Archive for the ‘School’ category

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

Apology

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.

May Showers

May 21st, 2011

There’s a curious word in Japanese. It’s written “May rain” but pronounced completely differently: “samidare.”

I was thinking of this word when walking home with Eric after the Math Team meeting today, where we elected captains. It was sunny, yet vaguely drizzly. I liked the lazy, sporadic raindrops. The sunny rain made me happy.

I was actually thinking of titling this post “insincerity,” or perhaps “contingency plans” — gotta have ’em.

As I’ve been ranting about for the last few posts, the damned public school system isn’t cutting me any break at all with homework and schoolwork. This is causing my slow and painful death before I even get on the plane to go to camp. It’s like the school doesn’t want me to do well in camp and win medals in an international competition. I am seriously considering homeschool next year. I would recommend it to anyone who asks me what the best school is.

“Your mom.”

And that’s serious.

I wore my black Adidas shoes to our assemblies, and Mr. Forbes noticed (what the hell was I doing!? standing in the middle of the room with few people, with a direct line of sight to the office? sigh…) and said some really harsh things (notice he never says harsh things to female orchestra members). Get your shoes, or you’ll be performing in your (black) socks. He totally expected me to not have black socks on, so he could criticize me more, but I did have black socks on. It’s a hassle. Like I (and Andy, seemingly) like to say… 面倒くさい (mendou kusai). It’s so troublesome. Not only for me, but it caused my dad a lot of trouble as well.

I should have thought of this. I should have at least considered this event, which is in the very basic range of possible mishaps that I could encounter. How can I call myself smart if I’m not even able to predict and account for misfortunes as simple and predictable as this?

Also, I seem to have lost my genius ability to fall asleep whenever convenient. I guess it’s because I’m sleeping too much. But when I’m sitting during the assembly, I feel like I’m wasting time. The only thing I hate more than wasting money is wasting time.

My APN interviewer apparently didn’t get my email. Jeng doesn’t even show us APN. My interview is tomorrow during fourth period, and I don’t even feel like showing up.

Jenglish has been the harshest class on me this entire year.

I don’t know what to say about it, since it’s pretty much the only non-honors or AP course I’m taking.

***

Okay, looks like I wasn’t able to finish this post on May 19th. It’s May 21st in College Park, Maryland, and you can look forward to semi-regular updates. Maybe.

I’ll probably follow up on this post later. There is a LOT of stuff I didn’t get to talk about. Like the actual Math Team Captain election.

unoriginality

May 16th, 2011

Originality. We are taught in our childhood that everyone is special (feel free to sing along). We each have our own place in the world and our uniqueness is precious. It’s also what much of the motivation behind religious belief centers on. Jesus loves you, God loves you, God has his place for you in the world or something, and all You have to Do is Believe in Him. Gratuitous capitalization intended.

I’ve been thinking about how unoriginal everything in each of our lives is. Mainly stemming from the extremely unoriginal idea of entrepreneurship. Ideas don’t get much more unoriginal than that. People were trading furs and pebbles long before the wheel was invented. I’m sure some cool dude set up a little clearing in the jungle to display his wares, and that dude was the world’s very first entrepreneur.

How many people, unsatisfied with their lives of teacher torture, or pointy-haired-boss torture, or professor torture, or landlord-asking-for-rent torture, sit in their cubicles/dorms/bedrooms/apartments dreaming of formulating an idea, putting it to practice, and being your own boss? Its simplicity is what makes it so attractive, especially in America, what with our Dream and all.

It’s just how… naive we are. Me. Am. Is. No, that’s still not right.

By the way, I’m sitting in El Pollo Loco after the long, pointless Physics Team meeting waiting for the long, pointless Symphony Orchestra rehearsal at 6pm. Just thought you’d like to know that.

For your info, I have a narrative essay to write, a short story presentation to create and present, three weeks of math homework to finish, years worth of college physics material to self-study, clothing and such to pack, spam filters to set up on Reverie, a Math Team captain election speech to prepare and deliver, three concerts in the morning on Wednesday and one more long concert at night in stuffy concert attire, an interview by APN to deal with, four hours of volunteer shift to work on Thursday night…

Luckily I finished my compsci project and my chem lab today. Whew. At the rate of two items per day… okay, I’m not going to finish in time before my flight on Friday morning.

Especially since I have completely no free time on Wednesday due to the conveniently-scheduled concerts. Or Thursday due to my Methodist session. Not that I had any free time today, really, either (due to three-hour rehearsal, two-hour physics team meeting, and ortho appointment). Oh yeah, speaking of ortho appointment… I desperately wanted my braces off for camp. Even if it doesn’t impair my speaking abilities (which it does), it seriously undermines my self-confidence. I’m going to be going to a camp with the 19 other VERY BEST high school students in the nation. I really don’t want to be wearing lame braces, with FOUR. CROSSOVERED. ELASTICS. Crap. I couldn’t get my orthodontist to take them off before Friday. Crap.

