Soldering

The big problem of soldering is the resources. If you don’t have the right materials, the right solder and the right flux, you’re going to end up botching the whole thing like I did.

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It was fairly obvious that I was going to mess up. But hey, you know what they say: if you must fail, fail spectacularly!

Oh well, eventually I’ll have this 20×4 LCD set up and wired to the Elegoo Uno R3 (an Arduino/Genuino Uno clone). Unfortunately, I don’t have those easy-to-solder pins, which is why I have to do this ugly hack soldering the cables in. Hopefully the LCD doesn’t turn out to be destroyed by the heat.

On rescue

A few weeks ago, I watched, live, a kid climbing the Trump Tower with a few suction cups and shortly after getting nabbed by the police that cornered him. One of the police men was just hanging the cord to pull him up in case he ever wanted to be “rescued.” Obviously, the police made it look like they were “rescuing” the kid, not nabbing and strangling him until he was unconscious.

But I had a daydream: suppose my school had a structural failure and collapsed (God forbid) and I found a way out. The police, firemen, and paramedics are all waiting outside the hole I would be escaping from. Right when I find the hole and they come within my line of sight, they immediately take me and put an oxygen mask on me, maybe throw a shock blanket on me. Gasping for air, I try to tell them, “I know where the rest are,” stating my intentions to sacrifice myself to make a heroic effort and rescue others trapped inside.

Back then, your request would be accepted. The firemen would helplessly watch as you look outside for a second and scamper back into the rubble, perhaps either returning with a few bodies or becoming one of those bodies yourself. After you rescue the bodies you can and throw yourself into the ground, everyone would surround you and praise your heroic efforts as you are placed in the ambulance and taken to the hospital, in case you were stabbed by a piece of rubble or your lungs are filled with the fine particulate matter. After a few days, you would be globally recognized as hero and/or a saint, depending on whether or not you died in your mission.

But times are different. The same firemen will not honor your heroism. They will say, “No, the structure is unstable. We will do the best we can.” or, “We cannot afford to lose another person.” or, “If you die in there, your parents might sue us.” Shaking and fighting, you are put in the ambulance anyway and sent off as yet another victim.

A few days later, you would hear news of the tragedy, and, of course, the girl, the hero, who rescued five bodies. She gets all the media attention; all the reputation; the visit to the White House. You tell the media you wanted to rescue people too, but the firemen did not allow you under any circumstances. The media ignores you in favor of reporting the trendy headlines celebrating this newfound hero.

Whose story is better: hers or yours? Who should be honored more: the hero who wanted to be, but was forcefully restrained; or the hero who did not intend to (or perhaps she did), and became one?

And the psychologist will come and look at your case file. You will cry, “I wanted to save them! I wanted to save them but I couldn’t!” She will apathetically write down, “Survivor guilt, possible PTSD.” And she will say, “There is nothing you can do.” You will ask for retribution. You will want to sue them for gross negligence, but they will argue they were doing the exact opposite. But in the end, there is no answer. You must somehow continue your life, knowing that the firemen let many people die only to save you.

Then who is more important, the people entrusted with saving lives but are not heroes; or the people who want to be heroes but do not have this single responsibility?

This is the social dilemma. Is honor and symbolism something of the past? If I had the opportunity to be a hero, I would be one. Honor is something passed down across generations until it fades away. But nowadays, it seems people do not care about their ancestry, their past. It is all part of the American drama of divorce, lawsuits, obesity, drugs, irresponsibility, and a chronic disjunction between parents and their descendants.

Can the new generation’s response to the newer generation possibly improve?

Forming identity

Dreams are far from reality; and the conversion process can take an unprecedented effort. My thought process around sleep hours is very distinct from that during the daytime, which makes it easy to identify when I am tired, because a part of my subconscious seems to be exposed to the remaining part of my conscious. Thus, during the night, what I hope to achieve is very far from what I truly achieve (a regrettable characteristic of myself).

The truth is that putting dream and reality together in fact seems to deepen understanding and identity.

