On nationalism, travel and culture

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So I was sitting in my Math class a couple of weeks ago, mentally reading out the equation I was supposed to be solving. "x + y + z" ... "ex plus why plus zee" --

Hold up. ZEE? Had I really just thought that in my head? As someone who learned the alphabet ended in Zed, this was a mindblow moment for me. Had I spent enough time here in the USA to become, God forbid, one of them? Had all the teasing of my slightly curled 'r's over the summer really been a reflection of a changed national identity? Should I try to turn back? Should I just plow forward and become full blown 'MURICAAANNN?

Yeah, it's comical. Here I was questioning everything I had ever known about the alphabet in a multivariable calculus class in my fourth semester of college. To be fair, this experience, coupled with a few other things I've been thinking about for a while led me to wonder what my thoughts were on changing culture as a result of travel, and how this all fit in with nationalism. So I guess here's my exploration of my thoughts in writing.

To start -- Let's be real, nationalism is huge in the US. From awkward Annenberg dinners where people would stand up and sing Stars and Stripes, or Primal Scream where dozens of naked bodies chanted "U-S-A!" with a large American flag while they ran through the Yard, American patriotism is kind of inescapable here, and it's led to the 11% of us who are international students to be left confused and awkward in our seats waiting for the national anthem to end and for our friends to sit back down to continue our dinner conversations.

I've never really been a fan of nationalism, since I think it leads to a lot of unnecessary competition and unhealthy antagonism purely out of "my country is better than yours". Sure, I like to wave around New Zealand's history of social progressiveness and recent ranking of #1 in the world in terms of freedom and social mobility, but that's really out of a response to the rampant patriotism here than anything else. Given the possibility, I'd love for all countries to have such good records of freedom and social welfare, as well as all the things that New Zealand is perhaps not so good at.

Furthermore, as an international student who is not only from New Zealand but who was also born in China, I'm not really sure what to make of my national identity. I feel like a lot of my experience gained from all these places I've lived has impacted me and the way I think about things now. So, why categorize myself under only one nationality? Like a magpie, I could just collect customs that I like from places that I visit. If this means I prefer and use the pronunciation of the letter 'z' to be Zee rather than Zed, so be it. Someone did bring up a particularly convincing argument that it makes the alphabet song rhyme.

There are many things I've picked up in the states, which I'm not going to be ashamed for on accounts of "becoming one of them", thanks friends at home who will nonetheless tease me about it. Likewise, there are plenty of things I've grown up with and probably would never change about myself brought over from New Zealand and as part of my family's Chinese background, even if it means being a perpetual foreigner and being seen as "Un-American" (to be honest, the Americans have enough of a problem accepting their own citizens as part of their nationality, so I'm not even going to try to qualify).

Another thing that makes me go "Hmmm" is the recent-ish (okay, like one or two months ago) controversy surrounding a Harvard Grad's opinion on Auckland University's policy for international student, which Alice Wang has an excellent piece in the Herald about. What makes me go Hmmm is all the comments saying that the university exists to serve its national students and its national students only. Also talk about immigrants ruining the country. I don't really understand it, possibly because I live in Auckland and have no concept of the rest of the country's perception of multiculturalism. Regardless,  I feel like this inner-country centric thinking is somehow doomed to fail. The world is more open than it ever was and you get weird people like me who don't really know where they belong floating around everywhere, and that's kind of a great thing.

Maybe because I've been an international student here, and it can be kind of isolating when you're constantly reminded that you are second-class (what are the words the government uses? Oh yes, NON-RESIDENT ALIEN) compared to regular citizens.

In my ideal world, one would be able to travel around until they find a place where they feel like they really fit in and enjoy the culture of the place and just be able to live there like anyone else. And if or when they get bored of it -- go somewhere else for a few years, why not? This of course would only be truly ideal after we fix all the problems in most of the world right now, but let's at least try to work toward that goal instead of turning inwards and shutting off our borders to everyone outside out of what -- xenophobia? fear of culture dilution? economic failure? 

In whatever case, my passport has a silver fern on it but I'd like to be considered a citizen of the world if I could. All I want is to be able to ride an American sheep while eating escargot with foie gras and have Gelato for dessert with chopsticks. On top of a kangaroo. (And those those are just the places I've seen so far :p!,) 

One of the 1%

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I wonder if they know how it feels, those knife-eyes on the street, the picket-sign waves of the 99%, outside my office. I wonder if they have lived my rather yacht-less, mediocre 1-bedroom apartment life. My suit tailored with bleeding, pricked hands in the middle of the night in my kitchen, next to the drip-dripping of a faucet that our landlord has promised us to be fixed but still isn't, smashed dishes strewn across the ground from a fight that left me here alone with our son, barely asleep in the next room.

I wonder if they see through me, entering the workplace in the morning in my grandfather's old jacket and changing, ashamed, in the bathroom before I begin my day on the floor. I wonder if any of the wandering subway-sitters notice me and think anything of this seemingly scruffy man getting on at the Wall Street station.

The beggars on the train plead with tears in their eyes that I spilled on the floor of the hospital, hands shakily taking the scan from the light box of my son's small body.

Leukemia, they told us it was.

Since that day, my life began to be defined by sterile white walls and the sickly smell of too-clean fluids. A new page wiped clean of joy with rubbing alcohol which only stung our eyes and hearts. The insurance company wouldn't give us anything after they learned about the condition, and then of course She left in grief.

So I look at these picketers and bitter folk, and question What was I to do? 

I bluffed my way to the trading floor with only medical fees in mind, yet they continue to make me feel guilty for the riches I have apparently stolen from them, for the weekends I do not spend holidaying away from my son's bed, for the checks I hand off solemnly and dutifully to the white-coats; they continue to spit at my ugly faux-leather shoes and scream injustice as if my life were better than theirs.

I wonder if they know what it's like, seeing their angry faces and feeling shame and embarrassment for my profession, the only thing that will put food on the table and keep my son alive. I wonder if they would trade places with me if they did.

