Alternative to “Freemium”?

by on Feb.19, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Project-Related

Digital products — such as music, ebooks, apps, and other software — wreak havoc on the traditional capitalist market because once developed, supply is infinite. Why not, as a business strategy, make the first n products free, then raise the price from there? This fits digital products into the traditional framework neatly.

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Why English and Literature

by on Jan.22, 2012, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

Wrote this some time in 2010…
English and literature is perhaps best connected to by those who have faced a challenge or a confusing series of events. As characters trace their way through analogous situations and make decisions, readers gain a deeper understanding of the meaning underlying the events unfolding within their own lives. If you think about this situation from an existential standpoint, there’s no intrinsic order or reason or higher meaning behind the C you just got on a lab writeup, a rejection from college, or a loss in a competition. Nor is there any significance to winning a battle, making it over a threshold, or falling in love. The meaning that’s “out there” is not really “out there”: we construct it for ourselves, pulling it from the void around us and weaving it into patterns of truth like science fiction writers would imagine we could zero-point energy from the quantum vacuum…
What literature tells us is that the fact that there is nothing certain but what we make and interpret isn’t such a bad thing after all. It uplifts us like myth in Joseph Campbell’s commentary, it gives us a common background, a set of axioms around which we can structure our own thinking. When, in the Wheel of Time book The Gathering Storm, Rand resolved to make himself “harder than steel,” into “cuendillar” (an unbreakable substance in that universe) in order to resist the pain of the world around him and again the strength he needed to do what had to be done to win the Last Battle, I felt him to be a reflection of myself in the face of AP Chem. I saw that I had made the same decision under analogous circumstances. And like him, the coat of ice on my soul did not last forever, because it attempted to obscure who I truly was. As it softened with time, I gained a greater understanding of the passion and flashing neural storms of thought and curiosity that had driven me forward over the years. Same happened with Ender’s game and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. It’s the element of seeing yourself and others you know in characters, and seeing the world around you through the fantasy and fiction that gives a truer testament to the subjective  human experience then does the whitewashed truth itself. It is the evolution of the character through trials and temptations, his series of decisions that make me realize fully, deeply, that though figments of nothing we may be, governed by no higher truth, that I am not alone, that there’s kinship in this strange place, that there’s someone who’s faced my trials and come out the victor, who knows me now and knows what I will become more surely than I do myself. This soothing balm we give a greater name: culture and religion and tradition…
Nietchze tells us that “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Science is the how. Literature is the why, and it underlies and teaches us more about all that we do..
oneness of percep
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I think I’m the Dymaxion guy….

by on Jan.10, 2012, under - Show All Posts


I like Isaac Asimov, XML, and shoes with toes. I also think the Segway got a bad rap (wanted one sooo badly in 4th grade), and I actually want to build one myself. I don’t own 3-D goggles yet, but I would really love some, and I wear 3-D glasses, and design programs to use their functionality. I own an EEG-based mouse controller headset. I also type in Dvorak.

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Action. Subjective Definition

