Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pandemic Diary #51 – five baby birds (carolina wren) (May 3)

did I mention the bird eggs all hatched 6 days ago??

they started out looking like the stuff out of nightmares. Here’s a bunch of stills from videos. (We also have the other view of the mom/dad coming in and feeding. But I chose ones here that kind of showcase the feathers coming in)

evening april 27: one bird hatched. will the rest make it??
oh. oh my. stuff of nightmares. day 1 after hatching
day 2: eww.
day 3: still nightmare fuel
day 4, the hair coming in helps a lot with the ick factor
day 5, i wonder if the feathers growing in is painful, they sure do wiggle around a lot.
day 6: looking like dinosaurs

Pandemic Diary #50 – continuous internal screaming (May 1)

i have mostly given up on internships which frees up my mind to FREAK TF OUT about turning something in for NeurIPS in May 19th.


okay so i have at least submitted 12 apps, so …

+ have started on which is fun b/c you can see other people’s answers after! also super reality check i am not as good at coding as i thought lol

the inaudible hunt I helped organize / wrote for went well, almost 50 team/people completed the hunt

I wasted the life of at least 46 people

tomatoe plants are growing bigger finally but they are also yellowing out. nitrogen deficiency, underwater, or some bacterial infestation? they’re getting chewed on but not sure by what

roses are doing ok this is fun always meant to learn more about CTF

PicoCTF: Let learning happen through exploration. The largest cybersecurity hacking contest for middle and high school students has expanded to help learners of all experience levels. (For the RSA section challenge question: is the private key 4966306280016000? for phi = (p-1)*(q-1). The solution is not given :'( )

duckietown arrived. noted that back in stock on okdo… waste of $70 T__T to get it shipped from HK. however, I could not have known. ready to livestream my experience with it. “mit grad attempts duckietown course with dad. how many ducks will they run over?”

also omg i got my 2nd moderna shot on monday, so close to fully vax yayyyyy . definitely was out of it the day after, all i wanted to do was sleep, got up for an hour and was exhausted. day after that was just a little headachy and sleepy. v-safe is a disaster, does not work on my phone inexplicably.

tried to get drs appointment now that i have health insurance (thanks obama) failed b/c all the dr’s are busy RIP. i should try again.

my rent situation for summer was under control and now it is not, person backed out on me πŸ™ now contemplating, for $2500/mo i could live in penthouse? i feel like i lived that already overnighting at northeastern in the robotics 5th floor lab already lol

goals: finish book , start on basement. automatic mushroom mister.

oh we ate the mushrooms! they tasted like MUSHROOM STOCK maybe needed to boil-rinse once first. not sure a second flush will grow, looking a little moldy

so pessimistic about the future. gotta remember there will be unexpected happy points too.

what was i passionate about anyway? i kind of fell into grasping. it’s cool, but the immediate applications in helping people are a while away.

changed my desktop to chinese (in ubuntu 20.04). PDF render looks eldritch. automatic internationalization gone wrong (this happens to all PDFs in box).

looks fine under dropbox preview, or opening directly in browser. maybe i’ll report it as a bug

Pandemic Diary #49 – birbs in love, inaudible puzzle hunt (Apr 23)

that last post was way too depressing to be my most recent post, mostly because i posted a side project of mine to reddit where i use this same (old) username, so i’ll post some birds here instead

After two days of rejections, finally mama bird accepted some grubs πŸ˜€

in other bird news, there has been a sharp decline in birds at my feeders. literally went from 10-15 bird visits a day to 0-1. i used to have fill up my feeders up every two days, now it’s been 5 days and it’s still fill to the brim. i wonder if the ground warmed up and they’re all eating larvae now? they’re all sitting on eggs instead of courting? i used to have a possibly-couple pair of house wrenches literally sit on the feeder for 10-15 minutes just having a buffet o__o didn’t realize i’d miss them.

at least i still have these little baby birds to look forward to each day! although since they are there all day, i no longer have the incentive to wake up by 8am every day anymore.

also we have a mushroom kit growing with some ferocity

also have some sprouts planted, we re-filled the raised bed. 50-50 garden soil and top soil.