On days where I feel soulless, I am probably twice as bitter as any of them -- and it is not because of greed.

springbreak or something

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Hi it's spring break!

The first half of the semester is terrible and makes me want to bury myself in a cave.

This sheep is me and the fence is CS124.


But spring break is fun! I went skiing for the first time for real (I have technically been once before but never got off the bunny slope and nobody really taught me properly so I decided that it doesn't really count as skiing) -- we went to Butternut Ski Resort in the Berkshires (Western Mass / North NY state) and stayed at Adam's grandparents' place. I learned to pizzawedge and turn and it was fun, though I move at the pace of a snow snail because I am afraid to crash into a tree. Did a few runs of the mountain over the two days, and I even did some "more difficult" trails! Though I never once made it down the mountain without falling derp. Alexpong has a great video of me falling for apparently no reason after moving a vertical distance of about 1m.

skiing success!

This was additionally an excellent opportunity to try out our cooking chops (hehe, puns). So, we took to the supermarket and bought ingredients for 4 days of cooking :3 We ended up broiling strip steak with mashed potatoes and green beans for the first night, chili and cornbread for the second night, stirfry for the third night and short ribs + egg noodles for the last night. Of course, interspersed with Josh's apple crumble and banana bread and bacon and omelettes in the mornings, this meant that we ate like kings. We wondered why HUDS could not provide such quality on a daily basis.

broil broil broil drool


We also watched the Lego Movie yesterday in our rest day. I really miss having the time to go out and watch an inordinate number of movies. I suppose it also puts some relief on my wallet but still, the time is swallowed by the abyss of CS124 and I dislike it very much.

So after those few days in the snow, we took to the van again and drove down to New York City :) Alex nearly crashed trying to parallel park, but I probably would have crashed it for real. I managed to meet up with Tony also, since his spring break coincidentally lines up with ours. We also ate more noms food like ramen, desserts at Spot, 20c dumplings with hand pulled noodles in Chinatown, and sushi~
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coconut cheese cake with coconut + basil ice cream!

look its a tony

omg my phone screwed up this entry due to parallelism problems so i had to reupload everything :(

I'm still alive

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I just haven't had the time to update yet.
But seriously I'm alive.

Look you can keep track of how alive I am by the phoots I post every second day.

Back at college

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qq why snow qq go away


I guess since the last time I updated, I went to Fiji, hung out with my friends and family in NZ, and that's pretty much it before I came back here. Nothing of particular note took place, it was a lot of eating out and barbeques, snorkeling and sea kayaking and sunbathing in Fiji (the fish are so cute! And the water is super clear so after kayaking out we could see the coral underneath the water and the weather was gorgeous that day except obviously I didn't take my camera kayaking so I didn't take any pictures).

One of my most enjoyable last days was getting stranded in Mt Roskill with Yujie because her car broke down while we were driving on the way to brunch. Lol ok maybe not that exact moment (though it was somewhat humourous in retrospect), but I enjoyed the day overall and seeing the cute bunnys dogs ands peacocks at the pukeko cafe :3 And spending time with her ofc! +1 totally should visit me

Trying to sort out my classes currently. No idea what to do. Taking CS124 (data structures and algorithms), Math 21a (multivariable calc) and 2 others .. but all the classes I want to take are lotteried lol. US 35 seemed interesting (class about education policies in the US), and I guess I'll hold out for Thursday's VES 19 class to see what that's like. I also woke up early today to go to a product design class (ES 22) which was pretty cool too, but 9am seems early hahaha.

I have been trying to declutter my life recently. I made a new years resolution to not buy any clothes for the entire year. Also, I need to throw old clothes out, esp my old jeans that don't fit well / have holes in them from overwear. :/ Maybe it is a result of that, but I feel like I need to have a cleaner blog layout now too lol. I haven't changed this layout since like 2011 or 2010 if I recall #lazy. Not sure if I will ever get around to it either haha.

Uhhh... I wish I had more substantial things to write about. I noticed a lot of things I wrote about in high school were actually about nothing / enjoying life / chilling out / not serious topics. I also feel like I am currently not qualified enough to talk about any serious topics / other people talking about them have already said serious things and I don't know what I can add to the discussion. I can also share my thoughts about things (any requests?) but I feel like this may be slightly narcissistic. But if you want me to share my thoughts and opinions about a particular topic, please let me know so I can be inspired haha. I have been thinking of doing a post about religion for a while since it seems my thoughts about it are somewhat uncommon (in my experience anyway), but I wanna hear what ppl are interested in first :)


OH ALSO!! My friend Serena got together with a few friends and made an intellectual online magazine targeted toward young girls and women -- please support her and visit at www.hvngrymag.com -- you can even submit content (credited or anonymous), and it already has some great content on there and it only just launched last week. So proud to know her hehe.


And lastly here is a shameless plug: Alex and I started the 365 a photo a day thing on tumblr -- we're alternating days so it's slightly easier to keep on it (I'm on evens, he's on odds), so please support us :) We've only been doing it for 9 days so far (tomorrow's the 10th), though some people have already thought we failed because they thought we started on Jan 1. Unfortunately we missed that memo but hopefully we still finish sometime after the new years in 2015 haha.

HERES THE TUMBLR: http://phootgraphs.tumblr.com


Today's phoot of the day by alexpong

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Requested: FBU Essay 2013

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Disclaimer: This is my essay from FBU's application last year. I don't know how they chose the group of freshmen, so it could very well be that this essay is not actually a good essay (nor do I claim that it is a good essay in any way haha). But, since I was asked for it, I just put it here so anyone who wants it can have it so it's fair.

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Prompt: In one page, please describe how you think mobile technology can help the world become more open & connected?


A study by Netguide NZ this past week showed that 84% of smartphone owners say they use their device daily, and 45% of say they use their device more often than in the last year. Similarly, 44% of laptop owners say they use their laptop more often, but PC owners predominantly reported using their PCs less (26%) or the same amount (53%). I am currently sitting on a bus from Boston to New York City, and in my very limited field of vision I can spot 3 laptops and 4 smartphones out and being used, all while the vehicle is in motion. Mobile technology is clearly everywhere, its ubiquity waiting to be taken advantage of.

