Sep 26, 2015

During those impossibly stressful high school days, I was trained to constantly feel nervous, anxious, and that I shouldn’t be relaxed because there were important study tasks I should be dealing with. At that time, those feelings were, frankly, quite helpful. They helped me be very good with exams, and being good with exams was possibly the most important thing for any high school student in China. You see, the process of college application in China was very different from that in many western countries. In China, one’s application was almost entirely depended on the score they got in the annual, nationwide College Entry Exam. Good score equals good school. (Also the “hotter” a major was, the higher a score it required.) Simply put, there was the exam that defined you, and you only got one chance.1 So I was, of course, very pleased with those feelings. But once I stepped into college, problems appeared. There was no more that one exam. But I needed it. I still felt the need of having a goal that I was all for. It was almost impossible for me to enjoy myself since no matter what I was doing I felt that I was wasting my time and even worse, I didn’t know what I should spend my time for. So I started to set myself goals. Ace the finals. Ace those standardized tests for grad school. Get that kick-ass internship. Goals came and went, but none of them was as satisfied as the one I had in high school. But boy how obsessed I was with them.

I knew that wasn’t right. The irony was I wasn’t even the kind of person who wanted to be a huge star. I was the kind of person who would choose a balanced life over power and wealth any day. I was the kind of person who read so many books, watched so many movies, thought they knew the meaning of life, and kept telling people around to live in the moment. Yet I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I should only be doing things for an ultimate goal.

I knew I got to change.

I got to stop being so obsessed with goals. I got to learn how to enjoy the moment. I got to understand that goal was merely an illusion and I just needed to make the most out of every day and that’s it—not because making the most out of every day would help me achieve any goal. But change was hard as it always was and always would be. I spent four years in college trying to change only ended up falling into the same trap over and over again. Then I sort of just gave up and went on to grad school, hoping maybe grad school would magically fix me. Well, it didn’t. Now that I finished grad school, I really don’t see any more excuse to procrastinate the change because I know I still want to change.

The theory is sound. What I need to do is clear. I just need to you know, change. I hope it goes better this time.

  1. Or you could stay in hell for another year for a second chance—many people in China call high school hell, but to be fair, high school was the opposite to me. There I was extremely happy because things were simple: I studied my ass off and I got two-hour free time on the weekend for a movie, and just thinking of the movie time I was going to earn myself could make me the happiest person in the world. [return]

I tend to get over-obsessed with finding the perfect solution. It’s easy when the best option is obvious. Most of the time, however, each option has its own advantages and disadvantages (and that’s usually the case). I would go through every option in my mind with all the possible scenarios that I can think of.1 But this is usually what I get: option one looks good here but bad there, option two, on the contrary, looks bad here but good there, option three looks good both here and there but doesn’t seem like a future-proof solution…

The process is not worth it. It consumes me. It requires a lot of energy and made me feel unsettled. The thing is, even after all the thinking and considering, the solution I choose is not likely to be perfect. Perfect solution simply doesn’t exist. There is only contextual best solution. Finding one that is relatively good for now and stick to it. It can always be altered according to what happens along the way.

Back to the example, now it’s clear that I should just go with option three. There is probably going to be a much better solution in the future, and I’ll probably switch to it no matter what I choose today. Sounds like a decision has been made.

  1. which is an awful lot… [return]

Scriptogram is coming to an end. I’ve been with Scriptogram for the past two years and always loved it. It’s where I seriously1 started blogging. It’s also where I learned a little about web design so that I actually made the site look the way I liked. While I’m sad Scriptogram is shutting done, I’m happy for the team—I’ve heard they joined Pinterest. Wish you guys all the best.

Saying goodbye wasn’t so hard, but finding the right one to fill the vacancy that sat in my heart is a whole nother story. Luckily, after some research, I found FarBox. Farbox is a lot like Scriptogram—it also uses plain text files, also supports Markdown, and also syncs with Dropbox. So basically copying files from one Dropbox folder to another was the major part of the switch. Only this time I fiddled with the code a lot more. After some work, here sits the new site.

Now, to the pleasant beginning with FarBox and to many more years to come.

  1. Maybe not so seriously… [return]

Recently I (shamelessly) read a young adult book, The Fault in Our Stars, and really enjoyed it—it has a beautiful story and it brought me back to the middle school/high school days, which I loved dearly.

Last night, I found Ed Sheeran, one of my new favorite singers, had a song for the movie adaptation. If you are like me, who get really happy about such small, random things in life, you could probably imagine how excited I was.

Clicked play. The chills. Oh how I love the chills. I knew exactly what needed to be done. I turned off the lights in my room and closed my eyes…

I saw the stars.

Now I really need to watch the movie. Hope it doesn’t suck.

All of the Stars

Jan 17, 2015

So I’ve been quite quiet since my last post here almost a year ago. I’ve actually drafted quiet a few since, but none of them made it to the site for various reasons. Today I all of a sudden really, really want to put something here, so I picked one from those drafts, did some light editing, and here we go. :)

“How can you not get tired of learning English?”

A friend asked last night while we were having Macau Doulao. “Don’t you get frustrated that even though you study your ass off, your English can’t even be as good as that of a high school student from the US or another English-speaking country1?” he continued, “Don’t you get tired of spending thousands of hours on learning something that millions of people born knowing? And plus if you want to watch a TV series or read a book that’s in English, why not just simply wait for the translated version to come out.”

Exactly. Why not?

I couldn’t give my friend a satisfying answer immediately, but here is my reasoning after I thought about it a little bit more.

