Archive for March, 2012


Please feel free to criticize me at any point. I do become disillusioned when I’m actually correct you know, when I don’t expect to be correct. This post is written mostly** as an extended response to ellerej’s comments to my post on Language.

(**remark: well, the first part of the post)

I first briefly scanned his/her (If you like, you may clarify on your gender; I will assume that you are a male in the remainder of this post.) blog. Clearly he has forayed into the realm of linguistics much more deeply than I have, with pretty much all the linguistic knowledge I know comes from a rather haphazard fashion of reading random Wikipedia pages* (this extends to most other topics such as history or computer science or Minecraft physics, say). Therefore I will admit that I do not have a rigorous treatment on any of these subjects, and do not know of many terms and jargon used to effectively communicate on the subject. But that isn’t really the intent of posting such things. Of course it’s not going to be published in some linguistic/compsci/Minecraft journal, nor do I expect my thoughts to override other peoples’ beliefs.  I do like thinking, however, and thus I randomly synthesize various materials in my brain to create posts, no matter how erroneous it may be.

(*I try to minimize usage of Wikipedia while writing my posts other than to quickly find examples though, mostly relying on retained information from Wikipedia. Hence potential factual inaccuracies.)

On the other hand, the reader may ask, there must be something I’m good enough at. (Note that this is vastly different from the Rathian “expert”.) In particular, the Rathian expert is one which the general populace believe is well-versed with certain facts. I’m talking about people who actually are well-versed with certain facts (relatively speaking of course; I obviously cannot hope that anyone at our high school to be involved in forefront college research at any one subject.)

No, it is not any of the sciences, hard or soft. I find myself trying to justify many of these concepts to myself to ensure that things are true, and epically fail doing so. (confined to two things: 1) spend as little effort as possible while 2) getting a good grade. You know, MSJ A-range grade.) Yeah, point #1 isn’t particularly conducive to my attempts of justification, as I just go “fuuuuuuu I suck at chem I’m (too lazy to/can’t actually) prove this” or “fuuuuuuuuu this chem concept is too easy and is trivial, chem y u no get harder to prove”. Perfect recipe for defeat, except I’m not actually sad because I already expect the defeat. [That said, I seem to be handling this chemistry thermodynamic stuff unusually well, given how badly I fared when I did thermodynamics in physics. Conditioning? I don’t know.] So basically, I fail at chem. Apparently lots of people are failing worse at chem (gradewise, possibly concept-wise?) though. And they get really good homework packet grades too. [Yeah, homework packets are the reason why my grade isn’t as high as it should be. Let’s just say that I could probably improve about 6-7% with a better homework grade, oops. I also, for better or worse, decline certain inherent advantages given to us in tests, such as scientific calculators (which did not turn out spectacularly, but it could have been worse I guess).]

Well, that’s a lot of tangent for one paragraph. Let’s just say that I suck at writing too.

I guess you could say that I’m competent at math. That may be true. However, rarely can I solve problems that you guys throw at me in due time. I don’t work like that. Most likely, any math problem that you tell me to do will be stuck in a very long queue of things to do, and I will probably defer that problem until you forget about ever having asked the problem. This usually occurs for geometry problems that various people on gmail chat ask, and I will admit that I have a very real deficiency in that subject of math. In particular, my score distribution on the USAMO last year looked something like this: 7/7/0/7/2/7. That’s 28/28 for non-geometry (1,2,4,6) and 2/14 for geometry (3,5). [Or maybe I’m just too lazy to draw a diagram. This is true too.]

However, it is to my shame to announce that I can’t solve number theory on the spot either. This might not bode very well on pretty much any USAMO besides last year’s (Basically, last year was #2 #6 combo, #1 nt, #4 alg if I recall correctly), where the number theory and algebra coaligned with the #1/4 (the first problem of days one and two, i.e. the easiest problems).

Actually now that I think of it, I can do #1/4 geometry (take the USAMO the year before that). But that’s about all the geometry I can do. I guess I could possibly do #2/5 NT/alg as well. Not too stable I’d say.

Hmmm. And then there’s combinatorics, which supposedly is my impenetrable bastion. I guess possibly maybe.