By its very definition, mobile technology is designed to be carried around – it follows every one of us in our daily lives and if it were a person, would probably know more about us than our closest friends or family members. Through a combination of this fluid mobility and communication technology, it becomes possible to reach anyone, anywhere and at any time as long as they are carrying a mobile device. Personal information transfer in particular becomes almost instant; I can ask a favor of a friend in New Zealand for my roommate in Massachusetts, put them in touch with a high school classmate in Paris -- all while sitting on this bus – and boom, three people who would otherwise never have met are in contact with each other.

Mobile communication gives people a reason to connect with each other. It may seem strange for many to speak up to a stranger in real life, but because mobile communication and especially social networking sites like Facebook make it much easier for someone to show who they are at a glance online, it becomes easy to filter those who we would like to get to know better – I find out that she likes the same bands that I do so I know we have at least one point of common interest to talk about. Though this increased transparency of society is a double-edged sword in terms of privacy issues, as this balance is fine-tuned it is clear that the potential to make the world a more open forum for any discussion at all is rooted in this technology. The free internet is by definition open: an open space for anyone to express themselves, to share their experiences.

Furthermore, these waterholes of open experiences are for anyone to drink from. The way mobile communication keeps the world connected is obvious, but the full extent to which it does may be underestimated. The internet itself is unequivocally a gold mine of experiences to learn from: websites like Reddit or Quora allow people to learn about things they may never come across in their own lives, an opportunity to live the life of someone else for a short paragraph or thread. However, when this potential for knowledge growth is coupled with mobility, its effects are multiplied. In a world where people are more active, doing more things outside of their homes, moving around not only within their own cities but between them as well as abroad, mobile technology becomes indispensable in the sharing of experience.

As an international student, I can’t imagine losing contact with my friends back home, as I learn from their experiences just as I tell them about mine. We live different lives, but for a few seconds with the use of a messenger app on my iPhone, maybe on the short walk to class, we connect and our experiences collude. Mobile technology has the ability to exponentially grow human knowledge and experience and make everyone richer for it, with minimal effort and no strings attached (literally. Thank God for cordless phones!).

The social impacts of mobile technology are enormous. For the first time in history, it is possible to ask a stranger online how to prepare for a technical interview on Quora while sitting in the waiting room, to learn the ins and outs of the safe industry on Reddit in a matter of minutes and to find out more about someone than you would be able to in the timespan of a first meeting simply by seeing their Facebook profile. While whether this is positive or negative is widely debated, one thing is clear: the impact is there and it is acting every day. If we can harness its effects, mobile technology could very well be change the ways in which humans communicate with and learn from each other.

2014 it's lovely to make your acquaintance...

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... but did you really have to come down in a fit of rain?



Wow what do I even say? 2013 felt so new and then it was old again. A lot happened and I learned a whole heap of stuff? Uh...

In the ways of recent things, I've been home for a week and quite a few people have said that my accent has become Americanized. HOWEVER -- yesterday I was in Sylvia Park and the cashier lady at Life Pharmacy asked if I'd like to sign up for their membership, and when I said I don't live in the country she was confused because I had an NZ accent :P so there.

So since I came back, I went shopping a few times, baked a few cakes, watched some movies (The wolf on wall street, rush, the bling ring, the winnie the pooh movie, frozen -- can I just gush about how great Frozen was? I went in with pretty high expectations since everyone I know who's seen it had such great things to say about it, and I still left with those magical disney feels.), and hung out with people I haven't seen in a while.

Oki now I suppose I'll reflect on last year's resolutions:

1) The Usual Academic Resolution 
Lol my GPA dropped from last year to this year. It's okay. I think this semester I got stressed out at times because of the workload, and I was made to think that I was a workaholic. I'm still somewhat dubious about the extent to which this is true, but there's no denying that my grades are important to me; I like to know I'm doing well and they're an indication of whether I'm on the right track in grasping ideas. Learning is important to me.

2) The Usual Exercise-Related Resolution 
Oh god. I had a pretty good streak going through the summer when I ran every day for 15 minutes, but after college started again that kind of died. Tried to do an assisted pullup this semester with ~100lb assist and still died. Why so weak? Idk... I also went to a hapkido session (a -- yes singular). I learned how to do some basic grabs and how to fall, and my body was surprisingly sore the next day. Badminton seems to be full of graduate students so I don't go very often at all :/ Now I'm a blob again. Alexpong let's exercise properly next semester for real though.

3) The Usual Social Resolution -- New and Old Friends 
I met so many new people this year! Probably because of a new year at college, and also traveling in the summer. Different people are so intriguing, and I also really enjoyed getting to know people I didn't really spend that much time with before even though we both knew of each other's existence, like George over the summer! It's of course harder to do that in NZ since I'm not here most of the time, but I'm trying to catch up with people when I come back and keep positive relationships :)

4) Create a more comfortable self. Don't slip back into fickleness. 
Looking back, I'm somewhat convinced that I had some kind of social anxiety issue when I was younger. I'm still sometimes like this but I'm definitely more open and confident about certain events. Eg. before, every time before I had to meet anyone new or talk to shopkeepers even, I'd get a little bit panicky (my heartrate would rise) and I'd have to run through what I was going to say in my head before I said it. Actually in class whenever I had to speak my ears used to get really red because I didn't like public speaking that much. College has helped somehow, I'm not entirely sure how it happened -- I do have a theory that because it forces you to reflect on yourself and make your own decisions often, I am less able to be simply an observer on the wall and actually have to proactively do things day to day, so I'm less involved in other's lives and more in my own (this has had an odd side effect in that I'm not as good as remembering people as I used to be, and I also stalk people's lives less since I don't have the time).

5) Be more patient with others, less self-absorbed, think of others' needs. 
I'm trying very hard to be more selfless, especially in my relationship and with my friends. I think I do have a tendency to be impatient at times (more so when I am disgruntled to begin with), but I'm trying to control it better. I think outwardly facing most people I don't know very well can't really tell, but I'm still trying to get rid of the inner conflict of putting myself before others and thinking of my own interests first. I do sometimes worry about being taken advantage of, but I believe (logically at least) that the overall thing I'm trying to achieve will have more positive net impact than negative.

