One Event from Each Year of My Life

I’m going to turn eighteen in a couple of months. That’s usually considered a milestone age in the modern world, so I guess I’ll reflect and try to recall something that happened in my life each year.

By the way, if the year-numbering is strange to you, uh…just think that the first day of the first month of year zero is 23 August 1995.

-1: Well gee. I don’t think I remember much from when I was this young. The events for years -1 and 0 are according to parents. Somewhere in -1.2, I was found to have eczema that was often exacerbated by my myriad of food allergies. As my skin frequently broke to the point of infection danger, the doctor prescribed lots of antibiotics, and ensured my parents that within months I will no longer have eczema. Three months later, the doctor ensured that I’d outgrow it by age 1. And then by age 3. Darn. I still have eczema.

0: I was ridiculously interested in numbers. I also really didn’t like to sleep. Both of these have never changed. And I guess both of these don’t really count as events.

1: On 1.2XE (01 Feb 1997), I looked at the family calendar, and complained to Dad, “Where’s the last day of February?”

2: I have absolutely no idea what happened this year.

3: On the way to Yosemite, my mom decided to listen to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. She accidentally hit the repeat button. Evidently when she realized that it was repeating she was afraid I would be bored, and so switched to another disc, but I said “but Mom, it’s beautiful.”

4: My parents first introduced me to the concept of death, and that people eventually stopped living. Naturally, my first response is that I was terrified, and I wondered why people didn’t try to live forever.

5: My first piano lesson was on 5.5NO. About two months later, the piano teacher started telling me to use the metronome. A few weeks later, she decided to increment a metronome marking she wrote on one of my pieces, did not happen to have a metronome at hand, and said, “let’s see, the next one up from 126, that should be 134.” I corrected her and said that the next increment would be 132. For some reason, she was surprised, actually went to try to dig out her metronome, and tested me on what the numbers adjacent to certain markings on the metronome are. She just wouldn’t believe it and asked me if I could recite the entire sequence, so I recited all the numbers, from 40 to 208. She asked me why I spent the time to memorize the entire sequence and I told her that I hardly memorized anything, I just noted that the numbers on the metronome follow quite a few patterns, like how for any number less than 108, twice the number is also on the metronome, so in reality I hardly memorized anything.

6: I began developing an absurd fear of flashing red lights. It took about four years to wear off.

7: In and around these years, I was hounded by nightmares of getting trapped in elevators and getting attacked by light bulbs, frequently after turning them off. They certainly impacted me as for quite a few years my heart always pounded in elevator rides and even today some of the weird habits I have when turning lights on and off haven’t worn off.

8: On 8.4ZO, I somehow got 1st place at a chess tournament, completely unexpected and definitely lucky, as in one of the games I was losing in an endgame but my opponent made a blunder. For some reason, that made my Dad think I’m a chess genius (?), and starting making me spend hours each day studying chess over the next few years. At first I enjoyed chess, but his pressure made me despise chess more and more, especially with his repeated complaints at my slow progress. Seriously, anything would have been slow compared to that random 1st place.

9: On 9.2GO, I suddenly realized that living forever would horribly suck. But then, I thought about it and concluded that dying on a certain scale horribly sucked about as much, but probably less. In any case, I was definitely grateful that dying existed, as it was much better than the alternative. But was life a lose-lose? Over the next few days, I suddenly received a barrage of these mental attacks of questions about the world, like the above, whether the world I’m in is actually real or if it’s a very long dream, or if objects actually don’t continuously exist but cease to exist when I stop looking at them and reappear when I look in that direction again. Only the last question I mentioned here I was able to convincingly answer myself quickly. A few weeks later, I decided that even though I don’t see the back of my neck, it exists because I could poke it and feel it. For some reason, quite a few years passed before I realized that by doing so I’ve actually only generalized the problem from that of eyesight to that of any sense. Funny.

10: Afraid that I would (or maybe had already) make (/made) a birthday wish I would regret, I decided that I had to make sure that birthday wishes don’t actually tend to become true. To test, I made the birthday wish that for at least one person in the room, the next audible word they speak to me will start with the letter “o.” The wish did not come true. I was relieved.

