Before Blogging: Some Nostalgia

I was thinking of ideas to blog about today, but then I found on my computer a 10,000-word document that was basically a journal I kept from June 2009 to Nov. 2009. Why did it end Nov. 2009? Well, it is precisely on Nov. 4, 2009 that I started this blog.

This document I had completely forgotten about. It’s titled “Daily Notes,” but it isn’t daily by any means. In fact, in its entire existence from June 13 to Nov. 5 it contained just 12 entries.

Some excerpts I find somewhat nostalgic are listed below. Remember, this is me writing prior to this blog, and keep in mind also that it was written privately, not originally for publishing.

1. Saturday, June 13, 2009

This entry marks the start of my daily notes. I am starting this for several reasons. But first, let me locate myself in the context of the current events of my life, so when I read this later, I know exactly when this occurred. (And for this reason, this first few entries may be significantly longer than average.)

I am seventeen years old. My birthday is December 28th, so I am about seventeen and a half. Currently it has been a week after school ended, eleventh grade. I believe it would be appropriate to begin this note with a reflection of my past year, the year that has been of utmost importance to my life so far. Actually, I would really like to begin with the entire story of my life so far, but that would have to span many, many pages. I will leave it to Checkmate: An Autobiography to cover my life up to the end of my tenth grade year. This autobiography was the last assignment for English in sophomore year, and I will not revise or add to this; I want to later see how myself as a tenth grader thought and wrote. It does not cover many events in depth, but it does cover a wide breadth. I will begin my explanation here with where that writing previously ended with the summer of 2008, to fill in the gap between then and now.

Likewise, I will not revise or add to “Daily Notes.” The rest of this entry talks about my 2008 summer, including a lot of chess tournament stuff.

2. Sunday, June 14, 2009

Of course I have many other prolonged memories throughout the last year. Our English class included many seniors who made the class much more interesting than it could have been. In European History, I probably did the most homework and learned the most out of any of my classes. Band class was mostly boring, since I focused more on my academics, yet it was a well-deserved mental break for me. Health gave me the experience of being in a non-AP/IB class and how much less productive such a class could be. Physics gave me the opportunity to do much homework for Spanish, the class I had next. In Calculus, I simply tried to relax my mind as much as I could. Finally, I had computer science, which really allowed me to do homework for other classes or simply chat with my classmates. In the second semester, TOK (Theory of Knowledge) replaced Health, and I found it to be one of the most intellectually stimulating classes alongside European History.

I found this passage on my 11th grade classes in the middle of the entry. It’s pretty interesting to reflect upon now. For instance: “Our English class included many seniors who made the class much more interesting than it could have been.” Guess that explains my creative-ish behavior during my own senior year English class. 😀

“In European History, I probably did the most homework and learned the most out of any of my classes.” I totally agree with this now. European History prepared me for college classes more than any other high school class.

9. Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Since my last entry, I have been doing quite normally in my senior year of high school. An enormous amount of my time currently is dedicated to marching band, in which we have rehearsals quite daily. That should subside as the season ends, but I will say that my grades this year as of the first six-week reporting period are quite high. Even with all these IB courses, I still managed to have my highest overall average ever at Westwood. I do have much to say about school so far.

Oh, high school marching band…

10. Sunday, November 1, 2009

For me, this day marks the start of a new stage of my life. Since the last entry, several events of various degrees of importance have occurred. Regarding college applications, MIT and University of Chicago “early action” applications were due for me today. I had submitted them about a week ago, but today’s date nonetheless gives me a new view of life as college is now lifted prominently into my conscience.

I started college applications about a week after the last entry, and worked solely on this tedious task for at least a couple weeks, disregarding much of my schoolwork. I think it has paid off. My high grades the first six weeks can easily balance out the deficiencies this session. Plus, I think I did great on my college interviews, especially with MIT just last Saturday, the 24th. It was somewhat strange in that something I had totally neglected to put on the Common Application (which in my case was used for the University of Chicago) and only indirectly and marginally mentioned in my MIT application ended up being the main topic of discussion: BattleShips Pro. We talked about community interaction, teamwork, specific balancing issues, and other nuances about the map and the map editing process. I realized I had completely forgotten about video games in my college applications. I did not think they could be so important.

