so, the blog is functionally dead, which is a little unfortunate but likely a strong result of us (a) not being near each other and (b) intensely busy with our own lives and projects. That’s not a sad thing, but it’s worth reflecting on. I know I miss y’all dearly and would love chances to see and talk with you more often.

I intend for this blog to remain up for as long as we can afford to keep it up – the writings from my critical 19-21 year-old period are so so valuable to me.

I hope everyone who reads this is doing well. <3

quick analysis of “Breaking Through the Silence” video

My friend Alejo sent me this video interviewing four students with varying amounts of deafness who attend the University of Michigan. Both of my parents are deaf and I grew up speaking ASL, so this is something I’m interested in. Watch the video:


Overall I think it’s really valuable to go and learn about people’s experiences by *asking them directly*, and listening what they have to say, and so the video is *spot on* in doing this.

I made a few quick comments which I’m posting here just to share quickly:

from the first 6 minutes i note that there is no ASL (everyone is speaking), and so this is drawing from a group of deaf people who have a different experience from most of the deaf folks i grew up around

 within the Deaf world there exist the following divides (which correlate only a little bit):
 “hard of hearing” versus “fully deaf” (this is a physiological distinction)
 and “oral” versus “signing” (this denotes how someone was educated)
 (but also reflects how a deaf person chooses to communicate)
 this video samples an apparent spectrum of physiological deafness but focuses only on “oral” deaf, or at least only portraying that aspect
 (i’m not all the way through yet)
 but neglecting to interview students who were signing — perhaps because there were no Deaf students who were comfortable with ASL attending UM for this documentary — leaves out a big part of how Deafness is a cultural identity independent from “an obstacle one has to overcome”
 and so for this reason the video rubs me the wrong way a bit
 now, a caveat to *me* analyzing this video is that I have never personally experienced being deaf, and so it’s hard to critique
 and this does provide valuable insight into what it means to be “a deaf person interacting with hearing people”
 just, this is an incomplete picture of what it means to be a Deaf person
 also, on that topic, there’s a lot of use of the term “hearing impairment”
 deaf people among themselves use the term “deaf”
 looking on that article, i react immediately to this sentence
 “ASL users face stigma due to beliefs in the superiority of spoken language to signed language, compounded by the fact that ASL is often glossed in English due to the lack of a standard writing system.”
 and so that’s why i make such a big deal of the lack of ASL in the video
because, like, deafness is *not* just something that makes you talk funny and listen poorly and need to lip-read and that’s it

the videoblog: a dream

This is not a videoblog about a dream – this is a blog post about my dream of videoblogging.


I think I want to science-videoblog and get lots of views and be kind of awesome.

And I have been further inspired by things like Ira Glass’s interview:


and Wistia’s videoblogs about making high-quality effective videoblogs:



so let’s see if I ever get the courage to take this anywhere.

Top-notch essays, blogs, and other reading

UPDATED 16 Jan ’14


I really like reading certain blogs* online. Specifically, my favorites tend to be ones that (a) are written by a single author with a lot of life experience, and (b) where each entry is more or less standalone and about a topic, rather than a “life update”, “news update” or even an advertisement for some other thing (“hey look at this cool weight loss/time-saving tool”). I just finished a tech internship where I spent a lot of time reading such blogs. Here are some of my favorites:

Paul Graham: http://paulgraham.com/articles.html

Paul Graham’s famous in the Silicon Valley startup world, but I was only barely familiar with him when I moved out to San Francisco. I hear he’s really good at Lisp and at seeding startups via Y Combinator, but as far as I’m concerned, his biggest contribution to the world is through his essays. By this point, I think I’ve actually read all ~150 of his essays. A handful of my favorites: Writing, BrieflyHow to Do What You LoveYou Weren’t Meant to Have a BossHackers and Painters (I often underestimate how good this one in between re-reads) — Why Nerds are Unpopular  — Lies We Tell Kids — What You Can’t Say  — Good and Bad Procrastination

Joel on Software: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/

Joel Spolsky (Microsoft Excel, Fog Creek Software, Stack Overflow) is another big name in the software world after Paul Graham, but he focuses more on the nuts-and-bolts of how to make good software, how to build good teams, how to engineer things well, how to have a positive and productive environment. He doesn’t go into the history-changing stuff that Paul meanders into. He’s also a lot funnier! Some favorites highlighted:

The Joel Test — Getting Things Done When You’re Only A Grunt (SO useful in my current position, and I’ll look to it as I play the “long game”)– Strategy Letter III: Let Me Go Back —  Things You Should Never Do, Part I (a great treatise on a big software development mistake) — The Law of Leaky Abstractions — and many other good ones.

