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Andrew's Blog

#100Days

April 17, 2021

Today, I felt more productive than usual. I did not do any admin stuff nor was I exposed to admin stuff. I had taken the opportunity to finish off a justification of an algorithm on a paper I am working with a couple of co-authors. Understanding how the algorithm works analytically was quite nice and I think the suggestion made by my co-author along with this analytical work is just the break we needed. It feels good to finally take back the time I have lost.

At some point during the day, I became drowsy and slept for about 2 hours or so. Last night, we slept late as we watched the fourth season of Infinity Train. This show is one of the best animated series I have encountered that is suitable for kids, adults, and families. Watching this show should encourage discussion about complex themes. There is just a very good balance of surrealism, realism, 80s-style MIDI music to the whole series.

I also stumbled upon a Hawaii Five-0 rerun where Ricardo Montalban plays a Japanese mob boss. This was 1968. The voice was undeniable but there was considerable makeup to make him look more Japanese from American eyes.

I also watched 2 videos today about process mining from email data and web scraping. They were very informative and I will share with some of our students. I also stumbled on a good line today about how understanding the philosophy of statistics and debates from a long time ago related to learning from data can be useful to restore research integrity in science. This is not my idea but Deborah Mayo's idea from a gift sent my way by my good colleagues and friends.

Overall, the day was quite productive.

April 16, 2021

Today was somehow relatively relaxed than most days. I did not do a lot of work today except for again admin stuff. Email reminders, form-filling, and dealing with program-level developments took most of my morning.

I cooked some steamed seafood again, but this time mixed with some vegetables. There is a lot of mileage from the Thai-style cooking and steaming of seafood. Salt intake was minimum today. I somewhat reached an even lower diastolic pressure today. Perhaps being more relaxed helps somehow.

We went to the hospital to deal with results of a physical exam. It is tough to communicate medical results in a foreign language, but somehow the multilingual in me can manage somehow. But I do need to know some specialized terms and I asked the doctor to write down some words that I could not really imagine.

Below is something I have read today (The Paris Review, The Art of Fiction no. 65 William Gass) that managed to convey what I have felt about writing in a blog:

"If someone asks me, “Why do you write?” I can reply by pointing out that it is a very dumb question. Nevertheless, there is an answer. I write because I hate. A lot. Hard. And if someone asks me the inevitable next dumb question, “Why do you write the way you do?” I must answer that I wish to make my hatred acceptable because my hatred is much of me, if not the best part. Writing is a way of making the writer acceptable to the world—every cheap, dumb, nasty thought, every despicable desire, every noble sentiment, every expensive taste. There isn’t very much satisfaction in getting the world to accept and praise you for things that the world is prepared to praise. The world is prepared to praise only shit. One wants to make sure that the complete self, with all its qualities, is not just accepted but approved . . . not just approved—whoopeed."

April 15, 2021

The day went by doing two things. One is productive and the other is unproductive. The productive thing is to write down some proofs of the ideas my co-authors and I have been exploring for quite some time. The unproductive thing is doing admin work related to documenting conferences and short courses I want to attend. The productive thing took a few days of writing by hand and today I did about 1-2 hours of typing things out. The unproductive thing took about 3-4 hours of compiling documentation and then letting someone look over it to see what information is still needed so that I can localize the unproductive whirlpool.

I wish that there was an easier way to avoid this whirlpool altogether. I wish we could work to fight this whirlpool so that it does not get entrenched and become busywork. We all have better things to do and I hope we can innovate on how to deal with this situation so that it can become faster.

Today I also learned something about the word theory. Look up the origins of the word teoria. I am writing what I have heard a bit imperfectly: It seems that the act of going out of the world to explore and returning to bring back what one has learned is the original meaning of the word teoria. That is a very curious origin for a word that is used a lot in academic discourse.

April 14, 2021

Today I woke up around 7 am. I was relatively well-rested. I have been taking notice of my blood pressure. I have reached a low for the systolic part of the reading. Not so bad. I hope it continues to get pushed down to normal.

I cooked a Thai style steamed fish today. It was quite good. I cut the fish sauce required by half. It still tasted good. For dinner, I just has a small "meat pie" and a small "vegetable pie". This was a much smaller portion compared to what I usually eat.

Most of my morning went to the cooking and doing some light admin. In the afternoon, I was hunting down a paper and looking up some other research on academic integrity. I then had a meeting with our student assistant to assign a task related to some dimensions of academic integrity. This will help me reduce the rabbit holes I have to dig.

In the afternoon, I did some planning for the teaching later in the evening. When I got home after the evening class, I created a conceptual set of exercises. Hopefully, students understand what they are doing and why they are doing what they are doing. Midterm is coming and hopefully they will be ready.

