Archive for April, 2012

My Biggest Regret

April 20, 2012 3 comments

I recently played truth or dare with several friends. One question asked was what is your biggest regret? It’s a depressing thing to think about, but I’m happy to share my answer with everyone because I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistakes I made. I have only two regrets in my life. I had a lot more, but I’ve either forgotten them or have come to peace with my past actions. In short, my biggest regret is I didn’t push myself enough. I went from what many would call child prodigy to essentially a lazy unmotivated individual. The problem is simply I stopped thinking.

I apologize in advance for all the arrogance, but it’s to make a point and I won’t hold back here. As a child I was pretty damn smart. Even as an infant my dad recognized I was a gifted child. I don’t know how he could tell at such an early age, but he was right nevertheless. I only found out a few years ago, but my dad even bought several books on how to raise a gifted child.

I will always remember the one weekend morning when I was seven and my dad sat down next to me. He asked if I add up all the numbers between 1 and 100 (ie 1+2+3+…+100), what would I get? I knew my dad wouldn’t ask such a question if the answer really was to manually add up each number so there must be a shortcut to solving the problem. I sat looking at the blank piece of paper in front of me until I figured how to solve the problem five minutes later. However at that age, my biggest feat was devising a method to figure out days of the week. At that time, if you give me any date within ten years (past and future), I could tell you what day of the week that date was on within 30 seconds with 95% accuracy. I only had to know the current date and could calculate everything else from there.

While those two things were trivial, they showed I was actively using my brain to perform complex functions and reason at a higher level not seen in other children my age. Despite my abilities at a young age, my intelligence had slowly decreased as I grew older. Today I am not performing at the potential I displayed when I was young. I’m what you would call an underachiever. I have lost some of my ability to reason because I stopped thinking. Whenever I look in the mirror, I see only a person who has wasted his talents when not everyone is fortunate to be blessed with a high intellect.

The reason for my cognitive decline was I didn’t push to challenge myself. My dad also bought several Mensa books filled with critical thinking puzzles, but I didn’t spend too much time on them. As the saying goes, use it or lose it. I stopped using my brain and paid the price. Those who I hang around with probably noticed I say and do my fair share of stupid things without thinking beforehand.

One of my favourite quotes is It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well by Rene Descartes because I can relate to it. Descartes believed exercising one’s brain is important and without a doubt, I believe him. I wish educators (parents, teachers and yourself) would challenge students to use their brain and test their potential which is why education is a passionate topic of mine.

To be honest, I don’t think my dad is disappointed. For better or worse, he didn’t push me to try harder. However if my seven year-old self could see me now, he would be disappointed and ashamed at what I have become. This is the driving force behind my striving towards becoming a better person. I have a picture of my two-year-old self on my desk so every time I look forward, I am reminded of my abilities when I was a child (and also I was such a cute infant). I hope to exercise my brain to the best of my ability and to reach an even higher potential. I will work harder and one day I will be able to look in the mirror and see a proud seven-year-old smiling back at me.

Categories: Personal

Beyond Kony – Social Media, Community, Slackivism and Tolerance

April 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Last Wednesday, I attended a discussion organized by the UBC Community United Way Campaign about the implications of the Kony campaign. The discussion was led by Dr. Chris Erickson, Victoria Capron and AJ Koehn. I was disappointed at the low attendance (do students not care about international issues?), but it was due to the lack of advertisement and there isn’t much hype around Kony now as there was last month. Funny enough I only happened to stumble upon this event by chance when I Facebook stalked a friend who couldn’t attend. I won’t talk about Kony in particular (there’s already enough discussion going around), but focus on the bigger issues that were discussed by the panel.

The panel mentioned social media is more effective at raising international issues rather than local ones. There’s a sense of distance and anonymity when you support an international cause which makes one feel “secure”. Their reason was this: Let’s say the Kony issue actually occurred locally in Vancouver (instead of Uganda) so now the problem is “in your face”. This forces you to question the system you’re currently a part of and that’s very discomforting. Now then would you be more likely to share the KONY 2012 video? I’m not convinced by that statement because I interpret that to mean it’s easier to support irrelevant (ie not related to you) causes than to draw attention to your own problems. There are probably people who think like that, but that would be an unfair generalization to use on everyone.

A problem brought up was how to get more people involved with local issues. It wasn’t much of a discussion, but more on how to get people to volunteer given from the panelists who have been involved with the community. The most important thing is to engage with other people so prospective volunteers want to seek you out. For example, you can go around and ask what events do you want, what can we fundraise, so when the time comes you need volunteers, it’s easier to go to the same people you asked. You want them to think I did that vs I was told to do that.