The UnStudent: http://www.theunstudent.com/  

Mikhail Klassen has great ideas about how grad school is like entrepreneurship. See his manifesto: http://www.theunstudent.com/about/ and his summary on astrobetter: http://www.astrobetter.com/graduate-school-as-entrepreneurship/

Nomadic Matt: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

For my 22 day trip to Europe, I depended on Nomadic Matt for all of my questions and intuition, and I was not disappointed. One good article of a jillion:  http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/things-id-tell-a-new-traveler/

Matt Might: http://matt.might.net/#blog

Perspectives on academia that I find really down-to-earth. Some favorites:

http://matt.might.net/articles/cripple-your-technology/ http://matt.might.net/articles/shell-scripts-for-passive-voice-weasel-words-duplicates/

Stephen Bond: http://plover.net/~bonds/

“Why I’m no longer a skeptic”: a really insightful analysis of unchecked privilege masquerading as solidarity.

“Ender’s game”: on gratification, and similar these as above.


Other Essays —

Atul Gawande‘s blogs are some of the best things I have ever read. Please sit down and read these two if you have gotten this far: Slow Ideas and Letting Go

A Mathematician’s Lament: http://www.maa.org/devlin/lockhartslament.pdf Paul Lockhart wrote this essay

Politics and the English Language, George Orwellhttps://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

Cargo Cult Science, Richard Feynmanhttp://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

Edward Murrow‘s speech, 1958: http://www.turnoffyourtv.com/commentary/hiddenagenda/murrow.html

Mr. X (Carl Sagan) — interesting, but I can’t confirm any of it yet: http://marijuana-uses.com/mr-x/


I would love for the comments section to fill up with other readings that you have found meaningful. Please leave comments letting me know what you liked and what I might like!


* In this context, “blog” means any website that contains content that has been added to over time in discrete chunks, regardless of its platform or how it looks. Wikis, news aggregators, other things are excluded.

in situ

It’s been a while since any of us have posted so I thought I’d drop in and say a quick thing about myself.


I am in astronomy grad school, and there are two things I want to say about this.

one: A goal of mine is to remain conscious of the pitfalls and strange aspects of academia as a human institution, and to never forget what it’s like to be a human-who-is-not-an-academic. I think that the pressures and politics of the Academy have a way of warping people into forgetting what’s relevant or meaningful about academic study as it relates to the human condition, and I want to keep my perspective as broad as possible while being able to successfully navigate academia well enough to do good work.

two: Doing astronomy is so, so, so much better of a fit for me than working at LiveRamp that it surprises even me. Most of my complaints about grad school are oriented on (a) the cultural things I outlined above, which I feel sometimes get people to forget why astronomy’s cool or why people would care about it, and (b) how there is a bunch of stuff asked of me (classes, eventually teaching, etc) that gets in the way of me doing new astronomy stuff — the creation of new knowledge and whatnot. I think these are okay problems to have at this point.

Making sure I stay happy and well-balanced, and that my sense of purpose continues to carry me forward, is the main challenge, I think, at this point of my life.  Things are good.


PS — I love this:

Typical day

Good morning, world! Here’s a typical day in my life.


7:00A – get briefly woken by my roommate as she gets ready for work. Promptly fall back asleep.

between 8:00A and 9:00A – wake up, take a shower, grab a granola bar and my backpack, and head out. (~half hour). Ride public transit, and read a cool book the whole time. (~one hour)

between 9:30A and 10:30A – get to work. Have breakfast (cereal, and a cup of tea).

During the workday: Code some Java using the IntelliJ IDE, create or close tickets using JIRA, commit code using git. Occasionally have meetings or create google docs showing coworkers what I’m up to. My desk is pretty big, and I sit in a row of desks (there are no cubes or offices in my company) next to my mentor and near other members of my team.


Pursuing something more than nostalgia


Consider this a short, brash manifesto:

I don’t want to live a life in which indulging in nostalgia — by myself, or with friends — is an important activity.

By this, I mean: I will strive to make every phase of my life as engaging, positive, and memorable as the last, so that at no point do I find myself looking back and wishing I still had the same opportunities or experiences as I once did.

If I attend high school or college reunions, it will not be for the purpose of reminiscing about the “good old days” but for sharing stories of what my peers have made of life since our last encounter, and discussing exciting new possibilities for the future.

If I keep in touch with old friends it will not be because I want to cling to shared histories, nor because I’m having difficulty finding new friends, but instead because spending time with those I know and love most is itself a powerful life experience in its own right, and because these are the people who can best gauge my own self-development.