I’m a hacker. That doesn’t mean I’m a criminal, or that I rob banks every other week, or that I break into the Pentagon when WikiLeaks demands new content. Absolutely not. A hacker is a lifestyle; a culture; perhaps a discipline. It is characterized by a unique angle taken when solving problems, one that does not incline itself to simply tackle the problem, but rather places into scrutiny the existence of the problem itself. And for those problems deemed “impossible,” are they really?

Nothing is as interesting and stimulating for us as a good challenge. We loathe school because it is often not a challenge; and we do not want to be weighed down and repressed by the ordinary. The ordinary is what has repressed me and prevented me from thriving; it has led me to fear it.

School is upon me once again in less than two weeks. I will not enter the same way that I left; nobody ever does. In a sea of ordinary, how exactly does one become extraordinary? In a sense, it is easier; but in another, it seems much more difficult since not many will encourage one to become extraordinary.

What is my future? Fear is fear of the unknown. What do people care about hackers? I don’t know until I find out.

I expect to change the world one day. In a way, I have already fulfilled my goal. But if it is at a global scale, I do not expect that to happen today, or tomorrow, or by the end of high school.

The hackathon

The hackathon was okay. There were some regrettable moments and some unforgettable ones.

When I arrived there, I was still pretty miffed that my friends had ostracized me from their group. I came in with the “I’m-scared-of-tall-white-people-with-glasses-and-braces” look, but to be honest, looks turned out to be deceiving when the final products appeared.

I saw some kids from my summer engineering program, at least the ones that mattered. There was a noticeably smaller amount of kids than were expected, but this turned out to be quite advantageous.

As with any group project, I was the mastermind, and everyone else just sat and watched me do all the work. More specifically, they played League of Legends for hours on end. That morning I did not have an idea for a project, but before I came, I suddenly recalled my need of an all-encompassing cloud storage solution, so I decided to call it UltronCloud. I mean it’s not ever going to be finished, so just give it some joke name.

The environment was excellent; this was the college my brother goes to. It’s private but the tuition turned out to cost less than that of a public university, and needless to say, it seems that every penny of it was spent wisely on the infrastructure and architecture. I got a huge-screen television all for myself, so I was able to use the television as my primary monitor, which made it very easy for my eyes as the night progressed.

The hackathon was great, or rather should have been great. But I think I did not take advantage of the opportunities; there were mentors who were teaching how to develop for mobile platforms. I also didn’t take as many breaks as I should have; I strained myself in order to squeeze every hour of the venue, so I didn’t have as much fun with other kids. On top of that, the challenges I was facing when making the project were serious yet to a ridiculous extent. Some problems took hours to be solved, only to be met with yet another problem.

This following section is part of an issue I made on the repository of the library I used, because the following morning, I was so mad that I had wasted all this time for nothing. Once again, I hold nothing against the developer of the library:

Literally every step of the way has been riddled with bugs and other quirks and undefined behavior, even when following the instructions to the letter and trying it on two different Windows 7 x64 machines. Needless to say that I wasted my time trying to make a frontend out of this library. Maybe you can figure out whether the library hates me or if it’s just that unstable.

The first problem was when DokanCloudFS failed to load assemblies when I set the build configuration to NuGet-Signed. If I tried cleaning the build, it would still error out. If I tried changing the build config back to regular NuGet, yet again it would throw the exact same exception. The solution was to nuke the entire project, keep it in the default configuration and never touch it again. This alone cost me a few hours to figure out.

And alas, very shortly later, more problems arose. My mounted Google Drive appeared as a drive, but all interactivity with it was completely blocked, thanks to a vague exception thrown repeatedly as shown in the console:

Exception thrown: 'Google.GoogleApiException' in mscorlib.dll
...
Exception thrown: 'Google.GoogleApiException' in Google.Apis.dll
Exception thrown: 'System.IO.InvalidDataException' in SharpAESCrypt.dll
...
Absolutely no stack trace and Visual Studio did not even bother to break.

And this was after I had compiled CloudFS, put in secret keys for GDrive, copied the output DLLs to the DokanCloudFS Library folder, and assured that it had access to the Drive API by turning it on in the console, and waited a few minutes for it to “enable”.