Am I good at math? You decide. Although, to be fair, I’m not planning on making this blog much of a math blog (maybe concepts/olympiad strategy (do I even possess this!?) or something, but most likely not actual math problems), so that point’s moot. Still remember what was the original intention of this post?


Hah, I bet you scrolled up for that one.


As you can tell, I’m apparently very prone to digressing. And thus I suck at writing. Again.
So basically, we can establish that I am not going to be an expert at whatever topic I am writing my blogpost on [this blog at least]. That much is a given. After all, if I were an expert at a topic, why would I even bother posting new innovative ideas on a measly blog? Well, I can’t really imagine why someone would post something that doesn’t fall under one of the categories:

1) Personal stuff/sentimental/rants. You can’t really replicate this. While your experiences and mine may coalign mostly, I try to present these things in a different light. Not necessarily in a better light, a different one. Oh well, I guess that’s a start.

2) Things semi-independently found. Basically, without having had a formal treatment [challenge: ANY treatment] on a particular subject, talk about it. It’s a very interesting exercise and I encourage more people to partake in such an activity, especially since you can’t dwell in your comfort zone. It’s also a very interesting experiment from an outsider’s point of view as well, seeing perspectives largely unaffected by subject-specific discourse, although I’m not sure how isolated one actually can be from a subject.

3) Statistics, infographics, etc. Eh, this blog will not contain solely of statistics. I do enough of that on a daily basis already. Although, I do realize that some people like blogs filled with that stuff. Your choice I guess.

Hm, I think I covered too much under #1. Oh well.


Now that I’ve not-very-clearly outlined exactly the extent of seriousness my posts should be taken to, you may continue to criticize away 😛


A bit more on our English teacher. He enjoys tearing apart and dissecting the economic system that is currently in place. Out of scope of English? Probably. Thought-provoking? Why not.

So, first, we need to identify the flaw. As a broad generalization, the main problem is that corporations, governments, people generally have a lack of morality when it comes to a variety of situations. Now, I argue that entities usually have a further motive than just being immoral; it does not strike me that someone would just do immoral things because they were immoral, except for perhaps a few deviant cases with certain mental disorders. Nay. Instead, people do immoral things because there exists an incentive to do so. Since this is the economic system we’re talking about, this incentive comes in the form of making more money than you started with, i.e. profit.

As an aside, let’s just take the axiom that people do like incentives, by the very definition of incentive itself. Comes down all the way from billions of years of evolution, you know. [WHAT!? BIOLOGY? What is this heathen subject?]

And that’s our problem. The desire for profit is hardwired into our brains. However, this is only from the producer’s point of view. To the consumer, people are probably willing to pay somewhat more for certain possibly nonexistent benefits. Case in point: organic produce. However, I do not believe that people will just blindly pay more for the exact same thing (organic produce?), barring perhaps brand-name loyalty (only because you are assured that XYZ brand is actually stable at producing usable products). So, yes, Rath is correctly guided in exposing these things to us.

Wait. To tenth graders? To tenth graders who barely have any money whatsoever? [Unless you’re Richard of course. Because you’re Rich. AHAHAHA* *Note: not real name, but semi-commonly accepted as such. At any rate, not someone in our school, because our school’s poor.] While I do appreciate the awareness that this is generating, I somewhat doubt the amount of material that will actually transpire to our parents, let alone the world. I’d wager that about half of us would forget about morality concerns by the time we get a stable income, and the other half would actually support this immoral economy. Because profit is profit, and money is money.

