Friday, May 29, 2009

opening ceremonies and the team

this morning we got our breakfast at the dining hall at 8 and proceeded to begin the most uninteresting tournament day ever. while coming back to the dorms, we were told to go attend a seminar, where some taekwondo professors and ph.Ds gave presentations on such things as the psychological effects of taekwondo. that's the only one we sat through, and it was basically a combination of bad powerpoint skills (writing all the text on each slide and reading it word for word) and stating the obvious (taekwondo was found to increase self confidence and motivation.) our coach gave us the signal for a rapid exit, but only after about 45 minutes of the talk.

for the rest of the morning, we had a brief team workout, with just a warmup session lead by sparky (coach park) and then kicking and open workout. the forms team did about a 4 hour session again. alicia and her team, having only worked for two days so far, made a ton of progress already and are looking really sharp. then we worked on the pairs forms through lunch, grabbing some boxes of the best food yet at uc berkley and eating bites between sets until 2 pm.

after the practice, we walked around berkeley for a while. i remembered being here years ago for a collegiate nationals competition. then it was warm - now it is cloudy and chilly and i did not feel like buying another souvenir puka shell necklace because it just didn't feel like west coast. except for the fact that all the stores were full of hippies. there were lots of graphic tshirt stores, smoke shops, antique clothing stores, incense shops, record shops.

at 4 pm, we took team pictures in our USA uniforms. i am quite happy to own a USA uniform, even though it is the "sparring" one and isn't great for our forms competitions, but i like sparring uniforms. they're long and loose and comfy.

but here begins the three hour long opening ceremonies that was a huge embarrassment. first, i don't know who organized it but it was probably no one because it took forever to get the teams lined up, then we waited for who knows what in the hallways. when we finally marched in for the procession of nations, it was basically the 7 member canadian team, the 22 member US team, and the refs. and we didn't know where to stand or whether to bow at the 40 spectators that were in the stands while strange dance rave music played over the speakers.

after the whole ceremony finally ended, we did get to watch a big extensive demo - korean dance, korean drums, kendo (with real swords cutting batches of straw) and then the UCMAP demo which included taekwondo, wushu, and judo. they were all actually really good despite being colorbelts, students, and judoists, who you don't think would have a very showy demo team. but again, we had to catch dinner before it closed at 8, so once again the huge US team got up and left in the middle of something. i hope we don't start getting a bad reputation.

it's only 11:30 and i've been tired for the last 3 hours. i will be going to bed, but i've learned that being on your feet all day, and away from the computer, makes each hour in the day more worthwhile and pass slower. as soon as i got back to my room and turned on my computer, three hours disappeared, and i am still tired but unrested. maybe it'll be good to go to taekwondo training camp sometime. it definitely changes your mental and physical shape. i just hope there's no more pitifully run ceremonies anymore.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

dorm life

as i write this i am laying in my bunk bed in a triple in a uc berkeley dorm. it is fantastic. i am literally reliving the first day of my college career. no, more than that, i am reliving the first day of my summer camp experience at the ncssm summer program after my sophomore year of high school. the bunks are squeaky and the mattress is bumpy, the sheets smell like generic laundering, the walls and carpet smell like a dorm. my dorm room is so devoid of personality and life that it is like a clean slate. and that's what you feel when you first move in - it's a clean slate.

the US team met up today - most of us got here by 4 pm, and we had a team meeting in the berkeley dorm called unit 3. they gave us keys on a clunky keychain and a meal card to be used at the dining hall. this whole experience has made me feel so new again - in a "i have nothing and am ready to set up shop" way, but also in a "i am allowed nothing. all these restrictions are stupid" way. dorm administration is geared toward freshmen who have no understanding of how to control their lives the moment their parents are out of the picture. it's not like we're living in a hotel and the service staff are minimally seen at best.

the other feeling i got from getting into my dorm was the enjoyment of choosing which desk and bed i would be occupying. i am getting some roommate who is support staff later, i think. this happened during my freshman preorientation as well - i was supposed to be in a double but my roommate never showed up, so i ended up having to exit my hallway and follow the sounds of talking. but then sometimes i'd just sit in my room, listen to people outside, think, "i should go socialize" but then end up doing stuff on my computer instead. that is what an mit student does.

the rest of the day was spent kind of working out. we were supposed to have a full workout but because of the weighin schedule, we didn't have time either before or after to have a training session. some of the competitors who were cutting weight went to kick and train a little bit on the mats, and alicia, carissa, stephanie and i went to practice poomse. we went sort of from 4 - 7 pm, then realized that the only other team competing was canada. so this was a bit of a letdown, because i really would have liked competing against many countries - including some that actually put in work for poomse.

but tonight we have a curfew at 12, which is way late for me anyways. tomorrow morning we have to go back to the disgusting dining hall for breakfast at 8:30, which is not worth it except to be with the team. and apparently there's organic chocolate milk. there's a practice session at 10 am, then we'll probably do some other poomse work throughout the day until opening ceremonies in the evening.

