pteromys: Paint the fields where we wished we could fly (wish)

It's fascinating to see yesterday's difficulties become today's phobias.1 Somewhat troublingly, it suggests a lack of confidence in my ability to deal with the second time around... but I did survive the first time, right? And maybe eventually I'll learn. Or anyway, that's what I'll keep telling myself, because it seems like one encounter is rarely enough to learn what I need.

At least now that I see this pattern (alas, how obvious it seems only *after* I notice), I can predict my phobias a little better.2 Maybe I'll even find ways to control them—because I really shouldn't need to win3 a life experience in order to restore my confidence.

  1. For example: Analysis. Thanks a lot, 18.100B. Fortunately, I have 18.101 and Prof. Guillemin to thank sincerely for restoring some part of my sanity there.
  2. For instance, once the first year is over and I'm supposed to have just a smidgen more academic independence, I suspect I will be screaming in terror.
  3. Thinking of these experiences as battles to be won or lost is probably going to leave me all sorts of narrow-minded and crazy. Maybe that's a good place to start trying to fix things.


Aug. 24th, 2011 09:47 am
pteromys: Paint the fields where we wished we could fly (wish)

"I should fix bug A before I look at bug B because bug A is more important" is a great way to make sure I don't get either fixed anytime soon.

I'm sure it's useful to figure out what prerequisites are, but too often I fail to weigh their difficulty (and remember to include procrastination and self-control difficulties) against how required they really are.

Maybe it's partly because of this that, when I heard "learn the rules so that you can break them effectively" as "learn the rules before you break them", I reacted so vehemently.

If I can predict when I'm about to stall this way, then I have a chance of escaping by telling myself, "Just DO something—anything!" In my more lucid moments, I might even get myself to plow through bug A first—by reminding myself that I can't count on bug A being any less of a problem or my motivation being any better once bug B is fixed.

...but that's all I've managed to figure out, and my self-control is apparently not enough to afford me escape reliably. Do any of you have this problem? How do you deal with it?

pteromys: Watermelon (watermelon)

Have you ever wanted learn to make mochi ice cream?

How about mochi stuffed with apple cider?

Oh, well. Here's the illustrated how-to anyway. Have a teaser:

Assembling apple cider daifuku

pteromys: You're not just imagining it; lychees really do exist. (lychee)

On Friday, June 3, 2011, I walked half a mile with a cake on my head.

In which I get hit by a falling branch... )

Happy International Sushi Day, everyone! (h/t [ profile] cesium12)

Edit 2011-06-18 13:58: Other comments over at LJ. Until I figure out how to import entries, the backstory is also over there.

Edit 2011-08-26 22:44: My LJ entries are now imported. All entries older than this and newer than "Peer pressure" (2006-02-18) came from LiveJournal.

Edit 2011-09-25 21:10: Silly wikipedia, deleting the International Sushi Day entry for failing notability. Link changed.

pteromys: Braaaaaaains... (ibrains)

Last time, I was proud, knowing the extraordinary cost. I hated the individual who had died, though I have nothing to show that this individual ever wronged me. I resented those who condemned my hatred; and so I lashed out by celebrating brazenly, aiming to offend most those who had spoken the loudest. Maybe I felt a need to justify the cost, knowing that the recently deceased would be soon replaced. Maybe I felt at some level that I was powerless to do anything else.

The killing this time was, I suspect, much more justifiable than last time. Still, why the chanting? Why the vuvuzelas?

Pride, hatred, resentment, and futility?

There ought to be a better way to recognize the efforts of our government and military... or at least, one that doesn't leave me with such a bitter taste.

pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

In September, a professor I've worked with sent me an e-mail suggesting a list of graduate schools he thought I should consider.

On November 17, as I began1 working on applications, I came up hard against the question I was supposed to answer in a "statement of purpose" essay: "Why do I want to study math at this grad school?" Question led to question... "Actually, why do I want to study math at any grad school? Do I even want to go to grad school at all? What do I want out of life anyway?"

Off to a late start... )
pteromys: Braaaaaaains... (ibrains)

It's quite entertaining to blow off steam by smashing an endless supply of flies breeding in a dorm's kitchen sinks. Yet, just cleaning the sinks is easier and vastly more satisfying. If I aim to eliminate the flies at some point, I might as well skip the smashing.

I had to follow my hate to much darker places before I finally managed to understand that this observation generalizes. I don't think I'm ready to start caring about the suffering of flies, but at last I've seen the utility of detaching myself from hate.