so i’m not sure exactly why i keep accumulating accounts and (user)name. i think part of it is some sort of FU to all the companies and industries who keep collecting data, it’s like well at the least i’ll make it so you have to employ data scientists to have to munge my accounts together lol. the other part is complicated but eh so’s the rest of life, otherwise it’d be boring right?

right? ;__;

other cool finds of the day:


oh yea the links came from this talk which was p. good too… there’s the main topic of the talk but also things I never thought about: replacing calculus with linear algebra as the intro university math class !


the cause of this “maybe i’ll clean up my blog homepage” is that i helped write a puzzlehunt which accidentally found a lot of signups (i feel bad to have dragged my fellow puzzlewriters in, but in my defense, there are zero comments on most of the posts to that subreddit, and the puzzlehunt calendar is super plain and unassuming also… I thought max ten extra signups of which 5 might show up…)

so if you’re into puzzles (which have been taking up more of my time lately than my MITERS-quality projects??? since when did this become a significant side hobby???)

Inaudible Hunt: this weekend @

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? just enjoy what i’m doing without comparing to others? it’s way more reasonable to contribute to structural fixes rather than proscribe my life choices by some arbitrary if-things-didn’t-go-wrong / how-things-could’ve-gone-better arbitrary yardstick. (grad school has been miserable)

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 >:0

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 ζ΄» 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 working on it)

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 “εŽŸζ–‡” on BBC Chinese using duckduckgo.

For some reason the articles that are translated from English (and therefore contain a link to the εŽŸζ–‡ 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. HOWEVER the translation does mean there are a lot of awkward phrasing not normally used (but still understandable). Still valuable for character reading practice.

Second “breakthrough” discovery. Magazines (ηŽ―ηƒη§‘ε­¦).

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. ηŽ―ηƒη§‘ε­¦γ€‚

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.

Pandemic Diary #46 – shots (Mar 30)

I went shopping afterward and lost my vax card (typical), the pharmacy person was kind enough to print another.

barely felt it going in. I think I was expecting blood drawing kinda pain. after a sleep, it’s definitely feeling a bit sore.

took a full hour + change. got there on time for 5:15, but pharmacy was super busy, waited in line for 10 mins to sign forms, then another 5 mins to get the shot, then hanging around another 15 mins on my phone, then shopping for 20 mins. (ALL THE ICE CREAM + lox). was at 15 mins drive away.

wow I hadn’t just wandered around shopping by myself in a while. got some. money for real life things almost feels unreal now… costco is a once-a-month deal and I already know where everything is and what to get.

daily schedule: 8:30am wake up and feed the cat (decided almost entirely automated cat feeding was not as good for bonding / didn’t show my cat I cared enough). watch the birds, then water the tomatoes, then feed the birds, then the squirrel, then feed myself.

eyeing adopting a second cat. the two cats I really liked from last week are gone already, including an old black cat. She was 11, and long hair, so I hesitated, but she likes to sit your lap and hang out… It’s good that she’s found a home already.

feeling fortunate, but life hasn’t changed much, and I don’t intend it to. I’m really conservative with any possibility of spreading COVID.

sleepy. time to start the workday

Pandemic Diary #46 – ethics and tomatoes (Mar 24)

wow what a lot of blog posts lately

i am not doing well at a lot of things I should be, but here are some pictures (since I do not use facebook, I guess this is now my facebook)

goals progress: going poorly wow!! πŸ™ the only thing that has progressed but too slowly is my runs… :'( I will write a research blog post in the morning and evening maybe. even my chars learned is going backwards :'( it’s REALLY rough going now, I think the last 1k characters are going to be a slog. I’ve switched back to drama watching / bbc chinese reading in the hopes of hitting more of the last 1k words so that I can actually have any hope of remembering them. If I don’t know any of the terms they’re in, I don’t feel like I’ve really learned them. Maybe I should memorize the pronunciation first at this rate. yea

so through no work of my own there is good news (getting vaccinated monday, and getting paid?!) but in terms of progress… it’s bad. I got stuck on ethics again. the current conclusion is: work on spatiotemporal analysis of the IMBs. then for longer term investigate it from the labor side, by reaching out to other people (academics etc.) working on it from this perspective; so health services perspective primarily.

