My Blog Posts, in Reverse Chronological Order

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Project Euler 1 in Several Languages

May 27, 2012

UPDATE May 13, 2015: Wow, look at the Jekyll code support!

Here’s some code to answer Project Euler 1 in a few languages.

By the way, you do not need code to solve this problem…

(1) Java:

public class pe1 {  
  public static void main(String[] args) {  
    int total = 0;  
    for (int i = 3; i < 1000; i++) {  
      if (i % 3 == 0 || i % 5 == 0) {  
        total += i;  
      }  
    }  
    System.out.println(total);  
  }  
}

(2) Python:

total = 0  
for i in range(1000):  
  if i % 3 == 0 or i % 5 == 0:  
  total += i  
print(total)  

(Alternatively, the one-liner below is probably “better”.)

print(sum(x for x in range(1000) if x % 3 == 0 or x % 5 == 0))  

(3) C++:

#include <iostream>

int main() {  
  int total = 0;  
  for (int i = 3; i < 1000; i++) {  
    if (i % 3 == 0 || i % 5 == 0) {  
      total += i;  
    }  
  }  
  std::cout << total << std::endl;  
  return 0;  
}

(4) Scala:

object HelloWorld {  
  def main(args: Array[String]): Unit = {  
    var result : Int = 0  
    for (a <- 1 until 1000) {  
      if (a % 3 == 0 || a % 5 == 0) {  
        result += a;  
      }  
    }  
    println(a)  
  }  
}  

Note to self for Scala: to means it includes the last value, until means it does not.










ASL Country Signs and Variation

Apr 14, 2012

Ever since I failed to recognize the sign for “Hungary” in a conversation several weeks ago, I have made it a personal goal to learn more ASL signs for countries. Related to that, I have investigated about certain countries having “old” ASL versus “new” ASL signs.

China

The current and traditional sign for China is here. As the website explains, the new version was actually borrowed from China. (The sign language that ASL primarily borrowed from was French Sign Language.) The traditional version is similar to Korea’s traditional version, but does not seem to possess as much of the negative connotations as the latter did (see below). Interestingly enough, the first sign for China that I learned was actually the third sign seen in the link. I’ll sometimes slip up and use it in conversations when I really should not.

Korea

There are several variations of the current sign for Korea. The one I most frequently use starts with my right hand slightly above my head, with my fingertips touching my temple – think of doing a salute. Then I (quickly) bring my hand “out” to the right, then back “in” where my fingertips end up touching my lower cheek and my palm is facing down. This is generally the sign for South Korea; North Korea’s sign is the reverse of the South Korean sign, though I don’t quite see the need, as it is easy to first sign “north” or “south” before the “Korea” part. The old ASL sign is the second sign demonstrated here, with the middle finger “pulling” near the right eye. This sign started to disappear from common use due to the perception of it being a pejorative sign, aimed at deriding the many Asians who have long, narrow eyes. Even if that weren’t the case, I would still prefer the current sign as the second one causes my glasses to shift uncomfortably.

Russia

Russia’s current ASL sign is displayed here. As the caption insinuates, this sign came to fruition out of the public perception that Russians drink heavily. The hand motion is there to wipe off the ale from your (er … I mean the Russian’s) mouth. The old sign is when you put your hands on your hips twice, palms facing downwards – click here to see. I am unsure why this change occurred, although I can tell you that I have never heard a Russian protest about the new sign. Perhaps they are proud of the hefty amount they can drink?

That’s all for now, but I’ll continue to comment about country signs in the future.










On the Hardness of Nintendo Games

Mar 30, 2012

This was a nice article that explains how some of the games I played as a youth were NP-hard. I suppose that makes me feel better that I was such a great player. I’ve read part of this and will read it completely after my finals.

Click here!

EDIT (July 2013): So it took a little longer than I thought for me to finish reading. I was fairly impressed with these results, though I can understand if some “serious” scientists might not think highly of these. Professor Erik Demaine lists this article as a manuscript**, so it looks like it hasn’t been accepted into a prestigious conference.

The paper itself is easy reading, and you don’t have to be an expert in theory to understand the big idea. The techniques mostly rely on reducing the game to a set of really simple rules.










Mid-season NBA Predictions

Feb 22, 2012

Well, we’re about halfway done with the season, so I think it’s fair to start thinking about end-of-season awards and playoff predictions. Nothing is set in stone, though, and the lockout has caused this league to be a bit less “fundamental” than in years past, as exemplified by a drop in field goal percentage and the prevalence of tiring back-to-back-to-back games.

Without further ado, here are my mid-season All-NBA team predictions.

First team All-NBA
G: Derrick Rose
G: Kobe Bryant
F: Kevin Durant
F: LeBron James
C: Dwight Howard

Second team All-NBA
G: Chris Paul
G: Dwyane Wade
F: Kevin Love
F: Blake Griffin
C: Andrew Bynum

Third team All-NBA
G: Russell Westbrook
G: Deron Williams
F: LaMarcus Aldridge
F: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Roy Hibbert

Even with the injuries Rose is dealing with now, I can’t fathom the reigning MVP being off the first team since the Bulls will still be at or near the top of the standings at the end of the season. The other four first-team members are straightforward. Kobe will definitely be there since he’s averaging 29.0 points per game, a jump from the 25.3 he had the previous season. Durant will be on the first team since he is still one of the deadliest scorers in the game (through 32 games, he’s averaging the same 27.7 points per game but on a career-high 51.6 field goal percentage). LeBron is also a shoo-in since he’s playing possibly his best basketball of hi career. Dwight Howard will be there because … do you have any better ideas? In all seriousness, he has SEVEN 20-20 games halfway through the season. That’s impressive. Barring any unusual circumstances, I am confident that the first-team All-NBA will be exactly the same as the 2010-2011 first team.

As usual, it gets a little trickier with the second and third teams. Dwyane Wade is arguably a better player than Derrick Rose, but playing with LeBron and having injuries will probably relegate him to the second team with Chris Paul. Double-double machine Kevin Love, dunker Blake Griffin, and the surprisingly injured-free Andrew Bynum should compose the frontcourt of the second team.