April 13, 2021

Today I made some slides for a short admin-related presentation at a lunch meeting. It gave me an opportunity to raise concerns and issues related to supervision of graduate students.

I cooked some cured salmon and some steamed greens. I reheated the leftover steamed salmon and steamed pumpkin. I have to expand my steaming repertoire.

I also finished some admin tasks before I came back home. When I got home, I finished some coding for a class I am teaching. Then, I did some algebraic derivations related to my co-authored papers.

April 12, 2021 (Part 2)

The day started early. I woke up around 7 am or so. I continued my blood pressure measurement routine. But today I measured every hour or so. I did some admin almost for the entire day. I wrote emails to set up a cloud supervisor matching, finished the write-up of the regulations (to make them tighter), dealt with a deferred exam form, along with all random stuff here and there that needs dealing with. This took most of my morning and afternoon.

When I went to school, I was walking by the bus stop on the sidewalk. It was narrow. And a motorcycle was racing towards me. I stood my ground. The person just looked at a distance (perhaps looking downward slightly) as I stopped in front of him in the narrow road we are in. He beeped as if he could not understand why I am blocking his way. What an asshole. I was tempted to just stand there the whole time just out of spite. But I am feeling my blood pressure go up. So I tried to pass by the side, and he tried to hit me so I hit the fuck back. What an asshole. I wonder how this person lives. I wish I had the time to actually track him down and find out. Maybe I could understand where he is coming from. But he has to be careful with what he is doing. Pretty sure he will encounter a situation where someone might resort to more drastic approaches to deal with his asshole-ry.

April 12, 2021 (Part 1)

I did not break my streak but somehow the blog service was broken last night. So this is the entry for yesterday that I have already written up last night.

Today I woke up around 8 am or so. I slept very late last night without intending to do so. A dear friend of mine suddenly contacted me to have a zoom meeting around 1030 pm last night. I did not want to miss this so I joined. Our talk with four other of my friends from before was extremely enjoyable. We talked about COVID, families, children, ADHD (in the past and now), marital division of labor, blood pressure, a cocktail of medicines, vitamins, and supplements, online shopping, and laughing at ridiculous reviews of sex toys.

After waking up around 8 am, I tried to sleep again. The cat was calling many times. My head was aching. Eventually, I just had to do nothing for a while. I just took blood pressure readings.

We then went to a steakhouse for lunch. I did not order steak and did not order fish. My wife got their lunch meal which is a steak with some sort of re-fried potato gratin topped with a poached egg along with some sauteed string beans. I ordered sides instead: a light Caesar salad, grilled broccoli, and sauteed mushrooms with onions. But had some the remainder of the lunch meal. I cleaned up the meal. It was quite filling. The whole meal took about 2 hours or so.

We then went to a Costco-like place and did a buying run after about 2 months. We took about 2 hours as well here. Bought some of the usual stuff but tried some new stuff as well. It is hard to find the thigh part of a chicken in these parts, so I was happy to see this product available (and also skinless). I also grabbed some frozen scallop, some fish balls, maple pecan pastries, and truffle potato chips. Of course, we bought other things but enough to carry them home. When we got home, I just wanted to take a rest. I slept for about 1.5 hours or so.

When I woke up, I cooked some squash steamed in vinegar (quite strong stuff) and some steamed spinach. After doing many steaming dishes, it seems that vinegar has enough strength to actually alter the taste and look of a dish without actually putting vinegar into the dish to be steamed. I look forward to making more of these steamed dishes.

I listened to an online session given by my TA, although not in my language. The session was quite comprehensive and led me to think some other points which I have noted. It is always a good thing to get a sense of how others do things.

April 10, 2021

I seem to be well-rested. I woke up around 1030 am. But somehow my head has a slight ache. Overall not so bad though.

Our cat is still ok but somehow I lost his trust. I have become the bad cop, dealing with his medicine, his doctor visits, and general maintenance. I probably have to coax him back again but I do not have that much energy now.

I am continuing the steaming routine. I steamed the remaining squid and some water spinach. I went for a long walk about 2 hours. I was waiting for some goods at the bakery and I walked around a nearby wet market. I found a fish chopped in half that is still moving, so I got a kilo worth of that fish. I used part of it for fish stock and another part just a slight cooking in some garlic oil. I also spent some time looking at the some steamer cookbooks.

I spent the rest of the time doing some minor edits on a midterm exam and constructing an outline for an academic integrity seminar. Finally, I had a talk with the family about cats and blood pressure.

April 9, 2021

I woke up early again because I have a make-up class to give. This took half of my morning. After the make-up class, I walked back to the main campus, grabbing some coffee+milk tea combo without sugar along the way. I also was rushing to meet with a colleague and to sign a couple of admin documents. After these, I went home to buy some vegetables and cooked some lunch. I steamed some squid and some vegetables in vinegar and then topped everything with some fried garlic.