Pandemic Diary #45 – when you can’t sleep because you’re thinking about the ethics of your research (Mar 23)

ddg search for “urban institution illicit massage parlor”

Comes up with this study based on interviews with 116 Chinese and Korean women in the illicit massage parlor business in NYC and LA from October 2014 through July 2016.

Online Event, Dec 11 2020

From the event page:

This report, from researchers at Hunter College of the City University of New York and University of Southern California, aims to shed light on the experiences of Chinese and Korean immigrant women working in illicit massage parlors in Los Angeles County and New York City. Media accounts have documented raids, mass arrests and undercover stings of illicit massage parlors in US cities and suburbs. Often lost in these accounts are the daily experiences of the women workers from their own perspectives. Why are women working in these establishments and under what conditions do they labor? What is the arrest process like for them? What solutions can be offered that do not further penalize, traumatize, or victimize an already vulnerable population? This report aims to answer some of these questions, and offer recommendations for policy and practice, based on in-depth interviews with 116 women working in illicit massage parlors.

This is the part that’s giving me insomnia

Massage parlor workers’ fear of arrest for prostitution almost always superseded their fear of being robbed or assaulted by clients. Most women, when asked about threats to their safety, first answered in terms of their fear of being arrested.

And a second part

Illicit massage parlor work as a labor rights issue

The wide range of experiences reported in our study, including both negative and positive experiences, suggests that addressing illicit massage parlor work as a labor issue may be fruitful from both research and practice perspectives.

With a labor-oriented perspective, the use of blunt regulatory tools – such as criminal prosecution of workers and the use of municipal codes to thwart illicit massage parlor businesses – can evolve towards a more nuanced understanding of why illicit massage parlor businesses proliferate, why immigrant women continue to work in them, and the consequences for cities, neighborhoods, and the workers. A focus on labor rights can also extend the trafficking lens to include not just sex trafficking but also broader forms of labor trafficking and exploitation. From a practice point-of-view, an immigrant labor framework allows for addressing the day-to-day hardships of illicit massage parlor workers as workers. A labor framework can begin to examine ways of improving daily working conditions by addressing wages, work hours, safety and access to healthcare for the many women who choose to continue working in the sector.

Some notes for me from the report (parts I’m thinking over)

These recommendations offer incremental ways to address the most immediate issues of overly aggressive policing, as well as some of the root causes of exploitation, such as the lack of economic survival alternatives. Given the highly politicized nature of the debate on whether the provision of commercial sexual services should be legalized, decriminalized, or eliminated – these recommendations seek to move beyond the stalemate and create change that is attainable.


As discussed earlier, many illicit massage parlor workers had limited job options because of language barriers and undocumented immigration status, and some study participants noted a lack of job training or job counseling as another reason. One study participant, who wanted to pursue a job in education, suggested that community centers could help provide job training and counseling. Without this type of support, she found herself returning to illicit massage parlor work multiple times: β€œAlthough I want to quit this job and try to look for other work, there are few options I can choose from. In the past, I quit several times but eventually came back to this industry after spending all the money I had saved while working [in massage parlors].”


As before:

Massage parlor workers’ fear of arrest for prostitution almost always superseded their fear of being robbed or assaulted by clients. Most women, when asked about threats to their safety, first answered in terms of their fear of being arrested.

As described earlier, this confusion is fueled when police arrest all the women in a massage parlor, regardless of what they were doing, and on the other hand, when police engage in sexual activity with massage parlor workers without making arrests

very much the last part should not be a thing (again: realities on the ground vs realities at a high level)

Although most study participants were in agreement that experiences with the police ranged from negative to abusive, some reported having more benign experiences with police officers, even when arrested.

That is not the “most” you want… There are some truly sad anecdotes about interactions with the police.


“If she presses charges, the defendant’s lawyer will say she seduced the defendant to have sex. She said she wants to get the green card so she cancelled the charges.”