6) Gain experience in the field. Try get an internship, see if CS is the right path for you 
I declared CS! :) I'm officially a CS major eee how exciting. With a minor in Studio Arts :) Anyway, 2 summers at Facebook should be enough to see if I like the software engineering path. I did have some reservations after agreeing to come back for the summer, and everything else suddenly looked so much more appealing (psychology of seeing things you can't have anymore I suppose). I've decided that next year I will try to get something in the film industry or do some research. Gotta get out of the SE bubble and try something new. I am leaning toward grad school after college currently but still mostly unsure about what I want to do with the rest of my life.

7) Read more 
Books I read for pleasure this year:
Lolita, Vladimir Nobakov
Inferno, Dan Brown
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
Golden Bones, Sichan Siv
Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman

Eep that's around 1 per 2 months. I could do better.

8) As always, Have more reasons to smile than frown.
Haha of course. I still think I'm the luckiest person in the world. :)

Some resolutions for 2014?
1) Be a hard worker and don't get lazy
2) Learn more about the world eg. take a few history classes!
3) This belly flab has got to go }:(
4) Learn how to web one way or another
5) Take more time to do art
6) Watch your spending and exercise self control. A few good things is better than a lot of crap...
7) Commit to bettering the communities you're a part of. Don't take on too much so you can focus on concentrated impact.
8) :) > :( have a great year!

A TWELVE HOUR LAYOVER

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If I'd known this was how it would have turned out, I would have taken the later flight out of Boston and taken the $300 travel credit. This sucks. My 730 flight was delayed til midnight and thus a 8 hour layover (which is already the longest I've ever had) turns into a 12 hour layover :(

Luckily I managed to nab myself a table at the gate so I can bum around here and hog it for the next 4 hours.

Now I guess I will just write about random things.


First thing's first -- here is a picture of the Harvard turkey/one of the Harvard turkeys (I have yet to confirm how many there actually are running around, since I only ever see one at once). isn't he cute?! Actually I have no idea if it's a he or a she. Actually it's probably a she isn't it? Since there's no crown... do turkeys have crowns? :/


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Here's something I thought of during the summer:
    Isn't it cute how pedestrian lights beep at one another for the blind? Their calls are staggered, such that the one on my side starts the call and the one across the road responds instantaneously; a conversation breaks out between the two sides as I cross the road, all the cars at the intersection stopped as if to listen to the exchange. It almost seems as if they are not only guiding us across safely, but also catching up with each other, telling the stories of what they've observed throughout the day from their vantage points on opposing corners. It's even more amusing when there is a 4 way intersection that all lights green at the same time -- oh, the commotion, the energetic blabbering of a full mahjong table awakening on the intersection! All this while a patient rectangle of cars sits still, waiting for the conversation to cease and the business of the day to continue.

I wonder if anyone else has ever thought of it that way, or if I'm just a weirdo. George certainly thought so when I brought it up while crossing and listening to the chirpy back-and-forth.

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My finals are over and I think my final class grades come out tomorrow. My compilers final turned out to be 25 true/false questions which I thought was rather trollish of the professor, and also caused me to do pretty horribly (I got a 68. That's a 17/25 -- I probably would have done better on a real exam =_=). However the final grade for the class that the TF provided was a 91, so hopefully not everyone in the class got a 95 or something, and then I should be fine... Math was okay, I'm not really sure how I did, I got a similar feeling from the midterms which means I probably scored around an 85% which is not horrible but not really as high as I was hoping for. Well, we'll see I guess. Systems was horrible for everyone, so I actually have no idea what to think lol.

This semester was pretty challenging I think, my longest pset took almost 30 hours no contest, the average time spent with Lukas on compilers was 20 hours a week, I was 1.5 weeks late (past the allowed late days post-deadline) for a certain systems pset, my VES animation looks like a derp's work, and I discovered that not doing math for a year makes one super rusty on math related things. So, yay! But, I learned a lot and had fun.

Oh! I am also serving as AAA's publicity chair for the coming year. So I get to make posters and publicize events and stuff, which should be fun :)

And next semester, I'm going to be a TF for CS51! Watch me be terrible at OCaml and not know what is going on haha. Actually when one of the lecturers called me to tell me that I got the job, I was in Chinatown and we'd just lost half the people we were with so I thought it was one of them calling me, so before I got who it was on the other line I yelled HEY WE'RE OVER HERE and waved really extravagantly in real life. The guy was like "huh...??? This is Jesse from CS51..." I was like OHH OMG IM SORRY herp. #embarrassment i am just a special flower ok

I also bought a 3DS over thanksgiving JUST for the new Phoenix Wright game and have been very diligently finishing it up. I'm on the DLC case now which I'm almost done with. It was very fun. Now I can give it away lol.

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The day after finals finished, I went out for dimsum in chinatown with Alex, Tony and Patrick as Tony's last meal before he went home. Then, Alex and I decided to walk around for a bit and take photos. We kind of went wandering because we didn't know where to go and we found this really weird tube thing:





It just sounded like if you put your ear next to a shell. You could kind of hear the ocean. Maybe it was supposed to be cool if a boat went by or something, but it was weirdly underwhelming for such a large device. Anyway look you can also see all the snow. I did not enjoy the snow as much as I did last year. I guess it gets old really fast. It's too cold, and turning into slush is disgusting. At least I have waterproof shoes this year. Last winter was kind of nasty with wet feet :(

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Here's a concept design for my personal website I threw together this afternoon at the airport in photoshop. I have no idea how I'm going to code it at all because I don't code websites. It might be a fun learning experience or I might get frustrated and give up and it might never come to fruition. So here's the beginning concept anyway lol.


