Pandemic Diary #61 – feeling grateful, practicing gratefulness (27 Jul 2021)

officially alive for three decades!
didn’t think I’d make it ten years ago, but here I am. feeling grateful for that.
here with a roof, stable financial situation, and living in peacetime. vaccinated and healthy. grad student living my sailing life. know how to take care of myself, have strong family and friend supports. have an even keel and not locked up.

roommates for 1 month even bought me a captain’s hat. a memorable 30th for sure!!

now just need to hustle! or find it in me to hustle, rather. hold on to wanting to be graduated before my next birthday. i think finally my life in boston is relatively settled and i’m done with major purchases (two lisabo tables, now just some stuff I think will be hard to find used — bamboo area rugs, floor futon / chairs). next time i need to remember mit furniture exchange!

also this adorable cat getting a passport in 1943

Video of fingerprinting: https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/video/close-up-of-herman-the-cat-cat-passes-through-coast-guard-news-footage/504235053

And this is the result (from twitter mildlyinteresting, but the caption is a bit misleading so cropped it out)

herman the cat’s us coast guard passport, 1943

Pandemic Diary #60 – existing, roommates, watercolor inspiration pins (20 Jul 2021)

reading:

skimmed most of destined for war (15 times in history where dominant power challenged by rising one / 11 times ended in war, 4 times didn’t). idea of wargaming = how easy accidents can escalate to war that neither side actually wants. eg forming alliances as mutual deterrent: if they are binding alliances, can actually make it easier to get dragged by “small” situation into war

annapolis book of seamanship (3rd edition): good! practice. practice, practice

listening to: sinica while cleaning. insight: both nations believe they’re exceptional. chinese exceptionalism = think only china could accomplish this / don’t believe model applicable to others. point: china not particularly friendly to similar regimes (eg wariness with Vietnam despite it being a communist regime). often deflect instead of addressing concerns.

roommates: enjoying living with them ! playing card games. don’t wear masks with people I’ll interact with multiple times within a week. but no particular fear going into grocery store, don’t shower getting back. roommates going to labs, going to meet others, but I don’t wear masks with them. feel grateful to be in US / vaccines

worries: delta / other variants contributing to uptick in cases as predicted, despite high vaccine percentages in MA (84% of eligible have first shot) — it’s not 100%. gathering indoors indiscriminately without masks… went to restaurant which was a big tent, but flaps came down due to rain. kept my mask on and didn’t eat. didn’t feel the least bit of pressure but felt a bit bad not contributing to the cheque. (wearing a mask is easy; my choice is, why not?)

watching: 4k walking tours continue. vietnam: an interesting mix, busy city, roads closed off for kids, fleet of rc cars for kids. cross a busy intersection. on the corner, hammer and sickle flags. in the background, mcdonalds. in front, a kid in an rc car towing another on roller skates. on the side, parents remote control driving kids in mini electric cars

worries: exercise levels low. but did get switch to work with monitor (without the dock) — just need a 2A+ power supply on usbc to monitor, then usbc from switch to monitor. (the portable tablet-look alike monitors)

boston: going to a store without a poncho, no car to dash to, just a wet slog on a bike home

art: watercolor

inspiration for the future, when I’m done doing the fill in the blank audobon bird postcards

someone died hitting one of these daymarks in boston harbor a few days ago. 3am at high speed in power boat

ebike great!! range went from 2 miles to 10 miles after I 1. released front brake 2. pumped up tires

improvements needed: folding pedals, rear view mirror, cargo rack?, replace front brake pads (was impossible to tune properly since one side totally gone — right now only have rear brakes, essentially. scary in boston traffic, where i can’t match speeds, as ebike fastest speed + pedaling is still slower than normal bike)

duckietown edx: lack of communication quite confusing. also realized i have no idea how to use software stack on my own!! to run my own software eg SLAM on the robot hardware :'(

Pandemic Diary #59 – windows, culture shock, 4k travel, ebike! (14 Jul 2021)

i was really impressed that i would have two windows in my summer room, didn’t think it mattered much they were facing walls. mostly for light right?

what i didn’t realize is that even the smallest window outside at least has things that change. the monotony of the built environment, the wall.

set up a livestream of the street just barely visible out the corner of the window. then switched to 4k Walks. handheld phone gimbals are $100 now. there’s people all over the world filming themselves taking (often pleasingly cyberpunk rainy) walks through ordinary city life. (the masks help the privacy concerns mildly, but still creepy). on youtube, these 30min to 4 hr long walks. seoul (korea), tehran (istanbul), etc. havana (cuba). ones of places i’ve been to before: kunming, boston ! so i put up on monitor near the window. visit london chinatown, walk around an island trail in korea, … moscow, bangkok, cairo, phillipines. the temples just in the middle of the asian countries which otherwise can seem very generically modern country are nice. it feels a bit travel-y. though, it’s missing the noise, the annoucements, the smells that really help you feel like you are in a foreign place (along with like, bigger than a small rectangle in the corner of my vision).

