Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here Are 50 Simple Pleasures In Life For a High School Student

Good job, Sherlock.  This is indeed not what I usually write about.

Here are fifty things you know you find enjoyable, you just may or may not admit to them.  These are the things students don't pay enough attention to. :)
  1. Watching others fall.
  2. Watching others fail.
  3. Seeing others do worse than you on tests.
  4. Hoping others do worse than you on tests.
  5. Hearing unfortunate events, laughing at them thinking they are jokes, then finding out that they are not.
  6. Defecation.
  7. Eating.
  8. Getting high (presumably...).
  9. Jaywalking.
  10. Having friends.
  11. Seeing someone without friends.
  12. Laughing.
  13. Laughing at someone.
  14. Urination.
  15. Urination after a prolonged urge to hold it in.
  16. Getting an A if you're Asian.
  17. Getting a B if you're not.
  18. Getting a C if you're...[insert ethnicity you believe to stereotypically get this grade].
  19. Being liked by a teacher.
  20. Being the teacher's pet (don't deny this one, you know you like it :P)
  21. Sleeping for more than 3 hours if you're studious.
  22. Sleeping for more than 3 hours if you partied the night before.
  23. No homework.
  24. No tests the next day.
  25. The last day of school.
  26. Taking ten minutes to "get a drink of water."
  27. Passing notes to people.
  28. Seeing the teacher give the wrong notes.
  29. Watching a teacher have a breakdown because he/she did not prepare the lecture well enough.
  30. Watching a student question a teacher's notes.
  31. Watching the teacher have no response.
  32. In-class video!!
  33. With no worksheet!!!
  34. Substitute who tries to give a lecture on something never seen before.
  35. Learning more from said sub than the actual teacher.
  36. Watching student get mocked by teacher.
  37. Field trip!!
  38. Senior skip day!!
  39. Getting late to class but acting like you weren't.
  40. Blurting out answers.
  41. Doing easy math in Calculus class.
  42. Outsmarting the Psych teacher.
  43. Getting better lab results than your Chem teacher (never happened for me, but I sure would like it to.)
  44. Spinning pens in English.
  45. Trying to spin pens in English.
  46. Throwing racial slurs at people of your own race in front of people of another race.  Their faces are priceless.
  47. Handing in a rough draft and getting a better score than someone who worked their butt off.
  48. Discussing Harry Potter or Twilight in English.
  49. Swearing because you feel more powerful.
  50. Being a rectum.
Thanks for reading,

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Rubik's Cube World Record!! And Other Cubing Affairs

This title is the superset of what appears in 10% of all forum posts on Speedsolving.  Recently, many world records have been broken on the Rubik's cube, including Feliks' new WR single.  Although, these new records are great, there are myriad of illegitimate posts about new world records in the future.  People are concerned about what the limit is.  Below are my thoughts about world records and other cubing stuff.

  1. People can muster 20 tps.  20 is God's Number.  So if people can solve optimally and turn at record pace (which is bound to change), 1 second can be achieved.  Of course, this is unrealistic due to inspection, lock-ups, and the fact that 20 tps is insane.  However, 10 tps can be comfortably achieved, and so 2 seconds would be the new number.  Furthermore, getting God's Number on a solve is nearly impossible.  It's safe to say that even in the future, 30 moves will be necessary.  Thus, the future world record/limit is, in my opinion, 3 seconds.  And actually, this makes sense.  There have been 4 second solves recorded; with new methods and better turning, who's to say 3 seconds isn't possible?
  2. Why does it matter?  Let it be well known that no more than a handful of people will ever achieve this status.  20 tps is insane.  Most people would be happy with 12.  A maximum turn speed for a solve would be 7 at best.  If you can turn at maximum speed for an entire solve, you might get 4 seconds, and we all know that's not going to happen.  Cubing is difficult, and there's no use thinking about limits if you're still trailing the world record by 20 seconds.
  3. CUBES ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT.  This is something I see on the forums all the time.  There is some abstract notion that a better cube will improve your time.  If you go from a dollar store cube to a LunHui, fine, you win.  But, honestly, if you have a GuHong, and you're averaging 30 seconds, there are other things besides your cube you should worry about.  Remember this, historic world records were set with "crappy cubes."  If you can't beat that with a GuHong, you need practice, not a better cube.
  4. Lubrication (har har).  No one can really help you with this because no one really knows.  There are a few main lubricants - Silicone spray, lubix, shock oil, and Maru lube.  All of these work.  So why can't people help you?  It depends on how you apply it.  If you're using one drop of Maru lube on a 5x5, you can't expect great results.  You just have to sort of experiment by yourself.
No, this was not a structured blog, but you'll live.  In summary - concentrate on your own technique.  Time is better spent practicing than obsessing over nonexistent world records.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Schools Are For Children

