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Saturday, September 4th, 2010
2:13 am - A Recap of the last Six Months
Oh boy, it's been a while since I posted, and, alas, that means it will be a summary of happenings with either not enough detail to make any of it interesting or with amusing stories out of context.

CHMMC went well. Alas, the individual round turned out to be too hard and I didn't have a good enough system for moving teams along with their proctors to the their room for the team round, but as a whole I think the students enjoyed it, even the ones that were in over their heads. We moved the contest to November, and there are already seven teams registered (deadline Sep20), so I can (a bit too soon) say that I've succeeded in my goal of organizing a contest that is acceptable enough that teams want to come back. Fortunately, I'm not in charge this time, which means I need to not worry about how the contest will go this year. Alas, not worrying is a task that is more difficult than it would seem.

Moving on towards the future, during spring break I had a wonderful trip to Arizona with two Darb freshmen that went with me and two Rudd juniors that we met up with there. We hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in a day, and looking back at the photos one can see how gradually our happy excited faces turn into very tired faces. It was quite an odd hike: slipping on ice in temperatures well below freezing just after sunrise, then dunking oneself in the river at the bottom, then wishing it wasn't so hot on the way up, and finally getting back up to snow just after sunset. Quite a tough hike: I was barely putting one foot in front of the other for the last three miles, which, alas, is the steepest part of the whole trail. I like pushing myself to my physical limit every once in a while, though, and this is one of the prettiest ways to do that.

At the very end of the hike, it turned out that my car battery was completely dead. (Later I found out that the beeping noise that warns you about the headlights had stopped working.) I had cables, but the Rudds had already driven off. Fortunately, somebody else was still around that late, so we were soon on our way. The next day we took a "break" (8-mile hike), and the day after that we hiked up Humphrey's Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12 637 feet (12 642 feet if you count me). On this hike, I learned how to use an ice axe and how to glissade, which is a fancy word for sliding down the mountain on your butt while using an ice axe to brake. It is a superfun way to make it a good ways down the mountain, although it was bumpy or wet, depending on what the temperature was as the elevation changed. The hike reminded me of how much I miss snow, but hiking in it for a day was enough to make up for it. Having to move to keep warm or turning away from the wind don't sound particularly pleasant, but I guess I have an odd sense of nostalgia for growing up in Moscow and Minnesota. I was also very happy that the tomato I brought along was not frozen when we got to the top. For some reason, I love tomatoes on hikes, even though usually I am somewhat indifferent to them. Anyways, the views were excellent and it was my favorite hike in a while.

Anyways, then third term happened, which was a breeze academically (in fact, I don't think I had any exams at all), but nevertheless quite crazy because a myriad of tricky things, though unrelated to each other, nevertheless managed to conspire among themselves to all happen third term. Then two Darb friends got married by another Darb friend in the Dabney courtyard: it was quite exciting, and they are quite a pleasant couple. Also, I have never seen the courtyard so clean ever in the past, nor am I likely to see it ever that way in the future. Quite a feat. Also, the guy who married them noticed that he had the authority to marry anyone for that day, so as soon as midnight struck on the day of the wedding he ran around Caltech marrying everyone (and everything) in sight to everything else. Dabney is now married to Blacker, by the way. While he was doing this, he decided to interpret prop 8 to mean that he can still marry people of the same gender to each other, as long as they're not gay, which he enforced with a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. As a result of all this, he got good practice saying "by the powers vested in me as deputy commissioner of civil marriages in the state of California" without laughing, but, alas, some of the guests at the wedding couldn't resist.

After that, I began my summer of travelling to more places than I really ought to. First I went to Colorado to visit family, and the to Duluth to visit my REU from last summer. Then I went to be a JC at Mathcamp, which deserves an entire post all to itself, but alas I will probably not get around to it. It was certainly one of the most absurd yet inspiring experiences of my life. From there I went to Cincinnati to visit more family, including three younger brothers, but alas Mathcamp didn't leave me quite enough energy to run around with all of them. Now I'm in Raleigh visiting more family, including another brother, and I'm about to go to Paris with my grandparents, which will be exciting but hopefully also relaxing. Then I'll come back to Raleigh, and then go to Minneapolis, and then back to Caltech a few days early so I'll have time to catch my breath and deal with some bureaucracy before meeting over two hundred entering freshmen for rotation. Whee!

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Friday, February 19th, 2010
10:26 pm - Oh boy
Whee, CHMMC is tomorrow. It was quite a lot of printing! And now most of the papers and supplies are chillaxing in my room. Anyways, I need to make some beamer slides like `here are our sponsors' and then get lots of sleep for tomorrow. Hopefully people will like it.

