The Domain of Steven Pinnacle of Paperless Perfection

22Feb/083

Top-level for Saint Helena + Atomic County source material + Voiceless velar plosive in IPA

I was entering contests when I saw one limited to ages 13-18. I got excited until I remembered I AM TWENTY WHAT THE FUCK?!

Filed under: General, Life, Riddle 3 Comments
4Feb/082

Fan sand ninja – Jeremy Piven’s Gold + Thousand nation descent – Xi’an romanization

She once told me that if we were to be together, she would probably have an argument with me and break up with me after only a few months. She had told me more than a few times that I couldn't handle her temper, that no one could, that I was only inviting disaster by asking for full disclosure.

I am reluctant to admit that she was right, but she was.

Yet things were completely different for me when I was instead just a friend. I was able to bear the brunt of an attack the likes of which I'd only seen once before, one that had been a giant blow to my sensibilities. I was able to push past thoughts of her being with other guys, to embrace her as eagerly and passionately as I had done hundreds of times in years past. I was able to learn of things that I would not have thought I could tolerate. I was able to put myself and my own needs above those of other people.

That last note is the one that gives me pause, for that selfishness is exactly what was enabling me to function so well in the presence of difficulties. I have sometimes said that unlike those who treasured independence, I loved being dependent. I loved having someone to whom I could dote on, who would appreciate the details I paid attention to and fuss over.

But I was not always able to meet expectations, and my need for their approval ensured that I always felt it. It is in the dissolution of this dependence that I became more resilient. Perhaps only ever so slightly, but noticeably.

Is the improved defense worth staying single, worth putting myself before other people? Is this, in contrast to how I have lived my life all these years until now, perhaps the better life for me after all? I can already see Cristen telling me that to lead such a life would cause me to miss out on life itself.

Or perhaps I have simply underestimated myself. Perhaps my being unscathed should be attributed not to being selfish, but to simply knowing when I need to back down. Perhaps my tolerance is owed to an understanding of new rules.

The one thing I do know is that being godlike is not all it's cracked up to be.

30Jan/084

A trophy -> rle,lzw,lzo,7z

I will admit that this is the first time my ass has been sore. Still, going 8-2 against the other fencing students was worth it.

Also, thankfully, rock climbing only seems to destroywork out my forearms and hands, leaving the glutes and lower free for fencing to mangle.

Filed under: General, Life, Riddle, School 4 Comments
26Jan/086

In Spanish + Burnett’s secret – 303 DirecTV

I went into this semester resolved to take a gym class of some sort. Not because there was some requirement, not to get extra credits, but just because the opportunity was there.

I had always had an interest in fencing, but never joined the fencing club that started up the end of my last year of high school. Maybe I liked the idea of poking someone with a blade, or I thought that fencers just looked really cool.

I'm taking fencing this term as an hourly class twice a week for one credit over at FitRec, and it's definitely as cool I imagined it. I enjoy the mind games that you have to play with your opponent to psych him out, to make him miscalculate, to make him become overconfident and set himself up for disappointment. I like the rising tension during the approach, and how time slows down as your mind speeds up during an attack. You're always thinking, always alert, judging your opponent's distance and reach in comparison to your own.

Which, I will admit, is usually an unfair balance for me. I'm rather short, and with short height comes short legs and short limbs. Compared to taller guys, I have little in the way of reach, and can cover less distance when retreating, advancing, or lunging.

Reach matters quite a bit in our first exercise. Before we're allowed to hold a blade one class from now, we're practicing everything else: footwork, right of way, and tactics. Instead of using a blade, we're using a glove. This is saber fencing, which normally allows any kind of hit above the waist. For this exercise, we loosely wield a glove and have to try to hit each other in the chest or back.

To exemplify right of way, a fencing concept in which an attacker's hit has scoring priority over a defender's hit, we take turns attacking and defending. The attacker is allowed an advance and a lunge, during which the defender can make up to two retreats. Once the advance and lunge are taken, the roles are switched.

There is no blocking allowed, and actions can be of any length, so you do not have to take a full advance or a full retreat. This turns the exercise into one primarily about tactics and distance. The two fencers start out a good distance from each other, and advance closer while taking their turns. The object is to get your opponent to misjudge the distance at which he can hit you, so that he lunges and barely misses as you are retreating, ending up right next to you. Once that happens, he's practically giving you the point, since you are now on the attack and can easily hit him.

