30 July 2008

Link of the day: "The disadvantages of an elite education"

I recently read an essay called "The disadvantages of an elite education" written by a former Yale English professor, William Deresiewicz. The essay is a thorough and damming harangue on the Ivy League university system.

Many of the author's major points are familiar. Yale and other elite colleges are just a mill for taking the children of upper-class parents and turning out more upper-class citizens. The purpose of going to a school like Yale is to develop connections to other powerful people (Yale's Master Teas with celebrities come to mind). The students grow up to become people who can't relate to anyone who doesn't have an Ivy League degree. They are, in fact, taught that if you didn't attend an elite university, you are not worth meaningful conversation. Deresiewicz cites how at age 35, after 14 years in the Ivy League, he was unable to communicate with his plumber. Moreover, undergraduates at elite colleges are pampered and coddled to the point that they feel entitled to such treatment for the rest of their lives. The pampering naturally engenders a strong allegiance to the school brand, so that alumni donate millions and keep the system going. I'm sure there will be Ivy League alumni who take exception to these broad characterizations (and they should), but I think there is probably substantial truth to these statements.

What is my personal response to this? I went to an elite university, too, but it was an elite science and technology school. Scientists tend to be much more down-to-earth, so we avoid some of that "elitism stuff" but not all of it. In retrospect, I've noticed that quite a few of my undergraduate professors believed that their institution trained the best scientists/engineers and that other places were "lesser schools." (Yes, a professor actually said that.)

Can I talk to non-elite people? Yes. Do I feel entitled? No. I think that's a product of my family upbringing. My mom and dad always made it a point to pay attention to mail carriers, receptionists, and all the people who keep our society glued together. As for entitlement, my parents have a typical immigrant outlook which is you can always lose what you have, don't stop working. So non-entitlement was drilled into my head for years.

Deresiewicz does have some thought-provoking ideas that go beyond the usual elitism rant. These are both interesting and relevant to me.
I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class. I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all.
I've always been surrounded by elite people. I grew up in an elite, highly-educated part of the country. I went to an elite undergraduate institution. I attend an Ivy League graduate school. It wasn't until I got to graduate school when I started to meet people who went to places like University of Kentucky. I found that there are many people who went to state schools who are smarter than people who went to elite schools like me. The reason is that people from "lesser" institutions have to work much harder to make up for the disadvantage of not having an elite degree. I also learned that it can be pretty intimidating for these same people to go to graduate school and find themselves surrounded by people with elite undergraduate degrees.
I also never learned that there are smart people who aren’t “smart.” The existence of multiple forms of intelligence has become a commonplace, but however much elite universities like to sprinkle their incoming classes with a few actors or violinists, they select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic... But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite. The “best” are the brightest only in one narrow sense.
The other forms of intelligence matter more and more to me as I get older. I find that I like people best when they have more than just the standard "analytic" ability. My favorite people are the ones who can talk to both the elite and the plumber, the ones who can talk to both humanists and scientists, the ones who are both outstanding scholars and charismatic leaders, the ones who can both unravel long trains of analysis and yap some down-to-earth, practical talk.
The first disadvantage of an elite education is how very much of the human it alienates you from.
I worry about this a lot. If I spend all my time being busy and working to keep up in the rat race, I have no time to talk to my family or meet new people or even see people who are my friends. In grad school, your job is to produce work and papers, so you feel constant guilt about not working. If you're not working all the time, you feel like you don't deserve to be in grad school.
If one of the disadvantages of an elite education is the temptation it offers to mediocrity, another is the temptation it offers to security. When parents explain why they work so hard to give their children the best possible education, they invariably say it is because of the opportunities it opens up. But what of the opportunities it shuts down? An elite education gives you the chance to be rich—which is, after all, what we’re talking about—but it takes away the chance not to be. Yet the opportunity not to be rich is one of the greatest opportunities with which young Americans have been blessed. We live in a society that is itself so wealthy that it can afford to provide a decent living to whole classes of people who in other countries exist (or in earlier times existed) on the brink of poverty or, at least, of indignity. You can live comfortably in the United States as a schoolteacher, or a community organizer, or a civil rights lawyer, or an artist—that is, by any reasonable definition of comfort.
It sounds really stupid, but I feel the burden of an elite education sometimes. What my parents say if I wanted to become a homemaker? (They would probably kill me.) What would my parents's friends think if I wanted to become a social worker? I know someone who got a law degree from Harvard and consequently decided she'd rather work with horses. The career track to becoming a physicist is very regimented, cut-throat, and self-absorbed. Is that really what I want? Do I want to pay my dues for 15 years and then finally have the freedom to say, do, and think what I want?
Because students from elite schools expect success, and expect it now. They have, by definition, never experienced anything else, and their sense of self has been built around their ability to succeed. The idea of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them, defeats them. They’ve been driven their whole lives by a fear of failure—often, in the first instance, by their parents’ fear of failure. The first time I blew a test, I walked out of the room feeling like I no longer knew who I was. The second time, it was easier; I had started to learn that failure isn’t the end of the world.
The professor who supervised my master's thesis said that he had students break down in tears during his undergraduate physics lab course. I have a strong fear of failure, too, and I know it comes from my parents and the environment I grew up in. Failing is hard for me, but I'm trying to learn from it. It's hard for me not to think that failure is a reflection of my character. It's not, but I think it is. Failure in my career is a major worry, but a more subtle area where failure shows up is in my relationships. Sometimes I'm afraid to make my friend unhappy, for example, asking for their help or calling them out on behavior that made me unhappy. This is an area I'm working on -- having the courage to take risks with people and not worry about the consequences as much. If the relationship breaks, it probably wasn't a very strong one in the first place.

