Minutemen

A routing performance last week by the Dems in Virginia and NJ. Great news in an off-election year, considering past historic performance.

Concerns remain:

Anti-Trump sentiment was in full-force, leading to a uncommon performance by Dems in an off-election year. I hope this momentum continues, but I must say I remain clueless about the reasons for low voter turnout for Dems typical in off-election years. Dems believe they are morally superior? Reps always feel like the Dems, the gov, the immigrants are repressing them, and fight for every inch they can get?

Trump has provided a unifying force for all Dems, which reminds me of the realization by Dr Manhattan that a common enemy gives the enemies of the enemy a reason to combine forces and work together.  I am guilty of being the type of person who would give up 12 inches over 12 days, but not 1 foot in a minute. What does this mean for humanity if this is who we are, resistors of tyranny, but acquiescence of convenience?

In rural areas, people still voted overwhelmingly red, which does not bode well for electoral college voting system, considering the high concentration of blue voters in urban areas. #MoveToTheCountry

A glimmer of hope considering the state of affairs. My friend called this the revolt of the democratic system. I sincerely hope this does translate into more success.

 

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Being home after all this

Some thoughts about Hong Kong and myself

All discombobulated but probably somewhat related. I may piece them together at a later point, but don’t have a thesis yet.

  • It was time to leave my last company. Compared to what I did at my last place, I’m much more interested in what I do now. I may have been more consumed by my previous work, but I’m much more interested in the content of my current work
  • I’m much more interested in breadth than depth. I find much more inspiration from the cross-pollination of breadth than the search for truth and understanding in depth-based approach
  • Somehow moving home has felt right, for a lot of reasons I don’t seem to understand and am trying to post-process. I’ve felt like I’ve been at home a lot longer than I have actually been here.
  • I’m an empirical learner, learn best by doing. I think a lot about the things I do, but is that everyone else as well? I know people who read and remember everything, but I don’t. Is that a problem?
  • I overthink a lot, which leads to a unnecessary focus on the result, rather than the process. Turning 25 and moving home has taught me to let things go a little, and let life take you where it wants.
  • I’m trying to be more honest with myself and with people I talk to. I think some of the unhappiness that I had on the other side of the world stemmed from me trying to pretend to be someone else, and now being back home, you can’t pretend in front of people who have known you their whole life.
  • Small quirks about one’s personality are a direct response to the environment when you were growing up. (I do know believe some of the ideas about personality differences between being the oldest, middle and youngest child)

Hong Kong Economics

  • Hong Kong relying on China for economic relevance is certain. Hong Kong, unfortunately due to poor investment into education and infrastructure, has now no other industry to rely on as our core services of finance and law are being chewed up by our Chinese counterparts. We were all too busy making money.
  • The question is how do we manage this balance, the modicum of quasi-independence that China has given to us, and how do we maintain our self-respect and identity while slowly becoming more and more reliant on the Chinese economy?
  • I’ve felt a very strong sense of complacency among the youth of Hong Kong. It’s some combination of fatalism, of feeling that there is no development left possible in Hong Kong, and that life itself is and will be good enough.
  • I can’t fault that. Yet, for someone who has just returned from a place where everything is disruptive, it’s an attitude that is hard to adjust to
  • Because if anything, you can’t fault the silicon valley type for being complacent. There’s a kind of energy that is hard to replicate.
  • I would like to say that I need that desire to grow, a growth mindset to be motivated and be positive. Otherwise, you can stuck in this mode, not having something that motivates you to improve. You need to believe in a better future.
  • I read a quote that the world is changing rapidly. To be a VC, you have to embrace that change and learn how to manage it, instead of fighting it.

Turning 25

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little uneasy. I broke up with my girlfriend of over a year, the pain feels more dull, but at times still overcomes me like a wave. I’ve been contemplating a career change just shy of my quarter life crisis. I’ve been trying to change my own life.

I have been feeling the societal and internal pressure to be achievement-driven, not necessarily to be somebody or be someone, but to have ‘things’ to point to at a later point in life: titles, wealth, physical objects, that at least I ‘achieved’ something during my earlier years. I feel that pressure encroaching upon me as I inch towards 25, this milestone age when we are all supposed to figure it all out, or start panicking because we haven’t.
I have been listening to Atul Gwande’s audiobook ‘Being Moral’. It is a book about the failings of how the medical community approach aging and death, but in doing so, teaches you much more about our reaction to aging and death. One of the things that the author mentioned is that our desires are very acutely shaped by our estimation of our remaining time. And maybe 25 is special because it’s a half of the productive years we think we have left.