Although, these human rights issues and whatnot are actually somewhat relevant you know. So the proper thing to do is probably to increase awareness. (No really?) While it would be nice to let everyone have access to all of these abusive factories, that would take a lot of time to see everything for yourself. (And you’d probably become depressed over time looking at the conditions.) So therefore we delegate this responsibility to certain independent “abuse agencies” or whatever you call those things. But exactly what incentive do these people get? Well, for one, many of these people are compensated somehow in money to do their job. However, since it’s usually public awareness groups paying them, the amount of money that they get is not that much, frankly speaking. Also, they could be easily “bribed” by the corporations that they’re inspecting, because more money is good. Paying off 100 people for, say, $500/hour costs less than paying off 100,000 people for $5/hour more. [Hint: $500/hour comes out to about $800,000 a year, which is a pretty respectable sum of money. And $5/hour is barely livable (by our standards anyways).] That, or they can just increase their prices, but I’m guessing their profits will take a great hit anyways.  Although, are there people who would stand the moral high ground regardless of how much money they were offered? Yes? I’d bet that if it really came to that amount desperation, those companies could probably hire a few hundred hitmen to dispatch those moralists, and still come out in the deep green. Heh. I wonder how they’d hide those expenses from public view, though, but it seems that they’re already doing a pretty good job at evading taxes and whatnot, so yes, I think it’s very doable for those companies.

[Great, now I hope that nobody’s going to murder me now. Post idea!]

So we could be hiring investigative agencies to investigate these agencies, and et cetera. The problem is that then there’d be way too much bureaucracy in the system, whether you like it or not, to ironically patch the current amount of economic deregulation. It’s a choice of two evils really. I personally don’t really like too much formwork myself you know.

So… what to do? You could institute, say, some sort of approval not unlike that “FDA Approved” Seal that occurs in food products, but  once again, you’ll have to monitor the FDA as well. And, well, food can have the tendency to kill, especially since we directly eat it. That doesn’t happen nearly as often with most other things, like electronics or stocks. Also, here it’s not the consumer that’s slaving away, so there’s less directness.

Even with such an approval, how many times have you heard of salmonella, mad cow, or some other pathogen (prions are pathogens right?) leak into the news, where people are KILLED in these events? Lots! Ok, maybe a few dozen or so, but still, an appreciable number. So clearly this approval business isn’t as accurate as we thought. Why would it be different for the electronic companies, especially when you’re dealing with an industry which has far more resources and a more sizable warchest to pay them off? This just doesn’t work.

In other words, this problem is way too endemic, and change is ridiculously hard given the inertia of the system. Publicity is a good start, but really now, most public statements go unchecked. It’s really hard to figure out what to believe these days. Seeing is believing, but it’s way too cost-prohibitive to actually see everything. So you have to rely on good faith of others, which may not always be very existent. And thus the world just keeps on spinning, doing everything it has been doing in the past billions of years.


The grass is greener on the other side.

I know, it’s a drearily hackneyed and cliched (ok fine “clichéd” for those diacritical elitists) expression, but instead of the classical interpretation, I have another dilemma that I face in school.

(Yeah, school. Awfully boring topic to talk about, but then again I’ve spent around a sixth of my life thus far in this institution, so most things that happen happen here. So you might get a bit lost if you don’t go to my school.)

You see, in many of my classes I’m placed in the worst class. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that these classes give a brutal amount of homework or the teachers are evilly sadistic (which I have had in the past, sure), but in my very humble opinion almost nothing occurs in class. This somewhat contributes to the fact that school is somewhat boring. Also, before anyone asks, I am not the person who takes non-honors classes because they are easy; the only non-honors class I’m taking is World History and that’s because there is no honors version (and is also mandatory). [I suppose you could technically make exceptions to Finite/Discrete and Multivar/Linalg, but it’s actually decently hard to get in the latter… especially as a sophomore.] But anyways, the evidence:

1) Rath, 4th period. This is a great big abyss of superficiality. Despite our English teacher’s great efforts to induce thought-provoking discussion, only crickets can be heard. Talk about zombie apocalypses, extremely tangentially related to the discussion at hand, and you get a five-minute nonstop torrent of chatter of the subject. (Zombies, not the poem that we’re supposed to be discussing) We discuss all the wrong things. Even when he manages to elicit an answer actually relevant to the material, you can nearly be certain that it’s devoid of interpretation of any sort.

I still remember the time when we had to comment on a piece of standardized education as an English project. It was so chock full of comprehension questions and absolutely no in-depth questions whatsoever. Yeah, that’s a good approximation to what our discussions are like. Even when Rath guides us. It’s pretty sad, really.


