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


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 !


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…


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


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.

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.
One of the challenges – don’t run over the duckies!

and peek into research.

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 –


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

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

projects blog (nouyang)