landed there from looking at webcams, and then videos of “cabview” trains going through fields (or long stretches of boring tunnel…), then monorails in cities. and finally the night walks, … youtube is impressive service. can’t hate it too hard for its monopoly / aggressive ads.

people in a tourist attraction taking selfie, but with a drone. (and surrounding people filming them!). the goregous temples in chiang mai, the temperature chcks going into markets, the hella cute cat chilling in a cardboard box on a storetop counter, double decker bike storage, cat in a parking lot, mystery strangers with shoping bags taking a profile pic against a grungy wall, the BOXIEST car I have ever seen like the window is 90 degree box the headlights are 90 deg box the contour is 90 deg box the door is box in the phillipines, the normal but totally illegible street signs in tehran, cute cat in a parking lot ! , cute dog in store window!

dogs, there’s a scary dog outside my summer house, that dog is muscular AF and barks at me from behind the fence every time i leave my house basically

culture shock in boston. flight was almost normal. no empty seats. gratifyingly everyone wore masks (properly!) except when they were eating. i took a long video of just flying through the takeoff, etc. it’s been very long for someone like me who used to fly so much. is it over yet? i want to live abroad…tar

saw fireworks on the way down and taxiing. stepping into logan. was mostly exhuasted. lyft on takeff was $20, on landing was $70. i was hauling 150 lbs of luggage. brought almost everything, vacuum cleaner (it’s been so useful, room is dusty from disuse, plus i. shed. hair), fan (battery powered??), rice cooker, even brought ramen for my first dinner in boston ! and asian tofu snacks as gifts.

just ended up taking bus at end. and calling lyft from kendall. $10. so much more reasonable… lyft driver tried to straightup just offer me a $50 ride. said that because it was raining it was good times picking people up inside boston. (signs said to not call a ride until the 10 min walk to lyft pickup… in the ten mins it went from 20 to 70 to 80 again, and didn’t come back down for another 30-40 mins before i gave up). bus and train were totally fine. will never call lyft from airport again.

anyway. got home past midnight and had ramen for dinner after showering (covid).

going to the docks the next day. to be on the docks in boston. it felt like i closed my eyes and woke up and a year had passed. (georgia, a dream?). as if i was taking a walk through spring 2020, accidentally tripped and landed on the fast forward button, and by the time i managed to hit play again it was already summer of 2021.

where is the joy in my work? i need to find it again. its buried under so much muck…

culture shock. making an exception for sailing. but for optionally meeting friends, still want to do it outside (why not?). then i might consider unmasking. with roommates, well, i guess folks are vaccinated. it’s nice to relax at home. culture shock, going past the streets full of outdoor dining, people walking around without masks and giving zero berth (at home in the suburbs we literally cross a wide street when we see another family coming). so. many. people. it’s odd. can’t handle meeting a lot of people without feeling anxious. but also miss all the activities i did with my parents. slowly trying to find my rhythm.

working inside all day. not comfortable going to indoor spaces yet. (the university spaces probably aren’t open either?)

have gone into stores every day almost. (minus day or two off for bee sting on underside of foot !). such a change. with parents, initially we spaced out to 3 or 4 weeks per trip. in and out in 30 mins, hit up two or three stores in one go, wipe down groceries / purify, and then shower. now i go in for 2 or 3 items, and wander around… masked and vaccinated. peace of mind. feel a bit strange though.

i think i’ll start on some small plants. fit them in a container for easy transport. maybe with mats or peat, and dense sprouts, so there’s no loose soil floating around waiting to get spilled when I move again in 6 weeks..

(hmm, if I get a bike trailer, could i move by myself?)

eibke – ebike has been amazing. $270 refurbished. thought battery life was shot, miserable ride home from marina with stung foot. collapsed in the parking lot in tears. turns out, i caught the rear fender rubbing. but the disc possibly bent a bit in transport. almost completely undid front brakes (sketchy, will get fixed). pumped up tires. before, barely 1 mile range. now seems great to still be >70% after 4 or 5 miles (with pedaling). pedaling is also possible now. should’ve looked up adjusting brakes at the time, didn’t realize it was so bad (well also was in pain). ebike! dou feng, at first just went out for rides for the heck of it (and to check the range). have no hesitation about 3, 5 mile far out places now. just go out and take a whirl. much bigger difference than i thought, even though max throttle is still less than normal bike speed. but being able to take a break whenever from pedaling, and still keep going, feels great.