So I said, screw it! Let’s use OneDrive instead, thinking that somehow it would ease my pain. Nope. Same spiel. Except Microsoft was taking me to some OAuth2 auth link that would just take me to a blank page. After a bit of research I found out that I had to add “mobile” as a platform in order for me to even have an OAuth2 login page. Okay, so when it asks me, “Let this app access your info?” and the usual permissions and I click “yes,” ….it just opens another browser window to do the exact same thing. I click yes again, and the window reappears ad infinitum. And instead of the `GoogleApiException` I get a `System.Security.Authentication.AuthenticationException in mscorlib.dll` along with a `System.AggregateException` which VS *should* be breaking to tell me about, but it’s not doing squat.

By this time I’m forgetting about even running the DokanCloudFS.Mounter example and instead just building hacks to bridge the frontend with the library, using the mounter program as an example because there’s absolutely no documentation that comes with it.

And as of the time of the writing of this issue, I’ve spent sixteen hours trying to get all this to work just to make a frontend that will mount OneDrive, Google Drive, etc. in unison.

I racked my brains so hard that instead of pulling the all-nighter as I had intended to, I decided to sleep for three hours. I didn’t bring a pillow nor a sleeping bag, so I was in for a really nice sleeping experience. Thank the lady who showed me where the cot was in the nice, dark, quiet room; all the couches were taken. So between the hours of 3 AM and 6 AM, I decided to rest and try to figure out what to do with the project. Now, the resting period was important because when I woke up (I think I only achieved REM sleep for a few minutes), I did not feel disillusioned as I usually am when I am sleep deprived (the reason for this is that the image of sunset is still ingrained in my brain, so it gives the impression that it was a very short night and that I will have to sleep during daytime hours to compensate for this).

When I woke up, I returned to my workspace. My teammates were still playing League as they were before I went to sleep, and I sat down and looked at Visual Studio. I tried to begin hacking together some sort of interface to figure out if any functionality is possible, but it was futile. By 10 AM, I simple gave up. I failed.

I had really been looking forward to the hackathon, and I met quite a few people there. But I was not met with a stroke of luck, and the hackathon was not as enjoyable as it could have. If I went back in time, I could have done all the right decisions: convince my friend to let me in the team, bring a pillow and a surface to sleep on, actually go to one of the Android workshops, talk with the head of the hackathon, etc.

But alas, the result would have been the same regardless of anything. The judges delivered some rather questionable decisions in terms of which project was “better”; despite my utter failure, I placed third in “best software hack,” and my friend’s team, who had put all their efforts on a robotic hand, did not seem to place at all in the “best hardware hack.” What? At least there was an “everyone’s a winner” attitude which is a nice way to end a hackathon. No massive prizes for winners, like a graphics card or anything like that.

I don’t really know what to do now though; I left the hackathon with an incomplete satisfaction. What can I do instead: order parts for the electric bicycle? Compensate by trying to invite my friends to do something similar? Or just work on the school stuff I’m supposed to finish by the first day of school?

Ugh. I had felt during the hackathon that this was the beginning of my demise; that this was a glimpse of my condemnation; that I was no match for anyone around me in terms of college admissions. It’s not true. But one question still remains: what am I to do now?

Zero-gravity soccer – part 1

A few weeks ago I was assigned a final project. The final project could be anything as long as it’s written in Python. So I chose to make a game.

And so the mad scramble began. Actually, it wasn’t really a mad scramble at all. I took my time with the code, working on it only when I was able to do so. And so without the distractions of my brother, I was able to knock out 8 hours of coding today, which equates to 570 lines to check into source control.

Python is an incredibly addictive language. I thought it was just some simple language for kids; boy, was I wrong. It is a language of elegance, of minimalism. It makes Java look like a rusty pipe under a sink (which it is, for the most part). Say goodbye to curly braces and excess if statements. And bugs are incredibly easy to find, even without an IDE, if there are any in your code.

Python does have its shortcomings, however. Its object-oriented design isn’t exactly something familiar, and the mechanics of it are definitely not explicit. Still, it allows for multiple inheritance along with a degree of control you could never have with Java. In Java, you had to make a rigid model of the class before actually implementing it, and changing constructors around leads to problems down the line fairly quickly. In Python, however, you can build the implementation first, and then make an object encasing that behavior. It is purpose-driven rather than enterprise-driven, and so it works extremely well for small projects.

