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Infinitesimals

Voicemail has its uses, for example, when one won't be able to pick up the phone for awhile, but needs to relay a message immediately, or when other forms of communication are not possible, i.e. e-mail or texting is inconvenient or irrelevant.

However, I still usually end up ignoring it, thus rendering most of the pros as moot.

(1) Oct 10, 08 - 11:18 AM

On the subject of high school friends, just because you're different, doesn't mean you can't be friends.

(0) Jun 17, 07 - 11:41 PM

Pi is wrong.

Well, actually, maybe it would just be better to use what is currently known as 2*pi. I've always thought it would be easier if sine and cosine had periods that were just pi, not 2pi.

So should pi be 6.283185...? Should pi be the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius, instead of diameter? If so, it would take about 50 years for this to gain any momentum in the mathematical community.

(0) Apr 20, 07 - 1:07 AM

The Art of Persuasion

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | 11:50:39 PM
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Sometimes, you need to make a point, but you really have no clue what you're actually talking about. So, to circumvent this minor setback, one needs to become an actor: you're actually an expert on the topic. Everything you say is right. It doesn't even matter if you really don't know, you're just that good. This is the art of persuasion, argumentation, or in layman's terms, BS.

Just about every student who has ever had to write an essay or paper knows what BS is. The way I see it, there are two types of BS, an upper level and a lower level.

For the lower type, all one needs to succeed is a confident tone and an uneducated audience. For this sort of BS, one is effectively lying. If it sounds believable (at least to those who don't know the truth), then it works. This only goes so far. One can't answer the question "What is two plus two" with "five" and expect everyone to accept it willingly. Most people are adamant in their belief that the answer is truly "four". Lying only works when you know the audience is ignorant to the truth.

The next level of BS is more complex. Sometimes it is lying, but with evidence buried in truth, lies that elicit emotional reactions, semi-truths that only work in a certain way, or truths that are really unrelated to the original argument. Why do two and two make five? Because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Does it matter if it's four? Humans made up the number to represent this given value, one can have it represent a different value; "4" is an arbitrary symbol. Two parents and two children make 4 people and 1 family: 5 altogether. If I put more thought into this, I could probably make better arguments, but at least now, one has to put much more effort to refute the counter-examples. One has to find the fallacy in the argument.

So am I advocating the use of BS? One might say I am actually helping people avoid such arguments from others; when one has mastered its use, one is also able to see its use in others.

There are many other ways to argue in, what some may call, underhanded tactics. To learn more, pay attention to politics. Campaigns, lobbying, one can find many more ways to make one's point without actually addressing the point itself, or addressing the point from a more desirable point of view.

It might be considered evil, but if you're really good at it, that won't matter. The truth is only a minor setback.

Edit: on a somewhat related topic, ad hominem is only good when you can't really tell that it is ad hominem. Otherwise, it makes one look uneducated and unable to put forth a real argument. Now if you're in middle school (or a high schooler who seems like they should have been held back a bit), I might be able to see how calling someone a "cocksucker" would "win" you the argument. In any other situation, might as well just reverse the "argument" right back to yourself.

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The end of an era

Thursday, May 24, 2007 | 1:21:42 AM

If life is a collection of stories, and high school is one book, then I'm in a chapter where the resolution is beginning.

In the start of high school, I was a very quiet boy trying to find my way in this new place.

The first turning point in the story is when I joined band. This is where I met all of my good friends. So, I had people to talk to, but I was still a quiet boy who didn't want to speak.

The next turning point occurred far away in the Philippines. My family, my cousins helped me along here. They helped me to relax more, enjoy myself more. I was a quiet boy, slowly opening up to the world.

The rest is a blur; no major turning points, but everything affected me in some way. Somehow, slowly, I changed, I improved.

For example, to write articles for a newspaper, one must generally interview people. Comparing myself now and the beginning of the school year, I now actually like interviews. I'm not quite as wary of talking with people I'm unfamiliar with.

The story is of me and how I've changed. High school has been building up the story and now I've reached the resolution. Everything seems to be falling into place, but leaving the plot open for a sequel: the college saga.

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Planning for the Present

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 | 4:47:37 AM
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So it's late now, and I'm tired, so why am I not asleep? I can't stop thinking about the future.

College is really close for me, and it will be a huge jump in a different direction. I'm excited for this new experience. I'm thinking about what I'll do, how I'll react, where I'll go, who I'll meet...

But there's one problem: That doesn't happen for another five months. That's a rather long time. I haven't even started AP exams yet. I just started spring break! What am I doing instead of relaxing for two weeks? Getting myself excited over something that I have to wait a few months for.

It's a good idea to plan ahead to make sure the future is good, but I'm not just planning ahead right now. I haven't even accepted admission yet and I'm already thinking about what sort of dorm I want to stay in. This has happened before: I plan way too far ahead, in a game, for example, and I end up stopping short, getting diverted from the original plan, or otherwise changing my mind. Either way I waste time with planning the way I do.