And to be honest, I have not been trying to fight it, the desire to be achievement-driven. I know I have more than many people dream for, but am greedy for more. It seems like that I will have to try until I have to accept what I have. Along with that, I also have been fighting the world less, somewhat deciding to be a participant in the status quo. This seems to be in response to having some ‘things’ and seeing a clear way to get more ‘things’ in the current state of society. One is the most afraid of change when one has the most to lose. In the current prevailing societal narrative of a free market though, it seems that money provides one with the most options. We have become blind to the origin and source of money.

I’ve learnt however that ‘achievements’ are not easy. In the ever fragmenting world of specialization, one needs to be an expert to be someone and get something. And mastery takes time, practice and relentless effort. As much as it is about deciding to do it, I seem to be still answering the same questions of ‘what is that I want to do’ question. Life is a never ending struggle of deciding what to pay attention to. Determining opportunity cost, saying no, I find, is one of the questions that I, as a person with no strong sense of mission or passion, have the most trouble with.

But another useful way to phrase this as my friend John puts it is, ‘What pain do you want?’. Everyone wants everything, but nothing worth doing is easy, so what pain do you want? Truth be told, I think I do care a lot about what other people think about me, at least that they will like me. A deeper discussion of that requires another dark night, but I think that is at the core of desiring these validations. I do think though that makes me more of a people pleaser than someone who coverts real validations. I know that it is an unhealthy way of living, but for now, seems to be sufficient.
Aside: At times, when the sun has set, I still find myself to be a person who wants to write, although not as much as I used to and want to. Writing, I find, unlike dialogue, is monologue. True good conversation is about building rapport and a human connection, and often that is at the expense of expressing deeper darker desires. For the sake of good conversation, you learn when to shut up and listen. But when I write, I don’t have to stop myself. I can just spit and breath it all out, until I am just a little lighter from the lifted emotions.

Post-edit: It sounds pessimistic to read after the fact. A little fatigue definitely accompanies this post, but this is not a constant state of being, just a lament. And I do want to encourage myself somewhat to be bold and to pursue something to believe in.

on being a technocrat

Forgotten Draft Blog Post from 2013

conversation  started from talking to jayson one weekend:
i guess it is nice to know that to realize that after taking core classes for so long, i can finally take some advanced cool classes that exposes you to very different ideas.

there’s some problems with learning hard abstract things like math:
to say the very least, we’re not very good at it because our brains weren’t evolved for abstract thinking. (I suppose you could say Flyn effect is now our evolution towards brains that can be do more abstract thinking)
so often times, we don’t really understand what’s going on so sometimes you don’t understand it until you’ve worked with it a lot.
the way i think one best learns hard mathematical notions is that we start with the theory. we try to get a fuzzy understanding of it. once, you feel like you can’t understand anymore from looking at formulas and theorems, go do a lot of problems. as you do the problems, you’ll see how this mathematical object behaves in different scenarios, then you’ll see more of the picture. you’ll see the edge cases as we call it in cs. In general, start with a fuzzy idea and then slowly clear out the blurry parts by working with examples.

this short article has the same views. A short synopsis of the article:

Theorem

Understanding can come only after procedural mastery.

Reasoning

Certainly my own experience is that conceptual understanding in mathematics comes only after a considerable amount of procedural practice (much of which therefore is of necessity carried out without understanding).

I can’t imagine how one could possibly understand what calculus is and how and why it works without first using its rules and methods to solve a lot of problems.”

How many of us professional mathematicians aced our high school or college calculus exams but only understood what a derivative is after we had our Ph.D.s and found ourselves teaching the stuff?

Now, the first skill therefore we need to have before tackling advanced math is that of procedural mastery, or mathematical language manipulation.

Procedural mastery of mathematics as a language – it is, after all, the language of science, as Galileo observed – and the ability to use various mathematical tools and methods to solve problems that arise in physics and engineering. Since even first-year physics and engineering involve use of tools such as partial differential equations, there is no hope that incoming students can have conceptual understanding of those tools and methods. But by a remarkable feature of the human brain, we can achieve procedural mastery without understanding. All it takes is practice. One of the great achievements of mathematics over the past few centuries has been the reduction of conceptually difficult issues to collections of rule-based symbolic procedures (such as calculus).