In practice it rarely works out that way for me. Being rather short, I have a rather significant disadvantage in terms of reach and movement in this exercise. Since the attacker is only allowed a single advance, with their lunge not advancing them very far (only extending their reach), a defender with two retreats should actually be able to increase the distance between himself and the attacker, resulting in fencers drifting apart from each other if they take full retreats.

This is not so in my case; in fact, the taller people in the class can actually still hit me even if I make two full retreats, and I'm hard-pressed to hit them if they take two or even one full retreat.

I therefore have to be sneaky to win. I have to take my attack immediately after they finish theirs, to get them off-balance and to get them to make mistakes. I have to keep our distances under my control.

I want them to back off more than they should thinking that I'll advance, putting him out of reach. I want them to not advance as far as they should to hit me, thinking that I'll retreat.

Feinting to achieve those results is difficult, to say the least. It's absolutely thrilling and absolutely tiring. You're moving all the time, and if you're not moving, all your muscles are tensed, and if your muscles aren't tensed, you're probably going to lose the point. After a dozen bouts, you're caught up in a exhausted but focused trance where you forget about the half dozen matches around you and only see your opponent. All you see are his movements, his reactions, his responses to you toying with him and his frenzied attempts to try and outmaneuver you.

And just like that, it's over. The world rushes back to me and I'm smiling, being a good sport and laughing with my opponent about how he just barely caught me. We walk back to our sides of the room, take a slow breath, turn around, assume a ready stance, and the world slowly dissolves once more as we begin our approaches.

I'm not sure how I'll do with a blade in my hand, but I can't wait to find out.

Filed under: General, Life, Riddle, School 6 Comments
19Dec/072

Ditching the logical

Here's to a semester where I wasn't ashamed to tell people how I was doing in school, where I didn't habitually cut classes, where I was proud of my work and myself, where I lost friends and met new ones, where I entered more contests than I've ever entered, where I won more contests than I've ever won, where I realized the path I should be heading along, where I discovered even more about myself, and where I finally picked myself up off the ground.

Here's to success. Here's to motivation. Here's to foolishly fighting the fight and forgetting to fascinate. Here's to falteringly forgiving the forgotten. Here's to obfuscation.

Here's to the one semester I would not have done any other way.

10Dec/074

Seriously, silversmithing?

It's still hard to imagine my parents as people who once had lives like the one I'm leading right now. To me, their lives had always started with...well, me.

It's when tidbits about their past are fed to me that I start to get curious about what their lives were like before they settled down. My father offhandedly mentioned that he actually entered Polytechnic University as a chemical engineer major, only to discover that he didn't like chemistry. It was then that he turned to silversmithing, and finally deciding on mechanical engineering.

My father, the man who loved his job so much that he set up a drafting table and work environment in his basement, actually thought he wanted to do something else? I can't imagine him as a chemical engineer, and I didn't even know silversmithing was a major!

My parents actually bought a house in Brooklyn, on 70th street and 20th avenue. They had intended to move out from our 1-bedroom apartment in Queens, away from all the relatives that lived above us or within a few minutes drive of us, away from the routes and venues and nuances that I know so intimately. I wouldn't have gone to Montessori, Renaissance, and maybe not even Mega Academy. I would have lived a mere three blocks from my friend Sally, who currently lives two hours away by train.

But for whatever reason, they didn't move out. My dad drove there during the fall to sweep the leaves in front of the property and in the winter to shovel the snow. Eventually my parents realized that they weren't going to move there, that taking care of it was too much of a hassle, and that they weren't strict enough as landlords to make money off of it. They sold the house at a loss just to be rid of it.

When I hear about my parents' pasts, when I learn about how they stumbled, when I realize that they might be perfect parents but were not always perfect people...through learning about their failures I find the courage to face my own. Not everything fell into place the way they wanted, but I can't imagine them falling any other way.

3Oct/074

Charat + Hong’s destined battle – aXX:goim?screenname=SarcasticSteven&message=I’m solving your riddle right now.

My 3-day trip to New York was amazing, and both Shelly and I came back with twice the load we departed with. The majority of my load came from Saturday, when I went with my brother and the FIT group to attend the Digital Life convention at the Jacob Javits Center. I knew it was going to be a consumer electronics expo, but I wasn't quite ready for the sheer amount and size of the electronics on one small showroom. There were TVs bigger than both of my monitors put together, computer towers nearly as big and probably three times as heavy, and sexiness emanating from even the lowliest of booths.