As for another matter, I feel both great joy and great sorrow right now. Joy that college is coming steadily closer and almost in plain sight. Sorrow that there will be so many things I have done in high school that I will never do again, and so many people I have met who I may never see again. This ambivalent emotion came to me during the senior sendoff for band the past Friday night. This feeling had already been rising due to band. We are performing the marching show just one more time. It seems that time flew so fast. I still remember learning the first chart of “Chain Reaction” as a freshman, and it deeply smarts me that I will only be able to perform a marching show just one time more, and most likely never again in my life. I was very certain how I walked onto the field my first marching performance, but I know not at all how I am going to walk off of it for the last time. It seems such a great sorrow to accept. At the sendoff, I saw so many either jubilant or indifferent faces of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who were going to do it again next year. For the seniors, there was no such emotion. Yeah, we laughed, but there was a deeper sensation in our heart, a sensation that permeated throughout us, reminding us that we are about to encounter the end of one road that we have for so long traveled together and the beginning of another road that we all must independently walk.

College! Interesting that I was not thinking about Cornell at all.

12. Thursday, November 5, 2009

I really should start with something I had to say about yesterday, but first, to continue the previous line of thought: I created a blog using WordPress and found it to be the most suitable for my needs, and yesterday during computer science class, I made an account on Twitter, though I plan to not use this often, if any at all.

Now, back to what I was going to say about yesterday, November 4, 2009. Last night was the last time we performed “España,” and for me, that was probably the last marching show I will ever have done. I made sure to add in some high notes, such as a high B-flat at the end of the second movement. It was just an amazing experience, one that was hardly describable with words, however articulate I may try to be with them. The most accurate way to describe the situation would be that it was an experience that will always be remembered.

Funny, I mentioned “yesterday” 3 separate times. And I did not realize this, that the founding date of this blog coincides with my last performance of a high school marching show. I thought it would be the last marching show I will have ever done. Guess I was wrong. 😛

Probably My Most Random Post Ever

  • A couple months ago, my umbrella broke and so I bought a new one from the Cornell Store. This time, I forgot my towel on the Thanksgiving trip and so I bought a new Cornell one. At this rate, everything I own will be red and white and have the word “Cornell” on it within 14 years.
  • Have quite a bit of schoolwork to do in the next couple days, starting today. I should NOT be blogging right now. I have a 5-page English essay due tomorrow, a group meeting today for a final project that we’re presenting tomorrow, a band session tonight, and a novel to read by Wednesday (of which I am only 73 pages into out of 261).
  • I’ve had an amazingly strange sleep schedule for the last several days:
    • Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights the previous week I slept after 4 am. (Nov. 20th-22nd.) Largely due to math prelim.
    • Tuesday night I finished my novel and slept at 1:50 am. This would be my earliest sleeping time all week. Woke up at 8 am and got ready to leave Ithaca by noon.
    • Wednesday night I was in NYC and slept at 2 am. We were supposed to wake up 6 am (Thursday morning) for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but we ended up waking up at 1 pm.
    • Thursday night—stayed up till 6 am (this coincides with Black Friday, but I didn’t go shopping). Woke up around 11:45 am. Mini high school reunion at noon.
    • Friday night I slept at 3 am. Woke up at 8 am without an alarm. Linda and Kayla didn’t wake up till 2 pm.
    • Saturday night I slept at 3 am and woke up at 7 am, also without an alarm. Had to catch a bus to Ithaca.
    • Sunday night (last night) I slept at 2 am for no real reason.
    • And tonight I may quite possibly be pulling an all nighter because of what I have due tomorrow.
    • EDIT: Yep, this DID end up being an all-nighter.
  • I had some more things but I forgot what I was going to say. Oh well. Back to work!

Catching up on Movies

I realized that I haven’t made a movie post since the beginning of August! Here’s a list of the movies I’ve seen since starting college (the list is in no particular order):

1. The Hangover (2009)

Hangover

Rating: 8/10

It’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. It managed to catch me completely off guard with some Vegas references even though I’ve been to Vegas three times.

2. EuroTrip (2004)

Rating: 7/10

A pretty hilarious comedy. Doesn’t quite match The Hangover in coherency, but it does pack a fair number of unexpected punches.

3. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Rating: 8/10

A very, very good heist movie. A must see.

4. Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Rating: 7/10

Smart in its own way, but much of the plot is reduced in importance by a revelation at the end, so much that it almost feels like a waste of time. But it’s still very impressive, and that commonly criticized portion is only a minor flaw. The amazing laser dance scene makes up for this.

5. Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

Rating: 8/10

Matches the ingenuity of the first, very good overall.

6. Ninja Cheerleaders (2008)

Rating: 2/10

We watched this movie on a band trip (on Bus “Happy”). It was super-cheesy and contained some very unconvincing scenes. The bus laughed at it.

7. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Rating: 5/10

An extremely amusing movie. We watched this on the bus as well. It has the feel of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but seemingly not done as well.

8. Mary Poppins (1964)

Rating: 9/10

A classic, and a very nice musical. Watched this on Bus “Happy.”

9. Up (2009)

Rating: 8/10

Not my favorite Pixar movie, but still cool.  We watched this on the way back from a band trip. Ironically, I also watched this on a bus back from a band trip in high school.

10. Anchorman (2004)

Rating: 7/10

Funny. Also watched on Bus “Happy.” (In this post , Up and Anchorman are the only movies that I had seen before college.)

11. The Social Network (2010)

Rating: 7/10

There was SO much hype about this movie, but I didn’t see how it was THAT good. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t that great either. Acting is probably the strongest part of this movie.

12. Adaptation (2002)

Rating: 10/10

A really interesting, mind-boggling, and emotional movie. Watched this on the last night of my stay in NYC, i.e., last night. My long-spent hours on TV Tropes finally paid off, for they made me very knowledgeable about the movie’s screenwriting references. Also, I watched this movie with Kayla, a film major, and this actually made the experience even more enjoyable. Seriously!

Black Friday

Does anyone else find it weird that one day people appreciate everything they have down to the little things, and the next day they try to buy as much as they can?

—James Feng

This was the first year that I bought anything on Black Friday. As I mentioned in the previous post, I made an online purchase of the PC game World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King for $10 (down from $39.99). With a month of college left, I do not plan to play this expansion anytime soon; however, I do plan to try leveling from 70 to 85 at some point within the next year.

James’s quote captures the contradiction between the amiability of Thanksgiving and the materialism of Black Friday. Humans are usually consistent creatures. We don’t honestly believe one thing and then suddenly believe the opposite. So either we are not truly thankful on turkey day or we are not truly greedy on shopping day. I think it’s a bit of both.

Happy Thanksgiving from NYC!

Hope all of you are having a TERRIFIC Thanksgiving! I am in NYC with high school friends at New York University. And this is my first ever blog post coming from New York City!

We were supposed to wake up early today (i.e. 6 am) to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade live. But we actually woke up at 1 pm. Guess that didn’t happen.

What does this reflect? Two things. First, our alarm clocks are inadequate. And second, NYU and Cornell don’t give students enough sleep. 😛

Some miscellaneous things that I don’t feel like forming into paragraphs:

  • Today was my first Thanksgiving spent outside of Austin in over 10 years!
  • I was with way more Asians at the Thanksgiving party today than I’m used to. You see, at Cornell, because of my college (Arts and Sciences, as opposed to Engineering) and extracurriculars (mostly Big Red Marching Band) and also the people in my hall, my friendship network is composed in the vast majority of white people. Being with so many Asian people today sort of reminded me of… high school?
  • The geographical diversity at the party was interesting; I met kids from MIT, UPenn, and UCLA, and a couple of other Cornellians, in addition to a large number of NYU students. They came from all over the place. (Including multiple countries.)
  • Black Friday? I just bought WoW: Wrath of the Lich King for $10. (In addition, WoW original and WoW: Burning Crusade are $5 each.) This purchase would make more sense in context of my WoW experiment that happened last month. No further shopping plans.
  • On my blogging style: My blog posts used to be detached, with a lot of third-person topic-based ones. In more recent posts I feel like I’m talking about events in my own life in 90% of them. I’ll try to be more balanced with future posting. (Though I do think college life is way more interesting than high school life.)
  • Regarding the first draft of the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo: Sorry, this won’t be publicly available. But wait—this is only because it’s a first draft and some plot points are incoherent currently. I’m going to do some editing and then share it with people I know. (I.e., Facebook friends plus a regular commenter on this blog. :D)
  • Linda, who I’m staying with at NYU, and Kayla, her roommate, are awesome!
  • A shoutout to Westwood-ers and Cornellians in New York!