by on Oct.22, 2011, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

Action is the grating sound of the crude, midnight lock pick on the iron-barred, stone-brick door; the focus that comes ten seconds before the hammer falls, the buzzer rings, and the contest is decided – flying, searching, balancing perfectly, speeding on through the deepening twilight, filled with exhilaration, overpowering pain and fatigue, nervousness fading to confidence and worry to motivation; holding straight with unimaginable, superhuman precision even as the world collapses behind you because you know that is the only way. Action is springing awake, inspired with a vision at that time after midnight when words, algorithms, pictures, music – connections – fly from your spidery long and preternaturally deft fingers, fingers that tacitly remind you they cannot be stopped or even hindered in their transcendent quest for future glory, that drill into your mind the joyous realization that whatever it is you once had, you still have it.
The rapid release of energy, the visceral beat of adrenaline against the knotted stomach, darkness evaporating, doubt so far from consciousness as to have never existed, the pre-knowledge, the intuitive certainty, of victory. Taking off ever later, deeper – not banishing, but simply never entertaining thoughts of the rocky reef below and the dredging mountain of water forming up steeply under your shortboard’s tail; seeing thousands of miles ahead, but focusing only on the next step, next step, next step, as time beats rhythmically onwards. Pumping harder than ever before, than is mortally possible; the splash of foam and salt rising as you land high speed aerials never successfully completed on a calmer day, but that you knew you could then. Automatically, subconsciously, upping your performance as the stakes grow higher.
Time passes. Every second is judged, every word, gesture, sentence, test, program, contract – business deal – weighted successively more heavily in the gradebook of life. Pressure-action: sprinting across the finish line, no time for celebration because it’s too late already, the shining gossamer fabric of Now tearing ever more rapidly behind your leaden feet. Clearing abyssal gaps, scaling colossal boulders in the budding spring, running up the icy mountainside without a moment’s breath, pulling your scarf close as you trudge on under the waning moon – the only light remaining in a darkening world of thunder-shrouded planets and smoke-veiled stars. The chest-tightening realization that the same heavens shine forth upon the comfortingly dusty chaparral hills you left behind…
And then breaking free: suddenly being the fire, the infernal flames that leap maniacally onward towards the quenching sea that lies always “another mile” distant, that absurdly, cruelly, recedes even as you charge faster towards it. Giving energy, receiving energy, inspired by the companions with whose paths, for a fleeting moment, your blazing, advancing, wild, savage, beacon of fire-consciousness, kilowatt-laser-determination intersected…
But an impasse approaches: fear – the primal light glinting from the blood-red eyes of the feral beast, evil unspecified in form but dagger-point definite in destructive power. Mountains and precipices rising where the treasure map indicated molehills and ant-lion pits. Despair: falling short microns before the threshold, again, and again, and again. Ever-compounding errors cancel out innate advantages; false step by false step head slides deeper under the freezing water as once-exorcised demons transgress inviolable laws of magic, haunting anew the untrodden paths of the world, awaiting the blithe, unwary traveler. Waylaid: confident, searing torches and firebrands blown to cold heaps of ash and tar by the swishing wind of fell, unearthly cloaks. Acuity freezes to instinct, mind echoes with the strained heartbeat of fleeing dreams as faceless and un-combatable enemies rise, unwittingly summoned from what should have been an inescapable grave.
But hark! An angelic counterpart to these unforeseen, unspeakable, bottomless pitfalls and savage hairpin twists in the rope of fate! Not the dawn, but an overlooked possibility, a pale yet effulgent doppelganger of the sun, rises silently, blazingly before our desperate faces. Split-second but total commitment: the chase is full on, but an end is now in sight. Unbeknownst, the world bates its breathing as theirretrievable, deciding instant draws nigh. In robot-like delirium, we extend our grasping hands…
And there the path diverges; two parallel outcomes, worlds, universes unfold, equal and opposite, juxtaposed in their reverse synchrony, simultaneously enticing and repelling us, the sojourners of space and time. We cannot stop to think: in a moment, all illusion of choice will slip away into the nameless obscurity of the past, hidden behind a bend, a far-off streetcorner alley, in time. But that should not trouble us. Though we live in the future, actions dictated by plans and expectations, and at best perceive those events that have just elapsed, we are denizens and masters of the Now and the Now alone, constituent parts of the vibrant, scorching thread that ties that which has happened to that which may. And “a moment” is the vast stretch of time after which all superposition of possibility will be collapsed, history written, outcomes decided. But It – the gyrating, amorphous chimera of fire, ice, and life – the consummate entity that is all undecided future – nonetheless tightens around us, sepulchral, extremely loud and incredibly close, screaming its dissonant, paradoxical bidding into our minds.

It is now our time to choose – to take action – and decide what It will become.

And with that, we begin.