Was it as good as the Licensing Expo? Despite both conventions being showcases, they were entirely different breeds. The Licensing Expo had gimmicky free stuff: lots of pins, buttons, stickers, and a couple good items like a Happy Bunny postcard book. Digital Life's freebies were a lot less plentiful but more useful, things that people would use and remind themselves and others about the product: Microsoft popcorn and playing cards, Lord of the Rings Online trial DVDs, and a Newegg poncho. Being the officer of the MMO club, I felt it was my duty to procure goods for our members, and took a whole nine full-size DVD cases from the piles that were being constantly replenished. It wasn't until later that I found out that the installer was available online and trial keys could be sent to your email address. Oh wells.

The big notables were the video games. They had computers that ran Bioshock beautifully and still smooth as silk, two DDR arcade machines, dozens of PS3s and 360s, and several unreleased games: Crysis, Guitar Hero 3, Team Fortress 2...the first hour at the convention was really just me going from booth to booth gaping at the live games that were being played on these monster rigs and screens. I'm not so sure I like Guitar Hero 3's interface, but my opinion might have been soured by the long lines for everything worth playing 🙁 .

But the absolute best part? Totally whooping the Geek Squad's ass at 3-question computer trivia, and winning a USB hub in the process 😀 . Working as BU tech support finally pays off (well, other than in the literal sense XD).

The last day was spent playing with not one, not two, but three linked Xbox 360s, with three matching televisions, three copies of Halo 3, and 10 controllers (sorry to break the sequence of 3's). I donned the mantle of SomeRandomGuy so that people could say "Woo, I just killed some random guy!" and "Damnit, some random guy keeps sniping me!" Unfortunately it was more of the former than the latter, but I eked out a spot in the middle of the leaderboard, which is good considering my inexperience with console shooters. Regardless, it was crazy fun for all of us, with lots of jeering and screaming and teabagging. Shelly came back with a 360 of her own, opening up the possibility of four-player Halo 3 co-op with Megan's 360 😀 . Toss in Bioshock, MMOGS meetings, and RPG games, and I've got a lot I want to do and not a lot of time to do it with. College is definitely in full swing.

9Sep/073

Soñando, deseando, haciendo

Rising Stuyvesant sophmores used to be required to take Drafting 1, and were then required to take either Drafting 2/Honors Drafting or Introduction to Computer Science.

For once in my life, I went past the call of duty by not only taking Honors Drafting, but Intro to Compsci at the same time. To top it off, I took an optional compsci course at the same time, and followed both drafting and compsci course paths to full completion in later years. AP Compsci, both of the senior-level compsci courses, Technical Drawing, and Architecture were what padded out my remaining years at Stuy. Choosing to do the extra work and stick it out with both course paths turned out to be one of the smartest things I've ever done, because despite my major being computer science, I was totally prepared for both of my internships, especially my current one at JDP Mechanical.

Transitioning from CADKEY to AutoCAD was easier than I expected. I was already familiar with how CAD drawings are handled and manipulated, so all it took was a little experimentation and direction to find out which command I needed to enter to do what I wanted. CAD work is actually quite fun, and while I'm very efficient, I'm still amazed at how fast my dad can mold his drawings to what he sees in his mind.

Unfortunately, drafting is only half the battle, and the lower-paying half at that. The reason my father gets paid the big bucks (big = only slightly more) is because he is able to solve problems. The primary problem is that New York City is brimming with people, Manhattan in particular, and every cubic foot of space is precious. Given the choice between making the machine room comfortably big and squeezing out a couple extra hundred thousand dollars isn't really a choice at all. Landlords will always choose to make the extra money and hope that their AC and heating units will fit in the little niche carved out in the basement. And therefore, landlords will always need companies like the one my father works for. He coordinates with all the other contractors, trying to make sure that his water pipes can fit alongside the gnarled masses of the electrician's cables and the plumber's sewage lines, while making sure he isn't getting in the way of the gigantic ducts strewn across the ceiling.

My father is paid well because it is difficult to compensate for human error while minimizing costs and working on a deadline. It's a difficult job that requires an intimate knowledge of the industry and its conventions. From a purely practical standpoint, it's the best career for me to jump into. It is such a niche field that experienced, dedicated workers are far and few, which means companies are more willing to train and cultivate workers. I already have a great foundation of CAD knowledge, and I found that my mind easily warped to decipher schematics and reconstruct them in my mind. To top it off, I have one of the best draftsmen in the industry as a personal mentor.

