April 28, 2004

Went kayaking with Wei Chuen, Joni and Tzen Wah today. It was somewhat less exhilarating than the first time, though. I want to go further, but the flimsy plastic kayak is possibly a bad choice for a seaworthy vessel. Sigh. If only I had been accepted into the Navy.

Lots of duty to do, the kind I hate most – recruitment for Freshmen Camp. My ability to get people to buy stuff is rather low, I am afraid. Mostly I find myself trying to give helpful information and directions instead of actually trying to sell my product. Luckily Leonard was around to help and we managed to net almost twenty freshie names. It doesn’t seem a lot, but consider that we went for just about every single freshman there. Slim pickings for this batch of campers.

Chatted with Huishan a bit about her future as a producer/songwriter again. It’s nice to have someone else who has some kind of ambition in mind, even if the person in question tends to tell you your ambitions in life are pathetic and boring. I see the same trepidation, the same uncertainty and the same despair over the lack of knowledge to enter the field. But what Huishan has is a lot of belief in herself. I think that’s called ‘practical irrationality’, when a person uses irrationality to better performance. I’m sure you must have experienced something like that – psyching yourself up, telling yourself you can do it, convincing yourself something isn’t as bad as it seems – with virtually no good reasons for doing so, but which helped. Call it false bravado, fake confidence, it’s still helpful. And Huishan has a lot more of it than I have.

Read in Philosophers Magazine that people who are constantly depressed are more aware of their own positive and negative attributes – but which causes the other is still unknown. The phenomenon is known as ‘depressive realism’. I think the majority of cynics in the world suffer form this, unless they grduate into psychotic idealism and end up killing millions like Hitler.

*’psychotic idealism’ is a term I coined myself, nothing to do with Philo Mag

Of course, I wouldn’t trade being slightly depressed for the insights I gain into myself. I remember a philosophical test about your beliefs about life, also from Philosopher’s Mag, which classified life as a continuation of the body, soul and mind. I fall very strictly into the mind-alive category, I’m afraid. I would consider a person to still exist if his mental faculties were maintained by computer algorithms rather than brain cells, even if there were a thousand of them. Which is why I am rather disapproving of weak minded people who flock to the inspirational speakers in search to better themselves – to me they are suicidal. They would kill their own personalities for a new one. Isn’t that thought scary? It’s like having plastic surgery – essentially you’re admitting your own weakness.

Not necessarily a bad thing, of course. People ARE weak. Rationally I know that. But the heart is unwilling.

April 27, 2004

Wow. Once the exams ended I really went out and enjoyed myself. I have completed Icewind Dale II, Sonic Battle, started on Rise of Nations and Phantasy Star III(I love the classic) and installed Fairyland. I am wallowing in the enjoyment of video games.

Well, no, I’m not, really. I’ve hit the bottom of the entertainment barrel and resorted to computer games to pass my time again. I’d read, but it’s a difficult habit to pick up again. I’d code, but I downloaded Gimp code to have a look the other day and didn’t understand any of it. I’d sleep, but I just end up lying on the bed feeling vaguely guilty that I should be doing something else.

I did send out a whole lot of emails to do with admin work, though. The slight productivity boost to morale will have to do until the guys at NTU finish their exams. Nick and I look like lonely straggled dogs on a deserted island and he’s been so soppy lately I can barely stand him. The Malaysians have gone back, leaving Wei Chuen and Tzen Wah. We dine out like fabulous bachelors daily, enjoying the delicacies of singlehood and the pristine taste of our own virginity.

Well, that is when we cfan remember to eat in between the gaming.

I’ve got plans for this holiday, though. Gonna update this website and go for the big game – some more basic PHP coding. Most probably I’m gonna start on a UROPS, although God only knows what project I’m going to take – I suspect Fluid Dynamics, though.

Computational Science Society organized a trip to the Institute of High Performance Computing today. What they do looks suspiciously like what I’m learning in my CZ modules, except possibly several thousands of times more complicated. Actually I’m not sure how much more complicated it is – I haven’t learnt how to measure complexity yet. But anyway I am much intrigued by their work, and the project based work where you go around helping others to model situations well beyond their computational (or coding) abilities seems to offer a wealth of opportunities for interaction. Sounds like a most interesting job.

April 18, 2004

I have two final papers tomorrow – Hume and Kant and Simulation. Of Hume and Kant I have a confession to make – I have finished neither the Enquiry nor the Critique. At least, I can’t remember whether I’ve finished the Enquiry – interest in it waned after lectures on it finished. The Critique I do not feel like touching with a ten foot pole until I am in a better mood. I have the feeling I should be reading the thing in German – the feeling that something is lost in translation is too strong – and also Kant is a hideous old fart whose arogance is superceded only by his long-windedness.