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Sunday, February 14th, 2010
2:43 pm - Math and stuff
Hmm, it's been a while since I posted. Lots of stuff going on right now with the math contest in a week and all. Fortunately, everything is pretty much ready, and we could probably have an acceptable contest even if it were tomorrow. Just a few minor details left: the tests should be printed, the engraving should be attached to the medals, the power question coordinators should finalize the grading rubric, we should figure out which winners get which prizes, etc. I'm definitely looking forward to it, and hopefully I'll be able to adequately deal with all the things that go wrong. Well, hopefully there won't be anything going wrong to deal with, but that's probably too optimistic. Also, hopefully the students will like the problems we wrote, because I think that's what they'll remember most about the contest.

Also, Mathcamp will hopefully get back to me tomorrow about the JC job. Yikes! Hopefully third time's the charm will be an apt phrase.

I'm sure using the word 'hopefully' a lot. And now I'm off to a nap followed by contradancing. Not being able to sleep well is super-annoying. I wouldn't recommend it.

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Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
4:30 pm - CHMMC and Asia
Hmm, it's been a while since I updated this thing. First term went pretty well this year, although I'll probably post about it later, and make this post about more recent things.

CHMMC is going well. We planned for about 30 teams, and we have 29 teams registered as of the regular registration deadline. The first drafts of the tests are almost ready, our sponsors have agreed to donate a good number of prizes, and it looks like we've got enough money to cover everything. Hooray! The only big thing left is planning the day of the contest...whee!

In other news, I'm in Asia visiting my dad and brothers who now live in Brunei. On the way here I spent half a day in Hong Kong, which was supercool. I took a train and a ferry to get a good view of all the tall buildings in Hong Kong. I wandered around a bit in a touristy area, and ate lunch in a superlarge shopping mall. It would be good to go back there and see more of the nontouristy bits.

Anyways, my family and I went to Malaysia to see the rainforest, which was supercool. There were some ridiculously huge caves, and one had a fairly wide river inside. We only saw a little of a couple caves, and apparently if you make reservations ahead of time you can spend a day going through the longer caves with a guide. There were also plenty of pretty stalactites and stalagmites and other cool formations. Also, one cave had a ridiculous number of small bats. Around sunset they all left to go hunting and there were so many of them they looked like long whispy quickly moving gray clouds in the sky. I got some pretty nifty videos using 40x zoom. There were also lots of all sorts of plants and insects and birds (the birds were usually hidden in the trees, but they were quite noisy). The weather was warm and superhumid, but I enjoyed it because I was a little tired of the cool dry weather that's in Pasadena at this time of year. The superdense vegetation was also a nice contrast with my usual adventures to the Mojave desert.

Anyways, now I'm back in Brunei. The beach looks very enticing, but I hear there are superextrapoisonous jellyfish, so nobody really swims there :-( My brothers are cool, and Zach, the littlest one, is supercute. (The last time I saw him he was just a couple weeks old and so he wasn't cute yet then.) Zach currently enjoys screaming superloudly and superhigh-pitched when he's happy, especially when Sasha (my 8 y.o. brother) is around. Yikes! Also, I'm nineteen and a half years older than Zach, and nineteen years older than Natan, my half-brother on my mom's side. Also, I have four brothers and no sisters. Generations are so weird sometimes...

Anyways, off to work on the contest, my JC application, and my paper. Lots to do this break!

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Monday, September 28th, 2009
10:10 am - Back at Tech
In the quest for cheap textbooks, one often discovers interesting things when opening the package. Today I have received my first loose-leaf textbook, complete with three holes punched on the left for insertion into a binder. It's about 600 pages, but it fit into an empty one-inch binder I had unearthed while unpacking.

In other news, I'm pretty excited about being back oncampus and being in a single. It's pretty good, although currently my room is a mess. It was an even bigger mess earlier, so it still feels good. Anyways, hopefully I will finish unpacking today.

In other news, rotation is going on. Hopefully I won't get dizzy. Yay prefrosh.

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Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
11:07 am - Logo Feedback
Thanks to everyone that gave feedback about chmmc.caltech.edu. Right now we need a choice between very similar-looking logo/banner designs, so I was wondering if you could help. The options are:



Thanks!