This is what I’ve been able to accomplish so far. I have until the 20th to “ship” the project, if you will, and I’m quite satisfied with the progress so far. I estimate it will only take 500-750 more lines to bring it to a playable state, but then again, I cannot make a fair estimate of line count because it’s not really what matters. I need to implement network, HUD, and some game-specific behaviors like grabbing the ball and throwing it to the goal.

I shall press forward…

Being myself

I read this post from the MIT admissions website, and I finally was able to feel at ease again. The one true way to get into MIT is not by accomplishing great things, but by being yourself.

The one true characteristic that they want is passion and honesty, both which I have a great deal of. Sometimes I feel smart for being “better” than other people, and other times I feel dumb for not knowing what society expects of me. And in the end, society matters but it’s not everything that matters. I might hear about my friend going to DC for a band trip, an experience I’ll never get myself. Good for him, then. The point is that I ought to be myself.

I never consciously felt that MIT was easy to get in. In fact, I only subconsciously reassure myself that I know exactly how to enter, and that is with an open mind and heart, and with absolute appreciation. I want my career to be in the world-changing business, so people will help me get there. I can change the world right here, and I am doing it right now. If there is anyone out there, they ought to be encouraged.

The second thing I need to know is that I ought to look forward. It is neither the first nor the last time I have failed. I will fail plenty of times. But with failure comes success.

My father has never told me that it is impossible to get into MIT, because it isn’t. It is a very possible and very real goal to get into MIT.

Now, why am I talking to you about MIT again? It’s like I’m mixing happiness with idolatry. Because MIT represents my future. I view my future as something radically different from the present. It is not a future of sulking and groaning. It is a future of enthusiasm, of action, of pushing myself to the limits (in the right direction). Nobody can tell me the chances of my future. The truth is that with enough determination, I can bring myself wherever I want to go. This connects to my previous Great Question: is man powerless or powerful? There is no clear answer that comes to me. Man is powerless in time and circumstance, but he is powerful in action and determination.

More projects to come.

Poverty

I live in spiritual and material poverty. I have just a scrap of a soul, and the money my parents make simply goes right back out. I only really get one new “amenity” every month. Maybe I’m spoiled, or maybe I ask too little.

One thing my parents never taught me is not what is too much, but rather what is too little. How much rice should I put on my plate? How many games should I buy? Is it all right to have a relationship now? What are the rules of engagement?

And so because my father expects me to be very frugal with my money, he seldom factors in any expenditures I might make. But I am not here to beg for money. I am here to beg for mercy.

I have put myself in a situation where I live for numbers. Grades here, grades there. 3 out of 22 friends online, that’s 13.6363636364%. Maybe I can complete 1.5 sections a day in the textbook. 7, 14, 21, 28, that’s just four weeks in July. Four weeks to do something before August.

I don’t feel encouraged anymore, because I live for numbers instead of for people. I can’t find the people I want or need. The only place I can find them is in the Internet, and you know I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet. One day I find great people hanging about in some obscure community; the other, I’m surrounded by adults on the verge of to kicking me because I can’t seem to follow the conversation.

Why can’t I follow the conversation? Because my interests differ by an immense margin. The folks at Internet-land talk about the latest and the greatest, the GTX 10 series. My “acquaintances” at my summer program talk about TV shows and plot holes and weird references, and the “acquaintances” at school talk about Hearthstone or about work, or they’re just busy copying answers from one another. On the other hand, I talk about how crazy it would be making a tape drive out of a VCR.

I give up. I don’t know where to find people like me. I was supposed to find them a long long time ago, but I missed some bridge between them and me, and I will never find them again.

I feel lonely. Every time I think I find somebody as competent as me, I back away from him and never talk to him again because it seems tall white kids with glasses wearing shirts about their high schools’ CS programs intimidate me. Instead of thinking about striking up conversation, I look at the competitive side and think about how he’s better than me and how I’m not even worth his time.