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Parallel Existence

by on Oct.19, 2011, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

To the cat, which sleeps 22 out of 24 hours a day which is more real?  The dreams, the parallel, imagined lives that occupy more than 90% of its awareness, or the physical world and physical body that seed and maintain those dreams?  The fact that that a computer program is dependent on the physical hardware of the machine for existence (it is the computer’s “dream”) makes it no less valuable or real. just the same, the power of words is undeniable despite the fact that they only influence the physical world through the actions we take as a result of them.

The only reason, I think, we put so much stock in the physical world is because it demands so much of our conscious intentions to survive.

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And you’ll face up your problems, wherever they are!

by on Aug.17, 2011, under - Show All Posts

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Web Development Time Breakdown

by on Aug.03, 2011, under - Show All Posts

Certainly true when we were developing instadefine.com

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Reason Passion Drawing Hands

by on Jul.11, 2011, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

David Hume missed one piece of the equation:
“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” ~David Hume

“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” ~David Hume
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Fun, Sleep, and Optimally Discrepant Stimuli

by on Feb.23, 2011, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

What determines whether something is fun or draining? Let’s take rock climbing, for instance. If you are just running to rock climbing, having to do it, trying a few walls you might have already done, and then leaving, it’s no fun. But if you are able to lie in bed in the mornings and think about solutions you dreamed up to walls that baffled you before, see yourself doing them in your head, then you can’t wait to jump up and try them. To do this, you have to get enough sleep, because otherwise you don’t dream up the solutions, and it just becomes frustrating (this is especially important with motor skills since they are developed most in the final hours before you naturally wake up). This in turn causes you to develop bad memories with a given task, and if you are forced to continue doing it or otherwise pressured to continue doing it, you come to dislike it. That’s why I decided not to go rock climbing after I woke up from my nap and could see the incomplete begins of my solutions to the route that makes you straddle a gap on tiny footholds at the MIT rock gym — I could see it being less than maximally fun, which would give me a negative memory. If MIT students slept more, and had more freedom to leave their area of study until they naturally returned to it, maybe fewer of them would get burnt out.

I strongly refute the notion that it’s inevitable that things become less exciting as you become familiar with them. Isn’t the point of progressing forward in life to work to go up and up and up? It’s not about clinging desperately to something you are to have, but by getting better, becoming more fluent, gaining all the knowledge until you finally become too old to sustain this. Is it possible? Ask any pro-surfer. I want to become more skilled at and more in love with what I do every day, around every corner of understanding.

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by on Feb.09, 2011, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

What happens to the characters in all of the great stories after the tale is over and they’ve gone on to live an idyllic future for eternity? What happens to Vincent in the movie Gattaca after he’s made it onto the spaceship, and flies off into the stars to return to a truer home than he ever knew on earth? While the story ends, his life does not, and what I would like to know is how life feels now that he has achieved his greatest dream. What did it feel like to achieve that dream, and what is his life when he gets back home to Earth? Is everything changed irrevocably? Has he crossed some sort of Rubicon?   One imagines that by fulfilling such as deep-seated desire he would have attained a certain nirvana and see the world through a permanent lens of peace. Maybe we should ask real world people who have achieved something of similar magnitude. What was life like for Andrew Wiles after he proved Fermat’s last theorem and achieved the single greatest great dream of his life? Does everything change? We always postulate in some vague way that these people must find some sort of great enlightenment, find a great peace from which it is impossible to ever return. But these people are still living their lives, and they’re still humans, and nothing fundamentally has changed but a few bits of information in their minds. Having lived a proximate version of such a story, I ask this question because I want to find a character like this I can relate to whose life is written by a more brilliant author than myself, whose beautiful stories can provide a model for my own actions and help me substantiate this vague but brilliant beauty I always imagined lay in my future, that I always could see in the distance, but never looked into or past. The unknown can be the source of our greatest fears, but it is also true that in its raw amorphous shape we can see every brilliant future we can imagine is possible to sculpt. To the sculptor, which is more beautiful, an actual sculpture of David or a perfect block of stone that can be David, Saint Teresa in ecstasy, the gates of hell, laocoon and sons, discobolos at once? I suppose that this only depends on the vividness of the artist’s imagination (Note: from a neuroscience perspective, while our memories can prime our visual centers to see something more readily, in normal people it’s not sufficient to generate phenomenal perception of the thing during waking hours. But in our dreams? That is another question.)