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Saturday, September 19th, 2009
9:15 pm - Feedback Please
I'm planning a math competition with the Caltech and Harvey Mudd math clubs. We're going to start advertising soon, but first we need to have a good webpage and reasonable policies. If you have time, it would be supercool if you could take a look at it and comment or email if there's anything nonideal about the policies, layout, colors, content, etc.

In other news, using CSS to make reasonable webpages is not as tricky as I had thought it would be, especially not starting from scratch.

In other other news, I am in Cincinnati now. I'll be in Pasadena on Friday, and from there, to the desert!

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Sunday, September 6th, 2009
1:47 pm - How Caltech got me a free T-shirt from Harvard
So there was this nerd party at Harvard yesterday called "The Cambrian Explosion" and it had a trivia contest, where there was a clue and anybody from the audience could answer it. One of the clues clued for MHC, so I was like huzzah Bi1, and so I got a Viva la Relativity T-shirt. Yay for pretending to be a Harvard student. Coincidentally, I was wearing a Duke shirt at the time.

In other news, 4everconvex and I will be in NYC tomorrow. Poke me if you're there.

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Monday, August 24th, 2009
12:46 am - Snakes on a Computer
I've decided to play with Python. I made a thingie that makes a file that contains all the words of an input file in alphabetical order, one on each line. Granted, the program was very simple, since python has built-in functions for reading a file, making a list of all words in a string, sorting a list, and writing to a file. But now I know how to do basic things, such as execute my code in three different ways. (1. Run python in the terminal, then use the execfile command in python. 2. Run python in emacs, then use the execfile command in python. 3. Run python thingie.py in the terminal.) Also, I know how to talk to files. I had some trouble at the beginning with this because I didn't realize you need to close the output file for it to actually write the output to the file.

Anyways, perhaps next time when I have something that wants to be coded, I will send carnivorous snakes at it instead of running away in fear.

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Friday, August 21st, 2009
9:26 pm - Lasers and operating systems
Some Caltech buddies and their buddies made a nifty song about LIGO, which is the thing that's going to detect gravity waves by detecting changes in distance much smaller than a proton, using laaasers. Check it out.

In other news, I am now using Fedora 11 instead of Fedora 9. Moreover, though I was told that the upgrade train makes a stop at Fedora 10, I managed to take the express train and upgrade directly. Anyways, it appears that I fixed everything that broke as a result of the change, and in addition Google earth works now. Yay progress!

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Monday, August 17th, 2009
6:48 pm - Oh the places I'll go
I'm in Raleigh right now. I'll be in Boston starting September 3, and in Cincinnati starting September 18, and going back to Caltech on September 25. We should meet up.

Also, I might go to Stanford splash, but I'll procrastinate on deciding that since they've procrastinated on starting teacher registration. If I do go, I'll be more sensible this time and drive, since it takes as much time as flying and getting to and from the airport. Thus if you want a ride to Stanford from Pasadena for the weekend of October 10-11, poke me.

In other news, a conundrum has occurred. The joint math meetings are January 13-16 in San Fransisco, and the mystery hunt is January 15-17 in Boston. Skipping the joint math meetings doesn't seem to be a reasonable option. The earliest that it would be reasonable to leave would be on the evening of Friday the 15th, which gets me into Boston on Saturday and doesn't give me enough time there for it to be worth it. Thus it appears that I'll be missing mystery hunt this year for the first time since 2004. Yikes! However, not going to mystery hunt from the meetings gives me the opportunity to drive there and back, which in turn gives me the opportunity to stop by snazzy parks on the way back, especially since that Monday is a holiday. Consequently, if you want a ride to San Fransisco from Pasadena for the joint meetings and like snazzy parks, poke me.

In other news, Duluth was fun, although I don't think I'd like to do more research in whatever field of research I was working in there. It seemed rather unmotivated. The good news is that I finally managed to read and proofread my own paper, so now all I have to do is revise it once the advisors take a look at it. Overall, though, Duluth was pretty snazzy, with cool people, fun field trips, tasty food, and a decent amount of networking.

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
12:44 am - A Good Use of Paint
I'm linking to a photograph.

http://www.artnet.com/artwork/425843451/424139547/liu-bolin-forklifts.html

If the photo looks uninteresting, take a closer look. There's also a link to similar sorts of photos by the same artist.