Pandemic Diary #58 – sandwich (02 Jul 2021)

reading about junk food on BBC for Chinese practice, came across this fun fact: 明治 is meiji, but add a three 三 and it becomes 三明治 sandwich !

In my defense at not recognizing “sandwich”, I was totally waylaid by the idea of a “fourth generation sandwich.” Turns out there is actually an “Earl of Sandwich” !

The phrase then reads “England’s 4th Earl of Sandwich” (according to wikipedia you use “4th” and not “Fourth” here??).

Been feasting on tofu snacks lately, as well as lychee jellies. I bought them to give for friends in Boston but now my travel there is delayed (flights were full even on Wed!) and I haven’t been able to resist

Built up a “racecar” track, surprisingly fast with two people. just used an exacto on the yellow dotted lines. for the edx duckietown self-driving cars class

ate some tomatos finally?!

the succulent seedlings are coming along nicely.

there seems to be a real difference in seed viability between 5 year old seeds and 1 year old seeds.

news lately: miami surfside collapse 🙁 at miamiherald.com. india pandemic seems to have eased from height (those awful pictures of rows and rows of funeral pyres… almost anyone Indian I know has family members who passed 🙁 ), yea just a lot of talk about the delta variant (it took about a week for the name changes to sink in for everyone) and it’s transmissiblity and impact on China, Australia’s former covid free zones. vaccination has slowed in the US which was a bit depressing to see. now you can get vaccines without an appointment, walk-in. trying to see about getting a covid test since i will be traveling; seems like it’s only covered if i have symptoms. been kind of hypochondriac after going to the dentist. in fact after i went to the hmart nearby and was in there and realized i’d just gone in there to kill time and i didn’t actually have anything i actively needed to buy! and the intense heat waves in seattle and canada killing dozens of people (boston was at 99F this week). the volcano in dr congo.

double rainbow — did you know the second rainbow is always reversed?

Pandemic Diary #57 – moving (25 Jun 2021)

will be on a flight to boston in 5 days or less,
feels difficult to think about, i have enjoyed my time here and feel like there’s still so much i want to do. still with phones and internet, it’s so easy to keep in contact. and try to remember, that there’s lots of things i can do in boston that i cannot do in GA. maybe i will be excited and find passion in something again.

i am starting to think about things i would be happy to work on.

  • disinformation – i forget exactly now, but there’s lots of stuff that would be… less evil to work on
  • us-china relations – jeez i don’t even know it’s such a huge topic
  • ocean and sustainability – robot boats for science? being more in nature (ocean) would be nice

things i used to like

  • teaching, i hate it now. i guess i forgot the part where i never had a happy relationship with my classes in undergrad, and teaching while having no stability in life was awful and i’m so bitter about it

pandemic diary #56 – vaccination and changing norms (21 Jun 2021)

went to costco saturday

croissants, so many croissants

huge sign saying “if you’re vaxxed you don’t have to wear a mask, also be law we cannot ask you for proof of vax”

also “only police allowed to have firearms inside”

it feels different. i’m less aware of my 6 ft bubble of personal space. more just paying attention to people wearing/not wearing masks. can’t keep up with changing social norms.

i guess it’s not possible to replicate this experience in the future (discounting another pandemic). everyone around you has to be in on it to. we cross the street when we see someone coming our way on walks on the neighborhood, and maybe wave, but no offense is taken. people understand.

getting an ebike. excited. sold at at costco. found it refurbished online for cheaper. hopefully the battery isn’t too worn out. but i guess most things i should be able to fix myself.

we bring packages inside same day now. and mail, it doesn’t sit in the garage for 2 or 3 days and get lost. coming back from costco i didn’t shower right away. in fact I didn’t even change clothes.

we also aren’t so careful about spacing out visits. we used to aim for 2-3 weeks between visits where we have to go inside a store.

all this when the fully vax rate in GA is something like 30-40%. (in seattle it’s 70%+)

Pandemic Diary #55 – learning nlp, traveling (Jun 12)

I’m having such extreme cognitive dissonance between reality (most things are fine for both transmission and … uh reception?… now that we’re vaccinated) and how I feel (some weird moral grumpiness about unnecessary travel when the rest of the world is still fked up by COVID) – maybe just giving off the impression that it’s fine to party and hang out and normalizing that, when only 43% of US is fully vaxxed (less than half!) (64% of 18+). if things feel normal why vax? i’m worried about that effect.

