Commitment to well-being

Now that I have a full-time job I’ve promised myself that I’ll spend $5000 between now and the end of 2019 on my physical and mental well-being. (I haven’t decided whether this includes holidays.) I’ve suspected for a long time that I’d need professional help after completing my PhD and I’ll probably need external guidance if I’m to get anywhere in terms of fitness too. They say that wealthy/successful people invest in themselves, and although I’m not one of those people, I’m going to try investing in myself even though I hardly feel assured of the consequent benefit.

For starters I’m experiencing hay fever again at a level that may hinder my work or eagerness to go outside. Although 4Life Tri-Factor miraculously worked for me in the past, I’ve run out of pills and have decided to try something different: Inner Health Hayfever Relief as well as Inner Health Plus. Although Inner Health is a respected name here, I may well become the first person to review their Hayfever supplement. I will report my experience in about a month or so, hopefully.


Looking back on my PhD

I finished my PhD recently. In the last few days before submitting, I made over 400 corrections. It turns out I had never properly proofread my thesis at the time I submitted it in a rush. My supervisor hasn’t read my full thesis and my examiners didn’t pick up on that many things (but wanted some quite annoying “administrative” changes to make). I was already working so I procrastinated for a whole month not doing my final revisions and in the end realizing I had an unreal amount of work left to do in just a week. In a way, this was a testament to the power of procrastination because I totally achieved what I thought was impossible. Though it did take me a whole week to recover from that effort. Ultimately it’s inevitable that every thesis will have several mistakes, but I’m so glad that there are 400 less inaccuracies (about 2-3 per page) than I might have left in there.

I just wanna take this chance to moan about how it’s literally impossible to do two things properly: referencing and permissions for reusing images. Freaking references. I’m pretty sure no one knows how to do them correctly, and even if people could really agree on the correct interpretation of the rules, it would still be practically impossible. As an example, there are semi-well-known conferences that don’t have a proper online records. You might need to cite a paper from that conference but there are five different variations of its title/subtitle. Even if you know what you’re meant to be doing, every online database has a different record of those conference proceedings and there’s no way to verify which is correct. Heck, sometimes you can’t even find out where the conference took place!

Getting permissions for reusing other people’s images was almost nightmarish for me. I wrongly assumed that I could use images under fair use and I also didn’t keep a record of where I adapted my images from. Anyhow, there’s so many things to think about if you want to do things by the book, and frankly it’s not worth it. The goal instead is to put in enough work to protect yourself probabilistically. Here’s an example where you’re technically breaching copyright even though you’ve done your due diligence. You saw a nice image in a journal paper with two authors. The policy for this journal is for authors to hand over copyright to them, so it seems you can just ask the journal for reprint permissions (usually a fast, painless, and automated process) and then you can reuse the image as long as you reference it correctly and use the acknowledgement message they requested. Although this seems like the right thing to do, it doesn’t mean you’re safe.

What if the author had published that image in an earlier conference paper and neglected to make that acknowledgement in the journal paper? (Because no one knows to do that…) So technically, you, the journal, and the author themself have all done things improperly, and it’s the authors fault. Does the fact that the author was sloppy mean you can’t be fined for their mistake? There are also weird traps to do with different copyright laws with different countries. For example, one can argue that figures that simply plot data are not copyrightable in the US. So if a non-US citizen publishes in a US journal, the author may unknowingly retain copyright if plots are copyrightable in their country. So there are times when you should ask the author, times when you should ask the journal, and times when you’d have to look up every single publication an author made to try and track down when they first published an image that everyone else is reusing without permission anyway.

Things I probably should have done differently

I don’t really have many regrets yet, not because things went smoothly or anything but more because I’m trying to just forget about everything. I’ve definitely been bracing myself for the inevitable PTSD that often comes with a PhD. Anyhow:

  1. I wish I had been more aggressive with asking my supervisor for funding. It really wouldn’t have hurt to do this and there’s no shame in wanting money that’s available.
  2. I wish I had known from the start that I needed to obtain image permissions than left it to the last week where I couldn’t track down all sources and had to redraw a lot of things or just cover my ass barely enough.
  3. Writing 150 pages is much more efficient the sooner you accept you have to just put things on the page, even if it doesn’t all make sense and seems like your worst writing ever. My natural style of thinking about things for ages and finally only writing when things make sense in my head, it’s not good in terms of overall productivity in this context.


No friend zone

I successfully asked a girl to hang out. She said no.

