of my eyes. That’s why it caught me by surprise when I got back and nothing had been resolved.

After the argument between me and Jeng, in which I almost cried (I did actually cry when dealing with Lee, and that was the most recent time), my whole end-of-school period has been not quite going so well.

Steven was elected the other Physics Team captain while I was in Maryland. For some reason, Glen is also tagging along in all the “meetings,” and it seems like he and Steven (they are very good friends) are deciding everything regarding the team now. I don’t mean to be a jerk or anything, but what exactly is Glen trying to do? Why are they ignoring me? They called me to a meeting at lunch today, and we basically did not do anything. Besides decide upon two or three more meeting dates during the summer. That we can spend doing the same thing: nothing. Seriously. Physics Team does not need to meet during the summer. Do you two really want to make me walk out to some obscure Starbucks in the middle of the day to stare at you guys for a few hours before walking all the way back?

I am pissed that they decided to run the team. Without me. I don’t want to meet during the summer. We don’t need to meet. Honestly, and here’s me being arrogant, I don’t think we need either of them. None of them have any physics achievements, really, although I can’t complain about that looking at Math Team captains and ASB people. Okay, I realize I’m now just dissing people left and right. At the very least, I don’t see why Glen is acting like he’s the third captain. Or, rather, that he’s the first captain, and I’m just some bystander.

Armed with these thoughts, I called Vincent. He’s very social, very different from me and all, but I suppose he’s still the person best suited for me to call my mentor.

I think that the advice you get isn’t important. When you ask for advice, the important thing is the act of receiving the advice. The act of giving the advice… is what’s significant.

Vincent told me to draw up my own plans. Instead of messing with Steven, I could draw up my own, and let him have some input. And I didn’t need to care about Glen, said Vincent, as I could override him. It’s unsatisfying advice, really. My plan for the summer is to do nothing. Just check up on the hopefuls every week or so. That’s all they need. And it just bothers me that Glen is there. So the advice is kind of moot.

But it made me happy to receive advice from Vincent.

James asked me whether or not I would still create the website for Math Team during the meeting today. He wasn’t here during the questioning session (we were interrogated separately — solitary confinement) so I don’t blame him. Do I sound like a selfish bastard for saying no? I’d probably give him the feeling that I was running for captain just for the line on my college app. Not that he or David or any of the other candidates weren’t guilty of the same.

It’s so phony.

I’ll end with a line that I liked to repeat to myself sometimes, a while back. It resurfaced this week.

A little bit of courage is the real magic.