My Regular TODO List

I am, by upbringing, a planner. Recently, I have become a more self-aware planner, and a need to rebel has pushed me to be more spontaneous. The result is that I have rapidly gone through phases of more and less planning depending on what I’m reacting against.

Currently, I’m in a planning mindset, which has led me to my scheduled TODO list. A few months ago, I would set a daily TODO list at the beginning of each week and cross off items everyday. My personal life was amazingly efficient, but it also really started to look like work. I backed off from that, but over the past few months of limited computer use, I have found myself not doing very much. Evenings would just disappear after finishing dishes.

During that time, I have maintained a “floating” section to my TODO list, which are intended to be done anytime during the week, but I haven’t used it consistently. One problem is that it muddles the urgency and timing of many different things, so it takes some thought to determine what is important to address. When I start going through it, I mentally skip items I can’t immediately do, and the ones I can are lost in the mix. Also, there are many things I would like to do very regularly but aren’t part of a daily routine. As such, I have developed a new system.

My new system is to set TODO items as daily, weekly, or monthly. On those schedules, I check and uncheck items in evernote. It grants me the right amount of flexibility to not feel too regimented in completing things that I have handcuffed myself to do. A lot of them are also vague to encourage exploration.

Here’s what it looks like:

Daily

  • Exercise – even if I don’t make arrangements to run or play a sport, I can at least do a quick workout at home or stretch out my arms
  • Learning a 2nd language – it’s a New Year’s Hope, and language has to be used. I was doing German, but after talking to Julie, I don’t think that will be very useful. Instead, I’m going to pick up more Cantonese. Maybe it’s not globally very important, but I have missed out on enough family interactions by not speaking it, and with my sister’s wedding coming up, I’ll see all of them
  • Read – It’s been amazing to get back into reading. Just putting it on my TODO list is enough to get me to open my current book, and then I’m sucked in
  • Listen to iTunes U – still getting through classes. This one is a lower priority, but it’s a reminder to keep it up. It somewhat goes against my last post,  but I need to keep moving, or else I’ll lose context for not keeping up with a class
  • Relax with Julie – most evenings, we do dinner and catch up, but on some nights (like StarCraft night), we might barely say hi before heading off into different things. It’s worth the time to sit down and enjoy being together
  • Read the news – I get the New York Times and Politico in my email inbox daily. I have let it pile up for 2 weeks, and it just isn’t as valuable when just catching up.

Weekly

  • Play StarCraft – join us on Tuesday nights!
  • Play other video games – I have a video game backlog, too. It’s probably too much to do on weekdays when I’m on my computer all day, but it’s nice to play on weekends when I can
  • Blog – I am become much less consistent over the past few months. My blog is where I do a lot of thinking
  • Write in my journal – Maybe my life isn’t that interesting nowadays, or maybe it just doesn’t fit, but I haven’t written daily in a few years. I have since gone for months without writing. Weekly is a good balance since I can usually write Sunday nights and look back on the biggest thing that happened that week
  • Watch TV – Agents of Shield, Cosmos, and whatever other show Julie and I are currently working through
  • Work on my side projects – This is somewhere between daily and weekly. Currently, I’m mostly focused on Spawning Tool, so we’ll see how that goes
  • Watch a movie – I also have a huge movie backlog. I have wanted to but been unable to successfully do movie night, but I know I have time to do it at some point during the week
  • Cook something new – Julie and I cook a lot, but it’s pretty easy to fall back on the standards. At least once a week we should try a new recipe amongst our cookbooks and foodmarks
  • Bake – I do enjoy baking, too, and it’s something I can do to brighten other people’s days
  • Basic cleanup – Typically, we do a big cleanup right before some major event when people are coming over, but it would be less daunting to do one of the tasks once a week and keep things running

Monthly

  • Eat out somewhere new – I mostly prefer home-cooked meals, but there’s just so much good food out there, especially up in San Francisco, that i haven’t explored. If I do go out to eat, it’s usually with a friend, and I like to pick nearby staples. It should be easy, but I definitely need to make an effort to eat out
  • Keep in touch with an old friend – Every time I catch up with someone, we both lament how poorly we keep up with people. Put it on a schedule
  • Get out to do something – Go to a community event, join a meetup, see a performance, get outdoors, take a day trip somewhere. Find something new to do
  • Run my RPGs – I have a Tekumel and a Forgotten Realms play group. We’re not that intense, but it’s easy to fall off track, so I’m shooting to play monthly with them
  • Volunteer – Recently, I have felt a push to become more involved in my community. Volunteering is one of the positive ways to do it, but I haven’t really done any in Mountain View yet
  • Play board games – My collection grew quite quickly, and it’s another fun way to hang out
  • Do a more extensive clean – If anything hasn’t been touched in a month of weekly cleans, it should probably be cleaned
  • Book club meeting – There’s enough structure around this that I don’t have to monitor it, but it’s just a reminder for myself

That may be the best high level look at my life. Let me know if you have any suggested changes in it!

