Not Being Late #6: Why Gated Communites Suck

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Last time I wrote about my 1-month streak of not being late to anything.  That was awesome while it lasted.  However, all good things in life will inevitably end, much like life itself.  About 3 weeks ago I ended my streak, because gated communities suck.

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon where I was to go tutor a new student.  I got there 15 minutes early, and just chilled outside the gate, since the student lived in a gated community.  With 5 minutes to go, I dialed on the intercom to request permission to enter through the gates… except the call wasn’t going through.  I tried again and again and again and again but it just wasn’t working.  Now with 2 minutes to spare, I called the house and somehow eventually we got the gate to open up.  I rushed in like I was in Fast and the Furious, but didn’t make it of course.  With a heavy heart, I rang the doorbell and put a smile on to greet the student and his mother.

It’s frustrating when I get there 15 minutes early, but I get thwarted by a gate.  Why do we have gated communities?  It’s a very unneighborly thing to have.  It sends the message, “We hate people, so we try our best to keep them out.  Also we love to make our visitors suffer through the hassle of malfunctioning intercoms so that they will be late and thus have to punish themselves.”  I’ve had this problem with gated communities earlier this year too.  Sigh.

I was really tempted to slide myself by telling myself that I was on time to the gate, which should be the real deadline.  However a good friend called me out on my corrupt justification and pointed me towards righteousness.  The bright side is that I only do half a punishment for being late if it was not my fault.  So I only had to write sentences 125 times as opposed to 250 (#1).

Since then, I had 2 additional tardies which I take full-responsibility for.  I’m relapsing.  I’ve been really bad at doing these punishments promptly like I had planned (does that count as being late also?).  I need to go finish memorizing pg 19-2 of my TI-83 Plus instruction manual.  Good night.

Simeon Koh

Unfinished Business: Little Things

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2014.04.07 Unfinished Business- Little Things

 

In the last few days…

I beat the Pokemon League in Pokemon X (which I bought back around Thanksgiving… I don’t know why it took me over 4 months to beat this);

I started studying Spanish again;

I finally wrote up a formula sheet to send to my MCAT students (which I had promised them over a month ago);

I finished watching an anime series on hulu;

I finished a pack of gum that I bought in October.

 

What unfinished business have you taken care of recently?

Simeon Koh

 

Building a Computer

The Dell Inspiron 1525 that I own was first used in August of 2008, when I entered Harvey Mudd College as a freshman in Summer Institute.  I don’t know how, but it is still running far after I’ve expected it to die.  However, it is slowly gathering little problems here and there.  It’s getting slower, the battery life is not good, some modern programs don’t work, the fan turns loudly when I play such an intensive game like Candy Crush on Facebook, etc.  So it was time for a new computer, before this trusty laptop completely dies in the most crucial moment.

When I was asking people for advice on buying a new computer, many people told me to build my own.  I was a bit fearful of the idea because I am not very knowledgeable about the bajillon options for computer parts and thus was afraid. However, I found out that they sell bundles that save people the effort of searching for each individual parts.  Lastly the decision came down to price.  Considering various rebates, plus helpful connections, I was able to get everything for about $700 (including Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office).

It was surprisingly easy.  Yes it did take several hours, especially since I was watching instructional videos (building, software) as I was building it, despite having watched them once beforehand.  The building was executed smoothly without any problems, so that was nice.  However, I had some trouble figuring out how to deal with the OS installation, since the Windows I got was a .iso file that needed to be burned onto a DVD.  I kept burning a data DVD instead of an image disc or something so it wouldn’t work.  I eventually figured everything out and it works great!

This sure was a new experience.  I now fear computer-building a lot less.  Thank you to everyone who encouraged/helped me to build this computer!

Simeon Koh

 

External build (because if something is defective, it’s better to catch it before you stick it in the case):

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Actual build inside:

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In case you’re curious, this is what my computer is made of (I’m not sure if I’m naming everything correctly… these things are named so complicatedly):

  • Motherboard:  MSI Z87-G41 PC Mate Intel Z87
  • CPU:  Intel Core i5-4670K Processor (6M Cache, 3.40 GHz)
  • Memory:  Patriot Viper Xtreme 8GB RAM
  • Video card:  MSI GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB Twin Frozr
  • Hard drive:  Seagate Barracuda 1TB HDD
  • DVD drive:  LG 24X SATA DVDRW
  • Wireless internet card:  Sabrent 802.11N wireless PCI controller card
  • Power supply:  Ultra LSP series V2 550W ATX power supply
  • Case:  ULTRA Etorque™ A5 Mid-Tower ATX

 

Unfinished Business: Lessons from Candy Crush

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On March 17, 2014, I reached the end of the long journey known as Candy Crush Saga, by King.  There were 530 levels plus 170 levels in the “dream world” for a total of 700 levels.  It is an accomplishment, albeit a dumb one, and I am at last quitting the game.  (Note:  I saw that King has released additional levels, but I’ve already gone!)