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Okay I passed an hour. Most of the time spent was waiting for the images to be uploaded lol. Ummmm.... maybe I will finish Phoenix Wright now? Or I could keep reading Orange is the new Black (I just bought it at the airport book store! I actually wanted to read the Joy Luck Club but they didn't have it in stock). OR maybe I should actually take advantage of the desk I have and start trying to code this thing up? 

... nahhhhhh #lazy

A Guest Post: lol quora

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Quora is the biggest pseudo-intellectual circlejerk ever. While there are many posts that are informative, I'm not sure if the community really can sustain itself. It's a platform for people to feel important about themselves, rather than a place for real experts to answer questions.


You can say that the necessity to login with a real identity and the culture of writing long articles to respond to questions means a higher quality experience, but fundamentally people stick to the groupthink that they know will get voted higher on the page. Because most of the time it's not always facts that are being used to answers on Quora. They're just opinions being cleverly disguised as facts. That's not a good way to answer a question. -____- And if the question was really about asking for an opinion in the first place, Quora is not at all the best platform to get an optimal answer for it. There's absolutely no room to debate. 

Quora generally has two types of answers, the answers to factual questions, and feel good stories/positivity. Then there are the gems about once in a lifetime experiences that probably should be shared. These are good.  While the answers to the factual questions may be helpful, they are really just establishing a relationship between questions and facts that could be pulled from Wikipedia. I don't think feel good stories contribute much to Quora's goal of increasing the world's knowledge. In fact, they just feed into the whole groupthink mentality.  




Bitch, get off Quora and take your butthurt tears to College Confidential. Quora users shouldn't even answer these questions. But they do because of the allure of upvotes. 

I know this will get a lot criticism, but it's the same problem that every site that has upvotes has. Quora is just particularly bad because a real name is associated with it. So people try their best to maintain approval of others. I'm predicting that in the future, just like Reddit, Quora will be used as a marketing tool. At that point it won't be any better than BuzzFeed. 

Here's a potential solution for Quora. Implement an anonymous upvote system that doesn't contribute directly the first answer to a question. Instead, it should influence a machine learning algorithm that actually picks the best posts. I'm sure the engineers there are already working on the machine learning - they just need to cut the stupid public upvotes. Give everyone on Quora a "tenure" of sorts and let them speak their mind without fear of getting downvoted to oblivion. 

UH. LAST DAY OF THE MONTH.

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Rush update for those who for some reason still think my boring daily goings-on are relevant to their lives
 
Things that have been happening in my life since October:

1) CS61 problem set coinciding with illness = homework incomplete and more than 1 week late. It does not help that the faucet brand KOHLER yells at me every time I wash my hands this thanksgiving, reminding me of work that needs to be done once I get back on campus. (Background: The professor for this class is called Prof Kohler. He is an ass. professor. See his twitter it's hilarious no regrets)
 

2) Outtakes from my 3D animation class!


Is a platypus controlling guitars inside a guitar. I know, VES is kind of weird. (actually is just me)

 Actually I've been frying my CPU rendering frames for this entire week, I still have 1 scene left but I think I might have to do some more because there are some timing issues that I'm not sure how to deal with (maybe post process them away?). The image above was rendered in 1080p but I decided not to do this since I have something like ~1500 frames and 1080p = 2.2mb frames each so that = death for my computer / not being able to finish rendering in time, so I'm doing them at 720p instead (still huge, but not as time consuming and hopefully I'll be able to have something to hand in on time)

3) Food! Yay thanksgiving :) 
Dat 20lb turkey. 

I came to New York to stay with Alex for Thanksgiving this year, not so much for the same reasons as last year (because I wanted to explore the city) as just really wanting to get off campus because I've been stuck there since the beginning of semester and a break was just needed. I didn't really explore much this time which was fine, it was supposed to be a relaxing break from the hecticness of college which I think it has been, even though this break is pretty short. Anyway I got to hang out with his family and high school friends, which was pretty fun. I miss my friends back home too now :(

4) Black friday shopping! Things I bought include sweaters, sweaters, sweaters, cardigan, sweaters, a new scarf and winter hat (since I left my white scarf in CS61 a couple of weeks ago because I was too dazed/destroyed after the midterm to remember to take it with me, I felt justified in getting another white scarf), another red dress (I like red dresses), and one of those super ultra light down jackets from uniqlo because I'm a wagon-jumper. Also ordered and waiting for Nintendo 3DS to arrive so I can play the new phoenix wright game and then give it away to my brother over Christmas haha. And sweaters.


5) The big Harvard-Yale game was this last weekend, we went down together and I had a lot of fun :) I went to the ViSA/Phillipine forum mixer and met a Tony Sun clone, their campus is sooo pretttyyyy and their parties a lot more fun (more money being thrown at undergrads #notatharvard). I felt almost bad that we wont 34-7. It was like we came into a better village and robbed and pillaged it after enjoying drinks at the pub the night before. I stayed with a friend of a friend who turned out to be from Christchurch, which was cool. He jokingly snobbed the Hershey's Cadbury chocolate we brought to say thanks for letting us stay lols (I don't blame him. I can't wait to come home and get some legit Cadbury either)

Yale Library, the non-gothic architecture on campus.  Sorry not sorry for being artsy.
Also because I haven't actually unloaded my memory card yet because no chance to because my computer is being used for rendering. Also because I don't think I actually look any good photos that entire weekend anyway sigh. I think my filter is dusty actually, I always get weird blobs when I take pictures of the sky with the kit lens. Ews :/ Cleaning to do when I get home


6) Arthur turned 21! We went and stunk up my clothes with korean bbq and called it a night. Jk but I really like kalbi though and am sad that my scarf still smells like korean bbq oils. But kalbi tastes so gooodddd. Other recent (?) food expeditions include Yamato and Bibim with HVA. Is good. Oh also I finally got to see Jesse's white Maserati in person. It's a very nice shiny car that's not too over-the-top other than the brand logo. I like it tho (y)

7) Looking forward to coming home for the holidays! My poor feets and hands are struggling to keep themselves toasty in this weather. I bought winter socks and still have gloves but I would really just prefer to be in summer right now. Especially since my news feed is popping up pictures of beaches and people out of school right now in NZ and I still have to sit finals qq. SOON! Also my family decided to go to Fiji this summer so I will get fried in the sun even though I just lost my summer tan. Sunscreen levels must rise.