The Consequence of a Canker Sore

(Author’s Note: I wrote this in my journal a few weeks ago)

A few days ago, I cut myself while chopping vegetables. As I was shifting my knife over to cut again, I just nicked my finger, and though I quickly got a bandaid on and kept cooking, I was still angry at myself for letting it happen. I pride myself on good, safe, efficient knife work, and every time I have cut myself, I know exactly what I did wrong to let it happen.

Fortunately, the cut was on the backside of my finger just below my nail, so it hasn’t really affected my ability to do anything. Sometimes, the smallest injuries can cause tremendous irritation, like having the blister on the ball of your foot or getting a paper cut on a butt wiping finger. Suddenly, an otherwise irrelevant part of your body is the most sensitive and noticed spot. It makes me appreciate those strange, forgotten parts.

The appreciation goes beyond simple awareness of the body part and into appreciation of the activity itself. My ongoing forearm problems have made me realize how I have centered everything I do upon the computer. Obviously I work on my computer, and I play games on my computer. I also write on my computer because of my blog. I do a lot of reading online. I watch TV almost exclusively through internet streaming. Oddly, those last few items shouldn’t even require the computer, but they have ended up converging on this device.

My latest malady of tremendous annoyance but not deserving of real sympathy is a canker sore on the underside of my tongue. Having never had a canker sore as far as I can remember, I’m going to pretend that this one was particularly bad. When my tongue is in a neutral position, it is hardly noticeable, but it is located such that both speaking and chewing are quite painful.

Maybe those who interact with me regularly won’t be surprised, but I have found it really hard to resist talking. When people ask me what I enjoy doing or what my hobbies are, I usually have to think about it. I might mention playing video games or cooking, but those are particular activities that I do at discrete times and not as often as I would like. I do, however, talk a lot, and I guess I like cooking because I enjoy eating so much. I never realized how important talking and eating are to me except when it was an effortful process to make it happen.

I have figured out workarounds. I have tried to talk without moving my tongue, which makes my fast speech even more difficult to understand. I compensate by gesturing a lot, though that gets silly quickly. I also have tried to avoid solid food, but that let to me to finding calories in drinking orange juice, which doesn’t interact well with canker sores. I guess I’ll just shut up and eat my food. And I’ll try to enjoy it, too.

My Top 10 Christmas Songs

Thanksgiving has passed, and the holiday season is well underway. As is now American tradition, there’s outcry about how commercialized Christmas and other December holidays have become, but there are also the more heartwarming parts. There’s the tree decorating that I don’t do because I just go home a few days before Christmas. There’s the gift shopping that I don’t do because my family is too pragmatic to leave purchase suitability is to chance. There’s even the family time that my family can’t quite make because we’re all using our vacation time differently.

I personally only have two holiday traditions. First, I start wearing my Santa hat 2 or 3 weeks before Christmas. It’s not particularly creative, but it’s rare enough that strangers may be incorrectly convinced of my holiday spirit. It also happens to be a great way to keep my head warm since my haircut is not optimized for winter. Continue reading “My Top 10 Christmas Songs”

Flowing Through

(Author’s Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago. Also, new WordPress theme so it looks like every other WordPress blog made this year)

Last week, we had a very clogged tub drain. The flow slowed down over the past few weeks, but our vicious attack one  morning of Julie’s shaved legs and my shaved head put an end to almost all of the water flow. The first day, I used some vigorous plunging, which did little except to cause minor debris to flow back into my tub. The next day, I poured in the other half bottle of Drano that I had, which cleared the drain about as well as hairy water.

Like a washroom hypochondriac, I took to the internet, which suggested that the only remaining fix would be to snake the drain. The first step in the process was to understand how a snake works. If you are as clueless as I was, here’s the short version. There’s a flexible line that you feed in until you hit a bend. Then, you lock the line into the cylinder you’re holding, then rotate that to fit the bend. Then, you unlock and feed the line again. I learned all of this around midnight while staring at the ankle-deep pool in my tub, so I resolved to address the problem first thing in the morning. Continue reading “Flowing Through”

The Car-ful World is a Little Smaller

I began seriously looking into buying a car last month. Somewhat ironically, getting a car is one of the activities that would have most benefitted from having a car. I first went to the DMV to get a license, which I technically should have done several months ago (within 10 days of moving). Unfortunately, the DMV is too far for biking and only open during business hours. I managed to make it on the bus and into work soon enough, though not before locking myself out of my house. Oops.