You must be thinking I loved this game, but that is far from the truth.  In fact, I despise it and I think it’s a very dumb game.  It’s mostly luck based so you don’t develop much skill of gameplay; there is no plot/character development; and there is no social/personal benefit that comes with playing Candy Crush.  Then why did I play so much?  Because by the time I fully decided this was really dumb, I was already 60-70 levels into the game (back then the game had less than 400 levels released). It was too late to turn back.

Take a look at how the beginning portion of the game looks:

CandyCrushBegReality

And look how the end of the game looks:

CandyCrushEndDream CandyCrushEndReality

Many start, but few finish.  For some unfortunate reason, I didn’t want to be one of the many people who turn away shortly after the entrance.  I refused to let Candy Crush claim victory over me.  So I spent the past 7.5 months finishing a game I didn’t like.  However, there are always lessons to learn in even the dumbest things.  Allow me to share them here (to save you from having to go through all 700 levels of Candy Crush (you’re welcome)).

1)  Luck favors those who persevere.

Candy Crush is a luck-based game where skill is mostly irrelevant.  If you had something like twitchplayspokemon for Candy Crush (twitchplayscandycrush?) I think it wouldn’t be much worse than actually playing the game.  However, this is precisely the reason that anybody can play, and anybody can succeed.  Say a hard level has 1% chance of success.  Then the probability of NOT beating it in 300 tries is just (99%)^300 = 5%.  You’ll beat it as long as you keep trying.

2)  Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be possible.

Among the 700 Candy Crush levels, there were plenty that were easy enough to beat in one try.  The harder ones took a few days.  And a few took SEVERAL WEEKS (a couple of the levels with the tornadoes come to mind). When there seems to be no hope of beating a particularly hard level, only the truth can sustain you: if it’s not impossible, it must be possible.  When you see that a Facebook friend has passed this level, you know it can’t be impossible.  Then see #1.

***

Candy Crush Saga is like an allegory for life.  Life can be such a toss up, which can be a bad thing or a good thing, depending on how you make it.  When life seems arbitrary, long, and highly improbable, just remember lessons 1 and 2 from Candy Crush.

Splendid days indeed.

 

Simeon Koh

 

 

 

Not Being Late #5: One-Month Streak

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For anyone who hasn’t been following this “Not Being Late” series, you might want to check out at least my first post to see what the heck I’m talking about.

I have passed one month of not being late to anything!  It’s so weird that I haven’t had to punish myself in over a month.  As my reward, I got a late pass, which I used last night when I was going to be 5 minutes late to a book study/prayer group meeting.  My streak lives on!

Today, let me point out some of the things I’ve experienced so far:

 

1)  Being on-time is becoming a habit

I no longer have to try so hard to get somewhere on time.  My mind now just assumes of course I’ll be there on time.  Of course I should account for extra few minutes in my drive.  Why the heck would I not?  That is a new Simeon right there.  Once something becomes a habit, it stays for a long time.  I have a good feeling that after 2014, I won’t have to tell myself to be on time to things.  I’ll automatically do it.

 

2)  Being on-time brings peace

The Simeon of 2013 was always stressed and rushed while driving, because Google Maps would prophesy that I would be 2 minutes late, and I refused to acknowledge technological prophesies.  I would fight Google Maps, as if my willpower and rushed heart could bend the very fabric of reality that is LA traffic.

But when you have plenty of time, you’re a much more Christ-like person.  Oh LA traffic?  No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop me from being on time.  Oh this guy who suddenly gets in front of me?  Yeah sure go ahead!  I have plenty of time!  But you, man, look like you’re late to something.  Tsk tsk.  Good luck, because you’ll need it more than I do.  Oh an elderly grandma crossing the road very slowly?  May God bless your soul.  I no longer have any desire to run you over in order to get to my destination faster.

Ah such peace that comes when one is in control of his own time!