The other unoriginal goal I was thinking about today (they mostly regard careers as that’s what’s been in my mind recently) was studying finance — playing with money. It’s another extremely popular career choice for youngsters — the latest fad, it seems, after watching the US economy collapse and all those Wall Street con-men get away with all the money. People think it’s an easy get-rich-quick scheme — one year on the job, and then millions of green paper to backstroke through on your way to your private villa by yacht.

It’s 11:59; if I don’t click Publish now it won’t count as today’s post, so we’ll have to end here.

This is going to be a horrible week. Yet, hopefully, it will also be the start of something spectacular.

still trying to hold on

May 15th, 2011

Here’s to my well-intentioned resolution to post every day. May it rest in peace.

I thought I should at least keep to posting once per week. So here’s my post for the week. I’m really looking forward to writing this post. It was an eventful week, full of delicious food, tender pride, sore elbows, childlike excitement, and broken gestures.

Thing about Jenglish… I have a really mixed opinion of it. She gives us more work than Villalobos did for Honors English last year. She’s very anal about my doing physics or other homework in her class, something I am very annoyed at her for. Her class activity on Friday was brilliant, however. We made Mother’s Day cards! She bought dozens of reams of pretty, flowery, expensive, professional design paper in all sorts of colors and variations, and a vast supply of scrapbooking supplies. We made beautiful cards. I made 3, one for me, and two for each of my siblings, to give to my mom. When I told Ms. Jeng about my 3 cards, she thought it was so kind of me that I almost felt like she was going to hug me.

One thing I have come to feel about Ms. Jeng — her goal in life seems to be “to bring happiness to as many people as she can.” She brings us food, candy, treats out of her own pocket money; makes us write down something that happened each day that has made us thankful. This Mother’s Day activity illustrated it best — Jeng wanted to bring happiness to hundreds of mothers that day. I’m sure she succeeded. My mom was very happy to recieve the 3 cards, although she figured out that I had made all 3 myself, in English class (Ms. Jeng had instructed us to tell our moms that we had made the card of our own intiative and not because she told us to).

My typical weekend goes through like this. The night before, I set my alarm for some outrageously early morning ear torture. The morning of, I sleep through all the alarms. Or, I get up, defuse the infringing eardrum explosive, and lie back down dreamily.

At sometime after noon, I sit up in my bed with a start. Oh no! Half of my precious day has drifted off into the silence! “What to do?” I think to myself, as I hastily brush my teeth and organize my thoughts. “So much stuff to do today!”

I sit down at my computer and turn on my 3 monitors. Oh yeah, I should check today’s anime. While I do that, I’ll flip through my email. OH, this week’s episode of THAT anime is out! Gotta download asap. Wonder what’s up on xda. Look, my ROM has been updated. I plug in my phone and prepare to load a new ROM, backing up my apps. Cool, my anime download finished. Wonder if there are any cool blog posts on Google Reader. Hey, there are five new chapters of manga! Google has a cool new product — I gotta check it out. Wow, that anime ep was epic. I wonder if there are any related anime. Gonna do a search on MAL. Oh wow, this anime was made by the same studio that did this other anime! And I’ve been wanting to watch that other anime since forever! I’ll download it immediately. While the torrent is running, why don’t I check up on Mabi?

Repeat for nine hours, with intermittent breaks for food and such.

By 9 or 10pm, I’m desperately trying to resuscitate the day’s productivity. This is sounding awfully like today. Huh.

I had a nice Mother’s Day. We went out to lunch at Zen Buffet — they were having a Mother’s Day special event. The venue was packed; if my mom hadn’t gotten a seat early we would have waited outside for hours. I haven’t had a buffet in months — long months filled with the void of non-buffet food. I’ve been dreaming about the food I had on Sunday ever since.

Breaded cheesesticks. They have pervaded my dreams for a week. I spent my early morning classes for the past week thinking about them. I’m not even sure what they’re called. Mozzarella sticks? Intensely craving them for days.

Monday was AP Physics C. I had a lot to say about my adventurous invasion of Alhambra High School, and I was completely planning on dedicating a post to their queer customs and savage rites. A paragraph will have to suffice for this topic.

Since over a month before the actual exam, I had been calling them every week to try and find out where, exactly, on campus the test was going to be held. I never found out before the actual day. Nobody knew (or cared enough to get out of their seats to find out for me). Finally, the receptionist just told me to give up on trying to find out, and just ask around on test day. Unsatisfied, but left without a choice, I agreed.