Next was actual car shopping, which again could have benefitted from a car. Fortunately, going to the DMV revealed to me that the local bus system is functional, and I visited several dealerships in the area. Thus, over the span of a month, I ended up taking the bus more times than I had previously in my entire life. And seeing as I now have a car, perhaps I won’t ever need to take it anymore. Continue reading “The Car-ful World is a Little Smaller”

Laser Tag is silly

In some ways, we’re living in the future as we thought it would be. Many of us carry handheld devices with the entirety of human knowledge in our pockets (smartphones). Google is developing a heads-up display for daily use (Google Glass). We have even commercialized space travel (Virgin Galactic). Of course, some things haven’t panned out, like flying cars. And others turned out to not be nearly as futuristic as we thought.

I first went to Laser Quest maybe 15 years ago, and I last went to Laser Quest about a week ago. And in that time, the only differences I noticed were:

  1. the plastic enclosure for the gun is now transparent instead of black
  2. the arcade has “Time Crisis 4” instead of “Time Crisis 1”
  3. I need to aim down instead of up to hit the kids running around Continue reading “Laser Tag is silly”

Volunteering for a Beach Cleanup

On Saturday morning, I woke up too early for the weekend (and far too early after going to a formal event the night before) to hop in a car with one of my co-workers and a few friends to drive out to Half Moon Bay. The Stanford Alumni Association had their Day of Service, and our operations manager Sam had arranged for us to cleanup the beach. I had actually never been to Half Moon Bay, despite having heard nice things about it. As we drove up 280 and across on 92, we drifted away from the corridor of towns on the inner peninsula and wound through the scenic hills out towards the ocean. Continue reading “Volunteering for a Beach Cleanup”

How I got through High School as an “Honors Student”

In the United States today, we do a lot of finger-pointing when it comes to education. We argue about what the best solutions are to the problems we see, and we’re also arguing about what the problems are. I try to pay attention to these issues, but frankly, I have very poor perspective on it. Neither my school nor I dealt with significant social issues. I think the quality of my teachers was generally good, and I didn’t really face any major obstacles in finding opportunities in education. And though the life of an GT student seemed pretty easy, there still seems to be a lot of controversy around GT and honors students today.

One particularly interesting blog post I stumbled across recently (though it is somewhat old) discusses a problem with “honors students”. The author (a teacher) taught an intensive summer class where she focused on creative and higher-order thinking. Quickly, the number of students in the class decreased as students found the class too much work, and parents seemed to be focused primarily on the letter grade. The conclusion she comes to is that letter grades and point systems shouldn’t be used. Continue reading “How I got through High School as an “Honors Student””

The Gift of a Hat

(Author’s note: I wrote this in mid-January but haven’t gotten around to posting it until now)

Julie was surprised when I mentioned a scarf as a possible Christmas gift. I explained to her how nice a scarf would be for the cold, minter nighttime bike rides I regularly do, but she was actually surprised that I didn’t have one from my mom, who recently has been knitting up gifts for many non-childrens of hers. This Christmas, however, I discovered that I was not left off the list when I found a knitted black hat in my stocking.

On first take, it wasn’t too special: for warmth, my primary hat is a black toque, but then I saw the 2 pointy ears on the sides. They looked a little puffy, but it was unmistakably a Mr. Spock hat with a black cap of hair and 2 pointy Vulcan ears. Fortunately, I haven’t become too cool to be excited about it and popped it right on to check the fit.

In the minutes after opening it, I questioned whether I would actually wear it. My black toque was thicker, but more importantly, I didn’t know whether I really wanted to loudly proclaim my nerd side as with the hat. Regardless, I brought it back to the west coast with me, and for a week or two, it was mostly a novelty I would pop on to show and amuse my friends with my mom’s handiwork. Nights, however, became colder as January progressed, and my fingers and ears suffered the most on my bike rides. Unfortunately, my toque is too thick for me to wear it and my helmet safely. The Spock hat, however, was thinner and also covered my ears with the pointy version. Since I made this realization, a biking Vulcan has been seen around Mountain View.

I was still self-conscious about it at first: I didn’t put the hat on until just before mounting my bike, and even then, I hoped that no one would see the ears at night when I whizzed by. A few days later, however, I wore it around San Francisco to show to my coworkers with whom I was on a coffee crawl. In fact, it might actually have helped me blend in more than stick out in San Francisco.

