Monthly Archive for January, 2008

5 ways to stay awake

Burn­ing the late night oil work­ing up the project due tomor­row, and real­ize you spend more and more of your efforts fight­ing the urge to sleep rather than the work itself? I’ve been there count­less times. There are 5 ideas to get out of that rut off the top of my hat:


1. A dance in a cold shower Effectiveness: *****

This is my trump card of get­ting my con­scious­ness back very fast. For a total of 10 – 15 min­utes, you basi­cally get 100% alert­ness and clar­ity back. Cold shower is also a folk remedy described to have numer­ous ben­e­fits for the body system includ­ing clean­ing the cir­cu­la­tory and reduc­ing blood pressure.

One down­side for this method is its dif­fi­culty for exe­cu­tion. Get­ting my ass in a cold shower in itself is hard enough, it takes a loath of willpower to do it at a cold winter night at 3am. I find doing warm up exer­cises before the shower very impor­tant to get my moti­va­tion up and also not get sick the next day.


2. A quick nap Effectiveness: *****/*

This is really a double edged sword. Get­ting up from a 15 minute quick nap some­times can really feel like having a whole night of qual­ity sleep. You are fully charged and the effect stays very long too. In a sense, this is way better than A dance in a cold shower. That is, when it works. When it doesn’t work, which has a not so insignif­i­cant chance to happen, the result is waking up fully ener­gized by the fact that the now 30 minute due project has not pro­gressed at all since last night. I can say that because I’ve had both, and con­cluded this is way too risky for impor­tant things. From my expe­ri­ence, if you do choose to follow this method, make sure you snap out of bed quickly when you wake up. Stand firm, walk around the hall­way to “start up” your system. That min­i­mizes the chance of you decid­ing you could use an “extra 5 minute sleep”.

Speak Effectiveness: ***

You’ll want to choose some­one who’s not also sleepy, for obvi­ous rea­sons. When trying to talk to some­one, it is very easy to get too excited and you end up having traded some quick nap time for chit chat­ting. If you are work­ing alone at night and there’s no one awake for you to talk to, try speak­ing out loud and pre­tend to be chat­ting. A good way to do it is read­ing out arti­cles aloud, with artic­u­late pro­nun­ci­a­tion & tonal­ity. How­ever you choose, just get the mouth moving.

Chew­ing gum Effectiveness: **

Another way to get your mouth moving. This is not as effec­tive as speak­ing out loud because you can still fall asleep when you’re chew­ing. Espe­cially during the times when the gum starts to get flabby and loses the effect.


Sit straight Effectiveness: **

All other things aside, you can at least influ­ence your psy­chol­ogy with your phys­i­ol­ogy. As futile as it may sound, it actu­ally gives a little aware­ness, and this is very portable too! You can do it almost every­where, even in a classroom.

gag mario

I laughed my ass off when play­ing this seem­ingly plain game:


(Note: You’ll need to get the Java Run­time to play this game, if you can’t see any­thing in the page)

When you get frus­trated enough play­ing (as you even­tu­ally will) or just wanna check out the gags less the frus­tra­tion, there are some video walkthroughs.

what’s more imporant: the shell or the egg?

One of the home­work this week is to write a resume (CV) of myself later to be sent to my poten­tial employer in my summer intern­ship. First of all, the school has required all resumes to be writ­ten in the “stan­dard­ized format” (read “boring out­dated format”), which has required the stu­dents to reveal their cumu­la­tive GPA and all bunch of boring details like edu­ca­tion, etc. That got me won­der­ing why the school didn’t go ahead and do the work for me instead of having me fill in all the infor­ma­tion the school already has access to. Now, I thought one of the few things I remem­ber from the man­age­ment classes is that “personality matters”. Inter­est­ingly, the “stan­dard­ized format” doesn’t even give you a hobbies/interests field to fill in. Appar­ently the school doesn’t really want to know about me as a person.

On the con­trary with my school’s direc­tion, the market seems to think that the shell of the resume is prob­a­bly more impor­tant than the con­tent. Some time ago I came across a very out­stand­ing resume that serves to prove this point. More­over, a simple Amazon search for “resume writing” turned up 4,000+ results. This raises a pretty inter­est­ing ques­tion: “If the resume writ­ing skills can improve my inter­view results, given my resume con­tent is the same, then why the heck do I have to work so hard for the resume content?”


So what are the resume con­tent? It would be your col­lege degree, your cumu­la­tive GPA as included in my “standardized resume”. These are the things that we’ve been work­ing so hard for since at a young age. Then, if there are so many “instant ways to get your resume noticed in today’s crowded job market”, why don’t we just do the “instant ways” instead of having spent prob­a­bly hun­dreds of thou­sands of money to get that little degree title which occu­pies prob­a­bly 3 – 5 lines of text in that little piece of paper? Isn’t the shell more impor­tant than the egg?