 

3) Initially not being on time brings increased pressure, but eventually leads to quiet acceptance

On days when I’m really close to being late, I get double the pressure.  Nobody cares I’ll be 60 seconds late to my work, but unfortunately I very much do.  If I’m late, there are 10 terrifying punishments waiting for me.  What will it be this time?!  More physical brutality?  Writing 250 sentences?  Would I have to eat a lemon?  I need to speed more!  More!  Morrrreee!!!

Then I hit a red light.  A thousand calculations run through my head.  Probability of arriving on time = 0.0000.  A strange calmness covers me as I sigh and accept the futility of my efforts.  I can’t win every race.  Yes, there will be punishments; but tomorrow I will be on time.  That’s just how the cookie crumbles.

 

Simeon Koh

 

 

Unfinished Business: Solving a Rubik’s Cube

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Casper: No, but aren’t you forgetting something?
Carrigan Crittenden: What?
Casper: Your unfinished business.
Carrigan Crittenden: My what?
Kat: You know, unfinished business. All ghosts have unfinished business. That’s why they don’t cross over.

- from the movie Casper (1995)

***

2014.03.07 Unfinished Business Rubik's Cube

So many times in life I find something in my life that I started with great excitement but never saw it to finish.  I don’t play drums anymore, I don’t blog as much, I have still 17 our of 19 things left on my bucket list, I still have childhood dreams unfinished, I never get around to putting bajillion cool ideas to life, I have letters to write back to people (that I’ve procrastinated on for several months), I need to resume studying Spanish again, and I counted 40+ books on my shelf that I’ve never opened/finished…

While I recognize that some things in life should be left unfinished and that it’s good to try many things to figure out what we’re really interested in, I do have a problem with my tendency to jump from one thing to another frivolously.  When I do that, I don’t truly come to understand the value of the thing, and I get in the bad habit of letting my laziness trump my perseverance.

***

So as my first unfinished business to finish, I chose to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube.  I bought my Rubik’s cube in 11th grade (2006-2007) because for some reason it got somewhat popular at school, and it looked smart.  I used the solution guide to solve it and even then it was kind of confusing and easy to mess up.  I think I eventually got to being able to do it, but not consistently without looking at the solution guide.  Then I quickly lost interest and forgot even more quickly.

I recently relearned and memorized how to solve my Rubik’s cube.  I practiced while I was watching Korean TV shows on YouTube, and now I can do it without the manual consistently!  Success!

Stay tuned for more unfinished business coming your way.

What are some of your unfinished businesses?

Simeon Koh

 

 

Not Being Late #4: Progress so far… and Sting

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“‘I will give you a name,’ he said to it, ‘and I shall call you Sting.’”

- Bilbo Baggins, from The Hobbit

***

It has been about 2 months, and I’m still pulling through with this New Year’s Resolution.  I haven’t been blogging about every one of my successes and failures, but I have been faithfully abiding by my punishment/reward system.

Thus far, I have been late 11 times this year (avg 0.17 tardies/day), so I’m doing not too badly.  Most of my tardies have been in the early few weeks, and it’s getting a lot easier to be on time (or early) to things.  It’s clearly becoming a new habit (yes!) and I am changing for the better.  As of right now I’m on a new record of going 3 weeks and a day without being late (I am getting those 1-wk gummy bears!).  Let’s hope I can keep it up until next Tuesday which will mark my 1 month-mark (the reward for that benchmark is 1 late pass).

So far I have gotten a total 6 bags of gummy bears.  It’s good but nothing crazy unusual.  The punishments have been more memorable.  Sor far I have done…

1.  Write “I will not be late.  I will be on time.” 250 times.  [2 times]
2.  100 pull ups (can be broken down to sets).  [0 times]
3.  200 push ups (can be broken down to sets).  [1 time]
4.  20 min plank (can be broken down to sets).  [1 time]
5.  Donate $30 to an organization I oppose.  [0 times]
6.  Eat a lemon.  [0 times]
7.  Memorize a random page out of the TI-83 manual.  [2 times]
8.  Time out – ear plugs and eye mask – sitting alone for 1 hour straight.  [1 time]
9.  The time for my next event is set to 15 min earlier.  [1 time]
10.  Run the “godzilla” hill at Schabarum park 10 times in a row.  [3 times]

The winner thus far is #10, which is a terrible one.  It’s a steep hill we used to run in high school cross country and doing it 10 times is tough.  I was (un)lucky enough to have done it 3 times.  And as a bonus, one of those 3 times was my 10th punishment, meaning I had to double that punishment (see my Milestone Punishment rules from the first post).  I couldn’t do it 20 times, so I did 2 days of 10.  Oh gosh.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Actually I do.  One time I made it to the top of the hill huffing and puffing, then I saw a lizard!  I got excited because I used to catch those things for research during college.  Then while I was distracted, bees/wasps stung me on the leg and on the thigh.  It somehow got trapped inside my shorts and couldn’t get out and I freaked out.  Nobody was there to see (thankfully) me pull down my shorts on top of the hill to let the bee/wasp go.  That’s what I get for being late.