Oh, you might be wondering why I don’t initiate these discussions too often. randomguy64 actually hits the spot pretty close: I tend to skim over the material being covered, so am a bit reluctant to discuss potentially erroneous analysis.

2) Kuei, 6th period. Science is, by the nature of the material, fundamentally different from English. For one, there’s not much leeway of interpretation. Kuei teaches Chemistry, by the way, if it wasn’t semi-obvious.

Anyway, the problem here is that nobody except for a select few people in our class actually gets the material. Lectures also seem to go slower as well. Case in point: during the acid/base lecture, our period was uniquely the most behind, a full 2-3 subtopics behind. Which is about 5 minutes for a 30 minute lecture, so we’re going about 15-20% slower. Yay unproductivity. For this, you can’t really blame this on me: Kuei semi-prohibits the high performers from answering her questions in order to let the others to learn.

Also, there isn’t an unusually high class intersection between Rath 4th and Kuei 6th. (The exact figure is 5, if you were wondering.) 31 Rath students / 7 Honors Chem Sections = 4.4, which I’m sure falls under a 95% confidence interval if I was bothered to construct one, which I’m not.


3) P.E. (Madsen), 3rd period. Once again, P.E. is very different from both English and chemistry. How does a P.E. class underperform? Well, it doesn’t, but we do form smaller groups when creating teams for various sports (basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.) The kicker is that our team has always gone through a losing streak.

Soccer. Dead last.

Volleyball. 5th out of 6.

Basketball. 6th out of 10 (this is actually a pretty decent performance)

Volley Tennis. 5th out of 7.

And it doesn’t really comfort me that currently we’re going 2 ties 3 losses in ultimate frisbee.

Team selection is approximately random [read: teacher random], with the most influence an individual student can impart being partnering up with a friend or two.


What does this all mean? Well, I like to think of myself as competent at many things: English, Chemistry, and even (god forbid) P.E. I run decently fast, consistently running in the top 4 or 5. Maybe not as fast as you track mavens, but definitely not extremely slow. I’d consider myself fairly competent at chemistry, usually getting curve-worthy test scores in the top 5%. (After a bit of arguing, of course. Apparently I have a slight penchant for debate.) Also, my grade in English was the second highest grade in the period, which, by the way, is something like 6th or 7th in most other periods, i.e. our period fails. What is wrong? Let’s throw out a few ideas:

1) CONSPIRACY! It’s a conspiracy to make me fail. All the administration and P.E. teachers are trying to sink me… no.

2) NOT A TEAM PLAYER: Well, this could be a more reasonable explanation, especially when you consider my relatively anti-social tendencies (well, I do try to think that I’m fine at socializing to a marginal degree). However, there are a few problems with this explanation. First, I do fine on group projects. Group projects are basically the epitome of academic cooperation save for maybe in-class discussion. Projects that my group makes tend to score very high, and this trend even goes back to 9th grade, where our Greek myth video scored the highest in our period. A 92, or so I heard. I also heard that that’s a pretty bad grade in the other periods, reinforcing my point that I get pretty bad classes.

And even if it were the case, my behavior should not directly influence the class to the point that absolutely no discussion is occurring. This cannot be strictly endemic to myself only. Some other forces must be in play.

3) PROBABILITY. To be fair, the probability that this scenario occurs to someone is around (1/7)^2~0.02, so you could expect out of the approximately 200 honors students, around 4 would share this experience.


That reminds me. Probability isn’t on my side either.

Rath has assigned two big group projects to date. There are eight groups, and 31 students in our class. By Reverse Pigeonhole, at least one group has at most 3 students. And thus, logically, the groups are partitioned into sizes 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, and 4. Now, there is a (3/31) probability that a person is in a 3-person group.

Now what is the probability that you land in two 3-person groups in a row? That’s right, 9/961, which comes to about 0.0094. And guess who did?

Yep, me.

Or maybe it’s all a conspiracy by the insecure random number generator that Rath uses to generate groups! Maybe… (I hear it’s some fairly antiquated software; that would not be a stretch to say the least)

4) YOUR IDEA HERE. Well, I’m out of ideas as to why everything I’m in is dysfunctional. Your idea could be here today! Just comment/e-mail and maybe I’ll put it up.