"Children are our future."  Really?

There's nothing wrong with that pithy quote.  It's the way that our education system uses it that frustrates me.  It seems to me that there is only one way for a society to grow.  And that's with innovation.  This video on divergent thinking is a good starting point:

From that video alone, it's easy to see how our current education system forces students to think inside the box.  It's also pathetic how standardized tests are becoming the criterion for individual performance.  Even though I do quite well on standardized tests, it nevertheless bothers me how people can rely on those for complete information about a child's performance.

It seems to me like our education system is based off of the assumption that education is stagnant.  The way our students our taught today are really the same as the way it was taught the last generation.  However, the rest of the world is dynamic, and schools aren't paying enough attention to this.

Technology is in the pockets of most students these days, particularly in high school, and I don't necessarily agree with the arbitrary regulation of use of technology in classes.  In fact, many of the rules in school are transcendent powers from an arbitrary authority figure - the teacher.

School rules and classroom rules are imposed by dictatorial adults.  Of course many rules make sense, but some just don't matter...not in high school, anyway.

When schools emphasize cognitive development in high schoolers, do they really mean it?  Often, as a student, I feel like teachers don't really care how a child performs.  At the end of the day, it's just their job.  Now, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with that, however, it's definitely not going to improve a student's cognitive ability.  Thus, if a school plans to improve overall performance, shouldn't they limit how rules are set?

Authorities still follow Piaget's guidelines for cognitive development.  This is fine so long as they also incorporate the outside world.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Teachers and other staff members are frozen in their own generation, where blackboards and chalk were all that were needed.  Furthermore, their values are stuck in the past as well.

I can make the claim that schools are like tiny governments.  There is usually some sort of constitution which dictates the do nots for students.  The categorical imperative would say that this is fine.  But I think this only works if we follow the assumption that schools are actually benefiting students.  

For a teacher, a cellphone is a distraction.  For students, there is a psychological drive to use technology.  So when rules say "no cellphones," this is a major infraction on students' liberties.  Thus, students are warranted to expect an equally grand benefit, primarily in education.  But this where it all falls apart.  There is no measure for benefits.  No one can say if a class is beneficial.  Schools try to counter this by giving exams.  But are students being tested on their cognitive ability?  Or are they just being prepared for a test written by a middle-aged, white, middle-class man?

It seems like if we really care about how our students perform we should try to benefit them and not the teachers.  Let's be frank here.  Not all teachers teach.  Many just sit there and read out of a book and receive a paycheck.  So when schools write policies, they should be written for teachers as well, not just students.

Since the categorical imperative clearly does not work at the high school level, why not use utilitarianism?  Students and teachers alike don't necessarily enjoy the policies.  So, maybe we should change them.  Make them so that learning is beneficial to more constituents of a school.  Currently, when schools make policies, they are made with the intent of making extra money.  Better grades on tests imply more funds.  But if we truly care about our future in children, why not foster our children?  Why not encourage what they can do, not what they are limited by?  

In the U.S. we have tools needed for success, but we're not using them.  We're overly concerned about how teachers feel, when essentially, schools are for children.  We, as a society, need to change this.  If the teacher to student ratio is 1:30, does it even make sense to base policies off of teachers' desires?

Change is possible, but we should have the mindset that schools should benefit children, not provide for teachers.

