My Blog Posts, in Reverse Chronological Order

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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.










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.










Hello World!

Aug 2, 2011

Hello world!

Well, I guess that’s good enough for an introduction. No, wait, this isn’t a world of computer science, so I guess it’s not good enough. (Computer science people will understand the joke.) Actually, I have to retract the last statement — isn’t it already a world of computers? Anyway, I’m an eighteen year old male living in the United States. I’m a student at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and my hometown is Guilderland, New York. I have also been deaf since birth.

I have two primary objectives in mind about this blog. The first is that I want to spread my knowledge of deafness and deaf culture to my readers. The second is that I also want to talk about what life is like as a college student, as well as in academia. I hope to land a job in academia within the next decade. By doing so, I’ll be one of the few deaf people I know who have an academic job. I know that there are numerous deaf professors at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT – maybe even fifty or so – but elsewhere, professors are scarce. It is my lifelong aim to rectify that.

And, naturally, there will also be some random posts about things just popping up in my head, or just random things because I want to write something down for the sake of writing something down. Or perhaps they’ll be something so important that I just can’t ignore them. What about the House just passing a deal to avoid a debt crisis on August 2nd? (Oh wait, that’s a random thought!) I’ll just include those in an “everything else” category. But hopefully, I’ll be able to focus mostly on academia and deafness.

More details about my aspirations, expectations, and interests will come in future posts when I get used to the WordPress platform. UPDATE: As of May 13, 2015, I have migrated to Jekyll.

I look forward to having a long, lasting blog!

-Daniel Seita

August 1, 2011










Why Academia?

Aug 1, 2011

I guess I’ll make things clear right away. Working in academia can be very, very difficult. It’s hard to get paid to do research at a top school, with all the competition with the freshly minted PhD’s from last year and tenured professors in their seventies clogging up positions. Politics are rife, with tenure often being a measure of how your colleagues enjoy you rather than the true quality of research. You also have to deal with students, of which a select few will be whining at you, barraging you with complaints about grades …. Last, but not least, you don’t get to start being a professor (unless you’re extremely gifted and got a PhD at 25 or younger) until you’re almost thirty, and that’s as an assistant professor with meager pay. So this begs the two-part question: Why do I want a career in academia, and why do I think it’s right for me?

The first is that, as a deaf student, I don’t think I’d function well in many fields that my classmates at Williams seem to be gravitating towards. Investment banking, finance, private equity, and consulting seem to be all the rage here, and probably reflects how popular economics is as a major. I’m sure I could get a decent job and a living following the finance route, but that requires so much communication between me and clients, and I’m not sure if many would enjoy a deaf person working with them, all other things being equal. I think that, due to my natural tendency to study a lot of material in depth, I’m more suited towards graduate school and the PhD track. I’m primarily studying computer science, economics, mathematics at Williams, and I’m probably going to pursue a PhD in computer science. I don’t want a PhD in mathematics, since I’m not sure how well I’d be at conjuring new solutions to math problems, and I find computer science far more interesting. Economics is also interesting, but computer science may have more opportunities for me outside of academia should my quest to be a professor hit a severe gridlock. (I have backup plans!)

In that respect, Williams is a great place for me to start my prospective career. It’s a fantastic institution known for the quality of its research and the close interaction between students and faculty. The ratio is seven to one. I haven’t gotten involved in true research yet, but I’m hoping to start as early as the fall 2011 semester. I’ll probably ask around the computer science department and see if there’s any interest in a research assistant to help them with some grunt work. After all, I need to start somewhere. And in the summer of 2012, I hope to land a research internship at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in computer science. Unfortunately, Williams does not have a computer science REU — it has a very prestigious REU in mathematics — so I’ll have to apply elsewhere. I’ll have to aim *wide *since REU’s are super-competitive to get into. I would guess that almost all of them have acceptance ratios of 10 percent or less for students who are not already in that school. Ouch!

That’s looking far ahead in the future, though. I’ll update this more later.