Anyways, I’m kind of hoping I get to eat a lemon sometime, but we shall see.

Simeon Koh

 

Marathon in the Valley of Death

“I walk a lonely road
The only road that I have ever known.
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone”

- “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day

***

In 490 BC, the Greeks won a battle against invading Persia in the city Marathon, after which Pheidippides was sent to proclaim the good news of victory.  This poor man had just fought a war, but somehow had it in him to run about 26.2 miles to say, “We won!”  Right after mission accomplished, he collapsed and died, perhaps unsurprisingly.  One wonders why he didn’t run a bit slowly or why the Greek army didn’t provide him with a horse or something.  However, we still say, “Wow what a boss,” and remember his death by repeating what he did, which we call the marathon.

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Before the race

I ran the LA Marathon in 2009 because I figured I need to do this while I’m young.  After nearly dying that time, I thought I’d never run the marathon again.  Five years later, my friend Elfego and I decided we still wanted to be young so we signed up for another marathon.  And there seemed no better place to run a marathon than Death Valley, since it sounds like an apt place to die.

Long-distance running can be a lonely activity.  For me, running has always been about winning against myself, rather than against others.  When you’re on a 20-mile practice run, there’s an overabundance of alone time.

That’s why I was excited to run the marathon with Elfego. He’s normally a lot faster than I am, but he hadn’t been able to train very much.  Then since he was going to die, I was planning on running slowly with him and encourage one another towards the finish line.  I had perfect plans for a heart-warming blog post about our beautiful broship.  Except that didn’t happen.  My friend conveniently hurt his knee the day before the race.  I was going to run a lonely road after all.

***

For the first 13.1 miles, I ran very well.  I ran it in 2 hours, and felt like it was the best 13 miles I’ve ever run, despite the ridiculously hard headwind.  The endless desert scenery was beautiful and soothing to the soul.  It was paradise.

For the last 13.1 miles, everything was hell.  I slowed down to a weak jog, and walked a lot.  The same scenery was now an endless stretch of hopeless desert apt for a silent death.  I got a little taste of why this place is called Death Valley.

On the lonely road, only you turn paradise to hell, even when nothing has changed.  Therefore, you cannot blame your shortcomings on others; it is here that you have no option but to face yourself as you are.  Moreover, just as no one else could carry the Ring for Frodo, no one else can take away your lot.  Sometimes in life a man has to walk the lonely road.  It may feel impossibly difficult (like how I felt on mile 18) but you can do it only because no one else can do it for you.

***

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After the race

At any rate, I set a personal record and finished first in my division (Male 20-24)… except that would be a misrepresentation of facts.  My time was 4:51:18, which was barely 32 seconds faster than my 2009 LA Marathon time.  Also, my division had 2 people…  So I didn’t run as well as I expected (I thought I was going to get ~4 hrs 30 min), despite having trained a lot more than I did back in 2009.  I think maybe I ran the first half too hard, or maybe I overtrained.  Maybe it’s related to how I felt gassy throughout the race (although I’m not sure if that actually propelled me forward or not).  However, I’m just glad to be done running for now.  I now dub myself old and will run no more marathons.

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But then again, that’s what I said last time.

Simeon Koh

 

My First Fishing Trip

“Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.”

- Gollum’s riddle* to Bilbo in The Hobbit

 

Sometimes, the Tookish spirit inside every little hobbit awakens to say, “I want to go fishing!  I don’t care that I’ve never been fishing in my entire life; I don’t even know if I’ll like it; I have no logical explanation for this sudden desire either; however, I must fish!”  I had that moment several months ago, and I’ve suppressed that Tookish spirit inside the Shire for quite some time.  I was too lazy to ask my cousin (a fishing fanatic) to take me, and much about fishing seemed too gross for a civilized gentleman like me.

One day I was Facebook-chatting with my friend K who mentioned that she went fishing.  I excitedly expressed my long longing to fish for fish, and eventually we had a fishing trip planned to Catalina Island.