Thoughts that come to mind because I haven't updated in 2 months and feel guilty

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1) I haven't had much free time at all since college started. Classes were kind of crazy a while back. It's lightened up a little bit in terms of workload but I still have back to back assignments every week which is kind of a bummer. Anyway I'm taking 4 classes this semester: Systems, Compilers, 3D Animation and Linear Algebra/DiffEqs. It's a lot of work but I'm surviving maybe.

2) I think I'm getting kind of sick. Almost lost my voice tonight at office hours

3) I did office hours for ~4.5 hours tonight pretty sure. Also it was encouraging because I was able to help people with a problem set I struggled with last year, so I felt like I grew in that sense.

4) I noticed the other day that it's less frequent that we use "brb" in texting/messaging these days, because before people would sit down at their computer and say brb when they went away from the keyboard, but now with the rise of mobile technology it's less and less needed because people will always just have their phones with them on the go anyway. Will we see the death of "brb" and especially "afk" soon??? (I think afk only exists in gaming now)

5) I bought heart of the swarm and haven't played with it. #thingstododuringwinterbreak

6) I need to rewrite my resume

7) I need to redo my website. My portfolio domain is going to expire soon #thingstododuringwinterbreak

8) A group of us went to MIT to hackathon a couple of weeks ago and we won Galaxy S4s! They haven't arrived yet.

9) I miss home

10) I think I have lost 2 water bottles this semester already and I am sad.

11) I am going to meet with the Concentration adviser tomorrow to sort out my concentration declaration! :D I feel like a real college student now. I will have an official major.

12) I have recently been into doodling platypuses in class.

13) I have too many belongings here and I don't know how to get rid of them. I think I could live out of my backpack and my underwear/tshirt drawer for a week if I needed to. And the only reason I wouldn't last more than that is because I need to change jeans. Oh, I guess I need to shower every day too though, so I also need a towel.

14) My laptop trackpad got screwed up at hackMIT because I installed some weird trackpad driver and it hasn't been the same since T_T Also my laptop randomly shuts down when it's asleep and I have no idea why :/

15) OSX Mavericks sounds like it's got a lot of sick features. It should be really nice to use after all the bugs have been straightened out

16) Am I invisible and only exist when people need stuff from me?


Here is a platypus jump kick

I do not know how to construct a "good" sandwich

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Google images because I can
inb4brokenlink in 2 months time


"Bacon, lettuce, tomato and pepperjack cheese", he said excitedly, biting into his self-made sandwich. I'd always been somewhat impressed with his sandwich-making abilities, but it wasn't until he said that that I started questioning what exactly makes a "good" sandwich? Did it make a difference that he'd chosen pepperjack cheese instead of some other kind? If not, why would he have specified what kind of cheese it was? I'd made sandwiches for him in the past, though I can't quite remember exactly what his feedback was at this moment, but he'd always think I was weird for putting certain combinations of things together between slices of bread. I grew this expectation of a "proper" framework for sandwich-making, which I suppose is kind of true -- for instance, bacon, lettuce and tomato do seem to go together quite well, but in my opinion the turkey-lettuce combo that the dining halls here offer can be majorly improved with a slice of cheese and a fried egg. A lot of people give me alien looks when I say I like to put eggs in my sandwiches.

"That's not what you're supposed to do," they say. But the more sandwiches I have made, the more I started to realize that though certain things are 'supposed' to universally go together, there's definitely no real rules to sandwich construction -- just because most people I've come across think I'm strange for putting eggs in my sandwiches doesn't mean I'm going to stop doing it anytime soon. Though, disclaimer here, I still don't have much of an idea of what to put in a sandwich given the ample choices of the ingredients bar here, and oftentimes I experiment with salad dressings on my salads and I'm pretty sure certain vinaigrettes that I use are not meant to be used with the things I put in my salads. However, this whole dining hall debacle has made me realize something bigger about the world, which is that nobody really knows what they're doing.

There are lots of 'accepted' rules about how we should do certain things, but there are just as many, if not more, ways to experiment with our own ways of doing things. Since I've always been a pretty logical person and tried to define everything in terms of rules and exceptions to those rules, it was a weird thing to realize growing up that not everything fits into boxes all the time.

The first time I bought something and it didn't work, I didn't know what to do with myself. It just seemed ridiculous that something professionally made could ever be imperfect. What's more, it started happening so often that I thought there was something wrong with the way I was doing things. I am still weirdly frustrated when things don't work because I don't know how to respond to the event. I am never quite sure whether I am doing something wrong or whether the thing I am using is actually just broken. For example, I am pretty sure that the fender that came with my bike over the summer actually just doesn't fit in the wheel, but I was also equally convinced that the rack didn't fit on either, but at the end of the summer I was able to work out how to attach the rack, so to this day I still have no idea whether the fender's inability to attach was my fault or the manufacturer's.

What complicates this whole ordeal is the fact that it's often positive to be creative and come up with better ways to solve problems that might be unconventional. However, I always second guess myself because I figure that if it were really a better way, surely someone else would have thought of it already, so the way that I thought of must be inefficient in some way since it's not widely accepted. I always get excited when I think of something and start doing things in a certain way, and then find someone else who does it in the same way, even though it's not conventional. I guess it's just confirmation that I'm not totally on the wrong track if someone else prefers it my way too.

I wish I had some moral here like people shouldn't be afraid to make up their own ways of doing things, because the world is not always going to provide a defined way for you, but I'm not really sure if that's the answer.

Being in college and growing up is kind of a weird time in my life. Though my ego likes to think I know all the answers, that's really not the case.

Read this only if you want to know useless things about my life

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I want to make a blog post but I can't think of anything to say. I guess I feel like all the important things I've already shared with one person or another, and I can pull it up anytime I want, and I don't want to write anything super article-like because I just don't have the brainpower for that right now, and also I just don't want to type all that much since I've been typing all day.