Actually, make that "utility" a "necessity". Even if the blood on your hands never causes you regret, blood in your eyes is a terrible distraction. This past fall, in a series of events unrelated to our kitchen, I tasted what regret could arise from that kind of distraction.

Out, damned spatula.

pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)
When the spring rains pause and the clouds part to show you a tiny patch of bright blue sky... do you ever feel a sudden wish to float away on the wind?

Sheet music now exists for Prismatic. Sometime in the next few months I hope to upload a better recording and maybe tweak a handful of notes in the sheet music as I notice the opportunities. Meanwhile, I'd like to tell you the story of this piece's development.

It begins about a year ago... )


Feb. 6th, 2011 01:16 am
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Ah, modesty among artists. Sometimes it makes me feel like I'd be prying if I asked to see more of their work—and so I hesitate, or I swallow my curiosity and let it itch.

And as an artist myself, I've certainly been on the other side of it and could guess at the causes:

  • I'm reluctant to display the work that doesn't meet my own standards.
  • I'm hesitant to expose in full the emotions that fueled a work.
  • I'm afraid of coming across as a show-off/attention-seeker. (Then again, what musician isn't one?)
  • From my perspective, people just don't seem to ask all that often.

I'm not sure how long I've been aware of it—probably as long as I've had artist friends, which is probably as long as I've had friends. What got me thinking harder about it was a moment of uncertainty this summer—in which it seemed inevitable that I'd be perceived as at least one of a show-off and a recalcitrant artist, if not both.

Half a year later I saw this post, in which a writer notices she's suffering from Impostor Syndrome and resolves to trust her readers' judgement of her work. Perhaps I'm not dealing with Impostor Syndrome with regard to my musical work, but I'm still dealing with uncertainty about whether I made the right choice in July. I do think I would gain something from remembering more often that I can trust you all when you tell me a piece is worthy of an audience.

Stepping back a little, that I have to deal with this at all is a reminder that there are some of you out there who actually like my work. You have no idea how happy and fulfilled that makes me!

...then again, at least half of you seem to be artists and the other half of you can probably extrapolate—so on second thought, you all probably know exactly how I feel. :)

pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)
Performed on piano by Andrew Geng (Length 00:03:15)
Copyright © 2011 by Andrew Geng
Creative Commons License Some rights reserved.

It feels great to finish another piece at last! I thought I'd try something a little different this time and produce the audio files by hand.

Some small number of you may know this piece by its initial working title, "Brrum".

pteromys: A Winner Is You! (winner)

I know your past experience suggests otherwise, but this one is actually about sushi! Or at least, it's more about sushi than any of my previous entries.

You see, nothing says "classy" quite like caviar does...

top view

...and nothing says "dorky cook" quite like homemade, orange-flavored, fake caviar does.

On April 19, I played some more with spherification, and this was the result. I've just now gotten around to posting about it. Check out the rest of the photos!

pteromys: A Winner Is You! (winner)

Actually, I don't know how to make real pita bread. This variant is unleavened and cooked in a dry frying pan so that you can watch them inflate.

Have some washed-out cell phone photos... )
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Every time I go have an adventure in Boston, I seem to get more of an adventure than I bargained for. It was going to be just a little walk through Boston to the Causeway and back through Cambridge, but that changed when I got to the Causeway. Things I have learned today, partial list:

  1. The Causeway is cars-only. No pedestrians. :(
  2. Just south of Bunker Hill Community College is a sidewalk with these colorful lightposts. Unfortunately, the sidewalk is marked "no pedestrians" and "no bicycles".
  3. Between BHCC and the Sullivan T stop, there is no pedestrian path across the Commuter Rail tracks. Maybe I should've tried harder not to miss the BHCC crossing.
  4. Inner Belt Rd is a dead end. It's also half a mile long.
  5. Lots of interesting plants grow by the Commuter Rail tracks, including thistles and a fruit that looks like an Indian bitter melon (but whose leaves look completely different).
  6. The Lechmere T stop is like right next to the Galleria.
  7. The sidewalk between Memorial Drive and the river, just west of the Longfellow bridge, is bustling with spiders! I think they're garden orb-weavers from the shape, but I forgot to look at the webs. Oops.
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Okay, strictly speaking it's not quite true that "life will be just fine". The Darwin Awards stories quickly put an end to that fantasy. Still, beyond a certain point, worry becomes counterproductive, and it's okay for me to trust my future self to do the best he can with the best I can give him.