But the best worker and father I've known also gave me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard: "Do something you love, because if you like it, you won't mind putting in the hours to become great at it." It summarizes very well the key to his success, but it also summarizes why I'm so hesitant to take up what would otherwise be a great opportunity. I know I could be good at it, but I don't know if I would be willing to put in the effort to become great. I remember happily spending hours coding up my first programming project, making a freakish monstrosity easily two or three times the size of everyone else's projects. At least a third had been handwritten during my free time between classes and on the train, without ever wondering or worrying about the amount of time I was putting into the project. Programming was fun, and still is. Debugging is frustrating but ultimately rewarding. Difficulties are exciting challenges, not hinderances.

That's the attitude my dad wants me to have, because while he would love for me to follow in his footsteps, he wants me to be happy most of all. My job is going to be somewhere I spend 8+ hours a day, so given the chance, I ought to spend all that time doing something I love. I want to keep being able to say that I love my life and have never regretted the choices I've made.

So I'm going to go for it. I'm not going to settle; I'm going to keep dreaming and desiring, so that one day I'll be able to do. If I fail, it is not going to be for lack of dedication. But if I succeed, it will be.

30Aug/076

“I just watched her make the same mistakes again”

Instead of writing what I would like to think about, perhaps I'll write about what I am thinking about. Which, in fact, is nothing. Nothing at all. I'm feeling more listless now than I have all summer. My mind doesn't think of quips, it doesn't think of comforting words, it doesn't think of conversation...it just doesn't think. It doesn't process information. It forces laughs when they're prompted, it forces eye contact when it's prompted.

And yet I'm not sure what triggered it. My first day at work was spent being excited, nervous, and cheery. I talked to each and every customer with my usual gusto, left work happy, and met up with friends. And sometime between shopping with them at Bed Bath & Beyond and getting home, a part of me just stopped trying.

Perhaps I'm just tired. I dealt with a lot of people today, and had to wrack my brain for solutions to their questions. I know that I have a low quota for social activity, and I often appreciate alone time after going out with friends. But this isn't quite a need for alone time, because not even watching TV or checking my RSS feeds provided me with any satisfaction.

I originally attributed it to loneliness. Playing with Bunnie vividly reminded me of the lack of physical contact in my everyday life. As strange as it sounds, I had never missed it before she entered my life. I had appreciated it but never felt a desire for it. She was the one who showed me what I was missing, showed me of the power she held over me. I know that simply by hugging me tightly and not letting go, she could make me forget about my deepest and most entrenched worries. Strange and unnatural for someone who relies so heavily on reason.

But now, there's no one to go to. This is one of those rare occasions where I actually don't know the answer to my own question. Perhaps there is an answer out there, but honestly, I don't even know if there's a question anymore. And there's no one to notice that I'm not there asking or answering. The freshmen here are looking for the easygoing friends that they can become lifelong buddies with. My sophmore friends are in their own little worlds, and I suppose I'm in one of my own. The difference is...I'm not so sure I want to be in it by myself. I may have people here with me, but I certainly don't feel like it. I feel too awkward to call attention to myself, feel embarassed when I do get attention, and yet complain that I don't get attention?

Maybe I'm not lonely. Maybe I'm just regretting.

6Aug/073

“Why don’t you have an Asian freak?”

The beach epitomizes nearly everything I react badly to. Sand gets everywhere and precludes everything but sandals (which I never wear), the Sun is blinding even when there isn't an expanse of sand reflecting it, the heat causes me to break down, and extended periods in water have the same effect. But when I went there last Saturday with my friends, it wasn't like that at all.

In fact, I rather enjoyed it.

My main problem was the heat. I had a pair of comfortable slippers from home, and my sunglasses were in working order, if a little crooked. That was easy. On the beach, I thought there would be no reprieve from the oppression of the infrared rays bearing down on me from all sides. I brought a spray fan in preparation for dealing with the heat, but I was afraid that it would remove my sunscreen, so I kept it tucked away until absolutely necessary.

DSC01735
But like most theorycraft, I forgot to account for something: wind. There was an incredibly pleasant breeze blowing throughout the beach that kept me cool while under the beach umbrella that Shelly provided. In fact, I was hottest when not on the beach! The line for a $2.75 Nathan's hot dog, no matter how famous, was windless and way too hot. And the hot dog wasn't even that crunchy...