11: Due to spending too much time at day and night worrying about philosophical issues, keeping up with Dad’s demanding chess quotas, and getting mad after convincing myself that I was absolutely wrong for listening to my second-grade teacher who told us that Harry Potter, video games, etc. were evil and should not be touched, I was about as far in academics in seventh grade as I was in fourth grade. Although I skipped a grade ahead in math, I found myself near the bottom of the class. Working a way back up ensued.

12: Chess came to a horridly bitter end. My, was I thankful that at least it was an end. Also, I finally gave myself a convincing solution to the dilemma of death versus eternity when thinking about irrational numbers. Due to huge misfortunes in chess and in other parts of real life, I developed a fear of the number 17. I remember I once had a dream that I was little and building sandcastles at the beach and after I built the 17th I saw a huge wave coming in the distance, but while others were fleeing I was convinced it was bad to leave them in a group of 17 and built an 18th one at the risk of drowning. The wave did indeed plunge me under…into waking up. In a few years, I ceased all superstition.

13 (freshman year of high school): In by far the happiest year of my life so far, I took huge leaps in piano and I made National Ocean Sciences Bowl. Although I’ve never liked reading, my English teacher somehow made it temporarily enjoyable to me. I especially liked Lord of the Flies. A. Ko introduced me to artofproblemsolving.com, where I got introduced to the math competition world. At that time, MATHCOUNTS level was very hard for me, so I simply only did that on FTW, only finding out later that I’m past-age for it. Well, with only studying MATHCOUNTS stuff I achieved a 6 on the AIME, so I was happy.

14: I discovered power metal. It was almost therapeutically convalescing of my emotional troubles, and I loved it. I also went to SUMaC. I loved it. I lived.

15: After a debacle in calculus class, I started realizing the parents ruined everything. At one point I liked chess, until my dad made it painful. At one point I really liked math, but after my dad started telling me that I should get better at it on top of my self-motivation, I didn’t enjoy it as much. I still enjoy it though. Also, playing piano was much more enjoyable before my mom with her absolutely void of musical knowledge started criticizing my piano playing. Eventually, I came to conclude that what I hated most was how parents seem to want to take credit for everything. It always seemed like they wanted to express that my work was mostly theirs. Of course, I wanted to get better at math and music, but I always felt that someday my parents would talk about how proud they were that I was able to follow their advice to greatness. I really just wanted to prove that I am mostly motivated by me, but it seemed hard to find something that they won’t butt into. I finally figured that since both of them have always been absolutely disapproving of computer games, I would start playing minesweeper. Of course, that came with the problem that I could only do it when I’m sure they wouldn’t be able to find me doing it, for example when they were outside. But the thing was, no matter how good I get at minesweeper, they won’t ever be able to take any credit for it. In chess, in math, and in music, their comments were useless and detrimental but they’ll make every argument that they helped. In minesweeper, they won’t be able to take any credit because they never even said anything because they didn’t even know about it. That made me happy and that kept me motivated.

16: College apps was ridiculously painful. They should seriously fix the system.

So I simply concluded that I suck at talking about myself. I won’t do this again for a long while.

Pacific/Atlantic Hurricane Patterns

As some of you know, I’ve for quite a while been very fascinated by hurricanes, although most of the time I spent mystifying myself by them was before I made this blog. Because this is, after all, my blog, I guess I should add a touch of hurricane research here as well.

So I wanted to make a few charts comparing Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), a property of hurricanes that is ideally the integral of its strength over its lifetime. Of course, hurricane strength can’t quite reasonably be sampled all the time real time, and in fact the National Hurricane Center samples it once every six hours. I remember a few years ago charts showing the ACE of hurricanes were on Wikipedia hurricane season pages, but for some reason someone deleted them. Darn. Because I don’t want to find a database and recalculate all the ACEs of the hurricanes by hand, I decided instead to invent a new unit which would mean approximately the same thing as ACE; this is done by giving each hurricane a score equal to n points for each six-hour interval it is a Category n hurricane. Like ACE, a hurricane will thus have a higher ACE with a higher general strength, measured by wind speed, as well as a higher ACE with lasting longer.