So I strolled into the gatekeeper’s lounge on Monday. When I say gatekeeper, I’m serious. The entire campus is completely fenced down. Nobody can escape. I felt like a visitor to a jail complex, almost, what with all the guards and patrolmen– “proctors.” Oh yeah, about the “proctors” — there was one proctor every 30 meters. It was during a class period that I came in (extra-early… at 9am or so), and I initially thought the proctors were… I don’t know, photographers documenting the school or something. There were so many! And they were everywhere! And they weren’t doing anything, because there weren’t any students outside anyways!

I’m sure if some student suddenly bolted out from their classroom door, thirty proctors would chase after him, tie him down and restrain him while others take down his prisoner student ID number to extend his sentence for another two years.

Luckily for me, all the proctors had a radio on them (like real prison guards! oh my god!), so they asked on the radio where my AP exam was, and I was directed to the library. Alright, cool. Let’s see. Three hours until the exam. Woo-hoo. I stare at the locked library door, where like two people are taking AP Biology.

I sat down next to a flower bed. Immediately, the nearest proctor aggroed me. He was a nice guy after finding out I was a visitor (not a prisoner student), and he helped me find a place to sit while waiting for my test. We went to the Career Center, and they gave me a nice table to sit at.

I did bring a backpack with some stuff. I wasn’t planning on studying for the AP Physics C exam though (psh, how hard can it be?) but I did print out a copy of the 2010 free-response questions. I took those out, and worked through the problems. The difficulty really surprised me, but I was able to figure out all of the questions. “Al-righty,” I thought to myself. I’m set.

Flash forward three hours. The library doors finally come unlocked to let us unsuspecting College Board victims in. I was surprised at their library. Shelves upon shelves of manga, comics, graphic novels. I would have loved it if our library had half of what they had. I’d go to the library every day. I’d never eat lunch anymore.

They made us rip the labels off of our water bottles. That was just… odd. They didn’t want us to cheat by writing formulas on our water bottle labels? Really…

We were sat down in a small corner of their fantastic library. Only about five people taking Mechanics, and that would dwindle to only about two other people taking E&M two hours later. It was the reference corner, and I was sitting next to some fifteen-volume World Cultures set that I’m sure nobody has ever touched since it was purchased by the school. All the manga in the library seemed well-used.

About the test… I found it difficult. On AP Chemistry, Comp Sci, and Calculus BC, I always had time (sometimes even more than a half hour) left after I finished questions. On all four sections of the AP Physics C exam, I was strapped for time. I found that odd, because I’m supposed to be like, the very best at this, or something. Oh, by the way, at this time I didn’t know that you only needed a 50% to get a 5. I’m still WTFing at that statistic. I mean, you’d actually have to TRY to not get a five if the curve was that low. But yeah, at the time I thought I had failed the test or something. I hate how the College Board made us pay twice for AP Physics C — it’s a shorter test, so come on!

I missed something rather important that was happening. As you might or might not know, my blog was hosted on my home PC (which is on 24/7 anyways). I had Apache, PHP, and MySQL running on it, along with an SSH server, hMailServer to serve SMTP and IMAP, and various other goodies. I’ve got lots of RAM, and not a lot of people visit my site, so it was fine, but I wanted a dedicated server in a real datacenter to play with and to put to use in my future endeavors.

I spent most of my Sunday researching virtual private server (VPS) services. Initially, I searched through big-name sites like HostGator, and the cheapest prices were $20 per month. I thought, “alright, my dad will be okay with that,” but of course, being me and suffering from chronic Refusal-to-spend-money-unnecessarily Syndrome, I furiously set out to find cheap VPS servers.

I was overjoyed when I found servers at $15, then $11, then– wow! six dollars! My amazement turned to awe when I discovered servers at $3 per month… $2.50… $2… $1.67! That’s twenty dollars per YEAR — as opposed to my original price of twenty dollars a month! God, sometimes my strange Syndrome does pay off as opposed to annoying people around me.

I made a brilliant Google Doc comparing the best VPS offers I could find. Here, I’ll even share it with my beloved readers. I decided that 128MB of RAM was too low for me. There was a really good offer for a server with brilliant specs, but only a 10M uplink. I thought to myself, even my home download speed is faster than 10M! So I decided on at least a 100M uplink (preferably gigabit). After sorting through more and more deals, I decided to go with my new friends at HostFolks. On Monday morning before I left for my AP exam, I sent them an email asking whether or not their RAM was dedicated (as some retailers oversold their RAM), and whether or not their servers had a gigabit uplink.

To my glad surprise, the man replied five minutes later! I was expecting him to reply in like, two days, one day at the best. But wow — what great service! Instant reply! The RAM was indeed dedicated, and the uplink was in fact gigabit! HostFolk’s deal was pretty perfect. I shot off another question that night, and again — near-instant reply. Late at night. What kind of customer service representative was awake at 1am in the morning? Outrageous.

