Why I stopped identifying as a rationalist

I’ve told this story to a few people in person, but I wanted to write it out because honestly I just wanted to challenge myself to say something that many people I know may disagree with. Some background on how I got into rationality and my experience being a rationalist: Michael introduced me to LessWrong and Slate Star Codex when we “met” in October 2014. I became more interested in rationality because I wasn’t happy with myself and was getting more into self improvement around this time (during my freshman year). I attended a CFAR workshop during the summer of 2015 (the summer after freshman year). I became friends with a few rationalists and came to know quite a few others through Facebook, mutual friends, and various other random things (posting on the Princeton class pages looking for other rationalists, attending EAG in 2016). I don’t want to pretend that I’m a super complicated person or try to construct a

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My first Glossier experience

This post has been in my drafts for awhile… Last month, I visited New York and took a trip to the Glossier showroom, the first (out of two, now) Glossier store in the world! I had never purchased any Glossier products before, and I was not super familiar with their product line, so this was a very new experience for me. The showroom is located in the penthouse of a building that is actually pretty close to RC. When I arrived, there was a line of about 10-ish people waiting to get in. It was somewhat deterring, but the woman in front of me told me that the line moved quickly. We were probably waiting for less than 5 minutes, and then we got ushered into an elevator and went up to the showroom together. The place was fairly crowded and smelled like roses. There was music playing. The interior decoration was spot on, and very on-brand, like the graphic design

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Honest reflections on my junior year at Princeton

Junior year was really not what I expected it to be. Coming back from my gap year, I had all these ideas about what I wanted to do differently, and how I would make the most of my time and get a lot out of being back at Princeton. In some ways, that did happen. I took some great classes that I was actually interested in and tried things that I wouldn’t have otherwise tried. But after my first semester back, I felt that I had lost a lot of the personal and mental growth that I had made during my time off, and I felt incredibly lonely. It seemed unthinkable that I would end up feeling more lonely in a school full of 5000 people my own age, than in the cities full of strangers that I lived in during my time off. In January, I felt really lonely. I felt like I did my first semester all wrong,

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My first Amazon Books store experience

This past weekend, I visited the Amazon Books store on 34th Street in NYC. According to Wikipedia, it’s one of the 13 Amazon Books stores in existence! First, let me show you some of the pictures I took of the store, and then I’ll tell you why I dislike the entire concept of the store (and why I’ll never go there to buy books). 🙂 Btw, hope the scroll-down gallery is fine! The slideshow view doesn’t seem to display long captions.     Now…onto why I don’t like the store and could never see myself choosing it over any (reasonably) normal bookstore – barring fundamental changes. Let’s think about buying books and visiting bookstores. For me, those two are actually very different things. If I’m buying a physical book (not an e-book), there are only a few different scenarios. Either a) it’s a textbook I need for school, in which case I would go to my university bookstore which is conveniently located

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A thought on beauty

The word beauty is overloaded: it’s used to describe both “outer beauty” and “inner beauty.” Inner beauty is pretty much an unobjectionable idea. Of course we all want to be good people! But why does inner beauty have to have any relationship to outer beauty? C.f. quotes about “true beauty comes from within.” Even if outer beauty does reflect inner beauty, I don’t understand why the relationship is drawn at all, other than the fact that the two ideas happen to share a common word! This is also why I find messages like “strong is beautiful,” “skinny is beautiful,” etc. so problematic. Although well-meaning (whatever that counts for!), in an attempt at inclusivity, they reinforce the idea that outer beauty – rather than inner beauty – is something that should be universally sought.

Preserving artifacts

What is the truth of mediums (e.g., mechanical pencils, oil paints, human beings) and processes (e.g., printing, sketching on a moving vehicle, human-based service industries)? I think for a lot of “high-achievers,” we hold everything (including ourselves!) to a standard of perfection. But that often betrays the truth of ourselves and our lives. I used to have very light handwriting, so that when I erased – always with a huge eraser – you couldn’t see the mistakes I had erased. I wanted to be seen as someone who got everything right on the first try, even though, like everyone else, I’m a human being! Why do we feel a need to conceal these “imperfections”? These are literally the truths of our world.  In computer science, there is a joke that programmers rebrand bugs (unintended programmatic behavior) as features. I recently started to reframe what I previously thought of as flaws as consequences of the qualities that enable something or somebody

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Doubly protected biker

I just saw a man (maybe a professor of some sort) biking around campus. What struck me was that he seemed to be wearing a complicated looking brown helmet. Upon closer inspection, I noticed he was actually wearing a floppy brown wide-brimmed hat clipped in under a brown helmet. I was amused by his commitment to protecting himself from both the sun and any cranial impacts. Unfortunately I didn’t capture an image, but I think the mental imagery as well as our constructed stories of what type of person he may be are pretty amusing too 🙂

Homemade salad that I like

I’ve recently created a salad that I actually really enjoyed eating, and could see myself eating quite frequently, especially since I’m back at school now and most of the food sucks. It’s quite simple, and the most important ingredient is the dressing – Kewpie Deep-Roasted Sesame Dressing, which I purchased at some random Japanese grocery store in SF’s Japantown. It looks like you can also buy it online, which I definitely plan to do when I run out of my current bottle! To that, I added some arugula (my favorite green) and some kimchi! I’ve “prepared” it twice already, once in my room and once for on-the-go. For the latter, I packed it in a small mason jar with the dressing on the bottom, the arugula in the middle, and the kimchi on the top and ate it during class yesterday (I had straight classes from 11 – 4:20!). It was still fresh (and delicious) though it had been in my backpack,

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How I started enjoying art

Art is great because it’s accessible by nature. You can literally just look at it and see whatever it is. It’s easier to grasp than literature, which can sometimes require you to know certain vocabulary and also require more time/some patience.  I hate how many things have become so “intellectualized.” A big part of the reason I didn’t like art when I was younger was because of my English classes in middle and high school. They were pretty bad at encouraging you to come up with your own opinions. I remember I once turned in a quiz (on something related to Egyptian mythology) in 10th grade English, and I got pissed because I got marked off for a “defend your answer”- type question. When I asked the teacher why my answer was wrong, she essentially gave me a “because I said so” response. There were many instances of teachers saying “as long as you provide compelling supporting evidence, I’ll accept

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Feeding swans in Geneva

Before we start, I have to say that I didn’t know that feeding swans bread was harmful to them at the time. We Googled what swans eat and the first result included bread. Lesson relearned: Don’t take everything on the internet at face value! I feel guilty about feeding them bread, but there’s nothing I can do about it at this point. That aside, the experience was quite interesting. I hadn’t actually seen swans in the wild before, so seeing them in Geneva was a pleasant surprise. They’re so beautiful. We bought a baguette at the Sunday farmer’s market and probably used up 1/5 of it feeding the swans (~30?). There were also pigeons and ducks and birds that we inadvertently fed. At first, I was just taking chunks of bread and throwing them into the water. What happened was somewhat interesting and sad. Some of the swans started biting each others necks – I think to scare off competition?

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