Archive for the 'Me' Category

Why physics appeals to me

I really love space. Physics really takes one closer to space than does programming, which is why I considered myself a candidate for physics for most of the past year. Astrophysics; there’s an awesome field. It’s like the elegance of math played out by physics, the instrument.

Haha, I’m trying and failing to be profound.

I want to go to Titan.

And Enceladus.

I want to live on mars, and other worlds. Although it’s not as concrete as my other passions, I think my desire to explore space and my fascination of it is more sincere than any of my other interests. It’s a strange, deep-down thing. Programming is a more conscious interest, but my interest in space is.. heartfelt? I think it has to do with the fact that I am frustrated that I will not live to see the world a century from now. Of course, I can hope that sometime soon they will come up with ways to prolong life indefinitely, but I think I understand now
what they mean by wanting to know everything there is to know. Exploring space comes really close to that, and physics is one of the tools to do that.


Math Club

My (regionally) high (they’re not high) AMC and AIME scores caught the attention of a group of students at Canadian Academy, where I took the tests. One of them contacted me a few weeks ago, and I’ve been joining them in their unofficial 3-hour meetings every Saturday since.

Actually, I will probably not be going anymore, as the Purple Comet! Math Meet contest was today, and it takes me nearly three hours just to get there and back. With summer break approaching, they are adjourning until next year.

But verily, what they did was great. Canadian Academy currently does not have an official math club, but they have been getting together every weekend, three hours at a time without an adult supervisor, for seven months. I think the persistence is admirable.

I put together a practice Purple Comet test for them last Saturday using problems from the AMCs and some that I made myself. Fortunately, they liked it. I’ve always wanted to help teach math in some way (and I respect and admire many, many AoPS users for doing just that). It’s a start. Maybe I’ll start my own club when I get back to the states?

Anyway, thanks for inviting me to join your club, guys!

Back Pain

I have had chronic back pain for almost ten years. It’s not severe, but lately it’s been bothering me so much that I can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes at a time. That, and a throbbing headache.

My mom took me to a doctor. After a two-hour wait and a few X-rays, he stretched my legs, tapped a few tendons, and pressed on some vertebrae to test for neurological problems or stress fractures. To my relief, he found none and explained that back pain was common among growing kids whose bones grow too fast for other organs to keep pace. The result is tight muscles and stretched nerves, both of which can cause pain.

I learned that my hamstring is too tight, which apparently is why my back curves forward so much when I sit; it’s actually normal! The doctor also explained that many swimmers suffer from back pain and told me to slow down. (My coach is currently pushing me hard to beat my record, which isn’t that great anyway.)

But when he pressed on my shoulders—OUCH. My headache is due to tight shoulders. I should stretch and rest up a bit. Maybe I should relax my head in the water when I swim.

Surprisingly, my back isn’t twisted like it used to be back in grade school. Whew. Anyway, no surgery for me. :)

2009 AIME I

The 2009 AIME I answers are posted here on AoPS.

By my standards, I failed with 3 (or 4?) careless mistakes:

  1. Incorrect. Sloppy thinking! 964 is geometric as well, not just 931.
  2. Correct. Silly algebra.
  3. Correct. Silly algebra. :)
  4. Correct. Silly geometry.
  5. Correct. Silly geometry!
  6. Correct. Close call, but caught myself thinking 4^3 = 4^4.
  7. Incorrect. Careless! I got to the end surprisingly quickly, finding that a_{n+1} = log_5{3n+5}, but in my excitement, instead of finding n for which 3n+5 equaled a power of 5, I found n = 5 for which 3n+5 equaled a multiple of 5 instead. ERGH.
  8. Incorrect. Careless. I screwed up simple addition.
  9. Incorrect. Counting problems murder me. Overcounted.
  10. Incorrect. This one wasn’t really a careless mistake. I knew that MVE had to repeat, so I thought about MVEMVEMVEMVEMVE and MMMMMVVVVVEEEEE but never considered something like MMVVEEMMMVVVEEE. eh I was just stupid.
  11. Correct. Easy for a #11.
  12. Unsolved.
  13. Unsolved.
  14. Unsolved.
  15. Unsolved.

for a total of 6 correct.

After crunching through the first 11 problems and checking (shame on me), I had 30 minutes left. Unfortunately, this was when a loud IT guy came in the room and tried to explain to the proctor how to reinstall MS Office on his MacBook; my concentration subsequently fell apart.

So an index of 100.5 (AMC 12A) + 60 = 160.5 this year. Progress from my 8th grade index of 139.5 (AMC 10B) + 70 = 209.5 is something I’d rather not think about anymore. :(

(but I will persevere and receive 138 + 110 = 248 next year!)