on the other hand, i guess just as there can be exponential growth, thus bringing the exponent down could cause exponential decay. though part of it is likely also seasonal (going into warmer months now in US)

but it really is starting to feel different. i guess I have been fully vaccinated (aka 2 weeks after 2nd dose) for close to a month now. actually went and stayed at a hotel for a week with another family. for the first dayish kept my mask on indoors. then didn’t. traveled into stores (with a mask on) and came back and didn’t shower — didn’t even change clothes. less fear of getting close to people (esp. walmart had a lot of unmasked, kind of crowded situation).

was prepared and was blunt and didn’t follow photographer’s instruction to take off the mask INDOORS jesus

then when for my eye exam the doctor asked me to take off the mask (indoors) I did so without too much pushback. later i thought back and realized i was uncomfortable and thought there was zero reason to take off my mask for an eye exam, but it was someone i had seen since a kid. and being vaxxed made me resist less.

dangerous complacency. we still have 700+ deaths a day. that’s my entire high school, teachers and all, disappearing every 5 days… yet we have stores removing mask mandates

the vaxx effective against the (now called greek letters) gamma etc variants, but could def be a new variant not effective. also it’s not 100%, it’s 95%. but the idea of basically being protected against severe disease / dying. it’s weird.

i think i’ll be wearing my mask anywhere i might run into people for a while, until covid calms down

it’s hard though. someone rings the doorbell for a package signature, can’t find mask right away. hotel cleaning staff came by, couldn’t find a mask. driving and pass through a toll booth, can’t get mask on while driving, finding change.

we’re becoming way more complacent about touch transfer eg wiping down groceries (or ozone disinfecting), leaving non-perishables outside for a few days. basically don’t wait anymore. same for letters and packages, 2-3 hrs is good enough. still feel urge to wash hands after handling, which is good to keep. will help keep common colds and flu at bay.

maybe i’ll wear a mask all cold season… there are a lot of fashionable masks now. can brand my face with my identity lol, like socks but more obnoxious

nlp

I emergency learned nlp. simpletransformers. was good. got work done. need to do more. definitely relied on learning from friend! seeing her source code for word2vec doc2vec kmeans clustering umap projections, good.

the idea of engineering vs economics. trying to explore and untangle causal effects vs achieving some numerical goal. the latter i’m much more comfortable with.

methodology – scared of it. but turns out the idea is just creating a new problem (which can be inspired by either just bs-ing it, or perhaps by a new application domain), writing the new code to handle that case, and voila methodology. not sure why i’m way more attracted to this. keep having people think my paper is social sciences, no, i’ve zero qualifications in that regard !

nature

birds left, we can use our deck again.

tomatoes are here finally, 3 months from seed in soil. apparently they may still take 20-30 days to fully ripen…

travel

looked into traveling to china for an internship. really wanted to improve my chinese. vaxxed = ten year visa = hop on a plane right?

noppeee

have to get special permission letters (company applies for PU letter) to apply for visa (still not guaranteed). it’s either 21 straight days in hotel (at your expense) or 14 days + negative tests from two separate labs + 1 day to travel + 14 days home quarantine.

domestic plane tickets are soaring in price. (hopefully temporary until supply matches demand), starting early mayish I’m guessing as people got vaxxed. apparently in the cities everything is opening again, people are having house parties.

i’m not sure how to explain. maybe i’m burnt out now, but my desire for employment is to just do my job, be cordial with my coworkers, and focus my energy elsewhere.

found not possible to submit gender neutral application from applicant side. now most places ask for your preferred pronouns. the irony to being inclusive in a way that opens up can of worms of bias…

still overall, i am looking forward to sailing. i think i feel fairly comfortable sailing now.

oh, i haven’t blogged in some time. i guess in between at some point, there was a huge swell of cases and deaths in india. just about every indian-american i knew (eg mostly relatively high status or well off families) had relatives got really sick or died. learning about tradition of funeral pyres, never knew. then israel-palestine mini-war happened, with hundreds of deaths. crazy to see. the iron dome – rockets shooting down rockets. don’t know much about conflict. felt insolvable but at some point things stopped again. then asia started having upswell in cases. the indian variant (gamma?) is so much more contagious… right now guangzhou is in lockdown. over a couple of dozen cases, many people are in total lockdown. and huge rise in vax rate in china.

meanwhile in boston that many cases is super low and causing things like pubs and such to *open* . the contrast between having to quarantine for 3 weeks to travel to china vs people traveling again (memorial day weekend, flights were at same volume as pre-pandemic) is intense.