I decided to call this unit describing hurricanes the “hurrscore,” since, well, this unit is pretty hurr. In any case, note that the assignment of the scores do not flow linearly with wind speed, as remember that Category 1 does not start until 74 miles per hour winds. Thus, this system assigns higher scores in comparison to ACE to hurricanes that generally achieve a higher maximum wind speed than to hurricanes that display high endurance.

In the following chart, I list the hurrscores of all hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin since 1979, as well as for a few major ones before (in which I think I included every cat-5 since 1953 with the exception on 1977’s Anita).

In the following chart, the light grey highlight is for hurricanes that achieved at least category 3 status (and thus would be meteorologically dubbed a “major hurricane”) at some point in their lifetime, and the grey highlight is for hurricanes that achieved category 5 status at some point in their lifetime. The single asterisk designates a hurricane name that is retired that year.

Here is the same for the Eastern Pacific Basin.

(For those of you wondering what retiring hurricane names means, each year hurricanes are named from a list of names with the first storm named a name starting with A, the second named a name starting with B, and so on. Since 1979, convention is to recycle hurricane name lists every six years, with the exception of hurricanes that caused devastating damage, which are removed from the name list (“retired”) and replaced with new names (although sometimes for some reason they start using it in another basin…hmmph). Three things: note that storms are named when they become a storm, i.e. reach 40 mph winds; not all named storms make it to hurricane status. Also, the name list contains no entries for QUXYZ in the Atlantic Basin and QU in the Eastern Pacific Basin. Furthermore, wonder what happens when they run out of alphabets? The answer is actually in the chart (it’s only happened one year). Double asterisks represent hurricane names retired due to political complaints or pronunciation complaints. Take a look at the Eastern Pacific basin and despair at how this causes more hurricane name retirings there than for the original reason.)

Looking at the ACE totals given on Wikipedia, my hurrscores comes pretty close, although somehow the top seasons in both basins are different: by ACE, 2005 and 1992, respectively, are the strongest seasons in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, respectively, a result I would agree with.

By hurrscore, the eight strongest seasons in the Atlantic Basin are, in order, 2004, 2005, 1995, 1998, 1999, 1996, 2003, and 2010, with the eight weakest seasons being 1983, 1987, 1994, 1982, 1991, 1993, 1986, and 1997. By hurrscore, the eight strongest seasons in the Eastern Pacific Basin are, in order, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1984, 1994, 1991, 1984, and 1997, with the eight weakest seasons being 2003, 2007, 2010, 1981, 1979, 1996, and 2004.

Here is a line chart and a scatterplot:

El Niño years tend to see more Pacific hurricane activity and less Atlantic hurricane activity than usual. Many meteorologists note cycles in the history of the Atlantic Hurricane Basin, with periodic decades of increased hurricane activity, like 1880-1900 and 1950-1970, as well as the current 1995-?. Although Eastern Pacific hurricane records go back barely past what I’ve included, it seems like not only do Pacific and Atlantic hurricane activity receive coupled action from El Niño cycles, but that their activity seems coupled in the larger cycles as well: with the current onslaught of Atlantic hurricanes, Eastern Pacific hurricanes seem to clearly be ebbing in quantity.

A Few (Horribly) Random Poems

I decided to post some of the poems I wrote over the past three years or so. I am a pretty terrible poet, and I’m not just being humble.

1. A Bird Stuck in Lazar’s Classroom, Attempting to Escape

There’s a light outside the window
Looming up above the sill
Resting high upon a pillow
Fluffed with freedom, love, and will
But this conspiréd illusion
Has within its heart a nil
And it mocks of the concussions
Of those that try to fly on still

3. Verbosity

Fuck
Allergies

4. Six Seven Eight One Fifteen Sixteen

Chances are
No one actually
Opened eyes.
How it comes to be
Part of this
Strange reality?