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Monday, July 27th, 2009
6:27 pm - Multiplication
So for the past several weeks I've been studying multiplication. Specifically, if A and B are subsets of a group G of sizes r and s, what's the minimum size of the product AB, in terms of r and s? I'm somewhat confused as to why anyone would care about the answer to this question. Nevertheless, people have published papers finding bounds for solvable groups, and finding the exact value for abelian groups, dihedral groups, and nonabelian groups of order 3p for prime p. It's quite puzzling that this has been studied so much, although perhaps there are some applications that nobody has bothered to tell me about. In any case, I've written a proof of a conjecture that computes the minimum for nonabelian groups of order pq for primes p and q. I haven't read it yet, though, but it's very unlikely that it has essential errors. (As a side note, I think using essential as an antonym for removable is pretty nifty.) The proof is a bunch of casework, a good portion of which is nasty casework, but I can't say it hasn't been fun coming up with the arguments. (Go on, parse the double negative.) Anyways, now I need to standardize the notation I've been using in my paper, clean up some more stuff in it, and add in a bunch of motivation. Also I should write an introduction at some point.

In short, if you're ever dealing with the nonabelian group of order pq, I'm pretty good friends with all of its subgroups, so talk to me and I'll hook you up.

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Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
10:05 pm - Sopranos, Digraphs, Waves, and Groups of order pq
Hmm...haven't updated for a while. Largely because third quarter was pretty intense. Early on I was in a one-act play called The Bald Soprano, which didn't make much sense but was a good time. Then there were two trips to the desert, one to the dunes and one for Dabney's valiant forward advance (aka retreat). Then 4everconvex visited, and we went to ARML and the dunes again on the way back. The dunes, by the way, are pretty awesome. From the top there is a very good view of vast emptiness, and it's pretty cool to be sandwiched between a mountain of sand and a starry sky. Meanwhile, I was using my math club president powers to get two Caltech professors to give pizza talks for the club and to organize an undergraduate research symposium. There were six speakers at the symposium, counting myself. I gave a talk on the research I did at Illinois, so now I have a good beamer presentation about free splittings, complete with pretty pictures.

Then finals week came. I did my finals ahead of time, doing the last one on Monday of finals week. Incidentally, I became sick as I was finishing my last final. I'd call it good timing, except that Wednesday I had to give a two-hour talk at the geometry and topology seminar, again about free splittings. Fortunately, I had my good buddies acetaminophen and ibuprofen to make me feel good enough to prepare my notes and to give the talk. Surprisingly, the talk turned out well nevertheless.

I must have caught a pretty bad bug, because I only got better Friday afternoon, just in time for extreme packing. I'm improving...it only took half the night pack everything, instead of an all-nighter like last time. 4everconvex and I got to Raleigh pretty late, and the next day we had five hours of driving to the outer banks. Chilling at the outer banks was pretty awesome, with some good waves and lots of family. Unfortunately, they stole my prescription goggles, so I'll have to fork over another $30 to get new ones.

Anyways, now I'm at Duluth. Incidentally, as we were talking over dinner, it turned out that one of the graduate student mentor-like people was also at Las Vegas ARML. In fact, we both helped grade the power round. Further investigation showed that, in fact, we graded the same problem together. This, as it happens, reminded me of a very similar scene in The Bald Soprano, so I've brought this post full circle.

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Thursday, March 12th, 2009
5:58 pm - Hamster Balls and Cohomology
Between my last post and now, Dabney had its big party. Unfortunately, the human hamster ball wasn't as sturdy as it needed to be, so it got somewhat deformed before the party even started, but was still usable as a space for sitting in. The 40-foot diameter dome outside was pretty amazing. There was a huge paper mache tree in the middle with colored glowing wires making veins going up it, which looked awesome. There were also patterns projected onto a water wall, and a couple laser spirographs. Inside, there were a few fabric rooms. One of my favorite ones was one where you could use little UV lights as pens to draw on a wall, and your drawing would glow green for a minute and then fade. There was another which had over a dozen monitors all showing 15 second clips from old cartoons, accompanied by a turntable playing Pink Floyd. In addition, there was a room of soft things, and a room of balls with faces drawn on them wearing hats. There was also a pair of blinky goggles, which were goggles that shone rapidly alternating colors of light, in a variety of preset rates and colors. While wearing them you'd see various illusory patterns, which would change depending on what blinky state the goggles were in.

Unrelatedly, yesterday I felt good because I proved that given R-modules M and N, there is a natural bijection between Ext^1(M,N) and exact sequences 0->N->E->M->0 where two extensions are equivalent if there is a map phi:E->E' such that the two extensions commute by the map phi and the identity maps on N and M. Granted, the hint in Lang basically tells you how to construct the maps, and leaves it to you to show they are well-defined and inverses.

Anyways, now I should eat and then probably take a final.