Also the wifi here is terrible, and I am sore and broken from getting destroyed this weekend at Yosemite and then wrecking my knee while tripping up an escalator at the airport. #clumsywinnie

I'm 20 now, I guess that's cool. I couldn't take the red couch cake pic this year tho since I'm not home. My parents were around a few days before so we had a nice dinner, and then my friends here did a little surprise birthday dinner that was really nice and I was super slow to realize haha, even after we were seated at the table (Jessica told me we were having dinner for 3 and then the waitress led us to a table with ~10 people and I thought we were just sharing a table until I realized they were people I knew hahaha). Alex also visited the week before and got me a little TV lens to play with which I have been having a lot of fun with.

Photo of birthday cake taken with birthday present hehe

It's weird to think that it's been almost a year since I flew here to the US with no idea what to expect and no idea what was in store for me out here.  I think I've definitely matured a lot since then, and learned a lot about the world and life and myself and it's kind of incredible. I'm glad I decided to come out. I'm not entirely sure what day is my official anniversary for leaving NZ, but it's probably near the end of my internship. It's kind of nice that Chen is around to remind me of how life used to be.

I also went to Chicago for a tech thing but ended up just meeting some cool people and having fun lol. I went to my first music festival! :D I saw Imagine Dragons try to compensate for a broken sound system, got crushed at Lana del Ray (I'm sad I missed the Killers after that rib crushing experience),  had fun jumping around at the nicely sized crowd at St Lucia, had exclusive pit access to Reignwolf for a song, and saw Ellie Goulding from a kind of acceptable distance. It was all in all a fun experience, but I wish I could have stayed for Sunday too to see Vampire Weekend and Phoenix.



I've also seen a bunch of movies this summer; since college got out, I've watched:
The Great Gatsby
Fast and Furious 6
The Hangover 3
Star Trek 2
Monsters University
Despicable Me 2
The Internship
Pacific Rim
Now You See Me
The Wolverine
... that's 10. Not bad for a summer. Doesn't feel like all that many though. I think my standards are still biased from watching too many movies in high school though.


Oh yeah, and I "tried" Google Glass. Note I say "tried" because although I am visibly wearing them in the photo below I couldn't actually see anything because my eyesight is bad and the screen on Glass is the equivalent of standing about 8 feet away, so I couldn't actually see anything on the screen clearly. Also it's more transparent and less intrusive than I imagined, which was already pretty transparent and pretty non-intrusive, which is pretty impressive.
 


Why Facebook Matters (my experience from the inside)

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NOTE: If you work for Facebook, you really don't have to read this. My intended audience is my friends from college or New Zealand who frequently use Facebook but have never considered it as anything other than a way to procrastinate, all of what I say below will be probably extremely redundant and obvious to anyone who works here.

So, as those of you who have known me for a few years and/or have followed my blog before will know, I have always been pretty pro-facebook. I have made posts before about how I think it's an advantage for everyone around me to get Facebook as a way to stay connected and remain "in the loop" about the current affairs of those who they care about. I made that post 3 years ago, at a time where 500 million people were on Facebook. Today, that number has more than doubled. There are 1.2 billion users on Facebook today, and 700 million of them are active daily. I spoke at that time because speculation was starting about whether the website would last, whether they would fade into the background as something new came to take its place, as many of its predecessors did. I watched in the last few years as Facebook became more and more invasive, and that little blue "Login with Facebook" bar seemed to pop up more often on other websites I visited. I thought to myself as I watched this that Facebook is probably something different, with far greater potential than the other social networks that people kept comparing it to.

My belief that Facebook was special began to be reaffirmed by my experience here this summer. I started my summer internship on July 1, and in less than 4 weeks Facebook has proved itself to me as an employee that what it's doing in the world matters -- and now I'm writing this because I want to share that experience with my friends who are not of the tech world, as a response against those who see it only as a distraction from exam studying, who are annoyed by the ads and the constant changes, who see social networking as a sad replacement for real life interaction.

Facebook aims to provide not only a service, but a great one. There is no way 10 years ago you would have been able to reach a billion people on Earth, even with the internet. No forum was that huge. Facebook is not meant to be a closed circle between you and your closest friends only; it serves as a complement to real life interaction between you and your best friends, not a substitute. Many complain that their Facebook 'friends' are not really their friends at all, but the power of the social graph is undeniable -- 70% of jobs today are found through networking and personal connections. Obviously you will be close to your closest friends regardless of whether or not they are on Facebook. You will always find time and ways to reach those who you love the most. But what about those connections that you would like to keep around but maybe don't always have the time for? Friendships are not an all-or-nothing kind of deal, and this is where Facebook excels.

My thoughts on why Facebook has not fallen the way Myspace, Friendster, Bebo did -- they bring together not only people who already know each other, but potentially great future friendships and connections. Furthermore, their monetization strategy is reverse-motivated -- there is a poster around headquarters which essentially reads "We do not make things to earn money, we earn money to make things". Zuckerberg as a CEO truly cares about the positive social impact that Facebook has on the world. These are positive externalities far beyond the reach of a dollar symbol -- today, he addressed the entire company at headquarters in person (similar to the way he does every week, by the way, and answers any questions anyone in the company may have, including interns -- not something you would see at most other companies) and told us this story, as well as showed us a video that the men made to thank Facebook for making changing an entire village worth of lives possible. You'll have to take my word for it, but it was very compelling. This is a software company which monetizes on the people that use its service, yet keeps in mind that these people have real lives and real connections that transcend the statistics they sell to advertisers, and prides itself on bettering those lives with its service.