One panelist argued slackivism is the new form of activism and that’s a good thing. The argument is when we share a video or attend a Facebook event, we feel compelled to learn more about it and actually show up to the event. People against slackivism (anti-slackivists) are saying it’s good to have a lot of money and power since that’s the only way to exact meaningful changes. However the same system anti-slackivists challenge is built on money and power so that’s a direct contradiction.

I didn’t really understand that argument, but tried my best to restate the panel’s position on slackivism… I still maintain my stance (slackivism sucks) and here’s my rebuttal: Yes I agree when we share a video, we want to learn more about it. However it’s wrong to say that learning about an issue will always lead to one’s involvement. I also agree that when we attend a Facebook event, we feel obligated to actually come if the invite was personal. Of the thousands (or millions?) of people attending the KONY 2012 event, what percentage of them do you think will actually show up and “cover the city” with Kony posters? My theory is these events were mass sent to everyone and you probably received the same invites from several people. This means even if you click attend, you won’t feel the need to show up since there is no single person who is going to keep track of you. However if you receive a personal invite when only ten people have been invited and you click attend, you would be expected to show up.

I’m not sure how the panel came up with the idea anti-slackivists support having money and power. Buying a Kony kit isn’t slackivism (whether or not the money is going to good use is a separate issue) since collective action is powerful for catalyzing change (why else would we live in a democracy). Furthermore having a lot of money and power is a good thing. The only problem is if you achieved that position unethically or abuse it once you got there.

Although unrelated to Kony, tolerance was discussed. For example, we have had problems with homelessness and child poverty for a long time in Vancouver, but the situation still remains the same. Does that mean we have become too accepting of the homeless community (ie homeless people are a normal part of Vancouver and we can live with that)? Has Vancouver become too tolerant then and is that a bad thing? Tyler recently brought up a good point regarding tolerance and homophobia: Many people will tell you I have nothing against gay people, they’re cool people. However how many would be comfortable identifying with the social norm? This seems to be a problem it’s cool for other people to be gay, but it would be unacceptable for me to be gay. Can you consider that situation tolerance then?

Like the Occupy movement, Kony 2012 has been very successful at raising issues for people to discuss. How much conversation is enough and when do we need to move to action? Unless something changes, Kony 2012 will have the same results as the Occupy movement. The last issue the panel left us with was is it better to oversimplify facts to gain support instead of fully educating people? One criticism of the Kony 2012 video was the oversimplification of facts. If Invisible Children had been more transparent from the beginning, they wouldn’t have had as many supporters so can one justify their actions in that regard?

Categories: Global, Life, UBC

Translating Poker 101 to Mafia Gameplay

April 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing Mafia since last summer and realized there are quite a few similarities between how I play poker and Mafia. The biggest difference is that Mafia is a team game while poker isn’t. So some strategies I use to confuse my opponents also screw my teammates, but they still work to a certain extent…

Put yourself in your other people’s shoes. I’ve said it before in Poker 101An average player will think only about the cards other people are holding. If you want to be a good player, you have to think what other players think you have. In Mafia terms, this  means to think what other people are thinking. When you have an idea of what other players are thinking (or think what your role is), you can predict their actions then act accordingly. One time I was the angel, but came out as cop on the first day and faked a guilty report on a player. Judging by his reaction, We were 95% confident he was actually innocent. After I came out as cop, the real cop revealed himself. I did that knowing everyone else would think I was jester and that accomplished a few things:

1) The real cop had two less people to check (the person I faked the guilty and myself).

2) Everyone thought I was jester so I didn’t have to fear being lynched off.

3) Since the mafia know who the real cop is and will target him, I can use my angel ability to save him during the night.

This made it much easier for the civilians to progress and lynch the mafia.

In poker, you have to protect your hand meaning don’t give your opponent a free opportunity to draw a hand (eg straight, flush etc…) and beat you. The Mafia equivalent would be to protect your role so when you come out as any role, other players will respect that and not immediately discount your claim. I’ve learned the hard way (*cough Daphne cough*) that coming out as angel when you’re something else can backfire since you’re inviting the vigilante or serial killer to kill you during the night. I’ve also learned that when you are the angel, you can come out as any role (vigilante is my favourite to come out as) since mafia will try to kill you during the night while at the same time, you’re drawing attention away from the real vigilante who is more useful late in the game. So next time when you are the real vigilante and do reveal it, mafia will have to think twice before killing you. A strategy I want to try is to come out as some vital civilian role (eg vigilante or cop) when I’m the grandma with the shotgun. The plan is to have the mafia killed when they try to kill me during the night (of course I’ll also die during the night, but sacrificing one civilian to kill one mafia is a price I’m willing to pay and besides, I don’t like roles that can’t point during the night).