Thanks for reading,

His Cubes Are Amazing

Hey all,

Here are the cubes I use.  Take a gander.

2x2 - Maru - lubed with Maru Lube.  My first decent 2x2.  The corner cutting is phenomenal and overall I really enjoy this cube.

3x3 - GuHong (black with colored core) - lubed with Maru Lube.  Excellent 3x3.  It's a little smooth for my liking; I prefer a cube with a slight clicky feeling but this will do.  I also enjoy my Maru 3x3 Old Type DIY.  It's nice.

4x4 - Yeah...*cough.  I use an Eastsheen.  Clearly I don't care about 4x4 too much.  Actually...I'm about to get a new one.  Leave a comment below saying which one you think is best.

5x5 - Modded V Cube 5 - Lubed with Kel Silicone Spray - The mod definitely helped.  At first, it just felt smoother, but the cube was still extremely tight.  After lubricating it and solving it 20 more times the cube got better each successive solve.  Highly recommend rounding the corners.

6x6 - Modded V Cube 6 - Lubed with a liberal amount of Kel Silicone Spray - The mods were unintentional.  At first, I just wanted to stop the clicking.  However, after sanding everything down, I realized I was committing myself to do the pin mod as well (insert facepalm emoticon here).  So...I did.  Luckily, it only took 30 minutes for all four pins.  Super easy to do.  Great cube.

7x7 - Regular V Cube 7 - Not lubed...yeah, I don't care much about 7x7.

Important links -
V Cubes
Kel Silicone
General Cubes

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Teachers Discriminate

Hey all,

As always, feel free to comment on the following.

As a senior in high school, I've had my fair share of teachers.  And as all students know, there are some teachers who are good and some who just plain suck.  But have you ever considered why a particular teacher is bad?

Sometimes I hear that it's based on the subject.  Artsy folk may not enjoy science classes.  Likewise, science nerds don't necessarily enjoy English classes.  But there are other people, like me, who like or dislike classes, not subjects.  I have no favorite subject, not in high school anyway.  Every subject is generally the same in value for me.  But what I've realized is that I tend to either really enjoy a class, or loathe it.

The reason is actually pretty simple.  Teachers can greatly influence how students react to a class.  No student enjoys a class where they are hated by the grand authority figure.  This is where some social psychologists may emphasize the self-fulfilling prophecy, where students' attitudes towards teachers affect the way they are treated. I'd go so far as to say this is what the majority of students experience; those who hate particular subjects will show that, and that displacement will cause the teacher to act reciprocally.  However, if you're like me, this reasoning is incorrect.

The way I see it, I don't like some teachers because they flat-out do not like me.  I think our education system is extremely naive.  Whenever we share these thoughts to authority figures, they always brush it off and claim that it's how we act.  Our predisposition of a class makes us think that we are being targeted.  Never have I heard that it's even possible the teacher is discriminatory.

At my particular high school, we have all these rules in place regarding discrimination of gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.  It's presented in a way that assumes students don't follow these guides.  However, why is that?  It's obvious many students discriminate one another, but is it really that exclusive?  I dare say teachers are equally obligated to follow these guidelines.  In my opinion, these guidelines are superficial regulations to create the facade of a peaceful learning environment.

So a quick summary.  Why do I not like classes?  Because of bad teachers.  Why are teachers bad?  Because they discriminate.

As a minority, it's difficult for me to make any powerful assertions.  I can claim a teacher to be racist, but no one would believe me.  Why would they?  If the rest of the class is Caucasian, they certainly would not feel the same way.  But that's the beauty of it.  Students never claim of sexist teachers because teachers don't explicitly show that.  If the gender split is even, the teacher would have a hard time discriminating against a large group of students.  On the other hand, when it's duck, duck, grey duck the teacher can be discriminatory.  No, there's no real way to see if a teacher is racist, or sexist, or homophobic without a direct confession, but in my defense, it's equally petty to think all teachers treat all students equally.