As abstract as it may seem, those titles, col­lege degrees are actu­ally also part of the shell. Then what is the egg? It’s your per­son­al­ity. (I hate to use this term because it sounds like those pro­fes­sors, but that’s what it is) There are hotel CEOs not having a degree about hos­pi­tal­ity. That more than serves the point that the degree really doesn’t make too much of a dif­fer­ence, no matter what the soci­ety tries to make us believe.

I had a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend of mine about this topic a couple of days ago, and he said one thing that explained this stuff pretty well:

After we grad­u­ate and come into the soci­ety, we all have to start learn­ing from the ground up anyway. It is naive to think that more than 10% of what you’ve learned at school actu­ally applies in the real world. What truly mat­ters is your own capabilities.

This brings us back to the same old ques­tion: what’s the point of wast­ing so much resources get­ting part of the shell, learn­ing about a bunch of use­less stuffs so you can get past the exams? That is a big waste of resources. People feel more proud when they are in the quan­ti­ta­tive finance pro­gram more than in the engi­neer­ing pro­gram because they had higher admis­sion grades. Wel­come to real­ity; the world of package/tags; the world of absurdity.

today could be the last day of…

I came across the lyrics of The Chron­i­cles of Life and Death by Good Char­lotte, and I found the lyrics too mean­ing­ful for me not to share it with everyone:

You come in cold You’re cov­ered in blood They’re all so happy you’ve arrived The doctor cuts your cord He hands you to your mom She sets you free into this life And where do you go? With no des­ti­na­tion, no map to guide you Wouldn’t you know That it doesn’t matter, we all end up the same These are the chron­i­cles of life and death And every­thing between These are the sto­ries of our lives as fic­tional as they may seem You come in this world And you go out just the same Today could be the best day of your life And money talks, in this world, that’s what idiots will say But you’ll find out, that this world Is just an idiot’s parade Before you go You’ve got some ques­tions, and you want answers But now you’re old, cold, cov­ered in blood Right back to where you started from These are the chron­i­cles of life and death And every­thing between These are the sto­ries of our lives as fic­tional as they may seem You come in this world And you go out just the same Today could be the worst day of your life But these are the chron­i­cles of life and death And every­thing between These are the sto­ries of our lives as fic­tional as they may seem You come in this world And you go out just the same Today could be the best day of Today could be the worst day of Today could be the last day of Your life It’s your life Your life

how-to: play drums along with a song from your computer

After fum­bling around for an extended period of time to get my com­puter to play sounds when I hit the drum pads con­nected to it with a MIDI-to-USB cable, I finally got it work­ing. The moment I got it work­ing I was so over­joyed. At the same time, I can attribute the long trial & error to the seri­ous lack of documentation/guides on how to do it. There are some forums and long arti­cles full of jar­gons that tend to scare begin­ners away. So, after fight­ing through all the hard shits, I decided to write a lay-​man guide.

1. The rigs

To play drums, you need a drum­set. Long story short, if you just want to prac­tice and are not par­tic­u­larly par­tic­u­lar about the sound details, my DTX­plorer did the trick.


2. The music

The soft­ware you are look­ing for is Guitar Pro. Its very mis­lead­ing name had me believe it was only for guitar for quite a long time. You get to mute the drum track so you can play along with a song, with metronome, adjustable bpm, etc. This soft­ware has a lot of nice fea­tures and you get to print out music sheets with it too!

One great place to find guitar pro tabs is 911tabs


3.The MIDI sampler!

This is the part that got me frus­trated for sev­eral nights. This soft­ware basi­cally con­verts MIDI sig­nals to wave sig­nals to be output from the com­puter speak­ers. That sounds simple enough, huh? If you want to do this and are just start­ing out, you are so lucky to have found this post. A simple google search will turn up all the “MIDI synthesizer”, “MIDI sequencer”, “drum machine”, “VST”, “VSTi” or some per­mu­ta­tions of these terms. Each one of those has its own rather steep learn­ing curve (mostly due to lack of proper doc­u­men­ta­tion) and they’re actu­ally totally dif­fer­ent things, not to men­tion most of them are priced over $100. I just couldn’t believe I had to get so involved to achieve some­thing like the game DTX­Ma­nia – to play a sound when I hit a pad, plain and simple.

After going through a lot of has­sles, and I’m very glad I hadn’t paid in the process, I came across Native Instrument’s Bat­tery 3.


It was the only one that worked like it should – I started the soft­ware, plugged in my drums, played and it emit­ted sounds! No forced advanced fine tuning, no “state-of-the-art” geeky options with 78 con­fig­urable set­tings. The demo ver­sion is actu­ally free too! You get to play 30 min­utes before the pro­gram quits itself. Not a big deal for daily prac­tice, just reopen the pro­gram. The retail ver­sion, with 38 more drum kits is around $200, a very rea­son­able price for some­thing that just works so fine.