There’s a girl I interact with from time to time who I believe is one of the most amazing people I’ve met. If I had to describe the rarity of someone like her with an arbitrary number, I’d say she’s 1 in 10,000. She’s bubbly, full of adventure, easy to talk to, always smiling or laughing, competitive, cheeky but pure, dedicated, steadfast in her values, sympathetic, and scarily good at any indoor or outdoor games you might play at a social occasion. In terms of faults, I can’t help but point out that she completely misses my self-deprecating humor and that has backfired embarrassingly at my expense a few times without her even realizing. Anyhow, for some reason I never really felt like becoming friends with her regardless of how great I always thought she was. My instincts told me not to look further than acquaintanceship. I could come up with many reasons why we didn’t need to be friends and why things wouldn’t be better if we were. At the same time, I knew she was great friend material and couldn’t quite understand why I shouldn’t try befriending her. To clarify, my admiration for her is purely platonic, or heck, maybe it isn’t even that. I admire her as a human being; that is all.

Such was the status quo for a few months, until recently. Starting a new phase in my life now, I figured what the hell, I’m going to go against my instincts (even though it hasn’t been wrong in the past) just to see what would happen. One of my mantras in the last two years has been about being willing to risk losing things to see what is worth keeping, especially knowing that it would be fine to lose most things that are currently part of my life and that I often cling to things purely out of habit or comfort or even less productive reasons.

So I invited her to meet for coffee and she said no. I admired her reasons though she gave but one, and the conversation following that was not awkward at all. I admired my courage and resolution too, as the setting in which I was determined to act was not the most favorable for someone with social anxiety. And ultimately I’m glad she said no because her answer confirmed my instinct all along, that we were both better off not being friends.

At present, my personal definition for a friend (assuming they live in the same city) is simply someone who I’m willing to meet up with individually on a regular basis. (I’m not sure when I came to such a simple but seemingly practical definition, given that I continue to have highly involved notions of friendship in general.) Her own rule being to avoid meeting individually with the opposite gender, it is clear that we cannot be friends. I’m also thankful and relieved because of this news and its certainty, as it clarifies my doubt about how to approach the current #1 on my social bucket list.

How to overcome hurt

Hurt is a complicated thing…

I’ve been feeling hurt lately. I was hurt by poor customer service I received. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for an hour, so I complained about it. I was hurt over my job application getting rejected because I chose to be honest and it was a wrong decision. I was hurt by the sudden cold attitude of someone who had previously been very flirty, and the realization that it wasn’t worth my time to consider her as anything more than an acquaintance.

This time in particular I realized that I react very poorly to being hurt. Mostly I hide from the world and binge play video games or watch TV until late. Those are my go-to options for emotional self-harm. I avoid confronting my feelings even when I half-heartedly acknowledge them, sometimes taking days before finally registering that I feel hurt at all. I feel bad about the result or outcome that started things and I just continue to wallow in my unjust treatment and misery.

I began to think about what causes hurt and realized I can’t really summarize it well. So I looked it up, and most internet sources don’t seem to have much clue either. A lot of bold claims that don’t seem to apply to me at all. However, one article does seem to get most of what I think are the relevant themes:

  • Expectations
  • Feeling personally attacked
  • Identifying as a victim
  • Sense of injustice or unfairness
  • It’s all about your point of view
  • Ideas hurt way more than the actual harm

The feeling of being unfairly treated is probably the thing that gets me the most.

Some articles propose that the solution to the ‘problem’ of hurt is to take things less seriously or stop caring what others think or to be sure of yourself. Honestly, I’m not saying these suggestions are wrong, but I think they’re quite unhelpful, especially for the short-term. My hypothesis: one way to overcome hurt is to realize that the way things happened wasn’t really about you at all. You weren’t treated unfairly in particular; they do that to other people as well, and in this case it just happened to be you on the receiving end. Yes it was wrong, but it’s not personal; it’s just business. Maybe this is a rare mishap and you were just unlucky. Or your friend wronged you because of their insecurities or what they’re going through, and they might have done this to anyone else in your shoes.

When you realize it wasn’t about you, then you can take a more practical perspective about how to process your feelings or what to do about the situation.

First major regret in 2018

I’m not usually one for regret. The past can’t be changed, mistakes must be made in order to learn, often there is no way something could have happened differently without hindsight, and so there’s no point wasting energy wishing you could change the decision you made. However, one particular decision and its outcome has left me feeling really bad. I feel wronged, deceived, disappointed, unwanted, angry, and a whole bunch of other things.

I’ve been looking for new career options, and one thing that caught my eye was training to become an Air Traffic Controller (ATC). The training takes just one year (no background required), and after that you get a high paying job that is meaningful and impactful, with work hours that give you enough freedom to have a good work life balance. Sound good too be true? The main thing of course is that there are very few positions available. To get into training, you have to pass four stages in their application process. You’re far more likely to win lotto (albeit seventh division) than to be selected. I made it past the second stage, where you have to pass all four of their aptitude tests: spatial reasoning, inductive reasoning, English comprehension, and attention to detail. Other than the attention to detail test, which I possibly aced, I found the other tests very difficult. The spatial reasoning test was possibly the hardest aptitude test I’d ever done.