Which is pretty funny. I’ll use a persistent strategy game as another example. In Grepolis, Ephesus World, my ocean is in the core 4 oceans (that is to say, O44 O45 O54 O55). It turns out the ocean I started in is the most politically unstable! Joy! In fact, you probably wouldn’t care [and yes, this is turning into an incoherent mess. Wow, I’m prescient!] but here’s my alliance history:

some random island alliance: Alliance recruiting strictly in the center. Fades away into inactivity.

THE UNION: Join the top-ranked alliance in O54. Also becomes inactive.

Chaos INC: Formed as a splinter alliance from THE UNION, taking the most active players, and becomes the top-ranked alliance in O54. However, becomes inactive.

Roman Legionnaires: Formed as a splinter alliance from D3th and The Pirates, taking the most active players, and I join. Becomes top-ranked alliance in O54, becomes inactive.

Lords of Loyalty: Top-ranked alliance in O44. Joined from a referral from someone next to me. Leadership inactivity, merging with Honour and Power (the top-ranked alliance in O55) and Eternal Soldiers (the top-ranked alliance in O45).


ba dum tss

Further evidence: I haven’t been playing very hard in this game, so I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I’m only 22nd in our ocean individually. That would be 25th in O44, 33rd in O45, and (QQ) 41st in O55.

For crying out loud, it’s 29th in O65, 33rd in O66, 27th in O56, etc. etc., and these guys started significantly later than I did. In fact, most of the other oceans already have a unified alliance ruling over them. But not O54. Because we’re dysfunctional.

[Note: I’ll be somewhat impressed if you determine my Grepolis account from the information presented to you. Have fun guys!]


Edit-not-really: You don’t say? (it should be obvious that I am not either YAYger or beohoff.)


I didn’t edit that. It was an afterthought. I was going to say “EBWOP” but that would make even less sense.




So I used to wonder why certain blog maintainers managed to write such long posts. I still do not know how they do so, because the stuff they write about actually makes sense. Maybe it’s because they’re actually ranting. Rants are hard when you don’t really have very strong feelings about a particular topic.



Usually, my school days are not very interesting and hence do not warrant a post dedicated to it. But sometimes, I engage in interesting conversations and feel the need to provide an additional extension hosted on this blog. This is one of them.

Someone else: “You’re an idiot!” (paraphrased)

Since he’s a person who I usually consider a friend, I take this comment mostly in jest. However, to the uninformed observer, this could be construed as an insult, so I still feel the need to defend my honor using linguistic dexterity. I first inquire upon the definition of “idiot”, and apparently it has been transmuted to be equivalent to me; I am the only idiot in the universe. I suppose it is not very insulting in this definition, but as you probably know “idiot” doesn’t have the greatest connotations out there. We argue over the semantics of the word “match” [I contend that you can only match two different things; he says you can match something with itself, synonymous to an equals sign.] Although, to tell of the truth, the reflexive property is a rather trivial case which nearly all human beings would recognize as true. In fact, I’m not very certain when an object A does not equal to object A. It’s one of those things that really can’t be broken how much you try. In the end, we settle on the agreement that the word “match” means something which you can create a fire out of it.

Also, the word “object” is apparently a grave insult to call someone. I’m being objective here; as a noun you are entitled to the label “object”. Would you want me to call you “entity” instead? He jokingly says that he’ll put me into the bully box. And if I call the bully box an “object” the bully box will put me into the bully box. That’s very amusing sir.

However, back to the definition of “idiot”. Sure, you could redefine the word “idiot” to equal to me, but what is the use? In my opinion, language is supposed to be a means of efficient and relatively unambiguous communication. For example, you could make hand gestures, but unless you establish some sort of language (which you can, e.g. American Sign Language) it lacks clarity, and miscommunication will occur. (Did you mean “Good Job” or “You Suck”?) With that in mind, a redefinition is unwieldy and causes miscommunication, as the word “idiot” clearly must encompass a set larger than just {“me”} (or perhaps it doesn’t contain me at all, a possibility that I will not discount.) As I’m trying to view this in a somewhat utilitarian viewpoint, this is bad.* On the other hand, if you really wanted to redefine something, you would have to gather some degree of popular support, which is required to communicate with others.