Of all the people I know, my mom is the one person who is terrified of failure. She hikes tall mountains to prove to herself that she's strong. As she has gotten older and her body has declined, she's turned to Buddhism as a way to find peace of mind. The whole situation seems overblown to me.
But if you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks, which begins to explain the final and most damning disadvantage of an elite education: that it is profoundly anti-intellectual... Being an intellectual means more than doing your homework. If so few kids come to college understanding this, it is no wonder. They are products of a system that rarely asked them to think about something bigger than the next assignment. The system forgot to teach them, along the way to the prestige admissions and the lucrative jobs, that the most important achievements can’t be measured by a letter or a number or a name. It forgot that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.
Exactly. But how do you stop the hoop-jumping and more importantly, the worrying about the hoop-jumping? I'm under so much pressure; saying you should stop worrying about your career is much easier said than done.

My friend Peter has taught introductory electromagnetism several times. The classes are bi-weekly and 90 minutes long, so he usually allows for a five minute break halfway through. He told me that when he stopped class, the students would just sit in their chairs obediently. Almost no one got up. Peter also told me about a student who emailed him at the beginning of the semester and asked for a list of assignments, saying that he needed to finish all the work early so he could presumably take care of his numerous extra-curricular activities. Unbelievable. I guess this guy is not in college for a love of learning.
Being an intellectual means, first of all, being passionate about ideas—and not just for the duration of a semester, for the sake of pleasing the teacher, or for getting a good grade... Being an intellectual means thinking your way toward a vision of the good society and then trying to realize that vision by speaking truth to power. It means going into spiritual exile. It means foreswearing your allegiance, in lonely freedom, to God, to country, and to Yale. It takes more than just intellect; it takes imagination and courage. “I am not afraid to make a mistake,” Stephen Dedalus says, “even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity, too.” Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them.
Deresiewicz later suggests that going to a "second-tier" college or liberal arts college may be a lot better for a young person's human spirit. I imagine that the student body would be less "competitive," so you could spend less time on required work and more time on personal growth. I wonder if that's true. If I had chance to do it over again, maybe I would have opted for a liberal arts college. Still, I think I did pretty well as an undergraduate.