I have lost so many opportunities simply because of my erratic personality; my thought process is so sporadic that most people cannot follow it. In fact, I often seem to overpower them, as I consider a rebuttal far ahead of the other person’s train of thought, and then the other person sometimes seems surprised as to how I was able to precisely address a rebuttal before it even crossed his mind.

My mood swings too severely at times. The day can begin horrible getting off the bed, plateauing to a tentative hopefulness, and then upon looking at the clock in the afternoon, swinging back to helpless regret following yet another unproductive day.

Video games don’t really work anymore for me. My brain recognizes video games to simply further the cause of time-wasting, and so it prevents me from playing games in order to try to coax me to do more productive things. And when I do play video games, I eventually quit the game and the joy of playing suddenly subsides. I’m back to where I was before I played the game.

Case in point, Altitude. I played that game because first, it’s a good way to kill time, and second, it’s a tiny download. But I gain nothing from it once I come back to real life.

Another case in point, GMod. I played that game last week because I thought I could find the “old timers” again, the people who could teach me ZCPU, see what they made with E2, and so on. But instead, I do the same thing over again: try to make a little car, show people the old advanced dupes (including the pod racer, and the vast majority that weren’t even made by me), anything except making something cool and something new. And the little minges come in and ram down their giant cubes against our contraptions. It’s why I quit playing GMod such a long time ago.

And now for the five million time, I scare my father just by opening my mouth to say something because he’s too deaf to hear my footsteps. I am just a ghost in this house. I might as well be a ghost in this world.

I don’t know how to seek help. Nobody will do it for me. My parents are horrible sources of counsel, because they are biased and do not offer fresh perspectives. My teachers and “trusted adults” do not really care, because it is not their business to hear about my problems or do anything about them unless they are legally or morally obligated to do so.

In my mind I picture misery. I don’t picture it as me burning in hell, I picture it as the absolute worst of anything happening to me; my worst dream, as influenced by any surrounding events. Somebody breaking a window in the house, the alarm tripping on an “open” window again, the hard drive failing suddenly one day… anything at all. I don’t want any of that to happen. Ever.

Nostalgia

I entered this supposedly peaceful GMod build server after many months of inactivity, and as I am learning Precision Alignment, some kid drops a bomb on my simple car and breaks all the constraints along with my temper. Almost immediately after, a feeling of resentment and nostalgia set in.

gm_wireconstruct_rc0004These were the old times. This screenshot was taken in September of 2010, back when nice people were around and Unsmart’s server was a thing. I have hundreds of screenshots more.

But by being mindless, immature, and enjoying by feeling rather than thinking, I helped kill the intelligent GMod sandbox community. In a less blunt manner, I simply did not gain the knowledge early enough to propagate information to the next generation of players.

Today I wanted to return to GMod, because I realized that it was the most comfortable game I have ever played. But too late I realized that Wiremod was simply an underrated addon because nobody understood it; that GMod could actually serve as a rather rudimentary CAD tool because nobody really used it that way, except the people who knew.

But where are the people who know? Long gone are they, already seeking careers and higher education in excellent colleges. I am too late.

Fortunately, the core Wiremod developers remain intact and poised to contribute code to one of GMod’s oldest, most sophisticated addons ever devised. But where is everyone else; the class of loyal users immediately below them? Gone. Where is the coherence of Wiremod’s user base, once propped up by the loyal users? Degraded. Where is the activity of the forums? Falling off to zilch, as the forums themselves are bound to be archived in the not-so-distant future.

I bought GMod on December 12, 2009. Since then, not much in the sandbox portion has changed. In fact, there are less tools now than there were back then. GMod 13 broke practically everything, destroyed Toybox, and later shut down garrysmod.org (which was a pretty terrible enough site already).

Nowadays, people play GMod not for the sandbox anymore, but rather for the sensational (mini)games such as TTT, Flood, DarkRP, Prop Hunt, Murder, and whatever else there is nowadays. And if people touch Sandbox, it is to screw around with the thousands of weapons, cars, tanks, anime ragdolls, bombs, and random stuff at their disposal. The point of Sandbox is not to build anymore. It’s to screw around, to consume, with what other people dedicated themselves to making.