Now the clincher.  So what?  To be perfectly honest, I don't give a rat's buttocks about the teacher's personal beliefs.  A teacher is still a person, and he or she is entitled to opinions.  Do I feel targeted at times?  Absolutely.  In fact, there is no doubt that there are teachers who are racist.  Maybe not in my school, but they exist.  The real issue I have with this is about superficiality.  I don't mind if a teacher is discriminatory.  Do they have a moral obligation to be fair?  Yes.  But they don't need to be.  And because of this, the only thing I need from my high school is to recognize that this is a possibility.

The fact of the matter is that the teacher may not even know it.  They might just have a psychological predisposition to dislike certain individuals.  A lot of this is cultural.  Some teachers may not like what students wear, but they don't consciously recognize that.  Essentially, it's not really anyone's fault!  The only error is how schools try to hide the imperfections.

It was cute in 3rd grade to say that we were imagining things.  It's not so cute in high school when you can feel things happening.  It's extremely painful to not be able to talk about this to a teacher, because after all, I'd be complaining about their colleague.  And due to our conditioned responses about confronting a teacher about negative affairs, are we really expected to go and tell them ourselves?  They could just as easily say that I'm just imagining things.

In closing, teachers are just as discriminatory as students.  Schools don't need to fix that.  Fix how it's portrayed.

Thanks for reading,

Rejection From MIT Was a Worthwhile Experience

Hey all,

Ready for a long post?  Me too.

The summer before senior year in high school, I thought about which schools I wanted to apply to for college.  I was interested in schools with a great Biomedical/Bioengineering program, and the top choices were not hard to find.  Naturally, my eyes wandered to MIT, my dream school since I was a youngun.  Yeah, I knew my chances weren't high, but looking at the E.C.s and the classes I took, I thought I had a decent shot.

Over the next few months, I worked incessantly on the application that I thought would determine my future.  I went over the application after I finished, and finally sent it in Early Action.

...The result finally appeared online, and it was not what I hoped for.  I got deferred.  Strangely enough, I catatonic, a psychological isolation.  I became stoic and I wasn't really thinking at all.  When it hit me that I wasn't accepted I treated the deferment as a rejection.  Prior to this, I hadn't really experienced rejection.  I was admitted into the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP), National Honor Society, American Regions Mathematics League (ARML), etc.  Getting accepted was the only thing I ever really understood.  In retrospect, being deferred didn't mean getting rejected at all, but I had a different mindset back then.  To not get accepted was to get rejected.

So the wait continued.  The regular decision date came pretty quickly and I was hoping for the best.  I clicked on the little button that would determine my future...and poof....nope.  This time I was much less paralyzed.  I was pretty openly upset about this.  Deferred was a new term that didn't know very well; rejection was a term I despised and hoped I would never get.  This is of course all very silly in retrospect, but at the time, I was furious.

After getting the rejection, I cubed (solved Rubik's cubes) for an unhealthy 4 continuous hours to calm myself.  Needless to say, it worked.  However, once I thought about the rejection again, I immediately became frustrated.  Thus, I went into deep introspection about why I did not get accepted.

It's sort of funny how I sought out comfort online by looking at other people's rejections.  It's wee bit sadistic, but it made me feel better about myself.  I also looked at how other people coped, and the supposedly comforting words that kept reappearing were "Getting rejected doesn't mean you weren't good enough."  And to this, I say Bull Feces.  I take on a fairly pessimistic stance.  The sentence just wasn't completed.  It should have ended with "other people were just better."  For anyone who tells yourself this, don't.  It's too quaint.  Ick.  The other way to refudiate (see what I did there?) this statement is to simply say that if you were good enough, you would have gotten accepted.  In the case of MIT, I probably had similar numbers as the next person on file.  The fact that I got rejected was because I wasn't good enough.  I didn't stand out as much, and so I wasn't as selectable.  So in truth, getting rejected does mean I'm not good enough, and I'm okay with that.

For me, this was an eye opener.  I naively thought that I could actually get accepted into one of the most prestigious technical institutions in the world.  I took a look at the people who got accepted, and that's when it hit me that getting rejected was expected.  The people I know who got accepted were some of the most intelligent people I've ever met.  Their drive and academic skills surpassed mine tenfold.  Looking at the small pool of applicants I knew, I understood that I really had no chance.  The fact that I even got deferred was a blessing.  I didn't really deserve to be deferred.  The way I see it, getting deferred meant my numbers were adequate, but that I, as a person, didn't stand out.