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Sustainably Changing Yourself

by on Jan.24, 2011, under - Show All Posts

If you want to sustainably change your behavior, frequently, you can’t just throw most non-intrinsically problematic but undesirable habits permanently and absolutely out the window. Instead, you have to come to an understanding with them. For instance, if you are trying to wean yourself off of decadent chocolate cakes, it usually is impractical to follow an assertion like “I will never eat chocolate for the rest of my life” long-term, nor is it productive to do this. Most of the time, you’ll just swing back to your resting state after your unconscious cedes that it’s too difficult to make a change, and even if you manage to follow through, chocolate cake is tasty and it isn’t bad for you except in excess, so depriving yourself of it for the rest of your life would actually be detrimental to you anyway. Instead, you have to come to an understanding with chocolate cake, acknowledging its value in a balanced way. Only by doing this can you prevent it from consuming you, which in turn will lead to you actually consuming less of it.

Destressing and gaining the plasticity to remove bad habits. You know how when you are doing viparita dandasana headstand for the 1st time and your fingers feel strangely unstable, wiggly? This is how a child feels about life, and is a privileged portal into your plastic past. Everything feels equally awkward, so you have the freedom to choose where you’re going to grab. How do you decide this? Why did not simply collapse back down? You have to have reasons why you are doing the pose in the 1st place, otherwise you might as well just do nothing but satisfy your animalistic sensory desires and be and id-driven robot instead of the master of your fate and the captain of your soul. To decide where to move your fingers, you follow these reasons, and you can bring yourself to the post perfectly. Your face might be contorted at 1st as you’re exerting yourself, co- contracting muscles to try to work around the problem, but soon you realize that that is silly and that is only taking more energy to do this. Then you do it perfectly, and efficiently. Since unproductive stress is simply mental co-contraction, keeping your reasons straight when you get into an unfamiliar position of stress in a place outside of endurance exercise or yoga class can help you avoid it just the same. Doing yoga, Falun Dafa, or endurance exercise teaches you to keep your reasons straight even when you are not in the class, and it allows you to summon them to your aid right when you need them in any circumstance.

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Common App Character Limit Problem

by on Dec.24, 2010, under - Show All Posts

They just noticed exactly 1 year later! 🙂 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/education/23college.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

The following was sent to application_help@commonapp.net on 12/23/09

I am a professional web developer and have detected a significant error in the way character limits for essays are processed on the Common Application website. I also suggest a solution below, which I hope will be implemented in a timely manner.

Many essays that meet the character limit are actually rejected upon clicking save.
What’s worse, the Common Application website gives the user a message that his or her essay is of acceptable length just below the submission box, and when it may be rejected.

(continue reading…)

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Really Good Books

by on Jul.28, 2010, under - Show All Posts

Recently, a lot of people have asked me for book recommendations.  Here are three bread-and-butter must reads.  Look at the things one must see/hear page for more (link at top).

•Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman – Richard Feynman. Through old-fashioned common sense and a bit of cleverness, the unquenchably curious but otherwise normal young Feynman wisecracks his way to becoming one of the highest achieving scientists in history.

•Lord of the Rings/The Silmarillion – J. R. R. Tolkien. Simply incredible: “The…mountains, rising into peaks of jet, tipped with glimmering snows, flushed with the rose of the morning.”