Well, the answer is simple: English happens to be the language spoken by people from different areas of the world. I remembered an story I learned in one Chinese class in middle school. It was La Dernière Classe (The Last Class) by Alphonse Daudet. The story was about the last French class in a small French town, as the Prussians would soon take the town and there would be no more French class allowed. In the story, M. Hamel, the teacher, told little Frantz, the student and the main character, to never forgot French because language was the key to a culture. This is exactly what English is now. On so many levels, English is the key to the culture of the world.

Millions of people speak English. When you know the language that is spoken by millions of people, you get the freedom of confirming information by yourself instead of doubting if the translator did a good job. You get the freedom of talking to anyone you want to as long as that person is also one of those millions. You get the freedom of voicing to the world without depending on someone else to translate for you. Admittedly, when speak English, I can’t construct my sentences with eight adjectives and six adverbs, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use it to tell the others and to tell the world what I think. I can’t choose verbs as a wordsmith does, but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell a beautiful and touching story about eat, pray, or love2. You get the chance of dating that cute girl from Czech Republic because you like each other and you both speak a little English. You get the chance to talk to that Indonesian guy who sat next to you on a flight about that grumpy cat picture from last night because you both speak a little English. You get the chance to discuss how big a part Matthew McConaughey’s thick accent plays in True Detective with people (well, or dog, if you have to) on the internet because you all speak a little English.

So no, I really don’t. I don’t get tired of learning English. I don’t get frustrated by the fact that my English might never be as good as a native speaker’s no matter how hard I try.3 But learning English is not about mastering. It’s also not about not valuing one’s own language. Not even close. It’s about a great communication tool. It’s about a language that is spoken by people all over the world. That language happens to be English.

  1. To be fair, this might not be the case for people who speak a Romance language as their native language. [return]
  2. The name popped up in my head and seemed fit, so I shamelessly borrowed it, though I have to admit that I have no idea what the book is about. [return]
  3. Realizing that did hurt a little… [return]

Feb 7, 2014

When I get bored,1 I write. For most of the time, I don’t care about the content. I just write.

I love to write on iPad. Editorial, Byword, iA Writer, Daedalus Touch… You name it; I have it. Now, I’m writing in 1Writer, which recently got an awesome update. Sometimes I hook up my iPad with a keyboard; sometimes, like now, I just type on the screen.

Speaking of writing on iPad, I love new technology, but I wouldn’t call myself a tech savvy. I’m far from being qualified. I barely know anything about programming. I can’t even make an AppleScript by myself. However, all those rocket-science-look things don’t scare me off. I love playing with them. I set up this blog on, a Dropbox based blog service. With zero knowledge, I tweaked the site’s HTML and CSS by guessing, trusting my gut, and searching online (thanks, kind people on the internet), trying to satisfy my aesthetic as much as I can.

And speaking of this blog, I’ve never promoted it—I don’t even posted links on Twitter. The reason? I’m not sure. Maybe I just don’t feel like to.

Pretty pointless, huh? Isn’t my kind of writing a waste of time, time that can be used for something more important in life? But who can say for sure what are the “more important things” in life? I know I can’t.

So write, I do.

  1. Or maybe not. [return]


Got something new for my CDs and old iPod nano.

Jakub Arnold in his How To Teach Your Girlfriend Programming:

I wanted my girl to be the person I go to whenever I find something new that excites me, and I wanted her to understand it.

I don’t know about programming, but neither is this about programming. I hope when I get excited about some music I just listened to, a book I just read, or a movie—or even a basketball game I just watched, she can be the one that I can go to.

Does social media actually work? The answer depends on what you consider social media’s job (besides making money) is. For me, one important job for social media is helping people stay connected with their friends. And yes, social media does that job quite well.

The most basic action that you might take on almost all kinds of social media is posting. You go on social sites to post things, things about yourself. They can be words, photos, videos, or links—all kinds of stuff. What you post keeps friend updated about you, the current you. Via social media, your friends get to know about your new haircut, your new baby dog, the crazy party that you went to last Friday night, the song that you are insane about recently, the new movie that you went to theatre for and considered a total waste of two hours, and the Europe traveling you are planning on…

But why is it so important to tell your friends something about you? Or why would they give a heck about my crap, you might ask. They will, because they are your friends and they do give a heck about you. You meet friends in different life stages—high school, college, different jobs, and so on. But you and some of yours friend might be lack of topics to talk about after a while not seeing each other, and gradually you are less of friends. You don’t want this to happen; you try to make things like you were still living together (just like in school). So you call your friends, text them, and email them. But still, gradually, you don’t know what to call about, to text about, or to email about. Soon, you know less and less about your friends, and so do them. Sure you can just let things go and maybe cut these friends out eventually. But what if you don’t want to? What if some of them you treasure too much to lose? And of course there are some. That’s why you were trying to do all those calling, texting, and emailing in the first place. As you can see, keeping your friends informed via call, text, or email is something really hard (and almost impossible) to do in the long run. You need to know your friends enough to keep those phone calls going. But you don’t. You don’t know what happened to them recently. Social media helps solve this problem (not entirely, but still).

Besides, traditional methods require you and your friends to be involved at the same time. However, your friends don’t usually have free time when you want to call them. Social media, on the other hand, can be used by you and your friends at different time. You post a photo of your new baby dog while you’re walking him in the sunset, and your friends can see it and maybe reply to (or comment on) during their tea break the next day. To some degree, traditional methods are instant while social media is idle.

People used to lose friends because of losing connections. But with the development of modern technology, what happened doesn’t necessarily have to happen again.