This leaves Russell Westbrook as the easiest choice for the third-team. It’s a bit painful to do so – he’s averaging 23.4 points – but through 32 games, he’s also averaging a pitiful 5.5 assists per game, down from 8.2 the previous season. I think that fact, along with our tendency to view him as a ball-hogging shooting guard, will make voters put him on the third team along with Deron Williams. Dirk Nowitzki has picked it up after a slow start and will probably earn his way to the third team, although he’d probably get the respect of voters even if he averaged 18 points per game by the end of the season. First-time all-star LaMarcus Aldridge should get at least third team, and Roy Hibbert (another first-time all-star) will probably join him.

Here are my individual player awards:

MVP: LeBron James
Finals MVP: LeBron James
DPOY: Dwight Howard
ROY: Kyrie Irving
SMOY: James Harden
MIP: Jeremy Lin
COY: Doug Collins

I’m going to hold off on the playoff predictions for now. It’s too early to tell, and we could have a team rocket to a top seed by the end of the season (cough, cough … Knicks …). At this point, I’ll probably pick on a Heat-Thunder finals, with the Heat winning it all. It’s also worth noting that the Sixers’ recent slump near the all-star break and voter fatigue for Dwight Howard as DPOY could cause someone else to join the mix.

Last, but not least, here are my predicted all-defensive teams.

First team:

  1. Dwight Howard
  2. LeBron James
  3. Shawn Marion
  4. Andre Iguodala
  5. Serge Ibaka

Second team:

  1. Tony Allen
  2. Josh Smith
  3. Rajon Rondo
  4. Gerald Wallace
  5. Tyson Chandler

UPDATE May 13, 2015: Wow, reading this years later, I actually did predict the NBA finals correctly. The Heat won, four games to one.










Technical Term Dilemma

Feb 4, 2012

The number one problem with American Sign Language for deaf students taking courses in technical fields is the lack of sign standardization. Want to know what the sign for surjective is? You might run into a problem in that no sign exists or there will be some unusual sign that hasn’t been adopted in standard practice. (By the way, simply spelling out the letters of a technical term is a big no-no in ASL unless it’s the first time an interpreter is expressing that word.) And I can’t blame ASL for that; most people won’t use technical terms like homomorphism or even the word cache on a regular basis. So there’s little motivation for ASL to include esoteric words in its common vocabulary.

So how can we fix this problem? Or, perhaps, is it even necessary to fix this problem? As someone taking a myriad of undergraduate math and science classes, I am fairly used to having my two ASL interpreters collaborate with me to decide on signs for a variety of technical terms. Typically, if we can’t agree on a sign for a term, we settle for a one-letter representation of that word. The word chromosome, for instance, would be signed by just slightly shaking the letter “C” in the dominant hand along with a lip motion of the word. But even if we were able to come up with a sign, it’s highly likely that it will differ from what another student composed at a different university, so there’s a clear lack of standardization.

How has this issue been addressed? Possibly the best single resource on the web is the ASL-STEM Forum, which has done a tremendous job recruiting sign language users to share and distribute signs for terms commonly used in math and science. But there are some glaring pitfalls.

That website allows multiple users to upload different signs, so you might see three or four different signs for the same term, which defeats the purpose of having one sign for one word. Another downside is that this website does not provide an index for subjects that are beyond the level of college underclassmen. Math, for instance, has nothing beyond calculus, which is often the first course required for math majors. This is not as big of a problem as it seems, though, since there probably is not a large enough segment of deaf students taking advanced math and science courses at the upper-undergraduate or graduate level – which is definitely a prominent factor in the lack of signs for technical terms.

But even worse is that we are still nowhere close to providing signs for all the technical terms. One look at the listing of terms in the “Algebra” subsection of the Mathematics section reveals that just five of the twenty-one words have signs! And this is a subject that I hope all deaf students should take before graduating from high school.

The possible benefits of this website, though, leave me optimistic. It’s a user-contributed website, so its data could theoretically grow exponentially. I have contributed one sign to that website, and I hope to contribute more depending on my access to a PC. (For some reason, Macs cause issues with creating videos.) I’ll also try to spread the word to other people I know who may find the website a long-overdue resource.

What can I conclude? It would be nice to have the ASL-STEM Forum more widely known across the ASL community, and it would definitely be great if interpreters were required to know about that website as part of their job. They wouldn’t have to learn all the signs there – they would just need to keep the site in mind to act as a possible reference. Alternatively, perhaps only interpreters with the special R.I.D. (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) certification should be required to contribute or incorporate signs from that website since they are typically the ones interpreting undergraduates, who take more advanced courses than secondary school children.

Ultimately, though, this is not going to make or break a deaf student’s undergraduate career. College students should generally be prepared to understand terms on their own and actively collaborate among others to make sure that no comprehension is lost when an ASL sign is missing.










Rubik's Cube Orientations

Jan 27, 2012

A completely solved cube is one orientation of a Rubik’s Cube. Turning a face results in another … so how many total orientations of the Rubik’s Cube are there? To answer that, we need to look at how many possible combinations of corner and edge pieces are valid, in the sense that the cube is solvable. Later, I’ll discuss how many possible ways there are of combining the pieces randomly after disassembling the cube, which usually results in an unsolvable cube.

rubiks

There are six center “pieces” that do not move; they are fixed in place. Then we have the corners and edges that compose the rest of each of the six faces of the cube. There are eight corner pieces, which have three colors, and twelve edge pieces, which have two colors. Take a look at a Rubik’s cube and make sure you understand the distinction.

We think of having eight corner pieces to “fit” into eight corner “slots” in the Rubik’s cube, so there are 8! ways to position the corners. Each individual corner, though, has three faces, and they can be oriented in different ways while maintaining the same actual position on the cube. Therefore, there are 3^7 ways of orienting the faces of the corners. Notice that it’s not 3^8 because if we orient the faces of the first seven corners, then the eighth corner is fixed in place – it cannot be modified without changing the position of the faces on the other corners.