^ A poster design I see around campus a lot


On that point, ads -- people who complain about ads have really just never experienced real ads. Real ads are great content. It is the role of an advertisement to be entertaining, because that's how you engage your audience. Real ads are things that people actually do want to watch, which is why there is always so much talk about the ads which show during the Superbowl (and we all go and watch them on youtube even tho we supposedly hate ads). Facebook aims to deliver the same quality. Ads are a way for entrepreneurs to let you know about their product -- which, for a lot of companies, is an awesome product that you might actually have a use for (shock horror), which you would otherwise not know about. Think about your friends linking cool Kickstarter projects on Facebook. Proper, quality targeted ads are the exact same thing, and Facebook aims to be able to direct you to that really good niche Italian restaurant a block away when you're wandering around Melbourne at 7pm looking for something to eat. After all, Facebook should know you better than anyone -- creepy as it may be, once you get over the irrational fear of letting the service know more about you, you realize that you're just helping it help you better (more on privacy in a later post, perhaps).

So you can imagine, with such lofty goals and only having reached 1/7 of the world's population, why Facebook needs to be constantly changing. It cannot afford to become stale and settle and fade away like so many others have. It knows its potential and aims to keep going to better its service to you as the user. Cut Facebook a little slack, nobody's ever done this before and of course mistakes are made. They are cautious though and test extensively to make sure the changes they make are good ones, which may be why you feel they are fickle sometimes. Working here has made me realize just how hard these people work to bring the world such an awesome service -- and they're all super awesome people too! They try to move really really fast to bring the future to you ASAP, but sometimes Facebook is a little derpy and leaves things undone which may or may not cause that iOS app to crash unexpectedly; but honestly, what piece of software is perfect? Not that they're satisfied with this, even -- they are constantly aiming to bring you a more polished product and bugs are fixed live around the clock.

I really don't believe that Facebook is a waste of time in any sense, unless you make it so yourself. It's a great service that has managed to connect the world in ways people never expected, and is hungry for even more growth and improvement. Fortunately I think people are now starting to see, after the most recent quarter's financial report (and subsequent 20% rise in stock), that Facebook is not "just another social networking website". It truly has the power to change the way people connect in the world, and make us better off for it. The knowledge economy is non-rival, absolutely sustainable and is just beginning to be grown.

I was actually also going to talk about the Facebook paradox of privacy/making the world more open and connected as well as more about my own experience, but that can wait til another day, I don't want to make this post any more monster haha.

Last piece of food for thought: would you have known about any of this if not for Facebook bringing you to this page in the first place?

How an awkward person makes love to a stranger

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It is baffling at times, to realize how one has fallen in love with a stranger. Strange as it may be: it began on a sweeping fall afternoon, underneath the flaming maple tree as a gust of wind blew embers into the sky and your package out of your arms. The box took a small tumble, maybe bouncing once or twice down those steps before spilling foam nuggets across the lawn. I watched as you hurriedly packed everything back in and skittle off, nude pink stilettos stabbing into the asphalt.

I would not have thought anything of it, if not for walking by a few seconds later and finding a piece of paper stuck to the ground. Clearly you had dropped it during the incident, but when I picked it up and turned around, intending to yell out and return it, you had already disappeared long ago. I do not even really remember your face, or even the exact colour of your hair, which was only revealed as slight wisps underneath a red (or was it black? grey?) woven beanie -- was it a dark brunette or a light chestnut, straight or wavy, long or short?

It was perhaps wrong of me to tuck that letter into the inner pocket of my coat then, just as perhaps I am being punished for reading it now. I am not entirely sure why I did it, but in the moment it made sense. Maybe I thought I would run into you again.

I fell in love with the writer of that letter. The awkward but gentle curve of your letter "i", something I had always mechanically drawn as a perfect vertical, the way you connected the letters in "life"; these showed me a way of seeing the world I hadn't seen before. You wrote of beautiful places and ideas, to an anonymous recipient that I placed myself into the role of, introducing him to the beautiful person that is you.

I at least hoped the letter would give me an excuse to approach you if I ever did meet you again, in the off chance that I recognized you.

***
"I'm so sorry!"

These were the words you spoke to the bus driver that spring morning, scuffling through your handbag for your absent transport card and empty wallet. I looked up and saw the sun hit your apologetic eyelashes, and did a double take. Something impossibly familiar about you drew me to stand up automatically, ready to offer you my spare change.

"I've got it, don't worry."

The man behind you steps in and puts an extra ride's worth of coins into the driver's hands. I feel embarrassed and awkward, having stood up for no reason. The guy sitting next to me has already gotten off his seat, anticipating my need to exit to the aisle. I move into the path he paves for me, stepping off the bus as you turn to the change-offerer and thank him profusely, and by the time you have sat down together and have begun to exchange names, I had still yet to process what exactly had happened.

The bus drives away and leaves me at my premature stop; I arrive home 2 hours later.

***

I'm not sure how we ended up on the same path that winter afternoon, but the familiar tick-tacking of your nude high heels interrupted the music coming through my earphones and I knew it was you before I looked up. An orange umbrella obscured my view of your head, but the combination of that handbag and those shoes gave you away.

I thought the orange umbrella suited you perfectly, and smiled to myself silently. Orange was so outgoing and bright, and happy -- things you represented that I wished I had for myself. Yet it was also what kept me from you at that moment, keeping you hidden from my line of sight. I had been secretly wondering when I'd run into you again, partially convinced we were fated to skim our lives against one another's until we met officially, partially hopeless that the city was too large for it to happen more than twice.

I started to contemplate how I should introduce myself. I supposed I should just be direct, but there seemed to be something strange about a stranger approaching a girl in the middle of a deserted road professing his love for her. Then again, maybe girls were into that. I hadn't done this before.

A light cough blew a cloud from under your umbrella, and I watched you stop in your tracks next to the bus stop. You opened your handbag and took out a bottle of cough syrup, poured yourself a dose and put it to your mouth as I walked by.

I didn't have time for an introduction; I walked by without saying anything as I watched in slow motion the pink syrup disappear behind your lips.

***

Indeed it is baffling, to realize how one has fallen in love with a stranger. I wonder if I will ever see you again; I swear if I did, I would not waste what should be the last opportunity to meet you. If you're reading this, I swear I will keep our lives from continually blowing away from each other like curtains covering an open window in the night breeze.

But tonight all I can do is lay here in front of that window, letting those curtains brush over my face and swear I can almost taste your cough syrup on my lips, the ghostly mirage of a kiss that never happened.