This perspective might've helped me over the past year. Then again, while I already knew it on some level, believing it was always difficult. So maybe what I should do is add more data to the pool, for my future self and for those who come after me. Here are some of my regrets (is that the right word?), and the ensuing state of mind as well as I can reconstruct it from the outside...

And now I struggle to weave many threads into a coherent story... )
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Sophomore year, I co-taught AP music theory for ESP's Delve program. I owe a lot to a much more competent coteacher and just-in-time formal instruction for anything I managed to achieve there.

That said, I had some problems. I struggled to get our two students to engage with the material (while one engaged his fingernail painfully with a folding desk). My more competent coteacher was in senior year and thus perpetually tired. My own energy felt like it was draining every Saturday when my parents brought my sister to Boston for NEC youth orchestra and I had to say, no, I wasn't going home because I had Delve the next day. By around February, I'd decided that I wouldn't teach again for Delve the next year.

At the end of April, when the next year's Delve directors were being nominated, at first it looked like there would be only one candidate. Having taught for the program, I voiced my concern:

  • me: Delve is a long program, and I think it'd be really hard to do it alone. Do you have a co-director in mind?
  • candidate: Not at the moment...
  • ESP chair: Hey, Andrew, I nominate you for Delve.
  • me: ...

Well, I got some encouragement from my friends. I rationalized that my sister would be coming here for college next year, so I'd feel less guilty about not going home on the weekends. Oh, and the original candidate had already been proven to be a much more competent director than I expected I could be, so I had backup.

I want to say I should have seen this coming, but it just doesn't seem reasonable... )
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

Hey, artists! Has anybody ever told you to "learn the rules before you break them"?

I think this is extremely poisonous advice.

As a young artist, it hurts to hear that your work has no value until you spend years learning the right way to do it. The implication that you should refrain from even trying until then is nothing but discouragement.

I've been there, heard that advice, and stubbornly blown it off. I'm pretty happy with the result.

How I finally learned the rules... )

If I may take a moment to preach to younger artists, I'll say this: go ahead and be adventurous. The rules are really helpful, but if you're serious, you'll inevitably learn them sometime, somehow. Until then, experimenting isn't going to do you harm and may even teach you something. (Don't worry about wasting ideas while you experiment; you'll get plenty of ideas in your life, and you can always come back to something you really like.)

EDIT 2010-07-23 00:00 - Content reordered for better flow.

pteromys: Braaaaaaains... (ibrains)

It's pretty cool that I can have mathy conversations with people on my hall; it takes a special kind of craziness to enjoy arguing about the difference between supremum and essential supremum at 2 AM.

That said, I really need to learn to say, "Can we talk about this an hour from now?" because I really shouldn't be letting a single math question hijack a conversation. I'd prefer not to take my obsession to the level where I make people feel excluded for not being math majors. (I hope that hasn't already happened.)

h/t to [ profile] eyefragment for planting the seed of this thought in a comment thread sometime and somewhere; I suspect the comment, wherever it is, actually looked real similar to this.

pteromys: Wishing fluffies (ship)

It's nice to know that the Eastern MA coaches are getting used to me. For the first time, I don't think any of them mistook me for a contest participant. As for me, I'm getting used to being a minion.

A few bite-sized stories... )

In the end, I never had a chance to go downtown, which made for somewhat little free time to write e-mails or meet up with people. At least I could feed my Internet addiction through the bus's and Bryce Jordan's wireless; and I did have some time to chat at grading. I do wonder whether the Friday night Mathcamper dinner and the Mathcamper lunch tables still happen these days... but as far as Mathcamp is concerned, I'm old and crufty now.

ARML 2010

Jun. 3rd, 2010 01:38 am
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (ship)

In less than six hours, I'm going to be on my way to my seventh ARML—and my third as a coaches' minion and Power Round grader.

You can catch me by phone any time it's on. Alternatively, you can e-mail me for the number; I'll probably be at a D'oh1 on Thursday or Friday evening checking my e-mail.

Whatever you're doing this weekend, good luck!

  1. McD'oh or Dunkin' D'oh.
pteromys: Wishing fluffies (fluffies)

The phrase of the night: "Analysis is about sups and sandwiches."

This post isn't about analysis, though. It's about math words. Today I want to draw your attention to the words "algebra", "field", and "exact".

Algebras, fields, and exact things... )
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