So far, that gives us 8!*3^7 possible orientations. But we now have to consider our 12 edges. We have 12 edges so there are 12! ways of positioning them, along with 2^11 orientations for their two faces. Again, we use n-1 edges where n=12 since the twelfth edge is forced in place if we don’t want to alter the first 11 edges. This implies that if we have a completely “solved” Rubik’s cube with the exception of one edge that is in the wrong orientation, we won’t ever be able to solve that cube since there’s no algorithm that can adjust the faces of one edge without messing up another part of the cube. (Well, you could take the cube apart if you want, but that is cheating.)

All together, we have 8!*3^7*12!*2^11 orientations of the cube. But this is actually double the amount we have, because we have to consider even vs. odd permutations. By this, we are talking about the amount of transpositions we have to perform. A transposition here refers to swapping two corners without altering the rest of the cube, or swapping two edges without altering the rest of the cube. A key concept is that the overall “sign” for the group of edges and the group of corners must be the same; both can be even, both can be odd, but they cannot differ. A group, by the way, is a set with an operation that satisfies properties of associativity, identity and invertibility, but that is beyond the scope of this article because no abstract algebra knowledge is assumed.

What does this mean? Suppose we have a cube that is almost solved. Also suppose that if we can perform 3 transpositions (or swaps) of the corner pieces, we will have correctly oriented all the remaining corners. This means that, if the cube is solvable, the number of swaps needed for the edge pieces must be odd, so the overall parity is even. We might also need 3 swaps of the edges to solve the cube, or we could use just 1 swap if necessary. It is impossible to solve a cube that has an overall parity that is odd.

Therefore, we have to divide what we computed before by half. So the number of possible orientations of a Rubik’s cube, under the assumption that the cube is solvable, is (8!*3^7*12!*2^11)/2 = 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. If we wanted to see the total number of orientations, regardless of whether the cube is solvable, we multiply this by 12. Only a third of the corner orientations are solvable, and only half of the edge orientations are solvable. And, of course, we have the even vs. odd permutations as I explained above. All together, 2*2*3 = 12.

The astute observer will realize that this means that if he has all the pieces of the Rubik’s cube scattered in front of him and assembles them randomly, he will have a 1 in 12 chance of creating a solvable Rubik’s Cube.










Meal Signs and a Shift from SEE to ASL

Jan 11, 2012

All my life, I’ve grown used to the English version of signing the words breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But I began to notice a change this past year when my ASL interpreters repeatedly signed those three words in a more “ASL-like” manner. You can view the differences in this video. I’m surprised that I never realized this distinction sooner. My “ASL” interpreters before college must have used the English version of those signs so frequently that I never thought of any alternative signs. (Yet another reason why college is better than high school, but that’s beyond the scope of my article.)

The three signs are fairly straightforward. They all start with “eat” which makes sense since all three are meals. Then the dominant arm is used to indicate the time of the day: morning, noon, or evening. This is much, much more aesthetically pleasing to see than using single-letter versions of those meals that correspond to their first letter (b, l, and d). This is, again, part of a series of ASL signs that differ from their SEE, or Signed Exact English, counterparts by omitting the use of signing letters to represent a word. The use of letters representing the first letter of a sign is one of two distinct features of Signed Exact English. (The other, of course, is that SEE strives to be a direct word-for-word translation of ASL.) SEE, while not its own language like ASL, is often what students learn at first since it is easier to learn. After all, if one knows the English language well, he or she can just learn the signs of each English word. But that doesn’t mean SEE is better than ASL. In fact, the Deaf Community strongly discourages the use of SEE.

So what are the downsides of using SEE? In my opinion, there are three main points. The first and most important is that SEE cannot realistically replicate every single word in the English language. People can speak faster than they sign, even when accounting for time needed to breathe in the former. This means that a series of short small words such as “tell me, is it a big one on my arm or is it not?” can really throw a train wreck in a person trying to replicate words down to every single “a.” A person signing in ASL generally omits small words like “a” and “on.” An ASL equivalent for my sample question would be probably be signing “Tell-me-big-small” and then pointing to one’s arm. Related to that, trying to translate every single word will likely tire people’s arms quicker than ASL will. There’a reason why many deaf students who use ASL are provided two interpreters per class (as I am) even for just a 50-minute lecture. Signing is a physically exhausting job if done with attention and precision, and there’s no need to exacerbate things by painstakingly signing every single “the.”

The second downside is that it interferes with ASL comprehension. I already told you an example of true ASL signs that differ from their English versions. A similar case is with the word “red.” The ASL sign for Red is performed by touching your index finger below your lips and stroking it down reasonably quickly. But it can also be done by crossing your middle finger over the index finger, and performing the same sign. That cross will form the letter “R” – see this. But why add needless complexity to our sign when we were perfectly fine with just one letter? Moreover, there’s no other sign, for a color or otherwise, that closely resembles red so much that we would want the extra cross for distinction. This word is one of many that are different among commonly performed ASL and SEE. Some, like red, don’t have a significant difference to cause much confusion in a conversation between an ASL proponent and an SEE proponent. But others, like breakfast, could prove problematic and would require interrupting a conversation to ask questions. But the interference of ASL comprehension goes beyond just mismatching signs. SEE is performed following English grammar since it’s a translation, but ASL follows different grammatical rules. The question “When was the last time I saw you” might be expressed in ASL as signing “Last-time-saw-you-WHEN?” The order of words, as well as what’s ultimately signed, can differ substantially. This creates a unfortunate chasm between ASL and SEE users. While such people can often understand each other regardless, it would be nice if they were actually signing under the same guidelines.

The third might be one of my minor nitpicks, but I find that SEE simply not interesting. When done properly, ASL is a pleasing language, a sight to behold. But SEE, due to its constraint of being a translation, can’t match the fluidity of ASL, as it must follow the standard rules of English grammar. If you ever get a chance to see SEE uses and ASL users in close proximity, compare the two signs. I am not arguing that ASL is so beautiful that it’s ineffable, but from my experience, ASL in general has less jerky and stopping motions than SEE does.