I bought the VPS from them, and I spent my Tuesday and Wednesday setting it up. Took a break from school. School is tiring. Also, we wouldn’t be doing anything in most of my classes, especially on Wednesday when everybody would be gone for AP English. I actually kind of really regret not taking AP US History and AP English, even at some other school.

All the guides pointed to one thing — Apache sucks. It spawns fifty threads that take dozens of megabytes of precious RAM each. I was going to install lighttpd or nginx as my webserver, but my server had 512MB of RAM — plenty of RAM to waste. I still haven’t used up all 512MB of RAM yet, even with KDE running on top of vnc3server.

The thing that took me the most time to set up was email. By default, sendmail was installed. I installed exim4 and unsuccessfully attempted to set it up following some guide. Eventually I gave up and removed exim4, opting for a guide that was dedicated to my operating system (Debian 5 “Lenny”). I installed postfix, dovecot, various administration tools, following the guide. I ran into so many problems I won’t even document them.

I still need to lock down many parts of my system. Security is really a big thing these days, and it would piss me off if some lame script kiddie got into my hard-earned system with everything set up, and blew it up, and I had to start all over (and waste another week…).

On Thursday, Justin somehow convinced me to let him come over. Oh, it was also Ms. Jeng’s birthday. Hanchan had taken all of her leftover cake and cupcakes, interestingly, and brought them over to my house. No, I didn’t invite him. One thing I absolutely can’t resist speaking up about is how Hanning always sits on my bed (without asking) when he comes over. I sleep there. After showering every night. It’s clean. Your pants have been in six different chairs in six different classrooms throughout the day. They touch the pee-stained floor when you use the restroom at the high school. I wish you would refrain from rubbing them all over my blankets and my sheets. Also, please don’t put your socks on top of my pillow. My head goes there every night.

I’m really stuck on the topic of “friendship,” especially in the superficiality of society as it is, and even more especially in the superficiality of Arcadia High School. It’s troublesome. I think too much. Thinking is troublesome. Moving on, leaving this topic for another post on another day.

Yes, I am anal about cleanliness. Dust pisses me off. And there’s always so much of it in my room. I can never get rid of it all. I can remove every speck of it in my room, and tomorrow it’ll be just as dusty as it was before. I hate dust. It’s my mortal enemy.

I even bought a air purifier for my birthday present. Yes, instead of asking for a game or a car for my birthday, I asked for an air purifier. Really shows you how much I hate dust.

We watched Denpa Teki na Kanojo, and I’m worried that they didn’t enjoy my choice that much. I really should have shown them Bungaku Shoujo, since I still haven’t seen it yet, and it was sitting on my hard drive, but I stupidly didn’t think of it. I also seem to tend to get excited about anime and disrespectfully spoil things. I would imagine that most people enjoy anime more when watching with someone else, but for me it’s rather awkward, because I have to worry about whether or not the other watchers are enjoying the anime I chose or not, and whether or not that part was appropriate for them to see (Denpa Teki had some pretty adult parts).

Thursday was a tiring night. I conveniently had a history project due the very next day. When finally Hanchan and Justin left, and I was done with the other business I had that day, I sat down with Alfred and began working on the powerpoint. I showed Alfred our song (the version sung by me on both parts), and he approved. He found us videos, and wrote half of the powerpoint. He even wrote a rap, and printed out the lyrics as a review sheet. I loved the pun he made — the rap was a “wrap-up” to our presentation: a “RAP-UP”! Ahahaha~

I had written the song sproadically over the week before. Usually I procrastinate on things like these, but bashing Bush is fun, and I even chose writing the song over watching anime on several occasions. I was originally planning on finding a good MIDI file of the song (“A Whole New World” from Aladdin) and repeating the verses that needed repeating, and then rendering, but Sibelius refused to cooperate, so I ended up taking an instrumental backing recording and cutting it raw in Audacity. It turned out pretty horrible, but I guess that added to the hilarity of our presentation.

I found Alfred to be the perfect partner — we basically finished everything in one night besides the song and rap editing. Less than one night, really — we started at 8 or 9pm.

Friday was quite fun. Here’s period one. Originally I had planned on finishing my entire Game Project in one day (to demonstrate my brilliance as an act of defiance, or in an attempt to seek self-satisfaction), but I didn’t quite finish it on Thursday. I spent Comp Sci on Friday mostly preparing presentation stuff with Alfred, and not doing Comp Sci (not that anyone was doing Comp Sci, really).

Here’s period two. Alfred and I talked about stuff for maybe five minutes, I turned in my math team app, and I did the annoying Formal Logic homework. Period three was orchestra — Smooth sounded so good with full orchestra+percussion! Danzas Cubanas wasn’t bad either. And I had LesMis stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Ah, it’s moments like these when I love Orchestra.