*I have this assumption (reasonable imo) that being useful to society is good, and may post something about this later.

Take the word apple. This word is commonly used to refer to the pomaceous fruit that is edible. (No, I did not use Wikipedia to get “pomaceous”, although in retrospect that word actually was on the first line of the Wikipedia page on the apple fruit.) It could also be used to refer to that company [more on this company’s practices later], and it is somewhat commonly accepted that if one uses Apple in this context they will know what you are talking about (instead of Apple Incorporated or something official like that). On the other hand, they would probably assume the same company if you were actually talking about the Apple Automobile Company, which apparently closed in 1917. If you used “Apple” as a place location, people would probably mentally prefix this with “Big” and assume you’re talking about New York City, when you really meant to mean the unincorporated town in Oklahoma. Of course, maybe you’re in a convention specializing in bankrupted automobile companies or unincorporated towns, but in normal conversation you could not make this “redefinition”, and even so you need at least the support of the person you’re conversing with.

There is a story of a redefinition, and I will tell about it. So one day long ago, in the math community, a group of people at MathCamp decided to create a new language that would utilize only comestibles as its lexicon. This language is called Foodtongue. Seeing as apples are things people normally eat, it was part of the language. Over time, the language gained credence in the MathCamp and partially the MOP community. [I think “apple” means “I” in this language, but I’m not entirely certain.] At any rate, since the word apple has a common definition, agreed upon by its conversants, it is a useful word in that context.

This does not occur with the “idiot” definition, as I myself (nor does the general public) do not accept such a definition. [I’m fine with the designation that I am an idiot, but the designation that I am the only idiot is a troubling definition indeed.] Apparently, it is used as for that person’s personal pleasure, but when such a statement could potentially be misconstrued for a very different statement, misinterpretation happens and things do not all go well.


Sidenote: So apparently I’ve promised to write something on utilitarianism and capitalism. Very well then.

Hello world!

Welcome to After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.

<blah blah blah greeting text here>

So. I’ve decided to try to attempt at posting decently long chunks of written information for viewer pleasure. Notably, I’ve opened up blogs before, none of which have posts that a reasonable observer would deem “long” (unless it’s statistics-filled, and that’s not very interesting in itself). Oh well. That also means that the first few long posts I write will be rambling pieces of what barely even constitutes as intelligible text. So be warned. (Note that this does not preclude future posts after the first few from being equally terrible.)

That was not a very promising start. Darn.

In the blog stats, I noticed that one person viewed my blog before I even advertised it! Great job to the dedicated blog-reader who guessed the blog name (well, given that I use the “phenomist” handle approximately 50% of the time, perhaps it isn’t so much of an achievement after all). Then I realized that I viewed the blog as well. So I guess nobody read it. And that’s good, because you would have seen an empty blog, save for that introduction text italicized at the very top. With a very boring theme.

The theme is called “Twenty Eleven”. Or, it was called “Twenty Eleven” before I changed it. First of all, it’s already been over two months since 2011 ended. Get a new name already, and stop throwing default blogs back two months in the past. Next, seeing as it’s a default blog theme, I may as well change it in order to not be part of the majority (but what if everyone changes themes, doesn’t that make “Twenty Eleven” rare and unique? :O). [Insert Rath discourse on so-called individualism here] But at any rate, I changed the theme and everyone is happy.

At first, I was planning to actually consider writing deep, or at least not superficial text. That doesn’t seem to be happening. But hey, it’s my first blog post which isn’t really a blog post, where I feel obligated to explain the formation of this blog, and thus you should cut me some slack. So anyways, if you want to see better blog posts, view more recent blog posts.

So basically, I created this blog because I feel very sad when I have a random idea and I forget it the very next day. Hopefully recording these thoughts onto a more permanent medium will help make me forget less. And perhaps it’ll make you readers happy as well along the way. That’s a win-win situation that I’m sure we all like.

I have a feeling short paragraphs will be a problem as well. Oh well.