I remember finding out for the first time, in college, that I loved science. Before that, I had just been programmed by my parents and society to study. I treated math and science competitions as a competitive sport. Even with that heightened awareness, I found that it took a lot of work to have independent thoughts. My time was so consumed by problem sets that I traded socializing for deep intellectual thoughts. By deep thoughts, I mean that I would go through my lecture notes a second time and try to understand the bigger picture. Doing this made my studies so much more meaningful and as a nice side benefit, really impressed my teacher. No one told me to put in this extra time. I just knew in my gut that if I really loved physics, this is what I needed to do.

My teacher Bob was a big influence on me. He's the best physics teacher I've ever had, but that wasn't the only thing that impressed me. The campus newspaper published an interview with him. I learned that you shouldn't be afraid to "empower" yourself and seek allies to do things you think are important and true. I learned the principle of "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission." It's a powerful life lesson that I still use today. Using these ideas has led me into many leadership projects. I started the tradition of having undergraduates invite a colloquium speaker once and a bimonthly happy hour in my graduate department. I also tried to start an undergraduate physics study group where we think about big ideas in physics. It was only semi-successful, but I'm glad I did it.

Of course, I don't want to rest on my laurels. I expound a little amateur philosophy on my blog now and then. I've always been interested in trying to become a better person, perhaps the bildung ("upbuilding of the soul") mentioned in the essay. Maybe when I get out of this grad school rat race, I can return to some of my "trouble-making."
There’s a reason elite schools speak of training leaders, not thinkers—holders of power, not its critics. An independent mind is independent of all allegiances, and elite schools, which get a large percentage of their budget from alumni giving, are strongly invested in fostering institutional loyalty. As another friend, a third-generation Yalie, says, the purpose of Yale College is to manufacture Yale alumni. Of course, for the system to work, those alumni need money. At Yale, the long-term drift of students away from majors in the humanities and basic sciences toward more practical ones like computer science and economics has been abetted by administrative indifference... The liberal arts university is becoming the corporate university, its center of gravity shifting to technical fields where scholarly expertise can be parlayed into lucrative business opportunities.
I bemoaned the trend towards universities as corporations in a post last year. It's disturbing to see Yale and Harvard throw tons of money at building new science facilities. I can't help thinking that the only purpose is to get more grant money, which will keep the wealth engine going. You may recall an infamous quote from the president of Harvard:
"One thing we all must worry about — I certainly do — is the federal support for scientific research. And are we all going to be chasing increasingly scarce dollars?" says Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard's new president. Not that Faust seems worried about Harvard or other top-tier research schools. "They're going to be—we hope, we trust, we assume—the survivors in this race," she says. As for the many lesser universities likely to lose market share, she adds, they would be wise "to really emphasize social science or humanities and have science endeavors that are not as ambitious" as those of Harvard and its peers.
The most interesting section of Deresiewicz's essay comes at the very end, where he discusses the reactions of undergraduates in his literature classes to philosophic questions.
What does it mean to go to school at a place where you’re never alone? Well, one of them said, I do feel uncomfortable sitting in my room by myself. Even when I have to write a paper, I do it at a friend’s. That same day, as it happened, another student gave a presentation on Emerson’s essay on friendship. Emerson says, he reported, that one of the purposes of friendship is to equip you for solitude. As I was asking my students what they thought that meant, one of them interrupted to say, wait a second, why do you need solitude in the first place? What can you do by yourself that you can’t do with a friend?
Is this really true? If so, what a bizarre cultural phenomenon. Hmm, I'm not sure what to say to that. Being a scientist requires lots of solitude, both to get your work done and to concentrate on long trains of analysis. If anything, I have too much solitude.