7. Ten Three

(1) Oh, let this sigh bring me on by
Past worlds of sorrow to where thought can fly
High to the sky
What was always needed was a decoy
To make a mind more of joy
Hearts to deploy
Dreams to enjoy
(67) Coming back from insanity
Returning to reality
That is when I can finally
Say
That it’s okay
Living as life may
Where many paths lay
Perhaps here’s a way
Back to today
A newer day

8. Exodendrite

The problem with resetting passwords
Is
One would never know
What it was before

10. Silence

13. Umbralinthyne
Ti trewawiftsa utimic
Ias betsiye jemmok tyaib
Ayclit edabyo slustaw olis
Laslad ymaya ainbem liwidias
Ybs tyne ilien mida.

Ti gebadan atiye biliya itep
wiktiac tyhwet dita
Ikyftsa ii ifliad wawecific
Laslad ymaya ainbem liwidias
Ybs tyne ilien mida.

Ias betsiye jemmok yma.
Laslad yma yara inbim.
Laslad ymaya ainbem liwidias
Ybs tyne ilien mida.

Crama fa tibsapi; mas ha.

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17. Randomnoeia
tiger rubberband overlord reconsider magnify rococo meninges
opligwate mandible an stringpluck ytterby redolence ostinato blastocyst hologium tranquilize
greenhouse lovely triflic foxtrot kleenex orange limit zwischenzug infinite sabertooth a cactus
chaos reuse why obiwan cornea an friction ziggurat ebay regia decimate le spork laboratory
the and use melancholy induction edible horoscope hairdry fifty-seven epistrophe reno concoct adverb weathervane
floss non droop multiplicanda enchilada mombasa eka beehives smootfarad easterly for-loop
or the the it carnot engine over the green pastures it asfjkladsfkljhgaf
grapefruit octothorpe luteum orthoclase vindaloo temujin null magnify reconsider rubberband parakeet yoctofortnight
octane hitherto eat whoops soliloquize sixteen recession jibberwakc deltoid kosovo of
chaos a trololol cloture a comma wartortle magnify eat many green apogee geras
ornery exclamation redoubt terracotta quasar collaborate unigloo moisture induction randemonium a

Minesweeper World Records: A Chart

One could find pretty much all the rankings available at Authoritative Minesweeper, but there’s many pages to go through, so I decided to try to make one chart containing probably the most important records so they can be viewed at-a-glance. Note that the records are likely to still get broken quite a few times. Additionally, please realize that I did not try to make this chart aesthetically pleasing. Hopefully there’s enough numbers to get over that.

Crime in San Francisco: Geographic Distribution

The following is a picture showing the distribution of crime in northern downtown San Francisco, with each cell containing the number of crimes occurring in the vicinity of the indicated intersection over the past year. In the case where breaks occur in streets, the number in the cells represents the data for the vicinity of where the intersection would have been. The negative-sloping near-diagonal interface at the right is the Embarcadero. The positive-sloping diagonal interface at the bottom is Market Street.

In the following chart, communities are labeled.

Data Source: SF Police

The Solar System, with Distances to Scale, Mapped onto Interstate-80

As some of you probably know, I-80 is the busiest interstate in the United States stretching from a western terminus at US-101 in San Francisco to an (darn why can’t we have an indefinite article that is starting-sound indiscriminate in English (darn parenthetical remark breaks appropriateness of selected article (darn nested parenthetical remarks break reading flow))) eastern terminus at I-95 in New Jersey near the New York border.

In the following maps, I mapped the Solar system in terms of distance from the Sun onto I-80 to scale, with the Sun at the western terminus in San Francisco. One mile on the map corresponds to approximately 5 gigameters in reality. The extent of the marked portion for each planet and dwarf planet in the first three maps goes from perihelion to aphelion.

As something extra, I included a diagram of the sizes of the larger of the bodies on a map of downtown San Francisco, on the same scale as above (note that, of course, only sizes, and not distances, are to scale in the following map only). The width of this map covers approximately 2 pixels on the third map of the five above.