In period four, I explained my leave of absence to Jeng. “Too cool for school, aren’cha?” I didn’t assume she would let me off on writing the narrative essay I heard about, and she didn’t, of course. I really wish my teachers would let me off on classwork and homework for these two weeks. I’m already stressed out enough. Well, teenagers aren’t supposed to expect adults to understand anything.

We also have a presentation in English next week. I really don’t see the point in wasting my time doing these things. This brings me to my convo with Andy last night, but I’ll get to that at the end of this huge post.

My dealings with Jeng took quite a while. I was originally planning on making an illegal trip to El Pollo Loco for some mmmmm– yummy cheese quesadillas. In fact, I had planned the trip a day before. I didn’t get to go, of course, and I ended up having a delicious chicken taco for $2. It was delicious. Seriously. Unexpected.

But of course, what I was really craving were mozzarella sticks. Ugh. Still dreaming about them every night.

In Period 5, I finished the lab I had started on Thursday with this bright man whose name I have yet to request. A lot of work in this class that usually gives no work. Why does it all have to be this week?

Finally, our presentation came to be on a clear Spring day in a classroom.

It was great.

Next up, I had an appointment with Mr. Zhang, my AP Physics B teacher last year. Sometimes I feel that he’s the person who understands me best in this world. If I were to make a list of the people who understand me the best, I would put these four people: my parents, K, and Mr. Zhang. In fact, K would be at the top of the list, actually. (It’s awkward reminding myself not to type K’s full name.)

He had invited me a few days before to do a new  “oscilloscope lab” and I, of course, accepted gladly. I didn’t expect him to also invite two sophomore girls as well, one of them Lucy Chen, who had scored only two points less than me on PhysicsBowl 2011. My impression of her was different from the actual her. I expected her to be similar to me, but she was in fact a talkative, cheerful kid. She completely reminded me of Rose, including her voice. I don’t think anything bad of her, it’s just that her personality didn’t match what I had imagined.

We were soldering circuits. The two girls worked on a frequency generator circuit, while I worked to repair a voltage regulator circuit. I like Mr. Zhang’s soldering gun. It heats up instantly, and its shape is so much more maneuverable than a conventional soldering iron. I failed to fix the circuit, and we tried many, many times to diagnose the problem, including replacing the voltage regulator chip twice, and replacing the resistor twice. Eventually we gave up on the circuit, and he brought out another one, which I was able to set up perfectly. I think there was either something wrong with the chip specifications, since it didn’t match the chip on the working circuit, or that the potentiometer’s range was too low. It was probably the latter — we measured currents of 2.0 A! That’s outrageously high current. It heated up the circuit so much I gave myself a pretty bad burn touching the voltage regulator chip.

We took Mr. Zhang out for dinner that night. Both girls had left, and I was having an extremely enjoyable conversation with him. We talked about biology, school, the future of the Physics Team, math, computers, his future plans, his tutoring program, setting up a website, and my experience with computers. We were interrupted by my mom, who dropped in because my phone was off. We decided to go out for dinner, and Mr. Zhang expressed his desire to eat at a buffet. Zen Buffet was packed to the max, for some reason, so we went to Hometown Buffet. The last time I had gone to Hometown was on Hanchan’s birthday. (I wonder if he dislikes me because of something his dad said that day. We talked a lot, and maybe he got the impression that his dad thought I was his perfect son. Maybe at home his dad gave him a painful lecture. Blah, now I’m overrationalizing.)

Naturally, the conversation drove towards college and my career. I hate talking about that. I hate it. I’m not even going to describe the conversation.

But the food. THE FOOD! I had been craving buffet ever since last Sunday on Mother’s Day. BUT NO! THEY HAD NO MOZZARELLA CHEESE STICKS! I will hate Hometown Buffet for all of eternity.

The other food was quite good, though. I liked the “dirty rice” — I’ve always liked variants of Spanish rice, and this rice was especially good. They also had some New Orleans something-or-other Chicken that was absolutely delicious. God, I want to eat buffet again tonight.

Saturday night was another stereotypical weekend. I didn’t attend ARML, and after much angst, decided to not travel to Las Vegas for the competition. I’m suffering from low self-esteem regarding math (been suffering it ever since 9th grade). One facet is due to the intense competitiveness of mathematics.

The reply to Dr. Merryfield’s email took me six hours to consider. My efficiency has been steadily dropping ever since — I don’t even know when. I haven’t watched anime for days, either.

Besides three weeks of homework that I have to finish, I also have to study physics for camp on Friday. It’s stressing me out. I need to keep up with those crazy academic monsters. I need to. I need to, in order to rescue my blurred self-confidence from a watery death.