However, I know a lot of people who want to live in an elite, rich community like Seattle, Boulder, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, or Manhattan. That's where many elite undergraduates end up. Sure, the culture there is ten times more rich than other places, but if you want to live in such a place, you must have money. And you earn that much money you have to join the elitist, careerist rat race. What's wrong with Kansas? (Pure speculation, as I've never lived in the Midwest.) I do think people need to find the courage to create and live an independent life, rather than perpetually hanging out with a crowd raised like themselves. It's not the end of the world if you don't live in San Francisco. A disclaimer here: There's nothing wrong with wanting to live in New York City or Boston. Of course, I want to live in those places, but I'm open to living somewhere else, too.

In some further analysis, Deresiewicz goes on to say:
“To whom can I expose the urgency of my own passion?”: my student was in her friend’s room writing a paper, not having a heart-to-heart. She probably didn’t have the time; indeed, other students told me they found their peers too busy for intimacy. What happens when busyness and sociability leave no room for solitude?
I'm not sure that all the sociability is bad. Of course, that comes from me, a loner who doesn't socialize much. I've always had some disdain for small talk and want to leap into deep philosophical one-on-one conversations. But I've come to realize that sometimes it takes a long time to get to know someone. You have to be patient.

The busyness is a huge problem for me. If you're on an elitist career track like me, you're automatically surrounded by people who are too busy running the rat race to help you. This is why people have to go into therapy. Their friends and family are too busy and self-absorbed to help them, so they have to pay someone to listen to their problems.

That ends my quote-by-quote analysis of the essay. So, for those of us who don't want to turn into elitist zombies, what do we do? Deresiewicz discusses the problems of an elitist upbringing with incredible thoroughness, but he doesn't propose any solutions.

Travel? Read great literature? Go camping, Thoreau-style? Take up hobbies that bring you into contact with non-elitists? Protest? I'll keep thinking about it.

29 July 2008

Cheating: a time-honored Chinese tradition?

Is cheating a time-honored Chinese tradition? I've always had that impression from my interactions with Chinese people. Being American but of Chinese descent, that sometimes leaves my ethics a little muddled. I try to be honest as much as possible, but occasionally, I'll see a way to cut corners and feel strongly compelled to "cheat."

I tried to do a Google search on "cheating chinese tradition." I didn't really find much. There was one blog post complaining about cheating in Chinese business practices and a few articles about cheating on high-stakes exams. Apparently, some sophisticated technology has been spotted in exam rooms.

Even in America, my cursory observation has been that Chinese-American students cheat a lot more than students of other ethnicities. The most infamous example is Saratoga High School in California, which has a very high Chinese/Asian student population. In 1997, a student called her friend in an Asian time zone to get the essay questions for the AP United History exam. In fact, the culprit was a friend of my friend from Chinese language school. In 2004, a widespread cheating scandal involving changing grades was uncovered.

It's hard to discuss the topic of cheating with other Chinese people because they don't really see it that way. Their view is of a dog-eat-dog world where if you're not cheating, you're not trying. As long as you don't cheat your family or get caught, there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, if you cheat for your family, that's even better.

The dog-eat-dog mentality extends to social interactions. You always see Chinese people forming a big blog instead of an orderly queue to buy something or get onto a bus/train. They push and shove each other, cut in the line.

You have to admit that a dog-eat-dog mentality will bring you great material success. I remember being in Paris and talking to an Algerian immigrant. He said that the Chinese people were slowly buying up a small part of the city. They work hard, they save money, they're unstoppable. My theory is that if the world comes to an end, the last people around will be Chinese. They are the ultimate survivors.

25 July 2008

Quantum mechanics written in Chinese

I thought I would test out my Wacom Bamboo tablet by writing "quantum mechanics" in Chinese:

Gym update - July 2008

I've successfully kept up my five-day-a-week gym habit for the past six weeks. However, I have made a few adjustments to my routine.

