Thoughts on Downtime

Lately I’ve been needing more downtime. Downtime for me are activities that are low stimulation activities. Downtime include stretching, spacing out, closing my eyes (whether or not falling asleep), going on walks, and doing household chores. Downtime (for me) does not include playing video games, watching television, or browsing Reddit. As little as 15 minutes of downtime correlates strongly with an increase in my subjective well being.

The concept of downtime is a relatively new concept to me. I originally had a strong attitude against downtime. I didn’t believe in deep rest, and felt like doing hard work was sustainable. After going through 2 burnouts in my life (once in college and another during work), I’m willing to soften my claim now. Read More

Keyboard Customizations

Something that you spend a lot of time doing benefits from even the smallest marginal efficiency. Sleep is a good example. Investing in good quality sleep pays multiple folds when you spend more a third of your time sleeping. Similarly, when your full time job involves sitting in front of a computer and typing, then you’re likely to experience death by a thousand cuts when you perform the same manual tasks over and over again. I’ve developed some useful keyboard customizations that I’m briefly going to introduce. I use laptops from the macOS ecosystem, so I apologize for those PC and Linux fans who are unable to follow along. Read More

Works on Commodity Hardware

There are design patterns, algorithms, or techniques that are highly dependent on the agents that execute those patterns. The recent boom in neural nets in artificial intelligence was only enabled by the rise of fast GPU’s that run the back propagation algorithms. Sophisticated breakthroughs in sports have been enabled by more performant athletes who can execute complex strategies. Without some requirements on the executors, none of these things would work.

There is a design pattern that is highly agnostic to the executors, yet produce meaningful or effective results. This is particularly interesting to me because by working well DESPITE the dependencies, it gives more robustness to the design pattern itself. Read More

Lessons From Improv

2017 was a rough social year for me. I was having a hard time connecting with new people I met and making new friends. I attended a lot of social gatherings over the weekends with the mindset of talking and interacting with people in more fun and meaningful ways, but I always fell flat of what I set out to accomplish.

Social skills are hard to come by because if you’re bad at socializing, you’ll be conditioned to not like socializing. Not enjoying socializing in turn makes you worse at socializing, and you have a vicious cycle. I felt trapped in this vicious cycle since my self-conscious attitude towards my social skills would pop out in a middle of a conversation while I socially implode mid sentence. Read More

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