The big test came shortly after on a particularly cold morning. I decided the warmth was worth it and put on the hat for my commute in the morning light.

People were looking.

If you don’t know what I look like, visit the links in my blog’s sidebar. I’m sure you will agree that my appearance is largely unremarkable. I’m a little short, quite underweight, and very Chinese, but other than a funny birthmark on my nose, there isn’t much to notice, and I’m used to receiving little attention. Wearing the Spock ears in daylight, however, has taught me what it means to “feel” others staring.

The best of the bunch was a second grader being walked to school by his mom. I pulled up to a red light and while I waited, he crossed the street in front of me with his hand held tightly by his mom. From the opposite sidewalk to the sidewalk beside me, his head turned smoothly to lock his eyes on me, and as he passed in front of me and past me, he looked back until I had a green light and sped off.

I think I liked the attention, but not strongly. It isn’t a mixed bag as much as disappointment about how little I felt about it. I thought that the attention would be more remarkable than this. The comparison is perhaps weak, but I think this is about the closest experience I will have to what attractive girls experience in public. The intent of staring strangers isn’t the same curiosity as I received for the novelty of my ears, but I hope that the attention isn’t a negative for anyone.

Regardless, I feel pretty good about wearing the hat now. I’m comfortable enough being a dork that if the worst someone can do is make fun of my hat, I think I’m doing well. I don’t usually fuss about my appearance much, but I now know what it’s like to project an image. It isn’t so special, so I guess I’ll carry on with my t-shirts and jeans.

And Spock hat. Just for the ear warmth.

Crumbs

I have a few things to share that I considered writing full posts on. When I thought through the result, however, the result would likely be tedious and overanalyzed, so I’m bunching them instead.

Return to Baldur’s Gate

My favorite video game series is Baldur’s Gate, and the first game has been re-released as “Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition” by a new team doing an overhaul. The updates are minor, though, and the real benefit is a reason to play the game again. It’s a roleplaying game based on the rules of Dungeons & Dragons where you control an adventuring party of humans, dwarves, elves, and the like to go on quests, kill monsters, and follow along the main story.

A lot of my enthusiasm for the game is nostalgia, but the game is works differently than RPGs being developed today. One trend recently has been more towards action RPGs, which rely more on twitchy reflexes to hit monsters or trigger abilities. Another trend has been towards open worlds and customization, where you can freely explore expansive planets and countrysides and play the game as you like. For me, both of these changes result in less interesting gameplay. Action RPGs often become repetitive as you find one way to kill monsters and do it over and over. Open worlds tend to have more bland interactions since the game can’t refine a particular path to something unique.

I would describe Baldur’s Gate more, but I think it would be more meaningful if you just found a gameplay video online somewhere if you really care. Definitely give it a shot if either of my thoughts above resonates with you.

Superstition at the Pac-12 Championship Game

Stanford football will be returning to the Rose Bowl this season after a hard-fought game against UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship. Thanks to my friends who are better fans than I am, I did end up attending the game, which was nerve-wracking enough to make it worth watching in-person.

We had just played UCLA the week before and won by a large margin, but this game was more back-and-forth. Through the first 3 quarters, I became very superstitious. Somehow, I determined that things were going better for us when I had my raincoat on instead of off. Then I determined that my raincoat just favored the team on offense, so I was taking it on and off a lot. Then I determined that I had actually gotten it backwards and needed my raincoat off.

At some point in the second half, I realized that my sudden superstition was really just me exhibiting anxiety about the game. In a scary situation where we might have come so close to the Rose Bowl and then lost it, I was trying to find something that I could control and change the result in my favor. Until then, I didn’t trust the team to do it on their own, and that was a problem, so for the rest of the game, I left my raincoat on and put my confidence in the team. That was confidence well-placed.

Benefits of Living Alone

My place is still mostly unfurnished at the moment, which means that I’m not in a position to be welcoming roommates yet. It’s strange, but it’s also liberating to be entirely and only responsible to myself in my living space. Here are a few things I have been able to do that I would be able to otherwise:

  • Leaving candy wrappers on the floor because no one else is around to step on them or get annoyed
  • Moving an end table into the washroom for 10 minutes so I can use my laptop while on the john
  • Never closing my bedroom door, even when I’m sleeping
  • Dragging my mattress into my living room to lie in bed and watch StarCraft being projected onto a blank wall, then going to bed

Overall, it’s not that bad, though I may become very eccentric if left alone for too long.