https://analytics.boston.gov/app/boston-covid

happy to have found both summer and fall housing. should be inexpensive on both fronts, relieves a lot of pressure. had a lot of stuff fall through, but others gave chances i never expected. pretty grateful for support network.

talking to someone else who burnt their way through grad school. to be valued and appreciated. to have people say thank you for your work. these are things that don’t really happen in academia…

oh, still rooting for “for the people” voting rights reform to pass senate. was super hopeful actually. kind of shocked recently to find it under such duress. but not sure that i can do much.

oh yea duckietown goes well.

https://learning.edx.org/course/course-v1:ETHx+DT-01x+1T2021/home
https://github.com/duckietown/mooc-exercises
duckietown.org/
https://get.duckietown.com/pages/hardware-distributors
One of the challenges – don’t run over the duckies!
https://challenges.duckietown.org/v4/humans/submissions

and peek into research.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argo_(oceanography)

Pandemic Diary #54 – i never thought reading chinese could be addicting (May 20)

i feel like i’ve discovered a superpower,
the shift from 1000 to 2000 characters known is huge !

or maybe just forcing myself to read more chinese regardless has greatly increased my tolerance for stumbling through stuff I can only half read

feels like a snowball where i recognize more of the characters (stopping 10x an article vs 50x an article), so it’s more pleasant to read, so i read more

yesterday i read through a bbc chinese article in full, as in i read it at the dinner table and was getting tired, scrolled down, and saw i only had one paragraph left & finished it off

usually that happens when i’m only halfway through the article and i feel overwhelmed and just quit

i spend way too much time on reddit (i hate myself so much for this) so i made an effort to find chinese reddit, after browsing a bunch of poorly formatted semi-spam filled BBS’s, it appears to be /r/China_irl

i also saw wechat has “moments” and so i apparently have contacts who post in-joke posts about boston, like the kinda silly nyc vs boston, sports teams kinda quality posts

there’s scientific american as i mentioned earlier

occasionally the local chinese newspapers have an article or two in chinese

OH the other big source is with enough digging i found webtoons (which i also spend way too much time on…) has not just traditional chinese translation (which i read about 50+ ep of how to become a dragon on… fml, thanks pleco ocr for making this possible since traditional was an uphill struggle) but also a simplified version!

this simplified version made me understand the importance of CDNs, which I guess in one case are just servers on this side of the atlantic caching content in china, because it. is. like. dialup, but worse. you can’t just put the page there and assume it’ll load the images eventually, it’ll usually time out.

i sorted it out (a post for another time — VPN + some software called hakuneko / OR data and cellphone browser, but hakuneko is more reliable) and i was literally refreshing my page every few hours waiting for an update so i could exercise my chinese reading skills on this new source

it’s fun to be able to compare the english / chinese side-by-side, learn all the onamatopoeia

anyway it feels like a superpower to be able to read blocks of text in another language haha, it’s like you have a bunch of blurred images on a page (aka text you can’t understand) and then BAM you put on glasses and everything’s clear

Pandemic Diary #53 – paper, sleep (May 19)

I just woke up from an hour long nap on the ground of my office after I locked myself out of my own bedroom (on purpose) – even though I got seven hours of sleep last night –

SO

as a reminder to myself that I’m not just excuse-seeking, I do actually fall into above-average sleepiness category, (even with the diagnosis after a sleep study it feels hand wavy), here are recollections from my napping days

— skipping lunch and then finding a disused hallway and napping on the stored classroom furniture in high school, with the awkward stress of hoping no one walked in and found me
— getting woken up by alarmed teachers after napping on my backpack under my poofy jacket in the stairwell after school let out — in retrospect I probably looked like a homeless person
— napping curled up one of the mini-stairs alongside the sidewalk along Mass Ave and getting woken up by alarmed stranger – I learned that people think you’ve fainted if you pick places like that to nap

none of this is a serious issue unless it impacts me, so, what is the impact?

it’s not clear right now since i’ve sort of finagled my way into situations where naps during the day are pretty okay, but i remember the ~1 year I spent working in an office for reals (vs as a high school student unpaid summer intern, I think I just napped at my desk), and just staring at my screen uncomfortably at an office and scrolling just to try to stay awake after lunch. just totally not there for an hour. miserable.

worried as places exit* pandemic mode and I seek to exit academia that i’ll land myself someplace where it does matter, i need to be awake in the office 8 hours a day consistently (I think most jobs I might seek are in the office)

exit*: I say this because Harvard announced intentions to resume in-person schooling this semester, not because I have strong faith things will go back to normal in the world soon

well that’s all, just trying to go for papers right now, hence the long silence, maybe have a deadline in 10 days

projects blog (nouyang)