NaNoWriMo: Reaching 50,000

I hit 50k!

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, and I reached the 50,000 word goal in 24 days. Actually, I finished at 1:30 am today, so that would make it 23 days 1 hour and 30 minutes (I started precisely at midnight on Nov. 1).

Here is my word count per day:

Day Words Accumulated Word Count
1 4510 4510
2 1975 6485
3 3538 10023
4 1701 11724
5 1688 13412
6 2694 16106
7 1703 17809
8 1682 19491
9 1869 21360
10 2052 23412
11 2220 25632
12 2075 27707
13 1721 29428
14 1720 31148
15 1885 33033
16 1798 34831
17 5748 40579
18 1825 42404
19 1712 44116
20 2146 46262
21 1768 48030
22 136 48166
23 889 49055
24 1071 50126

As you can tell, the single most productive day was day 17, with over 5700 words. Second was day 1, with 4500.

On day 13 I was in NYC for the band trip, and only managed to squeeze out the 1700 words between hotel and bus (plus a couple of sentences at the Cornell Club).

I was reaching 1667+ words every day until day 22, when I had a rather intense math prelim due. Then I got writer’s block, as indicated in the last post. But fortunately I had only 2000 words left when that happened.

That incident does not always means schoolwork is a detriment to word count. In fact, it depends on what type of work it is. For example, on days 11 and 12, I wrote a 1700-word English essay and an 1800-word history essay respectively, yet that hardly subtracted from my word count. So math and literary creativity are, apparently, incompatible.*

*Actually, that is definitely false. I blame myself for being lazy that day.

Here are two graphs I made with the above data:

Daily word count:

Words by Day

And the running total:

What is next? Well, I reached 50k but haven’t completely finished the novel yet. There are just a few plot points left to resolve. That should be done in the next few days, maybe even on the bus to NYC.

After that I do plan to take a break from writing until December, when I plan to edit the novel. What I’ve written for NaNoWriMo is a first draft. And it isn’t pretty by any means. But that’s what Nano is supposed to be, an amazing experience, and I’ve definitely felt that.

2 final things:

First, I have a much more extensive table of data, which includes segments of time (start and end time), number of words written, and location. I’m not putting it up here now because it’s just too plain bulky. Someone did mention interest in analyzing this data; I’ll get it to ya right away. Readers, watch out, there may be another round of graphs. 🙂

Edit: For example, this:

Writing Sessions

I wrote the 50,000 words in precisely 101 writing sessions; they ranged from 5 minutes to 3 hours in length. The scatter plot above shows word count by duration of session.

Second, by tonight I’ll be in NYC!!!!!

Writer’s Block

Actually, it’s more like “I just spent the last 3 days on math.”

Complicated Math 2
This had nothing to do with it.

We had an epic take-home prelim due yesterday. And by epic, I mean intense. It had 13 questions; I outright skipped 2 of them, as well as half of another one. There was one single problem that took me 2.5 hours.

So in the last 48 hours I’ve only written 136 words of my novel. The current word count is at 48,166, out of 50,000 for Nanowrimo. I’m mostly done; I just have the plot resolution left.

Yesterday was the first day this entire month that I did not fill the 1667 word daily quota. Today will likely be the second. Granted, I’m still 6 days ahead of schedule. But I’d rather finish it sooner than later.

Writer's BlockOn the bright side, I’ll be in NYC for Thanksgiving for a mini high school reunion. My high school’s in Texas, so it’ll be some of us northeasterners, especially NYU people. And I’ll be there for a longer amount of time than I’d previously expected. That means if I don’t finish the 50,000 between now and tomorrow noon, I’ll be reaching the finish line on the bus or in NYC itself.

In the last case, I should go find the Algonquin Hotel and type up the 50,000th word there. 😀