Lastly, I do shamelessly take advantage of the less experienced players. You want to avoid playing pots against players with large chip stacks especially in tournaments since they can eliminate you with one bet. Instead you bully short-stacked players and force them to go all-in with a marginal hand. There’s no code of ethics with picking on weaker players in poker and it’s the same with Mafia. When I’m the cop, I fake a guilty reports on inexperienced players to see their reactions. This doesn’t work as well on experienced players who are better able to convincingly defend themselves and refute my claim.

Categories: Life

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference 2012

April 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Daphne and I recently attended UBC’s Multidisicplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC). It was my first time at a research conference so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the quality of the presentations. However some of the students’ research were incomplete so there wasn’t any merit to presenting (one study reported results on data from only six test subjects). I also noticed there were flaws with methodology and data analysis with many presentations. Is this common among undergrad research?! 😦

The opening keynote was given by Ashley Whillans. The talk centered around her research in money and happiness. She reported people were more happy spending money on other people than themselves. Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness didn’t know how to spend it :P. Personally, it’s more important to base one’s own views of happiness (contentment is probably the more appropriate term) from his or her own experiences rather than simply follow a scientific (or religious) one.

Afterwards we went to see the first session of oral presentations. They ran simultaneously so we listened to only six out of thirty talks. One interesting one was the Perceived threat of infectious disease and its implications for conformist attitudes and behaviour by Houman Rashidian (the paper is here). The basis was different threats can have different effects on social cognition and behaviour. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but I think it’s fear of the unknown triggers conformity. My theory is if one is facing an unknown (ie obscure) threat then he or she would feel safer going along with a group instead of  standing out, hence conformity. Perhaps that helps explain why so many people unnecessarily went to get the H1N1 vaccine… One problem with this study (and other psychology studies at the conference) was 79% of the test subjects were women (women have a greater tendency to conform than men).

MURC provided us with lunch after while we got a chance to look at all the poster presentations. Arjun Nanda’s poster detailed the benefits of yoga to treating bipolar disorder (BD). However most of the cited benefits apply to only the depressive phase of BD and the student told us yoga actually brings out the manic phase so I was confused about that. Anyways there is potential to studying the effects of various physical activities on patients with BD.

There was a second session of oral presentations following lunch. This time Daphne and I decided to stay in the same room the entire time although we quickly regretted that after. I seriously think I have ADD since I can’t sit in the same seat for long periods of time and I have a short attention span… I was looking forward to hearing about The effects of pre-exam writing exercises on student exam anxiety by Stephanie Ryn since it was a study on education, but was very disappointed with how it turned out. She reported students believed participating in expressive writing (write about one’s feelings) and brain dump (write the concepts one think will be tested) exercises right before an exam helped them achieve a higher grade and there were no differences in anxiety levels among students participating in both exercises. However this study measured only perception and not if those exercises actually improved exam performance. Also apparently there was no control since she didn’t report the relative anxiety levels for students who didn’t do the pre-exam exercises.

There was a chance to network with everyone else afterwards. One attendee came up to us and asked if we were one of the presenters at the conference. We said no although I realized five seconds after she walked away I should have said yes and pretend to be a presenter. Unfortunately my Mafia instincts didn’t kick in at that time 😦

Natalie Sopinka gave the closing keynote. This was a bit different from the opening keynote, but I found it inspiring for people who wanted to get into research. She talked about her journey through research and gave her winning three-minute thesis speech.


Overall I enjoyed my day very much. MURC should have kept the Learning how to network workshop they had last year since it’s important to know how to connect with professors. I also liked that all the sessions started on time (one of my biggest pet peeves is events not following on schedule). That made it easy for us to go to different rooms to listen to various presentations since they were in sync with each other. Also guys need to participate in more psyc studies since most of them (at least at UBC) are biased towards using women test subjects. Other than that, I wish I had more to say, but I don’t 😛 (lesson learned: don’t wait a week after an event to blog about it or you might forget some parts).

Categories: Research, UBC