The final brick in my tower of stress and worry was a conversation with Andy late at night. I had promised myself I would sleep early. I seriously needed every second I could save. I needed every minute of sleep I could salvage, because I know how hard-pressed I will be for sleep during camp. Yet, I stupidly allowed myself to be drawn into a Skype conversation at night. I told myself I was multitasking, but really.

I don’t know what I feel about Andy anymore. He was my best friend from fourth to fifth grade. We lost contact after that. I’ve always admired him, respected him for his uprightness. I’ve always looked up to him. Yet I feel something wrong, something distasteful about him now. It’s not that he rejected our idea. Now that I consider it, he’s quite right in many ways. It was one line, specifically. One idea that he conveyed during the conversation last night. He said this. He said that he was enjoying his high school life. He said that he wasn’t doing anything for his college apps. He said he was enjoying his high school life, and that his goal wasn’t college.

I can provide a probable reason for this answer, for this statement. His parents probably told him not to do anything for selfish, corrupt reasons like college apps and beating others at this college game. His parents probably told him to do everything for self-improvement, self-enjoyment, and that if he did that, he would naturally surpass others. And it’s really what you’re supposed to say to college admissions officers. You’re supposed to tell them that you learn because you love to, you did all that stupid APENG homework that had no contribution whatsoever to your education because you had fun doing it…

It’s just fishy. It stinks. It’s worse than admitting that you hate the system, and your teachers, and all the pointless work that you have to do every day. It’s very bad that you’re not only putting on the facade to admissions officers, but also to your friends. We’re his friends, right? I probably don’t have the right to say “best” (at least not anymore). I considered him my best friend since fourth grade. He understood me, understood the joy of tinkering with computers, and learning how things worked. I suppose back then, our motivation for learning was criminally sincere. We loved learning.

Maybe he’s still desperately trying to cling to that elementary school sense. Still trying to hold on, long after I had let go.

Once Upon an AP Test

May 4th, 2011

Depressing thing of the day: I got #6 in the free response (AP Calc BC) completely wrong, I think. Sucks, and I feel stupid.

You know, when I get a question wrong, for some reason it’s always Alfred that asks me about that question and makes me figure out I got it wrong. Like, for the F=ma physics competition this year, there was a question about springs that I got wrong, and Alfred asked me about that question, and he got it right. Again, for the PhysicsBowl competition this year, he asked me about a question about how much of the moon was lit during a new moon. Although the moon is completely dark during a new moon, 50% of it is lit at all times (we’re just seeing the unlit side), and I got tricked by that question. It’s always Alfred asking me about the questions I get wrong. If Alfred asks me about a question, so far I’ve always gotten it wrong…

Gotta stop him from asking me questions.

Anyways, today’s “continental breakfast” was pleasant. I swear, the apple juice tasted expired, but my stomach is still holding up so far. The AP test was great (except for that last FRQ), not as great as APCS or APchem, when I had like over 30 minutes of extra time after I was done. If I get a 4 on AP Calc, I swear I’m gonna… murder something. Probably some insect. In cold blood.

Today’s HUSH was awfully boring. Alfred kept flirting with Rose instead of working on our Powerpoint. I don’t mind him flirting with Rose, but he needs to help me work on the project too. Why is this post all about Alfred. Geez. And he won’t even sing for me.

Speaking of which, I’ve added quite a few lines, and fixed a lot of awkward places. Hold on, I’ll record myself singing it.

I’m planning on composing the actual backing instrumentals to this in Sibelius, although I really do not know if I will have time to (presenting next Friday). It’s going to be a lot of work.

Finally, at 6:45 I went to help organize the new Junior Volunteer Orientation at the hospital. We did a skit on “what not to do,” and I played this dying patient while Ricky played the bad volunteer who texted in my hospital room and ignored my cries for water, got annoyed as I started dying, and started kicking me and stepping on me (not for real, haha). Yeah, that was… interesting. Then we introduced our departments. I fail at public speaking (god… how was I -ever- ASB prez of First Ave?), but I think this was a good opportunity to practice.

Central Services basically sets up and delivers equipment all around the hospital, and sorts and delivers supplies like scalpels and gloves to places that order them. We get to go everywhere in the hospital, so we see a little of everything that goes on in the hospital. Although we don’t get to interact with patients as a part of our job, we still see them while we are on deliveries, and are happy to fill their requests, listen to their stories, and give guests directions to places in the maze-like hospital. When we’re not running around the hospital, we sit in our warehouse and sort things into bins, so if you’re interested in that…

^ is what I should have said in my speech roughly, but I failed, evidently.

Okay, I just finished recording it. Damn, it’s so bad I’m not going to post it. I’ll just put it on Skype. Don’t want random people from Estonia opening it and destroying their eardrums.

Mongolian Noodles Worth Dying For

May 3rd, 2011

Wow, I’m getting into the good habit of putting out daily posts.