We bought a full-day boat fishing trip from 22nd St. Landing and set sail at 6AM the morning.  Out of the 50+ fishermen (and 2 fisherwomen, both in our group) on the boat, our group consisted of me, K, M, L, and B.  I had never met M, L, and B before but we became new friends.  Only M knew much about fishing; K had gone fishing once or twice before; and the rest of us were clueless noobs.  So everyone depended on M to help us with everything from tying our hooks to casting our lines.  It was M who taught us how to put on bait, and it was also M who took the hook off the fish we reeled in.  As a result, M probably didn’t get to catch as many fish as he could have if he weren’t so busy helping all of us.  Thank you M!

It was a new experience to hook a live anchovy for bait.  At first I felt bad for the anchovies as I could feel it tense up and give a twitch as I put the hook through the roof of its mouth out the head, but I quickly got used to it (we hooked many anchovies that day).

P1050342

Then there was the bonito I caught.  When I got my first bite I was really surprised at how strong it pulled.  At the end of the fight I held the fish in my hands – the feeling of the fish’s firm muscles, the wet sliminess on my hands, the smell, the sight, fish blood all over my jacket – and I felt good.  Everything about it was gross and ugly, but everything felt so real.  This was no Finding Nemo, no dead frozen fish in the market, but a real fish between life and death.

It’s strange how I found beauty in grossness, but I think the beauty comes from the reality of it all.  Yes, countless anchovies bled and died with hooks through their brains; yes, a bonito got hooked out of the sea with a hook in its mouth; and then yes, it slowly suffocated to death in the bag.  But it’s the way life works: there is pain and there is death, but because of them there can also be joy and life for others.  Call it cruel murder, call it a sport, call it a predator’s mindset.

Even though I only caught 1 fish, I had so much fun that day.  The sea, the wind, the saltiness, the gulls, the fish, the new friends…  I miss it all already and will definitely return in the future.  I’m hooked!

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Simeon Koh

* The answer to the riddle, of course, is fish.

Not Being Late #3: Vanishing Gummy Bears

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This post is a week late, but I hope nobody finds that ironic.

Since my previous failures on Jan 3rd, I was really good about not being late.  I always got to things early or just on time, and it almost got pretty easy!  The 1 week reward of a bag of gummy bears was figuratively within sight…

It was the evening of Jan 10th, when I had 2 scheduled tutoring sessions: one 5:30PM-6:30PM and another 7:00PM-9:00PM.  I purposely put 30 minutes between the two sessions, which was plenty of time!  I was doing this so well!

On my way to my first tutoring session at 5:15PM, I got a phone call from the student’s mother saying they’re hitting traffic so she wanted to start 10 minutes later.  Hmm, that meant tutoring 5:40PM-6:40PM, but 20 minutes was still enough time to get to my second student.  Okay!  This was still going to work because I had planned for plenty of extra time like a boss.

However, we finished a few minutes later than 6:40PM because I wanted to finish this problem and the student was losing focus.  Uh-oh.  I was now rushed for time, trying to keep calm while driving quickly and efficiently… then I hit the traffic (ahh foreshadowing!).  Many calculations went through my head and it was evidently clear that I wasn’t going to make it on time.  This was my last hurdle before my 1-week milestone!  I was going to stop by Target after tutoring to celebrate my 1-week of punctuality with a bag of gummy bears!  I sighed in despair as the gummy bears figuratively vanished into the deep deep night sky.

I ended up 2 minutes 57 seconds late.

Punishment:  Time Out

My Ti-83 random integer function generated 8, which maps to “Time out – ear plugs and eye mask – sitting alone for 1 hour straight.”

I did this cruel punishment in the evening when there would be negligible probability of my family members entering my room and being extremely confused and disturbed.

I set my phone timer to 1 hr, plugged in ear plugs (relics from college when I lived in Harvey Mudd’s North Dorm), put on an eye mask, turned off the light, and sat on the cold hardwood floor in loneliness.

Being deprived of sight and hearing was strangely weird and uncomfortable.  I should have had a sweater on because it got cold and the hard floor felt harder than I remembered.  Thank goodness I still retained the sense of touch because holding myself for warmth and comfort was nice.  I dozed off quite a bit during that hour so I lost sense of time too and I kept wondering, “What if I sleep through the alarm and end up staying like this for hours and hours?”  Thankfully the alarm rang eventually and I ripped out my prison quickly then jumped into bed.  Whew.

It seems like gummy bears are going to be pretty hard to come by this year.

Simeon Koh

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