The food, as expected, was overpriced. Thankfully, my friends and I were able to find small bastions of cheapness, like vendors selling dollar cans of soda and water, as well as dollar icee carts. I didn't know there existed icee carts that do not carry some form of lemon, but I wasn't about to complain in the face of the equally awesome pineapple.

DSC01711
This was all to refuel our bodies after volleyball. I'm not a big fan of it, but that didn't keep me from chilling out in the shade while taking pictures of the action as well as the awkward, compromising positions they occasionally ended up in. I was a bigger fan of frisbee, which I found Joanna, Yi, and the Stuy robotics team playing a ways down the beach. I got to toss around a frisbee whose primary purpose was something other than a shovel, and then headed down to the shoreline to take my first steps in the ocean.

I've lived a life with a set of tempermental skin, and when I looked at the seaweed, shell, and debris-filled ocean, I was a little skeptical to say the least. If I stepped in without my slippers, I would feel all kinds of things underneath me and around me, but if I stepped in with them on, the same things got caught inside of it. I resigned myself to keeping my slippers on (I didn't want them to get stolen or washed away) and moving when the tide was at a standstill. It was surprisingly cool, and I didn't melt or molt. When I returned to my original group, it turns out they wanted to go into the ocean too, and I took bolder steps. I still didn't plan on going much farther in, so I left my camera, wallet, and cell phone in my pocket like I always do and started wading in while holding up the ends of my shorts. There was noticeably less debris as I got farther out, possibly because the same debris is washed back and forth when you're closer to the shoreline. I got a first-hand glimpse of how much less debris there was when my friend Mike snuck up on me and pushed me over. This was in direct violation of the verbal contract I arranged with him previously, being "If you drag me into the water, Mike, I'm taking your balls." Needless to say, his balls were now mine. I contemplated chasing him down, but unlike me, he had no compunctions about going into deep water. I deemed my electronics more valuable then a pair of testicles and wisely left the beach and emptied out my pockets before too much water seeped through.

He's still my hero though, because of this exchange:
Sally: *playing with the sand* Hey look, it's a dinosaur print!
Mike: *kick* Hey look, it's messed up.

We had spent a good five or six hours at the beach before we decided to head out. Some of us needed to get home, others were worried about the sudden appearances of sunburn. Still, our original purpose was to go on the Coney Island rides before they closed after this summer season. Sally, Shelly and I had not forgotten this, and remained resolved to go on the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel before leaving.

The Cyclone brought out an interesting side of me, one that I usually only see during tests. When people come to me and lay out all their fears about how they'll do, and how they haven't studied, I am the epitome of false confidence. The fact is, despite my assurances and cool words, I am often just as fearful and unprepared. The same is true for rollercoasters: when people expressed uncertainty about whether going on was a good idea, I did my best to rally them and persuade them to go. Was I any less afraid of the feeling you get when you descend down those hills, that you're going to go flying out of your seat and splatter across the pavement? Fuck no, it's why I never go on rollercoasters by myself; I can be brave in the presence of others, but I'll rarely stand up for myself. As we climbed up the first hill, I finally admitted out loud, "For the record, I'm scared shitless."

And wow, scared shitless of that first hill I was. I clutched that bar for dear life and didn't let go. The rest of the ride was both a success and a failure. It was favorable in the sense that I really, really enjoyed it. After the first set of hills, I got into it, I stopped cursing and started enjoying. I kept my eyes wide open as a smile streaked across my face wider and wider with each coming steep hill and sharp turn. I left the ride exhilarated, shaking with excitement and seriously tempted to spend four dollars for a reride.

The person sitting next to me was not of the same opinion. Her version of "scared shitless" only amplified as the ride progressed, and despite the sign that said "Do Not Rest Head On Bar," she put her head down and closed her eyes in order to block out the overwhelming G forces and we zoomed about. This caused her head to thrash back and forth as we ascended and descended, showing that a bruised face and disjointed glasses was the price of resting your head on the bar. We all tried to comfort her, but she was shaken and the damage had already been done.

We never went on the Wonder Wheel because people were really itching to go by now. I think it would have been a memorable experience and given us some great pictures, but it wasn't in the cards, at least not today. And while I only have a few more weeks until I start school, I have plenty more summers and plenty more great rides to experience with plenty of great friends.