If I choose to make a family and have children, it will not be because I’m bowing to a cultural obligation to procreate, nor because I fear the oblivion of death enough to place my genes and traditions into a new person in a desperate bid for immortality, but because I’ve decided that creating and raising a sovereign and independent human being is a profoundly worthwhile and fulfilling activity in its own right, above and beyond other experiences I could have, and other things I could make.

I don’t mean to say I refuse to look back fondly on the past. I want to have memories and experiences spread throughout my life that I’m thankful for and proud of.

Nor do I mean to say that I’ll consider myself a failure if I don’t live a life full of increasingly extravagant adventures. There is value in a focused, productive, disciplined life; mastery is itself rewarding, as is seeing the fruits of intense labor become manifest (whether in art, science, entrepreneurship, or some other craft), and this is something that a shallow, indulgent life cannot provide.

What I mean to say is that I am committing myself to learning, growing, and doing – at every stage of life.

I want to be active in discovering new activities and making new friends when I am 80 years old, still being physically capable, socially apt, and full of wisdom, stories, and charm. When disease or old age finally slow me down for good, I want to have the grace to accept the inevitable, and at that point only — be able to look back with a sincere smile on the full life I’ve led.

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Several major themes of my life over the past few months center on addiction. I successfully (so far) have quit a gaming addiction; I’ve grappled with an underlying Internet addiction that I wasn’t even fully aware of until recently, and I just had a brief unintentional bout with coffee addiction. There’s a major blogpost coming up that tackles these things in a comprehensive way, but as an appetizer: I watched this video today, and felt I needed to share it.


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When we meet on a cloud…

Yesterday I spent a couple hours messing around with my guitar, my smartphone, and a recording app. I played a couple songs interspersed with mistakes and HILARIOUS commentary. I uploaded about a half hour of this to SOUNDCLOUD – currently it’s all in a Private Set, which may or may not become public at some point. Drop me a note if you wanna give a listen!! The only reason I set it to private is because I have no idea whether it’s a good idea to have unpolished recordings of yourself singing (possibly poorly) just floating around on the internet.



Spoiler: The train is a metaphor.

I’ve been reading this book called A Fault in Our Stars (Amazon link). It’s pretty short, but I’d been nursing it slowly over the past two months, until I decided tonight to finish the last third of the story in one session.

I don’t cry over fictional media*. Rarely do I cry over real-life events. It takes something tremendous to do it to me. I didn’t even cry when my grandpa died.

And I just sat here sobbing for the past hour and a half finishing this book, at times with too much water in my eyes to keep reading.

So I am grateful to have had this… humanity-affirming experience. (Thank you, Universe, for being so complicated and beautiful and relentlessly harsh. Sometimes I don’t really know what to do within you, but I definitely don’t know what I’d do without you.) Perhaps more profoundly, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to choose it — to elect to subject myself to intense emotional distress, to have it feel real and genuine. Because I think, maybe, there’s something healthy about allowing yourself to genuinely experience the full range of emotional states — to break the monotony, or to keep the Human Machine well-oiled in a metaphysical sense.

To grieve, in a controlled (or at least limited) way, and without having to suffer the logistics of loss. So that when it hits you For Real, in the flesh-and-blood world of our ancestors, it doesn’t destroy you, does not derail your train killing the hundreds of passengers that are your daily routines, habits, and positive thoughts that make life productive and/or bearable.

The world has so many broken people. The world is so good at breaking people. How does one stand up to this? It comes for you, too, even if you try to believe otherwise, even if you race as fast as you can from the risks and perils and slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (as they say)

I do not even attempt to claim that I have an answer or — or that I will ever have any single answer, but I have now been sufficiently impressed by the power of love, and of stories, to test, to prove, and, maybe, anchor the human spirit, through better and worse.

This is a short missive; it may echo quietly. Reflect upon its echoes.


*Okay, I cried when I saw The Last Samurai when I was 14. Don’t judge me!!

ten-minute freewrite, and other news

first, “other news”.

1. A 22-year old from my hometown went on a shooting spree at my local mall yesterday. He went to my high school, apparently, though I didn’t know of him; he killed two people. This is kind of heavy. I’m not personally affected or in shock or anything like that, but it prompts reflection, because this is *very* close to home, geographically at least. More deets here: Clackamas Town Center Shooting

2. If you’re a regular or occasional reader of this blog, I would appreciate it more than you can imagine if you would take the time to leave a short comment when you read something that I post! Especially if you have something thought-provoking or even critical to say, but I’m not picky. There is something eerie about blogging comment-less; like standing on a platform and shouting into a pitch-black room, and not even hearing an echo come back. My dream is to stir up conversation, to stimulate an exchange of ideas among intelligent people who are far removed from one another.

second, “ten-minute freewrite”. Feel free to ignore the following, I just felt like typing whatever oozed out of my brain for ten minutes and then posting it.