i think a part of me is going to enjoy a morning workout. because we literally have nothing else to do but train. if only the US had a training camp for the team - that would be a pretty good experience too.

so now i'm lying on my bunk bed, in the top bunk, blogging to record this experience down. so far it's been fun because it's been a living flashback. except i am older - way older - and i still end up feeling more isolated from everyone else because they are a bit younger, more doing sparring, and located on the opposite end of the hall. but it's ok. we'll all be representing team usa soon, whether we're all wearing usa jerseys or the ragtag school shirts everyone was supposed to bring.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


today i turn 26 for real, though we celebrated on sunday, and i've been thinking i'm 26 for a few weeks. it's another birthday where i grow a bit less immature, perhaps. i've also hassed the hump, either my quarter, third, or half life crises, depending on how optimistic i am on a given day. today, it's more of a third life point type of day.

i am traveling in the phoenix airport where there is a "Free public wifi network" but it doesn't actually give any internet access. i wanted to tweet my trip because it might actually be interesting, but i dont have an iphone to have constant access to twitter. so everything will depend on intermittent internet access from friends - along with intermittent bedding and travelling availability. from here, i will be going to san jose to vacation for a day before the Pan Am competition.

the interesting thing about phoenix airport is that there is a store called "Indigeneous" that sells some native american artisanal souvenirs. it reminds me of when i was in albuquerque years ago for a national jshs competition. i was in 9th grade and made it to the top 5 along with a senior named daniel who was my hero. however, the moment we arrived at albuquerque square and had some time to go tour/explore, he said, "hey, do you guys mind if we go off on our own?" which he promptly did, leaving me for the first time alone without an agenda or an adult in my life. (summer camp came in my sophomore year, which was an equally harrowing initial experience.)

later, after wandering the native shops for a few hours, i saw daniel rejoin the group with a bunch of souvenirs. i especially admired his albuquerque shirt with cave drawings - it was a souvenir and a symbol of independence. i wanted to buy something to prove that i was equally wordly, but i couldn't get myself to approach the native american vendors. so later, while returning at the albuquerque airport, at the last chance i had, i bought the same shirt from a souvenir shop in the albuquerque airport.

this week, i will be traveling all around california. i have no solid plans yet. i hope to be able to go off on my own and just disappear in california, occasionally reemerging with a souvenir. but there will be no airport tshirts this time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

summer of goodbyes

it's become another one of those summers again. it's a time when you have so much fun because you know it's going to end soon. i guess it's a bit different this time around...i'm not leaving, but people are leaving me. and we don't have the whole summer to do it, because they're doing it in the next week or so. maybe that's a good thing, that we don't have a whole summer to wish it would never happen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

i <3 u online

i almost missed this period. but i am just slightly old enough to not be obsessed by this culture.

sangria is the blood of life

everytime i look at my kitchen nowadays two things run through my head: i hope nothing bad happened at the party that i can't remember, and how am i going to clean up with all this leftover wine?

so naturally, once in a while i find myself sitting at home with nothing to do but browse the internet and drink sangria. thanks, arpun, for bringing over a big ass bottle of cabernet that no one but you drank, and now i am obliged to finish it all by myself.

but i also wonder why we don't just all spend evenings sitting outside on the patio, sipping on sangria and listening to jack johnson. oh, right, 1) everyone's a student here, 2) boston weather sucks, and 3) i'm thinking of my sd days again. but as such, i can still enjoy a glass of sangria now and then. it's leftover from the party, it's in a huge goblet, and it's got frozen strawberries and pineapple ice cubes which i made to get rid of the pineapple juice from the party.

i am going to have a blast. in the words of my favorite phi sigs: SEEya lwtc!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

moments in time

i always have really brief moments in time which are extremely vivid in my memory. while every other detail about it is hazy - what time period that was, what else was going on in my life - i can always remember certain small events in time - two or three seconds long - that have become permanently embedded. one of those moments is when i told master chuang that i would accept being captain for my m. eng year at MIT. and looking back on it, that was one of the times that really has defined my life even until this point.

the story actually goes back maybe a year earlier, when i walked by the equipment locker and saw a poster of cecile scoring a headshot on some cornell opponent (mary). it was one of those iconic MIT images that will be forever a part of our history. and when i saw it again, even though it was maybe already a year old, i felt a strange sense of belonging and pride in being a part of thise club, still young at that time, and i told myself that i was ready to devote my life to mit sport taekwondo. of course, at that time i was also having relationship issues and making mit stkd the primary focus of my life hadn't happened yet, and was just a distant idea.

coming back to the other moment, i was in the middle of finals for my senior year and i was answering master chuang's email about becoming captain next year. i had been under amazing captains, conor and rich, and wasn't sure if i could step up, but then i was itching to take the lead and become officially vocal. i wanted more than anything to lead the team more than by example, and to have the approval of the instructors to do it. but for a moment the thought of my m.eng crept in my head and i actually began writing, "Dear sabumnim, I am extremely honored to be considered for the captain position. I would love to do it, but I'm not sure if my schedule would allow me to fully fulfill my duties." then suddenly i woke up and wondered why the hell would i waiver at such an opportunity. there was nothing that could come between me and the mit team. i knew that to have any doubt or reservation would kill my effectiveness as a leader, so i changed my letter to something more resolute.