So what happens when I get close or past where I planned? I continue the process, planning ahead another time interval to make sure I succeed again. I never really enjoy the present as I should, never stopping to relax, or think about what I currently have (without thinking about what I could have...)

Don't focus too much on the future. Make sure to enjoy the present. After all, you never live in the future, and you always live right now.

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Shutdown Day: Epilogue

Sunday, March 25, 2007 | 9:32:10 PM
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So I made it through Shutdown Day.

First to note, I've been offline for well over two weeks, but that's usually been because of dead computers or traveling. This was voluntary, in that I had access, but I would keep off, so willpower came to play a bit more.

It was interesting. It was fun, at times, and I think it's nice to keep away... again, at times, but not absolute. It wasn't fun to be with friends and sit back while they play each other in SSBM, but I can't merely because I said I wouldn't touch video games either. But then I know if I was a little lax and got on for only 5 minutes to check movie times, for example, that would end up as an hour of lost time.

Leisure was a topic on AP English not too long ago, and it's relevant here. Are computers leisure? Because there were times that I didn't feel relaxed, but rather boredom. Is it that I don't know true leisure? I mean, how did people entertain themselves before computers or TVs? I definitely know that I over did piano... I probably played for over 4 hours throughout the day, separated to three intervals, the last one not even at my house. But that one was fun because I was with people.

I wrote something down on my "offline blog" (read: notebook), "Given the choice of computer or going out, I'd probably choose the latter." Going out with friends is definitely more appealing than staying home. And this is the reason I'll be leaving soon, but first I must finish this blog.

No computer doesn't save energy either, for what I saved in electricity was lost in gas expenses from driving around aimlessly. I must say though, it was nice to not be in a rush driving. I averaged 65 on the freeway behind this one truck on the far right lane while most people passed me to the left. Then, I took quite the scenic route on the way home, avoiding the freeway altogether and taking random turns when I felt like it. Waste of gas? Perhaps, but it was fun to explore.

So will I do it again? Next year, perhaps. Otherwise, no. I'll just cut back on my computer usage, but it's not too good to completely sever the ties. Maybe I'll set limits some weekends to how long I'd like to stay online, or just work more to keep myself away. Either way, I don't regret doing this.

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The Perils of Being Called Smart

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | 12:39:42 AM
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So, I was browsing xckd forums, (excellent webcomic, by the way) and came across a topic discussing people who are "smart". I read it and connected it to some recent introspection.

The topic is a discussion about one boy called "gifted". He excelled at his classes. When he found something he didn't do quite so well at, he just gave up. Better to not try than try and fail, right? Many of the people on the forum seem to be able to make a connection with themselves, and I'll add my input here.

I pick up a lot of things rather easily. For example, in freshman year, I was the first one in band to completely pass off the march (High School Cadets!), despite having only picked up trumpet a few weeks ago. Likewise, my transition to trombone was quite smooth. I'm also known for being able to play an instrument to some proficiency within minutes of experimenting with it.

Now after this initial burst of talent is where the hard part comes in. Though I pick up new things easily, as I get to the details, I begin to fail. Why? I don't put in the required effort. Why? Because I get frustrated that my progress is not as fast as it once was. Plus, it's more work.

When I was younger, I was challenged a bit, but never too much. It was always just enough for progress, but I never had to really work hard. I was rewarded for excelling enough, but not pushed to go the extra mile. School was easy.

And now, I'm beginning to have to do work. Soon, I'll really have to do work. College, as Mr. Olson says, is more suited toward the hard-working "average" (or a bit above) kids than the "intelligent" ones, due to the nature of the work. It's not really something one can "bs", like, say, AP English. GE especially, the "weeding" classes, colleges are just seeing is the new freshman can handle this new education.

The school system could be improved. "Smart" kids aren't challenged enough and thus don't learn something very important: work ethic. This can later have adverse effects, as the students doing well won't respond nicely to struggles; they will give up rather than work, or avoid rather than chance failure.

It happened with me and piano. I did well and didn't even practice. When it got to the upper levels of the Certificate of Merit, I didn't practice the harder pieces. So, I fell behind and lessons weren't enough for me to progress, so I stopped. It happened (is happening?) with me and trombone. I did pretty good for awhile, but I hit a hill. Then Danny came in and far surpassed me.

Now I'm learning, though. I play piano now, just for fun. And I work at it. I'm getting better. I think I have to thank Brian Choi for this, because I saw him playing better than me. I then realized that I liked piano, and I wanted to play some of the pieces he was playing (La Campanella, for example). Trombone is a bit of a different story, as I don't quite have the same passion for it compared to piano, so it doesn't get the same focus.

If I find myself at the top, coasting along, then I'll get stagnant. I need some sort of motivation: a rival, or a bad grade, for example. This is where I'll find some work ethic. I need to find a challenge and work through it, improving myself on that subject and improving my work ethic.

So... having intelligence works in the short run. Having work ethic is better in the long run. The latter people end up doing well in life, but those who have both intelligence and a good work ethic are more likely to be the ones remembered. These are the (pardon the poor examples) Steve Jobs or George W Bushes (hey, you call him dumb, but he ended up as president... did something right there)...

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