Wisdom Teeth Extraction

It’s been a little over a week since the extraction. Day-to-day report (warning: I may play some things up, but not much):

Thursday, 12 February — Day of extraction

My dentist had called in another doctor (whose gigantic physique reminded me of Kirby) who was supposed to “help” with the extraction but who actually ended up pulling out both my teeth. The extraction itself didn’t hurt too much, but heck, it was traumatic. After two shots of anesthetic to the base of the tooth and a few minutes of waiting (to make sure I didn’t respond to it with a seizure), he started pushing, rocking, and twisting my diagonally-impacted right wisdom tooth with all his might until, after much squelching and cracking, it was out in five minutes. He dropped it on my tongue, though, and I had to be careful not to swallow it.

The left tooth was pretty balky, though. After all, it was impacted horizontally, snuggled halfway beneath the bone line. The room was warm and humid. I heard his scalpel scraping against the tooth as he opened up the gum. I could taste the blood at my throat. Then the forceps again. I lay tense, hoping that I would get to keep my jaw, listening to the exquisitely calming noises of crushing bone, tearing ligaments—and CRACK. A mumble of dismay from the dentist. What’s he doing with a drill? Alas, it was already in my mouth, gleefully splitting my tooth and my sanity asunder. Even so, it took him another half-hour of sweating before the tooth was out, much of which I never got to see.

I was patched up, still bleeding, and got two more shots of anesthetic so the dentist could refill two of my molars with resin (they’d previously been filled with amalgam). With an entirely desensitized lower face and drooling like a dog, I was sent home with antibiotics, painkillers, and my 1.7 teeth in a small plastic bag.

My mouth reeked of blood. But I was swallowing it because as gross as it was (it’s actually self-cannibalism), I preferred that it stay at the back of my mouth instead of all over my face. I don’t remember if I had any dinner. The tooth didn’t hurt much.

Ah, the wonders of brushing.

Friday, 13 *gasp* February

Swallowing all that blood was not a good idea. I guess the blood had congealed overnight and was encrusted all along my esophagus, because it felt as if I’d swallowed a leather strap.

What was worse, though, was the painful, swollen glands in my throat; the anesthetic, whatever they use at the dental office, doesn’t agree with me. Maybe I’m allergic—the same thing happened after my root canal procedure in Chicago, and I was in too much pain to fall asleep. I’ll have to ask my dentist if he has a different anesthetic he can use.

I skipped my Japanese class for the day. I soon became sick and tired of porridge.

Saturday, 14 February

I ate peanuts, which was stupid because the pieces made themselves at home in the partially open left socket; ouch. Playing the violin was… meh.

Sunday, 15 February

The sutures over the left socket broke out of the gum, and the opening became even wider. The pieces of peanut came out. It was annoying and slightly painful to have food stuck in it, but I found a way to rinse it out without a toothpick (it’s not that easy).

There was mild swelling on the left side of my mandible. The molar next to the once-impacted left wisdom tooth was sensitive to pressure (e.g., when chewing, I thought it would fall out), but the pain was probably due to the swelling under the gums. For some reason, though, the swelling was slightly worse on the right front side.

Monday, 16 February

The *glargle* chlorine *pfft* hurts! Why is my coach making me swim the butterfly? *arphff* Why aren’t my arms exiting the water like they used to last Wednesday?

Tuesday, 17 February

They should keep the rooms cooler at HIA where I get my Japanese lessons. It’s hard to study Japanese for two hours with a throbbing head and stiff jaw. I also found that the open socket is sensitive to cold night air.


The left socket is starting to smell bad. What’s up with this? I hate it! And the taste! I can’t really describe it… I guess it must be blood or pus that’s slowly leaking out of the socket, though I’m not noticing any strange fluids. Bad odor is one symptom of a dry socket, but I’m not worried because I’m not feeling the “extreme pain” associated with the condition.

Back to the dentist on the 24th.

My Colemak — 72 wpm!

I posted earlier that I would reach 60 wpm by the end of February. Well, it’s been almost a month, and the typing tester on tells me that I can type at 72, so it’s all good. :)

It’s too bad that I didn’t measure my QWERTY speed before switching to Colemak, because it’s horrible now.

Next: 95 wpm by the end of March.


It was decided that I should have my teeth aligned a bit. My bottom teeth are fine, nearly perfect, but I do have a slightly misaligned upper molar. My upper lateral incisors aren’t in line with the rest of my teeth, either.

So instead of braces, the dentist recommended that I get these transparent things called Invisalign that cost about the same. Appearances aside, one reason that this is a better solution is because we leave for the U.S. soon. Braces need to be adjusted periodically by the dentist; it’s a long-time commitment with one traumatizer. With Invisalign, though, I get a set of 20 or 30 aligners that I switch out every two weeks and wear 22 hours (minimum) a day, something that can be done on my own. Plus, maintaining good oral hygiene is really easy because I can take the aligners out whenever I want! Of course, once my teeth are aligned, I will have to wear retainers for a while.

I think I get my teeth imprinted on the 24th, and the aligners are shipped here from the U.S. five weeks later. I guess I can look forward to it. It’s difficult to ignore the ¥480,000 (at the time of writing, about 5,200 USD) price tag the dentist offered, though (not that braces are any cheaper).