Heartrate – Lungrate – Brainrate

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.

It is basically feeling that you are not really a successful, competent, and smart student, that you are only imposing as such.

Some common feelings and thoughts that might characterize the impostor syndrome are: “I feel like a fake” “My classmates/professors etc. are going to find out I don’t really belong here,” “Admissions made a mistake,” etc.

The impostor feelings can be divided into three sub categories:

1.  Feeling like a fake: the belief that one does not deserve his or her success or professional position and that somehow other have been deceived into thinking otherwise. This goes together with a fear of being, “found out”, discovered or “unmasked”. People who feel this way would identify with statements such as: “I can give the impression that I am more competent than I really am.”  “I am often afraid that others will discover how much knowledge I really lack”.

2.  Attributing success to luck: Another aspect of the impostor syndrome is the tendency to attribute success to luck or to other external reasons and not to your own internal abilities. Someone with such feeling would refer to an achievement by saying, “I just got lucky this time” “it was a fluke” and with fear that they will not be able to succeed the next time.

3.  Discounting Success: The third aspect is a tendency to downplay success and discount it. One with such feelings would discount an achievement by saying, “it is not a big deal,” “it was not important.” One example of this is discounting the fact that they made it here, which is really a big success.  Or saying, “I did well because it is an easy class, etc.”  Or, you might have a hard time accepting compliments.

This is not an all or nothing syndrome.  Most of you probably could identify with a few statements but not with others. Some people may identify with impostor feelings in some situations and not in others, or maybe you may not identify with these feelings but have friends who do.


I think I had a panic attack today. Despite a really calm and productive morning (wherein I wrote down a bunch of life goals for the month, paid some bills, did some exercise, made healthy breakfast and, later, lunch), I stressed myself out a little bit before my guitar lesson when I realized that I hadn’t really addressed most of my assignments for the week in my practicing. My guitar teacher is a really sweet and chill 22-year-old who’s nonetheless amazingly talented, and we click really well, so he doesn’t get angry or passive-aggressive if I underperform (although it makes the lesson a little awkward). But I was embarrassed about not having anything noticeably better than last week, and that embarrassment translated into a nervous vibe that lasted the entire lesson. When the lesson was over and I walked to my car, I felt jittery, disoriented, a little short of breath, and full of pent-up anxiety. Worse still, the feeling became overtly physiological in nature – I could feel blood rushing to my head, and I was seriously wondering whether I’d been drugged or having a very minor stroke or something. I calmed myself to the point where I could drive home, but was still jumpy when I got back, and had to lie down for an hour. I cried a little bit. It sucked.

I don’t mean to scare you with the above story. I’m doing pretty well now and don’t foresee the above recurring anytime soon. The reason I even blog about this incident is because I think this isn’t my first experience with severe panic-like stress, but I never really recognized it as such before.

I’ve known about impostor syndrome for a long time, but never thought that I was suffering from it. I knew that I wasn’t at the top of my class, especially after freshman year of college, but I still felt that I had a few skills that I was really good at that helped offset my weaknesses, at least in areas that I cared about, and this gave me self-esteem enough to push on without getting this paranoid, overarching fraudulent feeling. But senior year was a different ballgame, especially with the circus that my thesis was. I’ve thought a lot on the bizarre set of events (and my continuous mismanagement of them) that comprised my thesis, and this reflection is one of the primary things driving me to spend my year off focusing on self-improvement.

As the year progressed, and I noticed that I was seemingly falling farther and farther behind, I felt more and more intense stress immediately before and during each thesis meeting. Towards the end of the thesis I could practically imagine my research group thinking the following:

“Here is an articulate, seemingly intelligent person who is not obviously socially inept. His knowledge seems to be on par with his peers. But after careful observation, we have realized — he completely lacks any sense of organization or self-discipline, despite somehow making it through three years of college — and not just any college, but HARVARD. What fools were we to think he could possibly handle such a sophisticated task, when he doesn’t even have the capacity to finish a freshman-year problem set! He is like a child in adult’s clothing, walking and talking like an adult, but does not even know how to tie his own shoes, much less handle the realities of day-to-day life.”

There is nothing I fear more genuinely than having this happen to me again in graduate school. It’s one of the major reasons I wanted time off. Today’s incident reminded of that stress like nothing else has since college.

I think my panic attack today may have been a sign: “Your motives are in the right place. But you’re going to have to do better than that.” Maybe I’m falling into the impostor trap; maybe I’m demanding too much of myself. I don’t really know. But I do honestly think I have farther to go, and I hope that I can get there in time.

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