Dad says he has a clock on his computer that counts the amount of time he has left on earth. The clock takes your current age and a rough measure of your healthy habits (e.g. exercise sessions per week) and vices (e.g. smoke, drink), and then spits out your expected death.

“I’ve got about thirty years left,” he says. (He seems rather content about the whole thing).

I don’t have a death countdown on my computer, but I did download a similar app on my web browser: “Motivation“. It measures your current age and updates it real-time, down to the 9th decimal point. Each time you open a new browser tab, you must confront the reality that you are getting closer to death with every second that passes. How about that?

Screenshot 2015-10-19 at 2.28.34 PM
My age as of writing this post.

It’s hypnotizing to see all the decimal points ticking away. When I first downloaded it, the clock was at “20.1”. Where did all the months go? I can’t stop the clock, much as I would like to at times. No choice but to accept it.

Most days I don’t notice it. But when I do, it provides a good opportunity to ask this important question: what will I do with the time I have left?

Or on a smaller scale: what will I do before the end of the year?

(That question came with an underlying assumption — that I would be alive and well when the calendar reaches December 31st. Given that I have a special visitor coming in soon and that I’d like to see my family over the holidays, let’s hope that’s true!)

Special thanks to Thomas. I saw this on his computer, and then I downloaded it, too.

on grading assignments

Prof. Norman and Prof. Hollan enjoy teaching, but they hate grading assignments. They say it’s their least favorite part about their job.

Norman: “Some professors actually like giving out grades. But then I find that I don’t like being around them.”

As a teaching assistant, I enjoy reading student responses. People are getting smarter and smarter, and it’s amazing to see what they come up with. I’m even fine with commenting and giving feedback on projects, especially when it forces myself to know the material and be clear in my thinking. But I take zero pleasure in stamping grades onto people’s work. (unless someone’s been a real trouble maker — fortunately that hasn’t happened yet)

It’s easy to see who’s been doing exceptional work and who’s been slacking, but what about everybody in-between? More awkward is when you have to grade the assignments of your acquaintances and friends inside the class. I want to support them and see them do their best, but what happens when they don’t?

Being a teaching assistant is a great gig. There’s no better way to learn the material than to teach it, and it’s a ton of fun when the students in the classroom share the same enthusiasm for learning. But even the most interesting opportunities come with the baggage of uncomfortable administrative duties.

Consider it the price of admission.



(Still, there has to be a better way of evaluating work)

the community piano at Muir Woods Coffee House

Jake playing piano

Jake’s at the electric piano again, but I have no idea what he’s playing. I can’t hear any of the musical notes — only the tapping of the plastic keys.

That’s because the community piano itself is muted to the public; you’d have to plug in your own headphones to hear anything. This way the piano player can play without disturbing or imposing their music on anyone else nearby (related: “guy who brings their acoustic guitar to every gathering”).

But since I know the piano player personally, I also want to know what he’s hearing — maybe it’s really good and I want to experience it, too.

A similar situation: you want to know what’s going on in your friend’s mind. But even if you ask them and they tell you, there will always be a gap in understanding between you two. They may not even know what they’re thinking themselves.

Anyways, good to see him jamming away.

“I’ll go into the ocean if you go into the ocean”

The view from Blacks Beach at midnight -- a gorgeous walk down from UCSD.
The view from Blacks Beach at midnight, by the cliffs. The lights in the distance are from downtown La Jolla.

Hannah ran in first. She would have done it regardless, but there’s something about the full moon or the beginning of the new school year that makes the students here feel more adventurous — because if not now, then when? I don’t think I would have jumped into the ocean at midnight on a regular day.

If you’re going to jump into the salt water with your clothes on though, do be ready for all the chafing on your legs as you go back up the hill. As you bear that soggy underwear and start to shiver from the cold, you may ask yourself: “Was it all worth it?”

I think it was.

(And it was definitely worth the cough I got soon afterward).