The Death of Semantics

Words decay as soon as they are invented. That’s because words and language are a distributed protocol to tie semantics (meanings) to representation (words). With so many people trying to communicate with each other, the distribution of these protocol are subject to chinese whispers and decay. This essay traces how words might change for the worse.

Stage 1: Neologism

The birth of words begins when there is a semantic (meaning) without a representation (word), so people invent a new word to “point” at the semantics. “Google” was a favorite modern word officially added into the English dictionary in 2006. It was a new verb that was used to describe the searching of information on the internet because no previous word existed to describe what the word “google” described. Words are saved because no one ever has to say “Why don’t you search it on the internet?” ever again. We say “Why don’t you google it?”. All is good. Read More

Set Strategy

Set is not a board game that leaves much room for luck. When an experience Set player plays with you, you’re almost certainly going to be destroyed.

Back in college, I had a friend who was really into this game. She would always invite me to play with her in our free time and I would get crushed every time. One day, I got sick of getting beaten, so I decided to intensely train and study Set for a week. After a week, I played a rematch with her, and won.

This guide presents some strategies for the game that I discovered. After guiding you through these incremental strategies, I will evaluate how much of an improvement each strategy makes the game. Read More

You Don’t Earn Points By Not Playing The Game

Intuitively, a game is some form of social interaction among players, guided by rules, motivated by points, and solved through strategies. However, unlike board games or video games, real life games come with arbitrary rules you didn’t make, bad players you didn’t choose, and strategies that you may not like. Real life games can be confusing, unwinnable, or plain unfair. We don’t like playing these games, but we don’t earn any points (i.e. things we value) by not playing them. I decided to codify some of the games I’ve observe in which players willfully resign into non-participation, resulting in losing points they could have earned. Read More

Primary Keys

A primary key is a database terminology used to uniquely identify a row. For example, you might want to identify each student by their student ID. Problems can arise when you pick a primary key that turns out not to uniquely identify things. If you keep track of your students by their first names, you might find yourself confusing two students who share the same name!

In the same spirit, we have mental primary keys for identifying uniqueness between objects. I might say “the sushi in this michelin star restaurant tastes just like the one down the corner” or “isn’t what makes one cyclist better than another just how well they can pedal?” In the first example, I see the primary key of sushi as the freshness of the fish and the quality of rice. In the cycling example, I have a primary key that is the athleticism of the cyclist. Read More

Moral Character vs Moral Hygiene

I recently watched a series of videos on feminism called “Why are you so Angry?”. Spoiler alert, a big crux of the answer involves the question of moral character versus moral hygiene. Morality is often defined as talking about the reason for action. So as everyday observers of other people’s actions, we take the action to infer the reason for action. A well studied psychological bias, called Fundamental Attribution Error, illustrates human’s strong preference for explaining behavior through character rather than context and environment. “Oh, he’s a bad person.” “She’s a racist.”  “John always does that.” Read More

Third Place

Note: I’d like to thank my friend for introducing this concept to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about third places since hearing about it from him.

A third place is defined as the place you spend the most at that’s not your first (usually home) or second place (usually work). On a high level, this is the place you would look forward going to. Some urban sociologists have observed that people tend to be happiest at their third places, and list some characteristics of these gathering points that they suspect make it such a blissful place. Read More

Attributing Kindness

I’m not religious, but this is the image that always comes to mind whenever people compliment me for being kind.

I purchased an Uber ride for a drunk stranger on Saturday night. After the girl was whisked off to her apartment, I received some compliments about being kind for calling an Uber and making sure this girl got home safely. Not to shun people for handing me compliments, I’m just horribly shy about receiving what I think are undeserved ones. I want to bring attention some contextual facts that people may want to consider before weighing how much personality affects my kindness behavior. Read More

Day[9] & Being a Good Tutee

Note: You don’t need to know anything about DotA2 to read this.

I started playing an online game called DotA2 a few months ago and was having a lot of trouble being proficient at it (still am). My roommate suggested I watch a series of YouTube videos that follows a former professional StarCraft player, Day[9], as he learns how to play DotA from a former pro-DotA player, Purge.

I really enjoyed the videos because Day[9] is a glowing example of what it means to be a good tutee. I don’t think I seen enough tutoring sessions to figure out what it means to be a good tutee, so I really latched onto these videos when I saw them. I want to highlight a few snippets from the first two videos in the series, and point out what he’s doing right as a pupil. Read More

Back to Blogging

It’s been awhile since I actively sought out social media. I’ve been privately journaling for a while since 2014. I didn’t like the person I was becoming by putting my entire life on public display. When I used to write about my day-to-day life, I realized I was doing more expositional reporting than I was reflecting on my experiences. Journaling helped me become more comfortable writing down more honest, and sometimes even negative thoughts and gave me space to reflect on them privately.

But now I want to publicly write again. Here are some reasons. Read More

Lessons I Learned While Solo Backpacking Abroad

Lessons I Learned While Solo Backpacking Abroad

 

Context

Instead of attending my 6th semester at UC Berkeley. I decided to take a semester off to travel abroad. I have had whims of this nature every spring semester now since I’ve entered Berkeley. My freshman spring I did rejection therapy. My sophomore spring I decided to hit the gym. However, this year my sporadic nature came early. By mid-way of my Fall semester, I’ve already yearned to do something new. I’ve highlighted some of the reasons in a personal note I wrote in November.

I started my journey in Taiwan. I went with two of my best friends. We explored Taiwan for 10 days before my friends headed back. I went to South Korea next, followed by Japan, taking a brief stop in Hong Kong, explored Southwestern China, journeyed through Vietnam, took a pit stop in Singapore, and eventually returned to Taiwan to relax for two weeks before heading back home. Besides Taiwan, all portions of my travel were solo backpacking, which meant I kept all my belongings in a 55 liter backpack. I stayed in hostels through the duration of the trip and booked transportation on the road. I made friends on the road but spent a large portion of my time alone. Now that my 111 days worth of traveling across Asia is over, here are some reflective points I came across. Read More