Thus, one of the things that high school mathematics education should definitely produce is the ability to learn and be able to apply rule-based symbolic processes without understanding them. Without that ability, progress into the sciences and engineering is at the very least severely hampered, and for many people may be cut off. (This, by the way, is the only rationale I can think of for teaching calculus in high school. Calculus is a supreme example of a set of rule-based procedures that can be mastered and applied without any hope of anything but the most superficial understanding until relatively late in the game.

I feel like the general unspoken rule in mathematical teaching is that for sufficiently complicated examples, you can never fully understand on your first try. So every time you learn it, it’s just an introduction to the next time you learn it.

But then there’s sort of larger problem. Learning technical subjects in university is hard business. It involves being a slave to your classes and homework (more about this in another post) and we can’t expect to fully understand it until many years later. So it seems to me that taking advanced math doesn’t really pay off until you take grad school. But by the same logic, unless you take math classes in university, then all the math classes you took in high school were somewhat useless.

But I think the rule of thumb is this.
Assume you’re the dumbest kid in the class and it’s ok. If you want to learn it, then work hard and try your best. But at some point, you can give up. No one is going to fault you for doing so.

And if it’s hard for you, it’s usually hard for other people too.

National Security Measures

I have a thought, maybe one too controversial to post in name-tied social media in the current situation. By no means am I trying to defend Trump for this illogical and deeply hurtful ban. No doubt the ban itself is bordering on unconstitutional, but we have seen this 180 degrees turn on security 8 years ago, when Obama did not pull out troops from Iraq/Afghanistan or shut down Guantanamo despite campaigning so hard and loud for it. And now Trump, despite many people even close advisors saying that it was all campaign rhetoric, decided to actually implement the ban. What goes on in those security briefings? Is something so world-shattering and mind-bending that it convinces two presidents of quite opposing political leanings do the same thing to “increase national security measures”?

2017 Resolutions

To copycat a friend, I would like to articulate the following goals for this year.

Summary

Health
– Get down to 160lbs weight, 13% body fat
– Exercise at least 3 times a week for 40 or more weeks

Work
– Start and end work promptly to allow time for other activities afterwards

Hobbies
– Be able to go down a black diamond slope on snowboard
– 3 trips to Tahoe
– Make 5 trips to new cities/countries

Choose one of the 3
– Play 5 songs on ukelele
– Research and make plans for a motorcycle purchase

Continuing Education
– Read 20 books
– Finish CPA course
– Finish 3 Stanford Continuing Education Courses
– Attend different angel investing meetups, carry one solid connection to a deal phase

– Go on at least 5 dates

Being in better physical shape is one of the goals I have for this year. It’s dawned upon me that my youth is slowly sleeping away and unless I take assertive steps to regain my health, and make it a part of my life, even if it may not be the most enjoyable aspect.

Continuing education

I continually find myself wanting to learn more and more outside of my work. But I find that I need a structure to learn under, as long as it is a more formal setting. This will help me as I try to discover what I want to do more off in the upcoming future.

epilogue

I miss you a lot. It feels really sad that it’s all over.
but it did feel that way this morning
It felt final this morning, unsalvageable from this point forward,
which I think is the right thing to do, but also heart-wrenching.
I was searching for you in my dreams last night, but you weren’t there.
You weren’t there when I woke up to look for you next to me.
You weren’t there when I turned on my phone looking for messages.

You are gone,
and unlikely to ever come back.
It feels sad also because we no longer talk. We no long share the important emotions and feelings that overcome us and feel connected and unafraid.
It feels sad because our relationship will not be laughter, but just silence. Even tears would be better, because at least we would see and know.

But there is only
.
The nothingness is what kills, because you know there is still something there, and we are just trying to slow suffocate it until it wilts and decays and dies.

And if it is all over, what do we make of these memories?
Do we tear them up and toss and burn? Or do we just hide them in the deepest darkest corner, or do we just let them lay in plain sight, picking it up sometimes and flipping through it. I would like to cherish them as such, good memories that came to an end.

The biggest difference between death and a breakup, is that it one case you are trying to forget a person, and in the other you are actively trying to remember a person.

And where do you bottle these feelings, these thoughts? Do we write them in secret journals and postcards that we send off to the abyss. She is unlikely ever to read this either, as they are meant not to be.
In my mind, I look forward to that day where we can sit together again,
and laugh and talk about the old times, and maybe the good times and the bad ones. And we can talk about how it all ended and what we felt, missing and being missed. But I think that is just wishful thinking. As a friend said, exes are never friends.

Our hearts are fragile. We break them to tape them back together only to break them again and again. In hops that at the end of it all, there will be someone holding all the pieces together with her hands.