Of course, there are other opinions on SEE. I have seem several websites that condemn SEE on the basis that it excludes deaf people from the Deaf Community. This claim does seem reasonable since I would imagine that people want to follow the “exact” same language, but it’s difficult to prove something like this scientifically. Add that to the fact that SEE and ASL users can often understand each other, and I don’t think that SEE people are significantly excluded, if at all. I’ve been to many events organized by deaf people and I don’t think I’ve had much difficulty fitting in with other ASL users. That’s one of the beauty of fingerspelling, which is thankfully common to both users.

By the way, can you sign all letters of the alphabet in four seconds? I can do the entire alphabet faster than four seconds on both hands.










Mathematics of a Rubik’s Cube

Dec 31, 2011

In less than 6 hours, it will be 2012. And in less than 72 hours, I’ll be back in my Williams College room for the Winter Study period. I’m taking a course called “The Mathematics of a Rubik’s Cube” taught by a professor whose research focus is on algebra. That’s the only course I’m taking for the four-week period, which is great for me since I can focus all my time on learning about the cube. Solving a Rubik’s cube doesn’t require much thought since there are many algorithms available online. But I’m hoping that the math of the cube won’t rely much on rote review and memorization. As a bonus, I’ll also expect to be able to speed cube faster than I’ve ever done before. Obviously, I’m not planning to try and break any records; this is just for my own entertainment. Maybe I’ll even be able to solve 4x4x4, 5x5x5, 6x6x6, 7x7x7, and 4x4x4x4 cubes.

The 4x4x4x4 cube has an extra dimension. This is a correct video of such a cube, as well as a correct solution. Technically, I should call those shapes tesseracts, which are a classification of hypercubes dealing with four dimensions.

Expect to see more entries about the Rubik’s Cube in January. I’ll also be posting more about American Sign Language and hopefully updating the Seita Axioms one day. Meanwhile, Happy New Years!










Where Not to Study

Dec 21, 2011

I finished my last final for the fall 2011 semester on December 19. While I was studying over finals week, I also took notice of the studying patterns of my fellow classmates and myself. To carry out that goal, I looked at the study habits of students in the libraries. Williams College has two main libraries, Sawyer and Schow, the former being primarily for the humanities and the latter being primarily for the sciences. Clearly, those libraries were going to be packed by nervous students trying to get that A. But was I among those in the library?

During the two weeks or so that were dedicated to studying and taking finals, I don’t think I set foot once in those two main libraries.

Actually, I lied. I did go and enter Sawyer library just to print a document. But while I was doing that, I noticed students sitting down on the main tables on the first floor of Sawyer. They had the necessary books and materials to study with, but they were also with other students or checking out their phones. (Most likely, they were texting.)

There’s the problem. I asked myself: Why would these people who are trying to study for final exams or write lengthy final papers study with others on one of the main tables close to the entrance of Sawyer? This no doubt leads to friends entering the library, noticing those people immediately, and saying hello. Thus, these people “studying” face an endless stream of distractions. It didn’t help that there happened to be a rowdy game of Quidditch.

While it was no doubt thrilling to see that happen, especially from the perspective of someone like me who wasn’t distracted by the event, I can’t help but wonder if anyone was in the library and regretted it. Unless you can somehow get an isolated spot in the library – which is actually pretty tough in both of Williams’ main libraries – I’d recommend studying elsewhere. It’s one of the small things that can really ameliorate an academic performance. Obviously, there will be some exceptions, such as if you’ve got to work in group for some reason. But the vast majority of study time should really be done in isolation. And preferably, with the phone off.

A picture of the main tables of Schow library, from the Williams College website. I have avoided studying in this area for months, despite its attractive architecture.

schow










Foundations of Computers

Nov 26, 2011

In my computer organization class, we’ve discussed three major topics: Assembly Language, C Programming, and Digital Logic. We’re now moving on to our final topic, microcode, but I thought I would just share some feelings about the third item I listed.

237_image

Digital logic is incredible. That’s the first thing you should know about it. Logic gates, such as AND, OR, NOR, and NAND, are the basic building blocks for any computer. They combine to form latches and flip-flops that, when packaged in large quantities, form memory.

The circuits that I’ve seen so far made me think about efficiency. How can I better optimize a digital circuit? By optimize, I mean use the fewest amount of gates possible. My paradigm right now is to create what I call a “maximally inefficient” system that works according to whatever objective I have, but incorporates a ridiculous amount of logic gates. From there, I optimize, such as sourcing all inverters into one wire, which eliminates multiple NOT gates. That often brings me to pleasantly few gates, but I’m never sure if it’s completely optimized. I wonder if there are methods to find out the most efficient circuit for a certain task. (One that I know of now is by using Karnaugh Maps.)

It’s been an interesting class so far. Our exact progress is 13/18 (this was the answer to an exam question!) and we’ll be moving on to our notorious and infamous microcode project that’s bound to keep me working longer hours than investment bankers. They generally work 80-100 hours per week, and someone — a student at Williams — just told me about a record 130-hour week that he worked as an intern. It’s a good thing my professor has promised to buy us pizza.










Midterms: Round 2

Nov 4, 2011

Unfortunately, my next round of midterms is coming. I have 4 midterms in the span of 7 days, with one being a 48-hour take-home exam. The agenda:

  1. Don’t panic (obviously!)
  2. Use the quiz-and-recall method, rather than read mindlessly from notes
  3. Don’t stop until every single problem or concept is understood*
  4. Get those 1-page sheets ready for exams that allow 1 page of notes
  5. Finish any homework first, then study
  6. Walk away from the material if it’s confusing
  7. Do the practice exams

*Naturally, I’ll have to make some adjustments on what I think will or will not be tested on these exams.

I’ll hope to utilize #2 most often, but #6 will be what affects my well-being the most. I need to know when to walk away from the material or when to continue bashing through a problem like a group of soldiers breaking through a castle. The former alleviates stress, while the latter may contribute to it. If a problem gets solved (i.e. achieved), the latter will have a far greater benefit.

It starts … Tuesday.