The third stage involves a personality questionnaire and short online video interview (i.e., where the system presents questions and your answers are recorded via webcam or whatever). I was rejected on the basis of the personality questionnaire, which was the most painful questionnaire I’d ever done. 104 questions, the same themes being repeated over and over in very similar words. The format forces you to rank which of three statements is most like you at work and which is least like you. I had done some research on the ideal MBTI personality type for ATCs, which is ISTJ by the way, but I had decided that it was better to answer honestly rather than pretend to be ISTJ-like. Boy I was wrong. For starters, it wasn’t really a personality test, more like a work behavior/attitudes thing. Secondly, the part where the test claims that it is in your best interests to answer honestly, not think too hard about choices, and not to try and choose “right”/favorable answers because the test has a component that tests for false answers, well all of that is hogwash. I realized this for good about halfway through the test, so I had already blown my chances by being honest. I 100% regret being honest and I resent being put in a position where the test is being dishonest in order to trick you into being honest at your peril. To add insult to injury, the application info provided makes it sound like it really is about your personality and whether you’d enjoy working as an ATC. Again, absolute lies.

From what I’ve read, not all personality assessment tests are like this, but for this one there absolutely are wrong answers and you almost certainly have to put aside your genuine answers to pick all the favorable answers. For example, this guide seems like sound advice. I no longer think there is any moral quandary in picking the answers they want rather than your genuine answers, because your honest answers don’t matter. The answers aren’t about you, and they certainly aren’t about getting to know you better. The test is simply used to reduce the candidate pool in the same way that your CV goes through an automatic screening process. Your task is to do the necessary preparation to not be eliminated as an unsuitable candidate at each stage, that’s all.

Tentative K-pop favorites

Music Spotlight

It wasn’t easy for me to accept K-pop music. At first it seemed to be highly unmusical and mostly about eye candy, but eventually I did find a “way in” and my tastes have expanded a bit. I still remain ignorant at large, with a lot of areas in K-pop left to try. For example, I haven’t found a boy group I like (probably due to the same initial barrier as mentioned).

Favorite groups


Hundreds of songs in, I finally found a group whose songs I generally liked. Apink’s image as a girl group is one of girly innocence, which is a lot less common than girl groups that emphasize dancing and sexiness. Their songs also tend to be happy/cheerful, as opposed to more universally common themes of romantic troubles.

My favorite song from Apink, or at least the one I’ve been most obsessed with:

I like the Japanese version of this song a bit better, but this is about K-pop 😛


I don’t really “follow” musicians or other artists, so I literally just found out their name stands for Ace of Angels. Anyway, AOA definitely do sexier songs, with most of them deliberately featuring some form of ass wiggling. Unlike other groups where dancing is a major (or even primary) part of the appeal, I’d say their dancing enhances their songs (whereas I feel like many other groups rely on dancing, fashion, rap, etc over musicality.)

For a favorite, I have to pick Excuse Me. Other songs such as Confused, Like a Cat, and Miniskirt have catchier beats with more substance, but the choreography (not as well represented in the music video) for Excuse Me is catchy and unashamedly empowering. Let’s be honest—both men and women may seek to recreate Choa’s legendary moment.


Girl group Stellar mainly gained popularity (and notoriety) after adopting a more provocative image, with some of their content being rated 19+ including two videos banned for being sexually suggestive. A fair part of K-pop is somewhat sexualized (due to certain bans in Korea contributing to repression and such elements being redirected into other forms such as K-pop culture) but not necessarily provocative. However, Stellar’s better known music videos are downright provocative, featuring erotic dance moves, needlessly suggestive outfits, and completely unsubtle symbolism. Their success when relying on skin exposure was accompanied by significant backlash. Did they take things too far? I think what they produced was bold and not entirely tasteless. Unsurprisingly, the girls said they accepted that they were in a “do or die” situation but it was never their intention to be so provocative. Ultimately, they could not be successful during their attempts to tone things down and the group has subsequently disbanded.

From the intense and provocative to their original innocent and care-free style, I actually appreciate the diversity of their songs. All of their members have really beautiful faces and the music videos are alluring. Usually it wouldn’t matter (with other genres of music), but choreography and visuals are important to K-pop in the same sense that Billie Jean is a standalone song but Michael Jackson’s dancing makes it an entirely different experience. Anyhow, my favorite song is Crying:

Other songs/artists worth mentioning


Singer, songwriter, and actress. SO CUTE. Diverse styles, including my most preferred: romantic ballads.

Cherry Blossom Ending — Busker Busker

Such a dreamy song from an indie band.


All For You

Good duets are always hard to find.