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Thursday, February 19th, 2009
3:41 pm - Decisions, or lack thereof
I didn't get in to Mathcamp, so I'm going to Duluth without having to make any tricky decisions. Hopefully it'll be nifty. This is Tuesday's news, but I've been a bit swamped Tuesday and Wednesday, so I haven't gotten around to posting until now. Also Tuesday I went to Los Angeles to see the Phantom of the Opera. It was nifty. Apparently I still remember a lot of the Phantom of the Lecture Hall.

This morning we went to the mountains to take back the snow that was rightfully ours, and we celebrated the freedom of the Inuit by having a large snowball fight on the lawn in front of the faculty club. We hit some tour groups, and we dropped by the IHC meeting. (The IHC is the committee consisting of the house presidents.) In addition, we built a snowman outside a food court in town, because people outside of Caltech need surrealism, too. It was good times.

Anyways, I'm done with work through 8:30pm Monday, so I'll have time to chillax a bit or get ahead on work or help build our party. We have a gigantic (two-stories) geodesic dome in the courtyard right now. It's pretty intense.

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Monday, February 16th, 2009
11:45 am - Ack! Decisions!
I got accepted to the Duluth REU, so now I need to decide whether I'd prefer to go there or be a JC, granted that I haven't heard back yet from Mathcamp. I have four days to decide. The obvious case happens when Mathcamp either rejects me or doesn't get back to me by Friday, in which case I go to Duluth. The tricky case happens if Mathcamp accepts me.

My thoughts: In my mind, Duluth is The REU, with a capital `T'. In addition, I've been accepted in the first round of acceptances, so clearly they want me there. Thus it seems supersilly to turn them down. Also I feel like doing that would essentially be wasting my recommenders' time. On the other hand, I've already done REUs, and Mathcamp is superawesome and quite different from the things I'm usually doing. Another issue is that given arbitrarily many JC jobs, I would give up one of them to go to Duluth, so it might as well be this year. The problem with this argument is that its assumption is blatantly false.

Your thoughts?

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Saturday, February 14th, 2009
2:23 pm - An Untimely Somersault
Thursday morning I found myself in the awkward situation of having swapped places with my bicycle. Rather than the bicycle rolling forwards along the ground and me sitting on top of it, I was sliding forwards on my back along the ground with my legs in the air and an upside-down bicycle inbetween them. If rotated 180 degrees, the situation would probably have looked pretty normal. I did the natural thing to do in such a situation, which is to remark upon its similarity to the aftermath of falling while downhill skiing. I pushed my bike to the left so it wouldn't fall on top of me, and then I noticed with surprise that I had already stopped moving forwards. Friction can be sneaky sometimes. Apart from a few scratches, I wasn't hurt, so I got back on my bike and continued to class. The adrenaline made it hard to take notes, though.

Anyways, the point of the story is that it's superimportant to wear a somersault-facilitating device, more commonly known as a helmet, because you never know when you'll need to do a somersault.

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Monday, February 9th, 2009
9:40 pm - Whoops
Yesterday I went to Los Angeles by train. I drove over to the train station and left my car in the train station's parking garage. I got back pretty late, and the parking lot was mostly empty. At this point I noticed that some of the spaces were marked with signs that said that there was a two hour limit, and that cars exceeding the limit would be towed. It was raining, and I was wearing a suit, so I called a friend and asked him to bring me back from the train station. The next day, I called the parking police, and they informed me that they had not towed a car with that license plate, so they transferred me to the office where I could report a stolen vehicle. After getting off the phone, I was a bit worried, but then an idea struck me, so I got on my trusty bicycle and biked over to the train station. I looked in the garage, and apparently my car was not in one of the aforementioned two-hour spots and was right where I left it. I called my friend and apologized for bothering him the previous day. I also got a voicemail message from the police, who informed me that they found my car where I told them I had left it. They were nice enough not to call me an idiot. Then I put my bike in the trunk (tricky but possible), and drove back.

Anyways, I think I just raised the bar for stupid mistakes. The previous record was held by my friend who left San Diego early to get to Pasadena in time for me to drive him to San Diego. ("So where exactly is this conference we're going to?" "It's in San Diego." "Oh.")

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Sunday, January 25th, 2009
8:05 pm - Best Job Ever
I just got $50 for going to a concert.

Also, Auditorium is a very beautiful game. So beautiful that I played it twice. It's a series of puzzles made of music and light, and you really should try it out. It took me about an hour to go through the whole thing, and it's definitely worth your time.

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