Debating ESPN’s Top 10 NBA Players

Oct 25, 2011

Much to my chagrin, the NBA has been in a lockout for well over 110 days. With no agreement coming in sight, I’m losing hope on there being an NBA season. The only upside to this is that my favorite team, the Dallas Mavericks, can be considered defending champions for a second year despite winning only one championship.

With the lockout in place, there was little for the NBA to write about … except ranking five hundred NBA players. The actual rankings concluded a few days ago, with LeBron James nabbing top honors. Since ESPN constantly has these 5-on-5 debates about the validity of these rankings, I decided to provide my own input, just for fun. As you can see, for most of the top 10, the rankings were solid.

LeBron James at No. 1: Too high, too low or just right?

This feels like beating on a dead horse, but this is THE ranking that simply can’t be contested. It doesn’t matter that LeBron is arguably the most arrogant player in the league and proclaimed that he and the Heat would win not 1, not 2, … not 5 titles. They failed to win in the finals largely due to his disappearing act in the 4th quarter, but that doesn’t negate all the work he did throughout the first three rounds. He showed throughout the Bulls series that he could shut down the league MVP, and he showed throughout the entire season that he is currently the best player on the planet. And he’s still just 26 years old.

Dwight Howard at No. 2: Too high, too low or just right?

This is also just right. It doesn’t matter if Howard is limited offensively beyond the paint – he’s the best center in the league by far in a weak yet important position. Before people bring up his atrocious free throw percentage, I’d like to find another player who could make a roaring dunk through three men in the paint, then beat a point guard back to the other end of the court and whack his shot into the stands. Heck, look at how he grabbed Chris Quinn’s layup Of course, he would turn the rock over in the next few seconds, which shows why he isn’t #1.

Dwyane Wade at No. 3: Too high, too low or just right?

Just right, which makes it all the more amazing that the Heat weren’t able to win it all this season since star power gets magnified as teams shrink to 7 and 8-men rotations in the playoffs. Wade notably struggled in a few games this season while adjusting to his new role as a co-superstar, but he still maintained his precocious aggressiveness and defensive ability to earn a top-3 ranking in the league. Agenda for next season: work on that 3-point shot.

Chris Paul at No. 4: Too high, too low or just right?

Even though he’s arguably the best point guard in the league, I think this ranking is too high. Paul was battling some injuries throughout this season, and was weaker than his otherworldly 2008-2009 season. People will point out his impressive Lakers series, where Paul averaged 22 points and 12 dimes a game while shooting almost 55% from the field, but I’ll point out that, while impressive, the achievement gets tainted with Derek Fisher on the defensive end. While he is a beauty to watch on the court, a point guard who averages below 16 and 10 simply can’t be in the top 5 in the NBA.

Dirk Nowitzki at No. 5: Too high, too low or just right?

Even as a Dallas fan, I would have said too high last year … but THIS year? This is just right. We’re looking at the man who led a team, composed of scattered veterans with no other All-stars, to an NBA championship. That essentially put the seal on his first-ballot Hall of Fame resume, and removed him from the discussion of the best player in NBA history without a title. His 2011 playoff performance was memorable, with scintillating moments like his 48-point performance against Oklahoma City and his Game 2 rally to lead the Mavs past the Heat in a thriller. Most surprisingly for him, he’s shown improvement on the defensive end of the court.

Kevin Durant at No. 6: Too high, too low or just right?

This ranking is a tad too low, and I’ll argue this by pointing out that Durant’s a 2-time scoring champ who’s improved his rebounding from last season, all while playing alongside another burgeoning star in Russell Westbrook. He’s never going to be mistaken for Artest on the defensive end, but when he’s active on the boards – as he often is – he’s contributing on the defensive end, and as we’ve been privileged to see, his offense is beautiful. He still has some work to do to reach Nowitzki-like field goal percentages, but he’s got a huge future ahead of him at age 23, and I would like to see him switch spots with Paul on these rankings.

Kobe Bryant at No. 7: Too high, too low or just right?

As much as Kobe fans will hate this, rank 7 for number 24 is just right. There’s no doubt he’d be ranked a little higher if it weren’t for the Lakers’s unfortunate playoffs, but that’s just how the rankings work (otherwise, Dirk would be in the 10-15 range). While his efficiency did not deteriorate much this season, his minutes per game and defensive ability both declined, which are both reasons why he’s currently out of the top five in the rankings despite his hall-of-fame resume. I find it more impressive that a 15-year veteran is still in the top 10, regardless of his ranking.

Derrick Rose at No. 8: Too high, too low or just right?

Just right. He went from a good guard last year to a great guard this year, and is arguably in the top tier along with Chris Paul and Deron Williams. He improved his shooting (three point percentage boosted by 6%) and passing (assists per game up to 7.7) from last season to earn his first season MVP award. At 22 years of age, Rose can only go up from here. Keys for next season: cut down on turnovers, and don’t try to shoot 20-feet fadeaways over LeBron James in a conference finals game.

Deron Williams at No. 9: Too high, too low or just right?

Just right. It might seem like Williams had a down year since he was injured and had to adjust to a new team after Utah’s blockbuster mid-season trade. But even though he played just 65 games total this season, his points-per-game were at a career high and he proved that he wasn’t all about scoring when he dished over 12 dimes per game in New Jersey. And if you can accomplish that with a rebound-phobic Brook Lopez as your second best player, that’s amazing. That’s the sign of a star player, and someone who rightfully belongs in the top 10.

Blake Griffin at No. 10: Too high, too low or just right?

Just a tad to high. I’m not going along with the “Blake-Griffin-is-overrated-and-can’t-do-anything-other-than-dunk” bandwagon. We just saw a rookie dominate the league by putting up 20-10 every night and making opposing centers scared to contest his dunks. Yes, he could use some improvement on the defensive end, but when Dirk, Bryant, and Durant are above him, it shows that you don’t have to be Bill Russell in order to make the top 10. Regardless, he’d be better suited in the 15-20 range.