after this year, i think that the acceptance of that role not only allowed me to contribute to the 2005-2006 season, but also let me continue to have an influence, and also continues to reward me, even to this day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

leet parking ticket

i got a ticket a few nights ago and i half expected it so this isn't one of those "cambridge parking sucks" rants. rather, this time i decided to pay the ticket on time, and i looked at the ticket number:


i was then unsure of whether this was the actual ticket number, or just some cop declaring his l337ness on my car? of course, it's more like leteeeteete!!!!111oneone. but it did save me from moving my fingers much as i typed the ticket into the payment form.

then, the ticket didn't show up in the online records. maybe this guy hasn't processed his tickets yet, or maybe he just got fragged at the next illegally parked car.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

law of last minute standards

i've decided that this has got to be some sort of obscure yet common natural law, much like rule 34 or murphy's law - i don't know if it exists so for now i'll call it the law of last minute standards. essentially, the closer you come to a deadline, the more likely you'll come up with a solution that fits both the original requirements and the amount of time you have left.

case 1: if you are working on a demo for work or a final project, and some feature is not quite working. in the half hour before it's due, you will always come upon a sudden solution that will still make it look like it's working. maybe just less intelligently, but that's all in the background.

example: in my 6.170 class, as our antichess program was due, the ai decision tree kept crashing the software. so we decided that instead of using a decision tree, just to select a random move each time. no more crashes! (the prof noted, "your ai is about as bad as a random move generator.)

case 2: if you are working on a video for some event and decide that watching and cutting clips is too painful, you'll always be able to come up with some way to still give your audience something to watch, without losing too much sleep.

example: in 2002-2003 winter banquet, my last three highlights videos were long cuts of sparring matches with text overlayed, instead of short highlight cuts. this year, i'm probably going to take long cuts of what would have gone into a docudrama, and just put them in the slideshow as extra multimedia.

case 3: a pset.

example: in my lwtc class, i feel like as long as i can submit something to my group, they'll put my name on the final work. even if it's not completely correct. in all my other psets, the solution at 4 am in the morning is to either make simplified physical assumptions that i know are wrong but go for partial credit, or to punt.

Monday, May 11, 2009

peaches and almonds

i ran across a little article about surviving in the wilderness and while there are tons of aussie-sounding khaki shorts wearing men out there with shows telling you how they'll survive the outback, this video proved somewhat informational at the end.

eating raw meat - view the video at the bottom through discovery channel. i can't get it embedded here.

"if a fruit smells like peaches or almonds, it's poisonous." this is good to know because i totally would have just turned it into a smoothie.

spring cleaning

yesterday we had the end of year/cup party at my apartment. first, you'd wonder how to fit 50 people inside my smallish place. the main problem is that the living room is so small, and with a futon in there and a bed in my bedroom there's very little standing space. so, i decided to do a little spring cleaning and rearrangement, and now my bedroom is a lounge, complete with working coffee table, and my living room is much more open and still accomodates seating space and a tv. however, this came at the cost of my bed. not everyone can afford to have a full on bedroom, i guess. sleeping on a futon might be fresh for a few days or weeks. for now, my bed is completely disassembled and stowed in a corner - ikea furniture really packs up well. but my actual sheets are in the closet behind i'm literally sleeping on a futon with a tiny blanket and old pillows, like i'm crashing at someone else's place.

also, christmas lights are awesome. and black and blue lights are awesome too - it makes my bedroom look like a lounge. a sketchy lounge where i try to entice innocent greenbelts in, then i put on my business socks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

a comment

a comment i made to how can i keep from singing:

your "ding" made me think of a microwave. when you open the door there you are, an adult, nice and toasty, ready to eat. but i guess we're not like kernels of popcorn.

i have found that i have matured without realizing it in some ways, and it's really scary how suddenly, in the recent year or so, things that used to be extremely meaningful have started to fade into the past. i guess life is like that - you'll find yourself in a place one day, physical or intangible, and whether you want to or not you might have to move on.

and yet there are other times and situations where i can't even fathom myself becoming like people i see that are "adults" - somehow they are just too much more than me in many ways - maturity, motivatedness, intelligence, i don't know if i'd ever get to that point. but that's what we all thought when we were freshmen in college looking at the seniors, and yet here we are, already past that time. just hopefully, we're not overcooked.


i think i'm starting to get the hang of my d90. add a little bit of photoshop I to it, and i might even be able to make a decent men/women of taekwondo calendar one day.

but for now, i like to just stare at good photography. my current interest is portraits...of pretty people, of ugly people, of people in action. here is a cool gallery of celebrities from the 25th anniversary of the career of photographer mark seliger. mainly i'm posting it for my own reference so one day when i get around to making my own, i can come back and use this as a style guide.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Ty had a good quote today on her gchat:

"fortune cookie: every true friend becomes a stranger. but what will my every true friend become?"