After that, I started some final work on the midterm exam questions and sketch of answers. This took most of my afternoon. Then, I tried to re-record the make-up class I did because the sound is not so great. The re-recording is a bit better but not very great. But this took almost 4 hours of on-off work while I cook some dinner.

Overall, the day was full but not a lot of work really for myself, except for the eating.

April 8, 2021 (Part 2)

This is my entry for what happened on April 8.

I woke up early again. I did not have a lot of sleep but overall I feel much more rested than the previous day. I started a bit more early and I tried to answer some questions and requests left by some students. This took some time. I also was rethinking my exam questions. I cooked some bacon and eggs as I needed to get rid of some bacon in the fridge. Blanching the bacon first removed most of the salt content of the bacon, but there is a Chinese sausage-like taste to the bacon that could not be removed.

We then went to have lunch with a couple of colleagues and had quite a conversation. This took about 2 hours or so. Then, I went home to pick up my ID so that I could go to the hospital to pick up my health report. It came in a sealed folder and nicely designed. It also gave a suggested meal plan and exercise plan for me. So I have some health concerns which I have to deal with soon. Picking up the health report was easy but getting a doctor to explain some parts of the report took a longer waiting time. The whole thing took about 2 hours or so. When I got home, I did some more work for related to the make-up class and on the exam questions. This work took a lot more time than I thought.

I skipped dinner just so I could have a start at my attempts to address the issues raised in the health report. I have been doing steamed seafood these past weeks but the problem is likely the salt flavoring. I should shift to vinegar-based dishes or rely a lot on aromatics.

April 8, 2021 (Part 1)

Streak broken again. I missed the April 7 entry. I woke up early to prep for an early arrival at the hospital to continue part of a physical exam. After the return home, I bought some squid and salmon. I did some preliminary washing to prepare them for cooking later. While doing the preparation, I listened to some econometrics talks.

Next, I had to deal with a bank issue and I was glad that it somehow got resolved. Later, I cooked what I bought for lunch and dinner. I had to go to school to deal with some admin business. This took about 3 to 4 hours of my time. Then I moved on to grabbing some dinner and walked to the far side of the campus to do a lecture.

I think I was mostly exhausted because I still did not have enough sleep. I did not have as much energy in my lecture. After I got home, I still adapted an exercise so that I can upload it immediately. After a while, I was just tired and went to sleep.

We slept in another room where the cat can "see" us more clearly and it seems he cries much lesser but still makes noise. Overall, much better than before. So far, he has not experienced any seizures.

April 6, 2021

Today I was woken by our cat's cries once again. I woke up around 530 am. I needed more sleep. After some annoyance, I then proceeded to get as much sleep as I could. We are going to the doctor around 9 am.

Surprisingly, the cat was silent during the journey. But he was stiff, afraid, and on guard when I tried to coax him out of his cage. He had to get medication for some "insects" externally and internally. He was pissed by the time he is being forced to ingest some tablets. He is even more pissed when I asked the doctor to cut his nails.

I dropped by the bakery intending to buy their nice fusion pastry: pickled vegetables in a hybrid Asian/Western bun with edamame. Regrettably, this will only be available around 11 am. So I picked the usual hotdog in a pastry, tomato basil bagel, garlic flavored roll, and pain au chocolat. We then returned home. The cat was still very quiet during the trip home.

Most of the time was spent cleaning up some slides for an application I intend to discuss in class. The point is to give empirical examples of some very theoretical stuff I have been illustrating. I also set up some more refined Monte Carlo simulations to illustrate some R programming.

This took most of the afternoon and then I proceeded to check a student's deferred exam. The performance was not bad relative to those who took the exam earlier. This took some of the time for the evening.

I have to sleep a bit earlier to deal with an early task tomorrow morning. I have also been reading something more research-related rather than admin-related.

Today was also a special day for the university as it is the centennial celebration. I must admit I did not care so much. I do not have enough of a school spirit. I wished they could use all the money to improve the parts of the university that do not necessarily get displayed in front of people who would not know any better. But then, what do I know?

April 5, 2021

I woke up around 1030 am. I really needed my beauty sleep. I then proceeded to cook. I reheated some leftover braised pork, which I may have left too long on the burner. Thankfully, there were only a few last pieces of pork. I reheated some fish stock and tried to make the flavor a bit deeper. I also experimented with something I saw from a channel streaming some random recipe/cooking show playlist. I had some spare beef leg muscles with meat and I tried to put in a lot of those leftover and awkward remaining spices and sauces. So I dumped all of the remaining star anise, some rock sugar, some flying fish eggs (some sauce from Taiwan), and some white miso into the braise, as an experiment. It turned out strong and tasty.