•Gödel, Escher, Bach – Douglas Hofstadter: Discourse on how sentience arises from self-referential systems that fundamentally resonates with my thinking

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Rubik’s Cubing + The Structure of Learning

by on Jul.28, 2010, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

I’ve found from my own experience and teaching others that learning efficiently is a two-step process.  The first and most important step is to become inspired to learn a skill or curious about the subject so that your mind and fingers itch to assimilate it.  This has got to happen sooner or later or those “Ahah!” moments just don’t come, the experience is painful, and all but the most resolute or most pressured give up entirely after a while.  Sometimes you have to begin step 2 (actually learning material) before you can bring yourself over the inspiration threshold, but if you don’t, you at best obtain only a passive understanding of the subject. So if I have to learn how to do something, I spend a really long time figuring out why learning it will be awesome.  Then it is effortless to excitedly blast from the starting blocks.  Anyway, that’s what I wrote this essay on speedcubing — to inspire friends to get past step one (don’t laugh at my times, it was sophomore year).

Ah, the 3x3x3 Rubik’s cube. Beauty unparalleled. Crisp, sharp, even, Lexan textured tiles. 190 cubic centimeters of red, green, blue, yellow, white, and orange elegance. In supple and expectants hands I hold this hallowed item, preparing to solve. Feelings of anticipation. Lost in the wash of color, I feel the smoothness of the 30-weight lube that lines the clean black crevices. A faint smell of plastic permeates the room, vaguely similar to the pleasant aroma of a newly bought automobile. A familiar soft swishing sound caresses my ears as I tentatively turn the first face, beginning anew a journey into the unknown.

As if alive, the cube emits a quiet clicking, moving faster and faster in a blur of light as it becomes one with the fingers driving it, receiving and giving energy, and filling its holder with focus and determination. Front center clockwise, right counterclockwise, top clockwise, my fingers beat in a blinding crescendo, and faster than the words describing their motion can form in my very mind, they fly through algorithm after algorithm, disregarding logical reason, engrained in comfortable patterns of antiquity, lost in memory. Orient last layer, FRUR’U’F’, RUR’URU2R’. I pause for breath, suddenly, I see the path! The 15-move algorithm flies not from my fingers, but seemingly from the cube itself, faster than thought, sound, or even light.

I throw the cube down, filled with triumph! Solved! Then, in trepidation, praying my months’ work has proved fruitful, I lift the stopwatch. As I press the stop button, not only the clock, but time itself freezes. After veritable millennia, my eyes focus themselves on the digits, unable to process what they see. Then the reality churns back into motion.

CRUD! Still 24.04 seconds! I slump back, defeated by something weighing less than 6 ounces…

Driven to greater determination, I fish my 5x5x5 cube from a bag of chattels, ready to roll the dice of fate once more.

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Good Quotes

by on Jul.28, 2010, under - Show All Posts

Quotes page (link at top) has been updated and re-factored, though it is nowhere near complete.

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by on Jul.28, 2010, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

Fun with Stanford roommate essay 🙂

Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. What would you want your future roommate to know about you? Tell us something about you that will help your future roommate and us know you better.

I’m a marked man…

WANTED (hopefully by Stanford): Jacob Cole alias “J-Dog,” “Comp-Sci Guy!”

ARMED & DANGEROUS: •Packs a pen (mightier than sword)  •Known to carry a concealed yoyo  •Rubik’s Cube-toting  •Prone to pun without provocation  •Wont to wax poetic without warning  •Practices karate katas in shower

CRIMES:  •Grand theft cookie  •Suspected bibliophile  •Agitating for freedom of information  •Treason against Microsoft: fomenting the Linux insurgency  •Concocting, then trafficking open-source software without a license agreement  •Impersonating Hamlet  •Flagrantly sporting mismatched socks  •Crashing Firefox by opening >40 tabs of Web 2.0 apps, LOLCats, Stanford Open Courseware, GMail chats, Greek relief sculptures, etc.  •Curfew violations: discussing cool ideas with roommates late into night  •Subversive strategies in robotics competitions, causing judges to change rules  •Samosa smuggling