So as for my "determined future?"  Well, getting rejected from MIT determined my future alright.  But not in a bad way at all.  Rejection means I won't go there for undergrad, but there's always opportunity after that.  Plus, who can say that MIT was the best fit for me, anyway?  I can't say for certain that I would have flourished in that competitive environment.

In the end, I learned a lot.  Pessimistically, I'm just not as good as I thought I was.  Although that's a depressing statement, it's true.  Since getting rejected, I've considered every action I've taken.  It's a large world after all, and it's competitive.  You may think you're awesome, but there's always at least one person better.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Making Stickers is as Easy as 1,2,3,4,5....An Explanation for Children

Hey all,

I've developed my own method for making vinyl stickers for Rubik's Cubes.  Originally, I used electric tape since it is a sturdy material, relatively cheap, and it comes in a variety of colors.  However, the lifespan was only a couple months.  Over time, electric tape tends to soften and the adhesive on the vinyl bonds better to plastic.  Thus, the stickers started sliding all over the place.  So now...I write up my method for creating your own vinyl stickers.

Supplies - 
  1. Word processor/Paint/Gimp (any word processing or image creation program that features an on-screen ruler.)
  2. Ruler
  3. Regular copy paper and printer
  4. Vinyl sheets and/or double sided tape (I got the vinyl in a pack of six at a local arts and crafts store.)
  5. Scissors/Exacto Knife

Procedure - 
I.  Preparation (Template)
  1. Grab your cube and measure the width of each cubie.  Each sticker should be 1/8 inch shorter.
    Ex:  If a cubie is 3/4 in wide, the sticker should be 5/8 in wide.
  2. Take this measurement and go to your computer program; I will be using Microsoft Word.  Using the "rectangle" shape tool, draw a square.  Right click to format the shape and set the width and height to the length of the sticker.  I will be using 0.63"
  3. After the shape is set, copy the shape and paste it 8 times.  Then set the nine shapes up into an array.  NOTE:  To get to this step, you may also "Insert" a 3x3 table.
  4. This is the template for one side.  At this point, either select all nine squares or the table, copy it, and paste it 5 times to result in 6 3x3 arrays.
  5. Organize the arrays neatly and print out your templates.
Download this picture for a pre-made template.  (It will be the right size)

II.  Cutting Out Stickers
  1. Take your template sheet and cut out all the arrays (to get 6 individual templates)
  2. Using double-sided tape, glue the template onto the back of your vinyl sheet (my sheets had paper backings).  NOTE:  Make sure the grid lines on the template face outside so that you can see them...
  3. Take your scissors and cut out the template.  Then, cut out the individual squares.
  4. Using nail clippers, cut the corner of each square to "round" it off.  (This is obviously optional).
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 five times
III.  Application
  1. Remove the backing of the vinyl squares.  The vinyl sheets I purchased were "cling-ons" without adhesive on the back.  Rather, they used static to attach to plastic.  If your vinyl sheets are not adhesive, use double-sided tape to apply adhesive.
    NOTE:  This gives the sticker a mosaic feel since the tape cannot be applied perfectly (I like this.)
  2. Place the stickers onto your cube.  I used tweezers, but use whatever you need.
End Result

Final Notes - 
  1. This was a rather long tutorial, but the actual process should take no longer than an hour for all six sides.
  2. This is ideal for people who want to make custom stickers for various puzzles and for people who do not have the means to purchase from Cubesmith or another online store.
  3. If you have questions, feel free to ask me :)
Good luck!

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He Has Google AdSense Now!!

Hey all,

Quick updates:
3x3 - sub 15
5x5 - sub 2:30
6x6 - sub 6:15

More importantly...you will now begin to see advertisements on my blog.  This is because I now have Google AdSense enabled :)

That's all, folks.

Thanks for reading,