How to Tackle Economics

Oct 16, 2011

I’m currently taking an intermediate microeconomics class where we derive consumer and producer choices (e.g. their demand and supply curves) with the aid of calculus. Since I did very well on the first midterm, I thought I would discuss about how to do well in a college-level economics class. This may apply to other classes, but I’m making it geared towards economics. It’s interesting that economics is such a popular college major at the top schools, yet many people do not take economics in high school until their last year, like me. And I didn’t even take a college-level course; it was a somewhat watered-down version course that crammed together introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics.

What are typical college-level economics courses? Assuming you don’t come in with AP, IB, or other economics credit, you’ll start out taking introductory microeconomics in your first semester, then introductory macroeconomics the following semester. Then, as a sophomore, you generally take more advanced versions of those two courses as well as a class that combines those concepts with statistical models, called econometrics. (By more advanced, I generally mean that instead of just staring at boring supply and demand lines you’ll have to find equations for those, then plot them.) After that, it’s generally electives, which can include anything ranging from finance, banking, marketing, and other topics. The format of economics is very similar to other sciences – biology, computer science, chemistry, and physics – but there is a big distinction in that there are no labs. This makes economics more of a mathematical social science, since mathematics is indispensable once a student reaches upper-level undergraduate courses.

Generally, economics classes involve a standard lecture, followed by weekly or periodic problem sets and exams. Prepare to be overwhelmed with graphs. Indeed, mastering the intricacies of economics graphs is one of the ways to do well in such courses, and this is going to be part of my advice.

Tip 1: Understand the graphs.

I cannot emphasize this enough. If you don’t understand why a supply line happens to curve up for a consumer’s price vs. quantity graph, you need to review those concepts. You need to understand how graphs work for consumers, firms, and competitive markets. Moreover, it’s essential to know how supply, demand, and other curves shift in response to some change in a parameter. It may seem overwhelming at first, but much of this gets tested in the problem sets, which brings me to my next point.

Tip 2: Ace the problem sets.

The problem sets are your key to doing well in the course. You won’t see a lot of active help-websites for economics on the Internet like you see for mathematics (cough cough … Math Stack Exchange … ), so it’s important for you to do well on the few problems that you’re given. These will be incorporated in the problem sets. Almost every college-level economics class should assign regular problem sets (with answer keys distributed after the due date), so these problems are often similar to what you’ll see on the exams. If you can understand every facet of the problem – how cause turns into effect, why this policy does that … – you’re almost guaranteed to do well on a problem that tests the same kind of information. Consequently, I strongly advise you to put in more effort in the problem sets than your peers. Go overboard and impress the teaching assistants or whoever grades your homework. It will be your study material when exams approach.

Tip 3: Do the readings.

Economics is not just a lecture and problem sets class; readings are often a part of the curriculum, and I strongly advise you to read as much as you can. Economics has so many useful applications in life in fields ranging from computer science to religion that it’s seemingly impossible to ignore nowadays. (Yes, the latter does exist! Do a quick Google search!) And as a bonus, by doing readings, you can get class participation credit and interact with your professor more easily. Not all classes, though, grant participation credit.

And those are basically 3 strong tips for economics classes. There are many other things that students should do, but they apply often to all other classes that I didn’t feel like it was worth reiterating them.










ASL Guidelines

Oct 11, 2011

I learned American Sign Language, which I’ll abbreviate to ASL from this point forward, when I was just two years old. I then took up English immediately after, and those are the only two languages that I’m fluent in today. (Here’s my preemptive apology to all the people fluent in Japanese; if you know me, you understand this.) My English is relatively better than my ASL, since I practice the former more, but I can still understand ASL well. For many years, I was cognizant of the various ways to emphasize signs to display various levels of expression. One of the things that I didn’t comprehend until just recently, however, was the amazing web of syntax and grammar rules in ASL. Many involve body movement and contortions of the English language that are not entirely instinctive.

I was formally introduced to ASL Syntax when I was a freshman at Williams College as a teaching assistant to the RUSS 12 – Introduction to American Sign Language course offered for Winter Study, the four-week period between the first and second semesters. Previously, I never had anyone tell me that the correct way to ask a yes or no question was with eyebrows pushed up. Similarly, signing a phrase with the translated English equivalent of “I teacher” was equivalent to the non-translated English equivalent of “I am a teacher.” (I knew this in middle and high school intrinsically; getting it described to me made it pleasantly clear.) This was all interesting to me, so I absorbed – and hopefully retained – the material just as well as the students in RUSS 12 if not more. Here are a handful of the rules that every person knowing ASL should follow. I’ll call them the 10 Seita Axioms, because it’s not illegal to do so.

Axiom I: Signing an English phrase word-by-word is discouraged.
Axiom II: Never sign the word “is.” This rule generally applies to all prepositions.
Axiom III: While asking yes/no questions, keep your eyebrows tilted up.
Axiom IV: While asking a who/what/where/when/why question, keep your eyebrows tilted down.
Axiom V: Use of classifiers is encouraged.
Axiom VI: Mouth the words that you sign, but do not use your voice.
Axiom VII: Emphasize the tone of your signs.
Axiom VIII: Make prudent use of indexing.
Axiom IX: The simplest way to manage personal pronouns is to point.
Axiom X: Use inflection to modify your signing; this aids brevity and clarity.

“Footnotes” for each axiom, which will probably need its own article.

Axiom I Footnote: If you do so, you’re signing Signed Exact English (abbreviated SEE).

Axiom II Footnote: There are other words that you shouldn’t sign, as I mention in the following sentence in the axiom, but “is” is probably the most incongruous of words to sign in ASL. I felt it was prudent to give it an axiom to itself.

Axiom III Footnote: Fairly self-explanatory.

Axiom IV Footnote: Think of it as a way of representing confusion. Sometimes it occurs instinctively when asking someone a question in English.

Axiom V Footnote: Classifiers here are signs that can represent the form, movement, or appearance of an object. For instance, to indicate someone’s walking, you could just slide your index finger across your body.