It doesn’t help that the views held by either philosopher are so old – and that their knowledge of science is, by today’s standards, rather pitiful. The whole study descends into something like literary criticism and the feeling that you’re actually learning something is missing. Well, not exactly true. You do get academic knowledge – the kind you use to bash less educated neanderthals with and bolster your own self-confidence and intellectual status.

I am ready for Simulation. Should be an easy paper, that, which might not be a good thing. Everyone scoring full marks on a paper does not bode well to the person who barely scrapes through his tutorial and lab gradings. On the other hand, my confidence is bolstered by the fact that as of the final tutorial most of the other neanderthals in my class seemed not to have bothered to do the revision papers and can barely do Random Variate Generation. I can do Random Variate Generation. I can even prove that the geometric distribution is memoryless. Most proud of myself for being able to do that. Haha. you can’t.

Forgive the sily prattle. I am bored. For once, the holidays approach and I have absolutely no idea what to do with my time. It used to be that every approaching break brought about dreams of learning another programming language, of finishing some classic text, of devouring some shiny new piece of knowledge. These days I just seem to have lost interest. If I were a bit less conventional and a little more confident in my looks I would make it my goal to have sex by this holiday. I think that might be the prime reason I’ve been feeling so under-the-weather these days. Sigh. Everywhere around me the media screams the propensity of my generation for copulation, and I remain desolutely, virginally pure. Deep exhale.

“witness the immense pomposity of sesquipedalian verbiage” – The Philosophy of Style, Herbert Spencer

“Unite and multiply; there is no other law, or aim, than love,” would seem to be her constant cry on all sides, while she mutters to herself, perhaps: “and exist afterward if you can; that is no concern of mine.”

Revision and Review

April 10, 2004

The exams are coming up and I’m not exactly prepared for them, more so this semester than in others. I think it’s more due to the fact that my university experience has shown me that last-minute mugging is more effective than a semester’s worth of intense concentration.

Statistical Physics is my largest concern, having failed it two semesters ago. A look back at my blog entries last year show that I really knew very little about it back then. Maybe because I just didn’t have enough maths to fully grasp the concepts, or simply because I wasn’t trying hard enough. I can find plenty of websites with information on ststistical mechanics these days, and I actually can grasp a bit more than before. Contrary to my department’s advice regarding education, I do believe in the fuzzy osmosis of knowledge from lecturer to student. Or at least from his/her notes. Or other peoples’. In any case, unlike last year it’s actually interesting this year – I know what’s going on and I can actually attempt some of the questions in the past exam papers. With some luck I’ll pass this semester.

All’s quiet on the Computational science front, though. I’m afraid Prof Wang already knows of me as the awful student who never turns in his labs. Chances are I’m not going to be doing any research projects with him. Unfortunately for me he seems to be the one in CZ who leans more towards physics research. Ah well – we’ll take it as it goes.

And on the non-exam front things are boiling. Well – not so much boiling as cold and unmoving. Studying so much after two semesters of intense relaxation have left me not wanting to wake up in the mornings. It’s rather disheartening to wake up in the morning and think that there’s YET more tutorials to go through, more stuff to read that I just throw my blanket over my head and go back to sleep again. My life is so boring I seek entertainment from my dreams, which I unfortunately can’t remember, and other peoples’ blogs, which just depress me because they seem to be having so much more fun and excitement than I am.

There’s this short thing – too short to be an essay, too ugly to be a poem – written by a publications senior of one of my ECAs, this girl named Angela. Angela was a smart girl. At least, that’s what she claims in her little dissertation. She was a literature major, and had an excellent command of the english language. In her short piece she describes her intelligence and how threatening it is to the guys she knows, and how she uses it to manipulate them into thinking that she’s wonderful. Angela’s little piece has attracted much attention, from the scrawls on the paper its written on.

Arrogance aside, I do applaud Angela’s confidence and honesty. Plus she doesn’t violate any truths – she only THINKS she’s smart. Also, I, too, suffer somewhat from megalomania. I have the MENSA card to prove my IQ, the single bar to prove the trials I went through in my army days, the kiddygarden grades, the reading accolades, the brooding, philosophical insights. I, too, think I’m smart. And because of that, I have the romantic idea that my life must be special, must somehow be different, that I have some right to aspire for more than three square meals and a roof over my head. Mediocrity embarrasses me.

Compared to Angela, my arrogance is overwhelming.