“Don’t Fear the Internet” — HTML/CSS

Even though computer science is a requirement for cognitive science majors at UCSD, I still find it intimidating. Especially how missing a single semi-colon or bracket can make the entire code go haywire — or even worse (depending on how you look at it) — when the code works, but not the way you want it to. If anything, it helps me appreciate how the human brain is capable of making so many decisions and predictions with incomplete information. Sure, it’s error prone, but at least it won’t collapse like the computer. Still, just as how a blank screen in Microsoft Word reveals the holes in your concentration, broken or messy code can hold you accountable for the flaws in your own logic.

Luckily, there’s a whole slew of resources out there in the internet to make the process of learning programming more approachable (the number of accessible choices can be overwhelming), and there’s one I want to recommend today: Jessica Hische & Russ Maschmeyer’s Don’t Fear the InternetIt’s a fun seven-part video series on the fundamentals of HTML and CSS, featuring lively narrators, cats, and hamburgers. It’s the best presentation I’ve seen on the subject, and is perfect if you’re just getting started.

If HTML programming were a hamburger.
If HTML programming were a hamburger.

“You must love the math.”

A reflection after finishing the Math 10 sequence at UCSD — my least favorite sequence, despite the interesting professors who bring it to life.

It’s the first day of class, and in walks the math professor, Dr. Stevens. We exchange the usual pleasantries (and by we, I mean her and a hundred blank stares), and with students either scribbling everything down or taking it as a free pass to zone out, she offers advice her own professor gave years ago:

“You must love the math. Call everyday, and treat math as if a lovely lady to woo.”

Ten weeks later I ended up with a C+. It would take another quarter before I pulled my head out of my ass and realized that it was not enough to call. If I was going to have a memorable and meaningful conversation with math, my mind had to be in it. Opening the textbook and drilling the homework problems would not be enough, and neither would all the office hours in the world if I mentally checked out the moment I left the room.

Which begs the question — why was I so loathe to put my mind into math in the first place? Was it because I found it boring? In a sense. I mean, I wasn’t dreaming about integrals and differentiation at night. But more so because it came with the threat of failure. Math was my weakest subject back in high school, right behind Spanish. I even flunked it in eighth grade, but the teacher took pity on me and gave me a D- instead (which, surprise surprise, didn’t feel any better). Quite the drop from a person who used to sweat over anything less than an A.

Perhaps the most frustrating realization was that all this took a lot more work and effort than if I had just done it “right” the first time — that is, seeking to understand why a problem is so, rather than plugging and chugging an answer and calling it a day.

Love for math can’t be forced. And relying on validation from good grades as an indicator of self-worth comes with its own set of problems. But knowing when to quit and when to push forward is essential to learning and deciding priorities in life, and this is a time when I quit too early.


Still not a fan of integrals.

Friction while writing, and how to deal with it

I’m noticing a bit of resistance from myself while writing online. It’s as though I’m filtering myself before even typing a single word. When writing in a journal, I can blabber on for pages at a time. Thirty minutes on an average day and I am greeted with filled pages on whatever I chose to dump that day. Nobody’s there to look over and judge me, to say that I’m using too many adverbs. But writing online, it feels as if all of the world’s eyes are on me — which is silly, because I can count the number of readers in one hand, half of which includes my mom. And yet, I still feel paralyzed by that thought.

Writing posts online (even if the fingers on one hand surpasses the number of visitors to this blog) forces me to hold myself accountable for my writing. If I write a steaming pile of shit, that’s my name attached to it. The opposite is also true — if I write some literary gold, my credit will be attached to it, too — but human insecurity is making it tougher to consider that possibility. Or rather, that’s just the reality of doing any sort of work: I’m going to suck at it for a long time before I get any better. 

Ira Glass talks about this in his video, “Storytelling”, and how when starting any creative endeavor, there will always be a painful gap between what you know is objectively “good” and valuable (your taste, your ideals), and what you are actually creating at the time (your work). And that the only way to close that gap is to keep creating.


Ira Glass’s “Storytelling”, illustrated.

Glass speaks of this through the perspective of storytelling in his radio show, but the same principle applies to any sort of creative work.

The key then, would be to push through despite the desire for perfectionism. To continue to write — even if the work comes out bland and wilted at first — out of nothing else but the desire to become better. Better at presenting ideas that can change the world, and better at connecting with other people, on and off the computer screen.


The sketch above was created Doug Neill, teacher and illustrator. You can check out his other work on thegraphicrecorder.com.


I thought writing for a public audience, or at least opening up to criticism would help with improving my writing skills. Writing can open the eyes, tickle the brain, and break hearts just as soon as it can mend them (or even faster). Words are powerful, and it’s time I learn how to use them.

I’m not sure what will come out of this (Romantic dates? Job opportunities? A sense of accountability and personal fulfillment?), but I won’t find out unless I take the first step. The worst that can happen is that I end up talking to myself and feeding my own ego for years, but that’s not an outcome restricted to blogging.

Starting a project is one thing; coming back to it on a regular basis is another.

But let’s see how it goes.