Axiom VI Footnote: If you speak while signing at the same time, it’s like you’re expressing two different languages simultaneously. While it can be helpful in situations when you’re communicating with a person who only knows ASL and another person who only knows English, it’s frowned upon in the deaf community.

Axiom VII Footnote: If you’re just a little mad, move your hands up quickly but briefly. If you’re at the level of madness where it’s not safe for someone to be within a one-mile radius of you … we need to see that in the sign.

Axiom VIII Footnote: If you’re talking about Bob and Sarah, point to the left if you want to describe Bob, and to the right for Sarah. Clearly, this becomes impractical with a large number of objects. In that case, just be sure to clarify what you’re signing beforehand.

Axiom IX Footnote: To sign the general word “he,” point your finger in the air.

Axiom X Footnote: If you’re very happy that something is done, instead of signing the cumbersome “very,” just emphasize the “very” when signing “happy.” Think of it as the difference between “I am happy” and “I am HAPPY.”

Above is, literally, my first attempt in creating a set of concise yet comprehensive ASL guidelines. I hope to eventually update to version 2, version 3, and so forth. I would copyright this, but I stole this idea from another deaf person who postulated these axioms (just kidding). © 2011 Daniel Seita. See? I can do this stuff. I now feel obligated to send my computer science professor a thank-you note for encouraging us to copyright all of our writing. Maybe I can get extra credit.

Before I end this post (which, sadly, coincides with the end of a Williams College class recess), I’d like to provide some references. A great website that contains much of what I said and more is Lifeprint, which was created by Bill Vicars. This website was used in RUSS 12. Additionally, there are numerous online dictionaries available that may include more signs. I’ve listed one below the Lifeprint link.

LifePrint
ASL Pro

(I’ve had problems with the last link, but maybe it’s because I use a Macbook Pro.)

I did not include “knowing the alphabet” since that should be acquired before doing ANY sign language at all. Seriously, if you can’t sign the alphabet on one hand in less than ten seconds, review the signs. Meanwhile, I’m going to explore the Internet a bit more and see what revisions to make to my axioms.

asl_alphabet










Where to Store my Information … and Facebook?

Oct 3, 2011

I’ve been thinking about where I should store the information I’m writing. I had a journal that I launched at the start of my freshman year at Williams College, and it’s pretty lengthy – about 40 pages, single spaced in MicrosoftWord, covering over a year of information. However, lately, I’ve been slacking off on my online writing. (Maybe it’s because I don’t have any writing classes this semester?) Despite this, I am starting to develop alacrity for writing online, with some obvious reservations. Writing online seems to help me focus more on the content and style of my writing, which personal essays can’t offer. And as I tell more and more people about this place — I just told a frequent Facebook visitor that I launched this site — I start to feel more and more motivated to write.

Speaking of Facebook … I’ve definitely reduced my visits to that site. I was on there more than ten times a day during the summer, both out of pleasure and out of absolute necessity — our Summer Academy group literally depended on Facebook to communicate with each other! But now that college has started, socialization is more oriented towards either texting or direct, face-to-face communication. Consequently … my Facebook’s been dead for over a month. :( Considering that I average about 2 notifications a day now, I don’t think its worth the hassle to keep updating my page. I’ll just leave it alone for now, and at the same time feel sorry for those people who have their schoolwork affected by Facebook obsession. This reminds me of a striking blog entry by Georgetown assistant professor of computer science Calvin Newport called An Argument for Quitting Facebook. I do find it creepy that he used my name for the post. I hope that one day I can give out advice as splendid as Newport.

It’s good to get some thoughts out in writing after 9 hours of working today … I have a Discrete Mathematics test Wednesday and a Microeconomic Theory test Thursday. As a bonus question in math, I have to prove something quite eccentric called the Four-Color Theorem in my own words. If I can do that, I can get an immediate 100 on the test. (Wait … the Four-Color Theorem reminds me that this place needs pictures … more on that later.) But then again, I think I’m capable of acing these two tests, given that there isn’t likely to be a strong curve. “Aim for an A+.










The Night of Computer Science

Sep 17, 2011

Last Thursday night, I decided to finally start on my 3 computer science programs that I thought were due on Sunday night (they were actually due 2 days later … a big relief!). I figured that this wouldn’t take that long. I had to write a program that would spit out certain prime numbers to the user. Of course, there were more specifications, but that’s the general idea. Maybe it’s a bit hackneyed, but I decided to make a record of what happened in a diary format. It may be used by me as a way to laugh at myself.

Some background: I’m programming in the C language, and I’m using emacs to assist in compiling and input/output.

11:09 PM: I arrive in the computer science lab. It’s in an obscure room on the top floor of the science center (third floor). At least it’s (a) close to my dorm room and (b) has a nice view on both sides of the room of the science library below. I see that four other guys are there in the lab. They’re probably all in some 300 or 400-level class.

11:37 PM: After nearly a half hour of frustration with emacs, I finally figure out how to start typing my C program! Why couldn’t this be on a crystal-clear template? My “Intro to emacs” sheet lists commands, but it doesn’t have suggestions.

12:00 AM: It’s midnight, and one of the guys working near me keeps throwing a ball up in the air and cursing at his computer. I resume typing my program, which is going well so far.

12:15 AM: The guy who kept cursing and banging on his desk gives up. He tells his classmates that he’s had enough for the night. I find out that he’s in an advanced compilers class. He leaves, and one of his classmates follows suit.

12:32 AM: My code should now work for numbers (as input) that are less than or equal to two. Mission accomp … oh wait, I have to take in account input that’s greater than two?

1:00 AM: Still toiling in the lab. One of the guys who had left a half hour ago brings some pizza he got and offers it to me. It’s sausage and bacon-flavored. No thanks. I prefer cheese and buffalo chicken pizza.

1:26 AM: The second method I have is malfunctioning. Why?!?!? I decide to take a break and re-fill my water bottle.

1:39 AM: I think it works! I test out the program and it works for 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and …8?!? Crap, it works for all numbers OTHER than 8? And I was just about to leave.

1:48 AM: I “revised” my code. Now it doesn’t work for the number 3! (That’s not a factorial, by the way.)