Besides posting, I was pretty unproductive yesterday. Well, I have high productivity, as in I get things done really fast, but I just don’t do things. Which… I guess means I have very low productivity. Well, high or low, I watched anime yesterday afterschool. Went from extremely backlogged to nothing in less than 5 hours: some pretty amazing speedwatching. Of note this season (besides the standard widely-acclaimed anime of the season, Ano Hana for short) are Ao no Exorcist and, strangely, Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa nai (adapted from a VN by the likes of none other than Navel, the bastards behind SHUFFLE! and the resulting brain wreckage). The latter takes not taking itself seriously very seriously. That’s what a series that doesn’t take itself seriously has to do. The anime staff behind a series that tries to do that must take great pains to ensure that the non-serious-taking-ness is done perfectly. Which is why I like OreTsuba despite its genre and lack of other features so far.

Come to think of it, I didn’t talk about the big news with Osama Bin Laden yesterday. I was in-flight when it happened, so of course I was pretty happy (goddamn @#$%^ AIRPORT SECURITY). Now that I think of it, it could have been dangerous if Al Qaeda had gotten pissed and happened to decide to hijack a plane that happened to be heading toward Los Angeles as revenge for the death of Bin Laden.

Today was AP Comp Sci, which was rather boring. I had at least thirty minutes left over on the free response section — I swear, there’s absolutely no reason why they give us 1 hour and 45 minutes for four freaking questions. I was so bored, I drew manga on my green insert. Badly.

During APCS, I was thinking about heading to El Pollo Loco to get some tacos and BRCs and cheese quesadillas (mmmmmMM!). After all, it’s not very often we can go off campus to get lunch. Later though, I realized it would be a bit too far to walk, so I decided to head to the mall to get some Mongolian BBQ. I was in the middle of the parking lot, and trying to figure out which way would get me to the Food Court faster: going through the main gate of Santa Anita Racetrack and all the way back through the parking lot of the mall, or going back through Gate 8 and through the parking structure. The freaking mall was totally like one minute’s walk away, yet the gate blocking me from my noodles stretched on forever. In the middle of walking to the main gate of the Racetrack, I changed my mind and headed towards Gate 8. I almost got run over by parents of AP takers picking up their kids. The walk took forever — I basically had to walk all the way back to Baldwin before there was finally an opening to the mall side, which already like negated the point of my walking through Gate 8 (and risking my life… never trust Asian drivers).

In the parking lot I nearly got run over two more times, and finally made it into JCPenney (or some store, I can never differentiate between those stupid mall department stores) after giving up on reaching the parking structure with my limbs intact. I then waded through the mall for ten more minutes, completely lost (I never go to the 2nd floor of the mall, and it’s just so huge and hard to navigate). Finally, I made it to the Food Court and started piling mushrooms into my bowl.

By the way, protip for all of you. Mongolian BBQ noodles actually don’t taste good with a lot of meat. I know that they give you a bowl and you can take as much as you can fit, but if you put too much meat, there will not be enough noodles, and it will taste bad because you’ll just be chewing on dry meat. Also, they give you less noodles if you take too much meat.

By the time I began my sprint back towards Arcadia High, it was already 12:21pm. Lunch period ends at 12:43, and those traffic lights on Huntington are a headache. All tired from getting to the mall intact, and carrying my boulder of a backpack, with twenty-two minutes remaining on the clock. Thus began my noon Super High Intensity Interval Training (SHIIT).

Oh yeah… congrats Tim on making Gov Team! You can be our company lawyer and deal with the class-actions after we begin doing business.

Final note: sixth period, me and Alfred are singing for our presentation on the presidency of George W. Bush. It shall be spectacular. I’m W., and he’s Al Gore. Your collective minds will be blown away. Guaranteed.

Spaceflight is a Spectator Sport

May 2nd, 2011

I’m so backlogged on anime it’s not even funny. (Almost two weeks behind, which is like 20 episodes. It would take me 10 hours to catch up.)

Alright, so I’m back. From Florida. Damn NASA scrubbed the launch. It was still fun though. I loved the exhibits at Kennedy Space Center, although the annoying sun made me have to keep swapping my sunglasses and my glasses whenever I went outside or needed to read something. We also went to Downtown Disney (they have one in Florida too). Before, I would totally call this trip a big waste of money, but it’s not good to be that pessimistic, and it’s not entirely true. I did have fun. True, the plane ride (I HATE AIRPLANE AIR) and the stupid alligator park was less than accommodating for me. But it was an interesting trip. I feel bad for my mom’s colleagues who came with us, spending money on plane tickets and all, and didn’t get to see anything. Well, we did see the launchpad, and random secret Air Force Base buildings or whatever. Friggin facility was bigger than LA. So that’s what they’re doing with my tax dollars.