After lunch, I continued with reading some of the material on plagiarism. I have to design a seminar related to this topic and I thought the responsible thing to do is to understand the broader aspect of this topic across different fields. I must admit I was occupied by a lot of topics related to plagiarism for quite some time and this has contributed to my tiredness during the week. It is a fascinating but draining topic to really understand.

I also have been updating my webinar viewing and listing out the activities for the next months. I also have been updating my link dump. I do not think you will ever be bored in this world. There is just so much to do. What is more interesting is to find ways not to do things.

April 4, 2021 (Part 3)

I woke up around 530 am. I cleaned up my area and now I am back to my portable standing desk. I think I became fatter the past weeks even though I ate so much more seafood than red meat. I have been sitting more and more, writing more and more emails and other admin documents. These activities will likely contribute to the death of my research, but I am thankful that I still manage to get ideas here and there and write things up.

I found some comfort in some passages from Joshua Schimel's Writing Science. Incidentally, I got this gem from a used bookstore in Taichung (of all places!!). Schimel writes: ""Publish or perish" may be the basis for survival, but it is not (italics) the basis for success." He then follows with "remember who your real peers are". But a part of me feels that these passages are getting less and less true given that journal publishing is becoming more of a business and that there really is a pecking order for journals. I would say that many are content on publishing at not so reputable outlets and then survive. I wonder what will happen to their students in the future. But then, if I do not publish, what will happen with my own good works? This is a conundrum.

The most comfort I got from the book was "You may survive by publishing a lot of papers, but you will only succeed by writing good ones -- papers that are clearly structured and tell a compelling story. Quality ultimately trumps quantity, and it will stand out in a crowded scientific universe." But I also wonder about a researcher's responsibility in a do no harm sense. I would argue that researchers should not add noise and must strive to add strong signals to the literature. But what if the noise crowds out the signal? Surely, publishers could no longer use the Mark Zuckerberg argument.

April 4, 2021 (Part 2)

This entry is for April 3, 2021.

I mostly ignored the cat cries. I am not sure whether he is just vocalizing. This gave me some more time to sleep but still I woke up around 530 am or so. But I was still not at 100% (well not even 50%). So after doing some light work, I went back to sleep. I woke up around noon to eat something and then slept again.

Our landlady dropped by or shall I say knocked quite heavily on our door while I was sleeping. I woke up suddenly. She was hinting on increases in rent for the next year. She claims that the agent has been bothering her about increases in real estate prices and rental prices around the area. If this is true, then I should also be less polite to this fucking agent. I sometimes approach the agent and give her some potential business. I know that these potential business do not necessarily pan out but I guess I expected some sort of reciprocity. I guess the goodwill is not worth the agent fee of half the rent from the first month.

The landlady argues that she is doing me a favor because her increases were not too unreasonable and that we should look at prevailing rental prices when the rental contract is about to expire. She argues that the agent only wants the intermediation fees and we have been living here quite well and would not want to move, especially given the number of things we have. She has a point there but the unit facilities are breaking as time goes by and we have been fixing them on our own dime and she left most of her furniture (which we do not want) here. I guess the small increases (relative to market) in prices can be thought of a "rent" for letting her things stay here.

After the landlady left, I spent most of my time sleeping because I am still exhausted from the previous day. This is on top of the weight of the week. I woke up around 5 pm. I feel a bit better but I still need some more rest and sleep.

I had a talk with my family later in the evening and it was fun. Our conversations have changed to health, insurance, and popular people (which depends on the generation) who got COVID. The rest of the night was spent leaving some streaming videos of people doing stuff. This is essentially white noise, but there are some interesting things that people do and share with the world.

April 4, 2021 (Part 1)

My streak is broken again. We have quite a long holiday ahead and I feel exhausted from the week. So, I missed blogging on April 2 and 3. So there would be three entries today to compensate. Let me see if I could remember the events of the past two days.

I woke up around 530 am trying to catch the webinar I mistakenly thought was yesterday. The talk was fun and a lot of insight from someone who is well-read. I also had quite an enjoyable talk with an applicant to our program and we talked for almost an hour. After that, I got some cooking in for backup meals. I was also doing some derivations for another paper, as I only got some time for myself again.

Then I had to go to another campus (which takes about 1-1.5 hours with traffic) to give a deferred exam. When I got there, I went to the library and returned a book. By coincidence, I met my co-author. We had dinner and had a conversation about next steps about a rejected paper and plans for the future. Then, I went to give the exam. This took about 3 hours. I killed about 7 mosquitoes in the room we were in. After the 3 hours were up, I went back home and I was extremely exhausted. I could not even remember what I did after I got home. In the end, I just slept.