Language barriers

Study participants were unable to communicate effectively with the police and sometimes unwittingly admitted to crimes they did not commit.

Court process language barriers

Issues of β€œlegal literacy” are compounded when language interpretation services are inadequate, as described earlier

Same topic

Illicit massage parlor workers’ ability to assess their own legal risks was often compromised by their lack of understanding of the law and of arrest and court procedures

Negative Lawyer Interactions

Some participants believed that their lawyers manipulated them into a guilty plea for either expediency or to prolong the need for legal services (and thereby additional legal fees). At the very least, participants felt that proceedings and decisions were not adequately explained to them, leaving them feeling unsure if they received appropriate representation.

Immigration and Diversion Programs

Study participants valued being able to avoid a criminal conviction through these alternative court programs. Having a criminal record was not only a source of shame, but also an impediment to acquiring documented immigration status and future employment outside of the illicit massage parlor industry


Both advocates and workers believed that raids and arrests did not serve the goal of ending illicit activity and exploitation. Instead, many women were further victimized, and employers, clients, and other actors leveraged this fear of law enforcement to exploit the women further.

Raids pt 2

Increase collaboration between law enforcement and legal/social service providers: Given that illicit massage parlor raids and arrests are likely to continue, law enforcement should at least work in close coordination with legal/social service providers when making arrests


Ultimately, many study participants felt the arrests were merely token efforts to address prostitution without delving more deeply into the root causes of the issue by targeting illicit massage parlor owners and clients. As a result, participants felt unjustly targeted and disproportionately penalized

Currently, it appears that some local neighborhood groups are working with their local police and leveraging community policing mechanisms to target certain segments of their community that they deem β€œforeign” and β€œunwanted,” such as immigrants or those working in illicit massage parlors. Lost in those efforts is an understanding of the ways in which undocumented immigrant women are exploited through illicit massage parlor work and then further victimized through the legal process

Rather than arresting illicit massage parlor workers for prostitution or unlicensed massage, agencies would instead focus on the business practices of their employers. Law enforcement would focus on extreme cases of exploitation, such as human trafficking. This approach shifts effort to the more prevalent concerns of labor rights and worker and consumer health and safety.

What has changed since 2016? I will watch the video to find out. (I’m hoping that in NYC and LA the diversion courts and police training / shifting of focus has happened).


Vera Institute of Justice and the US Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services also published a series of reports (β€œPolice Perspectives Guidebook Series: Building Trust in a Diverse Nation”), written by law enforcement officers in collaboration with Vera Institute’s research team.

Homeless Initiative

For example, in New York City, police officers, mental health workers, lawyers and other providers visit homeless encampments together, rather than relying solely on police officers to respond to complaints.35 Understanding how this initiative has worked can be instructive for implementing a collaborative approach to policing illicit massage parlors in New York City and Los Angeles County.


In light of these realities, social services should include a wider range of programs focused on economic and financial security. Social service providers could offer more economic/skills-based training that track women into jobs that offer living wages

More carrot

There may be opportunities through social media and other means to develop support networks where former illicit massage parlor workers can provide guidance to help other women to move out of the illicit massage parlor industry.

A number of our study participants indicated that their models for financial success were other illicit massage parlor owners, whom they aspired to emulate. Mentorship by former illicit massage parlor workers who have moved out of the industry may open up alternative paths.

These social and support networks could be expanded to include more formal arrangements with willing employers and business networks to establish pipelines to living-wage employment


so how does this affect my research?

it’s a bit questionable to help with classifying individual businesses as legal or not, in order to help them get shut down, from complaints by police or local neighborhood groups, using nuisance laws.

There is a lot of creativity about use of stick, not so much creativity about use of carrot.

Fortunately the report basically provides a list of carrots!

Things I can do in collaboration more ethically:

  • Estimate activity at county level: View google sites review text as ”traces” of IMB activity, as well as RM review count directly
    • (qualms: could be used by law enforcement to focus parlor raids; pros: could be used by non profits or social services or e.g. outreach to churches to focus outreach)
  • Address health literacy – but not sure what about this would be research that could be published that could get me a job…
    • ???

oh heavens sleep it’s 5 am