ACCOMPLICES: •Intercontinental cadre of co-conspirators skulk at Stanford, Whatchamacallit Inst. of Technology, “Stanford of the East,” Ivory-bridge etc. Dangerous network of masterminds. You may be assimilated.  •Other agents stake out remote surf breaks, national parks, snowboard slopes

AT LARGE: •Identifying features: overstuffed backpack, bulging laptop case, shorts, flip-flops  •Nighttime prowler of XKCD forums  •Sighted at Fresh Choice, dim sum joints, and near health food stores (munching granola and fair-trade dark chocolate). May also be found at McDonalds, but only for the free wi-fi.  •Last seen: Dropping into a barreling wave at Torrey Pines State Beach on his shortboard

REWARD: •Free tech support  •Gratifying and enduring friendship

Should you encounter this rapscallion, immediately report to nearest admissions officer.

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Ninjas versus Hackers

by on Jul.28, 2010, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

An AP English compare and contrast essay. My profoundest apologies for conflating hackers and crackers, the teacher was unfamiliar with the correct terminology (plus it gave me an alliteration 🙂 )

Hackers of Honshū

Lithe, dark-clad, burglar-assassins of medieval Japan; Scrawny techies who can infiltrate and destroy any network. Ninja and hacker: these kindred classes of cunning cutthroats are (or were) both feared and revered throughout their respective domains[1]. Interestingly, the connection between them is deeper than first meets the eye. Or it would be, if you could see either before they struck.

Their similarities begin at birth. Ninjas spring from the mountains of Koga, Japan, hackers from Mountain View, CA. As children they are utterly unstoppable. No cookie jar is safe from a nascent ninja, and a young hackerling leaves no appliance un-disassembled. In their teen years, impudent hacker dudes have been known to break into school networks and modify their grades, just to flaunt their emerging abilities. Teenage ninjas (the non-mutant and non-turtle sort), if present in Western society, would undoubtedly do the same, albeit by rappelling through the skylight of the administrative office and deftly switching their transcripts with forged copies.

Upon reaching maturity, both depart to places of legend for advanced training in their secretive arts. Ninjas trek to hidden springs where ancient martial monks beat them into unstoppable shadow warriors. A trainee is deemed ready when he has the quickness and control to pluck a pebble from his master’s palm. Hackers have a less daunting search but an equally brutal education. They study by day under the computer science gurus of Stanford, UC Berkeley, and MIT, and by night under the dark counterparts of these professors, who tell them, “only when you can snatch the admin passcode from the database is it time for you to leave.”

Now, not everybody manages to earn the approbation of these Spartan sages and venerable code sharks. Ninjas who don’t make the cut end up playing bit parts in lame kung-fu movies. Invariably, they portray the villain’s evil henchmen who get thrashed by the hero. Hackers who can’t hack it go to work for Microsoft. They’re in charge of writing the code that keeps Windows from crashing.

Those students who do manage to graduate enter the turbulent worlds of their respective professions. Hackers generally hack for a noble cause (like the open source software movement), but some black-hats occasionally will trash systems for their own amusement or take jobs as freelance cyber-hitmen. Conversely, ninjas are far more often roving mercenaries than staunch idealists. However, despite their let their lack of cohesion and unity of purpose, these guerrilla warriors are brutally effective: even in small numbers, they can wreak havoc upon those they are hired to “hack” (to pieces).

In plying their trades, ninjutsu[2] marauders and code-fu commandos are equally nocturnal. After midnight, you can find them both (though only with night vision goggles and a SWAT team) surreptitiously seeking their unsuspecting targets. They conceal their identities: ninjas mask their faces with shadowy cowls, hackers spoof their IP addresses. And to fortify themselves for these nighttime raids, both denizens of darkness chug copious quantities of caffeine: ninjas are partial to green tea, hackers prefer Jolt® Cola. Once fueled up and prepared, ninjas grappling-hook their way onto the highest parapets and slay the sentries with quick flicks of their shurikens. Hackers, on the other hand, scale firewalls, then, with a rapid burst of typing dispatch hapless anti-intrusion programs to the software version of the afterlife.