I am sorry to admit that people have moved on now. Even I am a senior now. In these six years I never bothered to learn Wiremod well, and now look where I am. I enjoyed but accomplished nothing. Lately I posted a thread on the Wiremod forums about how I’m looking for people who still want to seriously learn and use Wiremod. So far, zero replies. A while ago I would have been noticed, but I have not. Wiremod isn’t dead, but it’s in the process. It’s “winding down” as they say.

My future is unknown to me. I wish I could celebrate the present, but I do not enjoy it. I am stressed out about my present obligations, which I am supposed to be able to tolerate.

I grew up crammed between two age groups, one of them one or two years older than me, and the other with about equal age as me. I ended up meeting and knowing more of the older group than the equal-age group, and now as that older group leaves for college, who do I have left?

Oh God, college is coming. Everything will change.

Alone

People think that I choose to be isolated, that there’s no problem with me, that I just like being alone. I hate being alone, but being alone is better than being with people who don’t understand me.

Anyway, I was rejected for that second officer position. I didn’t really care much about it; I was feeling terrible anyway and might as well have rescinded my position if I was accepted.

Nothing interesting happened today. No exams for me today or tomorrow but I still have to go to school. In eighth period half the class, who are the people I actually know, simply left since nothing was happening in the class. Off to the theater hall or another teacher’s room or wherever. What’s better than spending an hour and a half with no one to talk to.

I’ve been having this cough for a long while now. I don’t like it. And now I have a sore throat for absolutely no reason. Given the roulette of symptoms to come, I’ll assume it’s a cold.

Then my perverted mind keeps distracting me by looking back at sensual details, like girls’ fat shiny legs. Thankfully nobody’s caught me in all these years.

The rumors are true: my CS teacher is leaving with no known replacement. If he’s not lenient, it’ll be hell. Otherwise, happy times. I guess a little faith is required.

The city-wide hackathon has finally been announced. That’s great but I think I’ll have to miss it, again, for a trip…

I truly feel alone. I’m not doing so great at small talk either. Most people only ask me things about homework and other general school stuff, or “what’s your opinion on this video?” I just feel out of the loop all the time. I’m like my friend, but 95% less social.

Pressure

Based on my previous track record, people see me as particularly successful, I think. I get all high As; I like something that’s rather unappreciated; I have my own club at school. It’s all good.

But the problem is that there’s a point when they start expecting you to be good, and I seem to have reached this point. Instead of saying, “Eh, I think I’ll take this AP test, see if I get a 5 or not,” now it’s like “Everyone knows I’ll get a 6 on it.” (Advanced Placement exams are on a scale of 1 to 5, to give you some context. They also happen only once a year.) The feeling sucks, because when you get the “perfect” 5, you stay the same; but when you don’t get a 5, you feel disappointed and so do other people. In essence, you’ve hit the top of the scale. There is no way to be happier without moving on to other things. Same with money; same with world population; same with diets.

I don’t consider myself a greedy person at all. I can sometimes be demanding of people, because that’s just who I am. I am often times perfectionist.

But you have to remember, the human factor… the hormones… they control our emotions, they shape our flow of thoughts… I cannot stop it. I hate talking about this, it sounds odd and funny, but I must because this is my blog. There is not just a mental pressure from school, from family, but I believe there is also something else at play: a pressure from society. Sex. There, I said it. Nobody is comfortable talking about it. But I see it every day, when the girls put on their form-hugging black leggings, their tiny two-inch-seam shorts smaller than my boxers that let you see their plump shiny legs, their shirts that are longer than their Nike shorts… am I not telling you the truth? What is the point of this? Am I supposed to stare at them and prod at their rotund build that is publicly expressed thanks to their highly revealing clothing? No! Huh, I wonder why sexual assault cases are on the increase? Because women let themselves be exposed. They do not understand.

I was told to just ignore it. But I cannot ignore it. I have only explored sexuality – that taboo word again – from a distance. In catechism, I am taught I need only love God; at school, I am told I need to start dating. I would talk about my opinion of dating, but this blog post has gotten spicy enough already. It’s making me consider just making this entire blog private. But I decide to keep it because it shows that I’m willing to talk about my problems and how I overcome them.