You may have noticed that I have ignored the jubilant subject of US Physics Team. I’ll post magnificently later, I promise.

Anyways, got back last night at midnight. Very tiring. The airport parking lot shuttle was very late. Also, my phone GPS has been very stupid during the trip. It won’t hold a GPS signal in the car unless it’s like, taped to the window.

Other stuff… I was selected as the leader of my department in the hospital for next year (first thing during the interview: “Are you THAT Ben Li? That made it into International Physics Team?”). AP Chemistry this morning was fun. I had some time before the test, so my dad drove us to 7-Eleven to get some food, and I had some donuts. Alhambra HS still does not know where they will be conducting their AP Physics C exam as of today’s phone call. In fact, they just told me to ask at the gate. I’ll just go like 2 hours early then… I’m certain I will have extraordinary trouble finding the test site. Tomorrow is APCS and Wednesday is APBC. Interestingly, Ms. King is having a breakfast pre-AP party thing on Wednesday morning (which is great, I love American breakfasts). She also heard of my Physics Team thing and asked me if I was crazy. “Just a little.”

By the way, people, it’s not “International” Physics Team… although it’s fine really, I don’t mind (we are competing in the International Physics Olympiad/IPhO). We are the US team. Not the international team. I’m sure we could totally pwn the Martians at the Intergalactic Physics Olympiad.

I’ve been thinking to myself about my reactions to people congratulating me on USPT. I’m trying my best to not seem condescending or “of course I made it, I think I’m so smart and all, you guys are all dumbasses and losers”. Of course I’m probably totally overworrying and all. Re-rereading the post (and re-rerereading) to make sure I don’t sound like a stuck-up bastard. I really care about that too much.

Speaking of self-image, I practiced smiling for cameras in Florida. For USPT, we were asked to provide a photo of ourselves. I looked and looked, flipping through my family’s albums… and I could not find a single one where I was smiling. I don’t know, it’s not that I wasn’t having fun. They were pictures of my China trip, and that was one of the greatest times I’ve had in my life. I think I’m somehow unable to smile on camera, or my smiles don’t show up on camera somehow. I try to smile, I do, yet I never look happy in the photos despite my extreme excitement in China. Which is why I devoted myself to studying the art of smiling for the camera in Florida. I improved significantly, according to my mom. My smiles are very stunning and natural, she says.

On launch day, there were so many spectators in Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center watching the launch from a big LCD screen. The parking lot was completely full, and the Visitor Center was packed. I don’t get it — you’re watching it on an LCD screen anyways. Why come all the way to Cape Canaveral? Just watch it on YouTube later.

That’s what I’m going to do.

Five hundred words.

April 24th, 2011

I spent the greater part of my childhood doing what every other kid did: video games; Saturday morning cartoons; trading cards; frolicking around the playground in aimless circles with my playmate entourage in hot pursuit. We pulled pranks on girls and pilfered extra Popsicles during those hot, carefree Californian days. The playground was my empire, the twirly slides my castle spires, and I, high and almighty atop my noble swing, ruled it all. All of a sudden, just as it had begun, I lost interest, and began delving into more mature diversions.

My sudden loss of interest in orthodox childhood pursuits can be attributed to my discovery of books. I devoured the science encyclopedias lying scattered about my home, and savored the taste of knowing how things worked and why things were the way they were — the fundamental questions of physics. After I had depleted my house’s supply of fresh reading material, I plundered my local public library. Isaac Asimov’s organic chemistry primer The World of Carbon and its sequels intrigued me so much, I even learned web design to enshrine its teachings in the stormy internet. My love for technology can be entirely blamed on my parents. My dad got bored one day, sat me down in his lap, and taught me Java. I’ve been coding ever since.

Unlike the golden years of elementary and middle school, my high school experience was not as painless. My fanciful ideals were quickly crushed in the stampede of a competitive, nearly all-Asian public high school. My high school’s in-a-way excellent environment fostered the acceleration of maturity — young adults don’t often meet with this kind of disillusionment until college. It left me — a bubbly, optimistic  newfound teenager — with a jaded mindset that led me to believe that knowledge and problem-solving skills were expendable commodities in the real world, as they were in the microcosm of Arcadia High School.  That’s when I met Mr. Zhang, the teacher of my AP Physics B class.

He led me back through the spectacular world of physics, gently answering my strangest questions, and rekindling my inspiration. Along with one of his former students, he guided me through my intense study of physics. I would like to deeply thank Vincent Li, a member of last year’s US Physics Team, and my physics teachers Mr. Shenyang Zhang and Mr. Mauricio Eguez for their boundless support of my pursuits. Your encouraging words and friendly advice have changed my life forever.

I look forward to getting to know all of you at this year’s camp!