Ninjas then proceed to infiltrate the inner sanctum of the palace or stronghold they have been commissioned to “gain access to.” They are so dreaded for their stealth and skill that many daimyo, or Japanese warlords, specially construct their sleeping quarters with floorboards that creak loudly, and, to distinguish friend from foe, make their servants wear clunky footwear. For similar reasons, we load our laptops with beeping virus checkers and clunky spyware scanners. Furthermore, some daimyo sleep with armed samurai posted around their bedrooms. Those sentinels, like overzealous security dialog boxes, are in charge of “cancelling or allowing” visitors – either permanently “deleting” them with the slice of a sharpened katana or respectfully offering them ocha[3].

But in the end, all this preparation is futile. Mere mortals do not have the power to prevent these prowlers of the night from achieving their nefarious ends – assassination, espionage, destruction, spam. Thus, some might wish that there were no ninjas or hackers, that they never even existed, but what then? For one, makers of antivirus software and clunky shoes would be seriously out of their jobs. And what about our comic books? Teenage Mutant Bonsai-Gardener Turtles just doesn’t cut it. And worst of all, when our PCs crash, we’d have nobody but ourselves to blame…except maybe the dropouts at Microsoft.

[1] Technically, hackers aren’t necessarily malevolent – malicious hackers are called “crackers” or “black-hats.” But the media refer to both as “hackers,” so this essay does the same.

[2] Ninja karate style and weapons techniques

[3] Japanese tea ceremony

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What I Wish

by on May.22, 2010, under - Show All Posts

Death is a woven sphere that with every breath cinches tighter around our enveloped dreams. I feel as if writing offers me a privileged glimpse into the empty vastness lying past the event horizon nonexistence. Some years from now, as I lie quietly, wizened and ancient, I will finally realize what I truly wish. For now I have only a guess, a tentatively bold beginning:

I wish to stride softly in the crystalline crispness of the midnight sun, to inhale the mist-breath of the green stone Andes, to clutch raw the glacier-fire of the earth in my ungloved fingers. I wish for the cabin far away, for the sheet-fresh snow about my moccasins, for the blanket smoothness of a world pure, a present clean from the footprints of bias. I hearken to the wind and the conch shell song of the open water, the silent siren of peace between the thundering swells.

Sources of inspiration include:
http://abstrusegoose.com/51 (http://abstrusegoose.com/strips/936_little_blobs.PNG)
http://abstrusegoose.com/142 (http://abstrusegoose.com/strips/life_path_integral.PNG)

“Radiance, consonance, integrity” -the qualities that comprise art (paraphrased), James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man

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Optimizing Yourself As a College Applicant

by on May.07, 2010, under - Show All Posts

In terms of college applications, breadth in your abilities has a multiplier effect rather than a linear additive effect. essentially, your goal is to make yourself in the highest percent to possible for desirability. Getting into the highest percentile ranges in any specific field will do that. However it is often more difficult to do that than to simply put yourself in high but slightly lower percentile ranges in multiple disparate fields (for example computer science, business, surfing, and English). whereas it is often extremely difficult to put yourself on the very edges of the Bell curve, it is less difficult to put yourself in your the upper tip of multiple bell curves — then your percentiles will be multiplied in ascertaining your ultimate college applicant desirability score. The more disparate the fields are, the stronger the multiplier effect is, as overlapped detracts from the exponential increasing rarity that the combinations induce. It was commented that the most interesting point to my college application was that I had won a poetry contest as well as did technology and surfing. Another excellent combination I have seen is archery, robotics, and computer science.
Somebody want to work this out rigorously?

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How to do Timed Writing: A Tutorial. Version 0.2

by on Mar.05, 2010, under - Favorites, - Show All Posts

How to do Timed Writing: A Tutorial. Version 0.2
There are two parts (not wholly unrelated to one another) to succeeding in timed writing: good logic/flow and good style. Depending on how much time you have to learn and your own style of self-education, you can go about learning these two elements in a variety of ways.