1:59 AM: It doesn’t work with number 10, but it works with all other numbers. What is going on with 3, 8, and 10 tonight?

2:04 AM: Well, that’s it. I think I’m done for now. The program should now work for any number that’s inputted by the user. It’s not completely done, since I’ve got to take into account multiple integers as input, but I’ve done as much as I think I can manage. I need to sleep. I walk out of the building and in about 100 steps I get back to my room. Good night. I realize that if I were using Java, I would have finished before midnight. But Java sucks.

It’s a bit late now, but tomorrow, I have to finish up these programs.










Minor Ramblings

Aug 30, 2011

It’s August 30, 2011. I’m planning on moving in to my room at Williams on September 2nd. Classes start on the eighth. As the last few days of my precious summer dwindle down, I gather some random thoughts I’ve accumulated as well as any future plans I have on my agenda for the fall semester. Some of my goals, in no particular order:

  1. Solve a Rubik’s Cube in 100 seconds or less.
  2. Beat either my 500 push-ups in a day or my 600 sit-ups in a day records
  3. Reach level 2 on Project Euler
  4. Perform one successful muscle-up. It’s a lot harder than you think.
  5. Do well in my courses for the fall semester (particularly the math and science ones)
  6. Reach 200 pages of text in my personal writing project
  7. Have 30 entries on this blog
  8. Get involved with a professor on a research project
  9. Successfully shoot 50% from three-point-range in one day (minimum 50 attempts)
  10. Improve my vertical leap, since it helps a lot for the Ultimate Frisbee season
  11. Learn some C++ (of course, “some” is at my discretion)
  12. Maintain better communication with my siblings
  13. Solve a Rubik’s Revenge
  14. Finish reading the Riverworld book series
  15. Drink a quart of water every day
  16. Skype with my grandmother
  17. Watch the Introduction to AI lectures from Stanford University
  18. Pick a Minecraft mod to play with

Some of these goals are common, while others are a little more eccentric. I’ll try to achieve as many as possible.

UPDATE May 13, 2015: In retrospect, I really should have worked more on C++ and de-valued the importance of drinking that much water.










Summer Academy

Aug 26, 2011

I spent much of the summer of 2011 at the University of Washington at Seattle as part of the Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing in Computing. (Will they ever change that name so it isn’t a mouthful???) It’s a nine-week residential program that brings 13 deaf and hard-of-hearing students together who take courses and attend talks together. I was one of those students, along with my brother. When I first heard about the program, I had mixed feelings. I didn’t consider myself as a computer science person, and I felt like this program wouldn’t match my interests. But what was once a near last-choice summer experience may have unintentionally, yet incredibly, led me to gravitate towards computer science as a major.

You can read the description of the program on the web (alternatively, just Google search Summer Academy Deaf and Hard of Hearing) so I won’t explain everything. However, it wasn’t like being at Williams, since there were only 2 classes there compared with 4 at my college. What this program offered that I hadn’t experienced before was the opportunity to see what current computer science graduate students and workers were doing. Graduate students presented their topics, ranging from Android programs to touch-screens for blind people, while people in industry talked about their experience and jobs, which typically involved software engineering or information technology.

We’ll see how this program impacts me in the future. Check back in five years.

In the meantime, I’m going to read more about the ultra-popular computer game — not just at the Summer Academy but global — Minecraft and it’s upcoming 1.8 version. I can’t wait….










So, I Turned 19

Aug 9, 2011

My birthday’s on August 10. I was born on August 10, 1992. It’s not August 10th yet, at least in my current timezone, but I was born in a different timezone that’s 3 hours later. So I still consider myself 19. Only two more years until I can drink legally!

This got me wondering. If someone is born in L.A. and immediately moves to New York city to live, is that person automatically 3 more hours older, excluding the transportation time?

UPDATE June 24, 2013: I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to realize that I originally mistyped the title of this post. It used to be “So, I turned 19,” without the capitalized “t” …

UPDATE May 13, 2015: To answer my original question, your true age is based on the time zone when you were actually born.










On the NBA Lockout and the 2011-2012 Season

Aug 4, 2011

According to ESPN, it’s likely that the 2011-2012 NBA season will be canceled. That’s truly a shame, as I was hoping to see another season of my favorite team, the Dallas Mavericks, and possibly my favorite player, Dirk Nowitzki, while they were still at their peak. (And defend their titles to be the 2012 NBA champions and the 2012 NBA Finals MVP, respectively, but I’m dreaming here.) The problem with an NBA lockout is that it causes these older teams — like the Mavericks — to lose an advantage to the younger players as it’s extremely difficult to stay in NBA-caliber shape as Father Time takes the reins. An NBA lockout also puts Dirk Nowitzki’s quest for 30,000 points in danger. He has 22,792 points, but just turned

  1. For the players, and possibly some diehard fans, there’s always Europe where New Jersey Nets star Deron Williams is likely to head in the case of a canceled season. An ersatz league compared to the NBA, but it’s better than nothing.

But what possibly frustrates me the most about the current NBA lockout is the lack of information. The NBA claims that 22 out of the 30 teams are losing money, yet they’re somehow encapsulating the data. (Despite the popularity of the sport, this isn’t an entirely spurious claim, since a lot of money has been shed unwisely to pay unproductive players cough cough … Gilbert Arenas … Rashard Lewis ….) Owners are demanding a greater share of profits, but what exactly are their balance sheets looking like? And what are the opinions of the players, whose very presence is needed to even consider continuing the NBA as the best professional basketball league in the world? As a fan, I’d really appreciate any attempt by the league to shed some light on how and when the lockout can be resolved.

If I had to wager, I’d think that the 2011-2012 season won’t be canceled. There’s just too much money and talent lost if the winter and spring seasons go by without the ultimate professional basketball league. But I cannot fathom a case where the season starts by the end of October. It’s likely to be a shortened season, as in the 1998-1999 NBA season all over again. And despite all evidence to the contrary, I remain optimistic that there will be a season.

I’m aware that I’m in need of a post in my third category, “everything deaf.” I’ll get to that shortly.