Pandemic Diary #48 – maybe it’s fine to be a statistic (Apr 16)

not a gun violence statistic (there was another horrific shooting last night)

but a career outcomes and pay inequality statistic

it’s making me miserable thinking about it, so maybe stop?

things that are stressing me out right now:

being behind schedule for writing and submitting papers, with minimal progress toward doing so. doing minimal technical work (like even opening jupyter notebooks basically) for the last month. it’s been almost a year switching labs and I’ve gotten no real coding done

being behind schedule for even my own goals – eg learning Chinese. I spend a decent amount of time but it seems hard to even stick anything now that I’m up in the 2000 range, and it’s depressing to be stuck in the 840 unknown characters since I took down the new cards/day since it was taking so much time each day. (maybe time to switch it up again? accept fewer reviews and more new cards, not efficient but more fun). i’m even starting to doubt hanzi i’ve known since a kid, like I looked at 活 once and didn’t recognize it…

my duckietown purchase (for the autonomous vehicles mooc) will arrive in a week, looking forward but also stressed about spending money on spurious things. plus it reminds me of my total failure of combining hardware with online education. (though this did take 3-4 years and multiple UROPs and institutions I guess)

Pandemic Diary #47 – birddddsss (Apr 15)

so there is a bird saga going on where

a few weeks ago I noticed this bird coming and going with leaves into a bag on our deck — like literally a random paper bag, which formerly held flower bulbs, that I fished out of where it had been stewing in warm water for a few days in a pot on the deck

turns out they nest wherever they f*k they want

okay so this is the same deck we do our laundry, let the cat out for a stroll, feed the birds from, it’s right next to our dining table and where we watch TV and feed the cat (and rosie is a talkative cat). also the bag is just out in the open, there is zero waterproofing ??

a few days in we moved the cart around to do laundry, and then my dad put in a security webcam to sit and watch the nest and accidentally let our cat out on the deck for a while and didn’t notice. so we were convinced we scared the bird away.

but they kept coming, and we were wondering.. the nest looked like it was built sideways?? wouldn’t the eggs just fall out?

then one day we noticed there were two birds coming and going! like swapping duty almost. they actually went inside the nest

then it rained and we put up an umbrella, but overall it seemed like they kinda disappeared after that

in fact my dad went out with a snake inspection cam (which i yelled at him about over) and reported that there were no birds nor eggs. so we were sure it was abandoned. the last few days we went about doing laundry etc. totally as normal

but every day once or twice a bird would come and sing loudly in font of the bag

and then once i let the cat out on the deck and boy did a bird come and scream at the top of its lungs at us

i actually was wondering if maybe like, the guy who built the nest was coming and being sad about breaking up with his gf who left because we were loud noisy humans

then yesterday… the bird came and my dad saw it sit for a long while.

this afternoon while the bird was gone i went and had a look — and there were three eggs!!



i’m not sure why but it makes me really happy

though it’s supposed to raain tomorrow… not sure if we should put up an umbrella 0:

nest cam 04-14
with my phone while the bird was gone
literally a random *paper* bag on our deck wtf carolina wren
there’s no rain protection or anything! it’s just a paper bag
we do our laundry on the deck too ?? 03-27

i definitely feel less valuable to not be “employed” right now, and not really speaking about my work (which is pretty sensitive and unrelated to the research of anyone i know). it’s a weird dichotomy since at the same time this is the most a bunch of senior-ly people at well-known places know my name.

taking part in a MIT alumni career change thing I paid cash for. i figure, invest in things that matter to me and cause me happiness/unhappiness. enjoying it so far. one of the assignments asked for feedback from friends. totally scared to read people’s thoughts about me though…

and also paid cash for a duckietown mooc, and it’s inflated over $150 since my . makes me remember our 6.01x work. porting the homework assignments. how terrible i was as an engineer then. hella expensive. but i think worthwhile for a free class. and mostly for the experience — i think it’ll be really fun to go through it with my parents ! and also stimulus check i guess?

i have started investing. these cryptocurrencies are making weird movements, maybe due to people sitting at home and stimulus checks. am i missing out on easy money? maybe.

keep feeling like i need to do cool famous projects to get hired. but wouldn’t it be nice to have a simple 9-to-5 and have time for my free-time projects? can that be found at normal big companies? (as someone said, is it possible to do the research i like without feeling obligated to work weekends?)

haven’t really done technical work in a while. miss CS. should do coding interviews. try to value my time on earth. etc

parents got 2nd shot!! mom made sure to cook lots and get extra hours in at work that evening. today was flat out with a stable 101-102F. dad started felt fine but started feeling tired toward evening. they actually got the date wrong and someone from the pharmacy called them !

wanted to adopt a 2nd black cat. i think i filled out the form wrong or was late. 3 weeks, keep getting these emails every 3 days “there’s someone in line ahead of you”. pretty sure she’s already adopted out *facepalm* (is it fine to combine clawed and declawed cats? my first adoptee came declawed)

wait the cat is back on atlanta humane… ! maybe there is still a chance. my only hesitation is she is 13 y.o. but the more i think about it… i think she may live 3 or 4 years and the medical expenses, it will be manageable i hope. i guess if she has diabetes already, i might hesitate though hmm

Pandemic Diary #46 – status / Chinese protips: magazines and BBC Chinese (Apr 3)

I’m thinking of calling it quits on the Chinese for now, forward progress is *brutal* even though each day I watch TV I catch several words I learned this week. Or decrease the goal to 2500 characters. Then my goal can just be 5 new hanzi a day… maybe review 30 to get the cards into the “mature” stage. Would feel amazing vs grinding right now.

(Mostly, I tried reading an science article recently, and was more okay than I thought with how much I could read without getting super frustrated / tired). I also realized that the 2000 chars = 98% — 98% seems high but that means for every 100 hanzi there are two hanzi I don’t know. And then a single article can be 1500 words (eg Which means while reading it I will have to totally skip over (1500 * 0.02) = 30 hanzi! And if I get to 3000 hanzi (99.7) then I will still have to skip over (1500 * 0.003) = 5 hanzi! Just reading some random newspaper article, I will not be able to finish it all without looking up hanzi in dictionary. T__T (words are a totally separate matter).

Get more research done. Here’s the status.

Other intermediate Chinese study tips.

A better interface for finding BBC Chinese articles that are not (US, China, COVID).
Search for “原文” on BBC Chinese using duckduckgo.

For some reason the articles that are translated from English (and therefore contain a link to the 原文 original (English) article) include a lot of BBC Future / climate articles. This solves the problem where I was going on BBC Chinese, but 99% of the articles are about the US, China, or COVID. And I just wanted some interesting science-y articles to take my mind off things, so scrolling through 100-150 articles was frustrating. This is a much better interface. Plus, I can also quickly skim the English article to see if it’s interesting for me to read in Chinese.

Second “breakthrough” discovery. Magazines (环球科学).

My library actually has a bunch of magazine subscriptions — then on the libbyapp — you can access them digitally, all for free (*paid for by taxes)! Most are traditional Chinese. The others are about stuff like finances. But I did find Scientific American, which is basically perfect for my interests. 环球科学。

Actually after a LOT of searching on amazon, ebay, random bookstore websites to see if there is any way to get a physical subscription, it seems like not. (I even looked up the USPS international shipping rates). Given that I have the e-subscription through my library (, I may haventhen went and found a PDF version so I can print it out. In retrospect far more environmentally friendly also. But yea, since I am so used to the ease of consumer electronics import from China, I was honestly a little surprised at the difficulty of importing reading materials.