First of all, about style: a certain level of good style is implicit within truly clear writing. If you are using the right words to say what you mean, and the reader is guided along in a journey of understanding as he or she peruses your paper; it comes across as stylistically effective. It does not have to be high-minded and metaphorical, though doing so well can often make a good work even more beautiful.

As to developing style: carefully reading lots of stylistically intense books is an excellent place to start. As painful as they are to endure and to prepare for, challenging reading quizzes really help if you want to quickly gain powerful writing style. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet letter, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath , F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – all of these books will boost your ability to employ advanced, effective vocabulary and powerful grammatical structures. Look up words as you go along — sit next to InstaDefine.com (instant dictionary). Or keep a list and use EasyDefine.com and look them all up retrospectively. However it is very important to read them in context so you can extrapolate their connotations and other usage details. Make your own vocabulary sentences — have fun with them and attempt to string together lots of complex vocabulary terms in the same sentence, using all correctly in terms of both connotation and denotation. Do this with SAT word lists, again use EasyDefine.com. Realize the subtle differences in effect that careful diction induces; this takes a certain meticulous artistry. It is just like in computer science when you are attempting to make your program optimal not just in performance but in form — using the best available library functions to achieve every effect, reinventing the wheel as infrequently as possible. Elegance requires fluency which requires research which in turn takes time, but nonetheless this process is natural, not painful. Spend focused minutes finding the right word and right phrasing for every situation, constantly bringing yourself to another level. When it’s impossible to continue, go to sleep, look back at it with fresh eyes, read some more books, and realize how you could have made your work better — this willl happen time and time again. It is only very rare that even the most experienced writers have the perfect phrasing the first few times around. And remember, the right word, like the right programming method will float naturally, perfectly in meaning along with the rest of the passage and will optimally carry your paper towards achieving its rhetorical purpose. Artistic fluff that is not appropriate to the audience or distracting to the meaning of the piece is like the silly convolutions in Rococo art: ick. Especially with AP timed writings: keep your goal in mind even as you seek to be half poet as well as half rhetor; as Ferlinghetti tells us, with each word you must “perforce perceive taut truth” even as you seek to catch the “fair eternal form of Beauty” falling through the “empty air of existence.”

Finally, once you have developed this stylistic fluency, it is necessary to learn to enter the “intense writing trance.” Intense does not necessarily mean serious; it means throwing yourself into a labyrinth of meaning and picking your way euphoric step by euphoric step outward towards enlightenment. Your feet move of their own accord like the grand ideas that spontaneously coalesce into emergent meaning as you venture deeper, float higher. I wrote many of my most serious and metaphorically involved works this way, I also wrote one of my most humorous college essays this way. They either come to me after hours or days or weeks of beating at the wrong topic, moving nowhere, or spontaneously as a result of a transcendent or otherwise moving experience I undergo. Suddenly, the idea hits and the first few lines are rough but then the neural clusters begin to fire in time like the muscles of a warmed-up runner and you are off sprinting towards a finish line you cannot yet see. It is then that you know why you write, and conclusions and expansions come without effort:

“Like needlepoint, the meticulous art, I am pulled through and through, looping back upon myself in an embroidery of endless thread; I spin outward in expanding patterns, amplified as my parts reflect from one another. I write to answer the soft hiss and clack of spinning wool, to keep the wheel rolling, to keep the skein and smooth. I write because I am the cloth woven of its own unravelings, circling through the loom to create a changing whole.” ~Ben LaBreche, “Why I Write”

A few techniques that I have found particularly useful include:
-alliteration: excellent for both humor (e.g. “Don’t wallow in wistfulness; instead, seek out and seize opportunities”; or, even better, strung together: “Prone to pun
without provocation •Wont to wax poetic without warning”) and for punctuating powerful points (e.g. “perforce perceive taut truth” again)

Good vocabulary is an excellent place to start.

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