I have a previous knee injury and have been told that squats are bad for your knees. Yet everyone says that squats are probably the number one weightlifting exercise. It's a full body movement, a very natural movement (we squat all the time in our daily lives or we should, instead of relying on our backs), and it works the entire lower body. I've been doing super-slow reps, which I think are bad on my knees. So I've switched to doing my squat reps at a regular pace. The current routine is to do one warmup squat set at 25 lb and then two regular sets at 45 lb (bar).

I also have a previous tendonitis injury (mostly in the wrists). Somewhere around the fourth week of my gym habit, I started feeling pain in my wrists. So I bought gloves with wrist wrap to stabilize my wrists and I watch my form more carefully on upper body exercises, especially bicep curls and benchpressing.

I've eliminate dumbbell flys from my upper body routine and have replaced them with dips. I think that full body movements are better than isolation exercises. Between doing three full upper body exercises -- benchpress, assisted pull-ups, assisted dips -- I work out my chest heavily, so I don't need to do flys. My current routine for assisted dips: Dips 3x8 [-75 lb]. The notation means 3 sets with 8 reps, 75 pounds less than my body weight.

I've increased my weight in a few exercises:
+5 lb, Rotary hip [42.5 lb], all four directions, both legs 2x8
+4 lb, Calf raises 3x8 [79 lb]
+12.5 lb, Back extension 3x8 [50 lb]

I find it really difficult to do a run anytime other than before breakfast. My stomach gets unsettled easily with the bouncing that comes with running. Originally, I had planned to run three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I've cut out Thursday now because I have hockey games those nights. Maybe running would be good for my hockey game. I'm not sure.

23 July 2008

My wordle

Apparently, it's a fad right now to use Wordle to generate word clouds from text. The more frequent the word, the larger it appears in the word cloud. I input the last 500 posts of my blog (roughly July 2005 - July 2008) minus the footers ("Posted by ..."). Here's the result, with common English words like "the" omitted:

I see that I'm guilty of abusing extraneous words such as "like", "really", and "just" in my prose, but hopefully not in my daily speech! "Time" and "work" are very prominent, which makes sense. I'm glad that my major activities "physics" and "hockey" are also fairly large in font. There's a sense of expectation in the words "will", "want," and "try." Sadly, I don't see "do" or "done" in the cloud. The word cloud is uniformly positive with words like "good", "great", and "nice." The size of the word "people" shows that I'm not a closeted nerd.

Growing Life

I recently discovered "The Growing Life", a blog that seems to center around the philosophical aspects of living life. There is some stuff about productivity tricks, but the author, Clay Collins, is trying to take the blog into a more philosophical direction, in order to separate himself from popular life-hacky blogs like Lifehacker and Zen Habits.

Some posts that I enjoyed:

22 July 2008

Hello audience!

I checked my Feedburner account and apparently I have 10 subscribers to my blog's RSS feed. As far as I know, the only people who read my blog regularly are my sister, my officemate, and a productivity guy I met online. So who are all the rest of you?

I started this blog so I could record my thoughts and feel less lonely. I think of the World Wide Web as an imaginary audience I'm writing for, so I have to maintain a certain level of coherence and quality (just like the writers who imagine writing for a brother or sister). I've given out my blog URL to a lot of friends, so maybe some of my friends are stopping here? Or people who are interested in the stuff I wrote on the Fisher Files and GTD?

Now I feel a little embarrassed. People actually care about the drivel I write even though I'm clearly talking to myself? I guess that's kind of nice. If you feel like it, drop me a line or some feedback. Tell me who you are. My contact information can be found here.

21 July 2008

Link of the day: Planning fallacy and alternative productivity manifesto

Here are two great articles I read via Cal Newport's Stuck Hacks blog.

Eliezer Yudkowsky writes a guest post about the planning fallacy at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. The message is very simple. There is no way you can estimate the amount of time a project will take by breaking it down into little details. (This statement is backed up by studies and data in the post.) The best way to estimate the amount of time is to remember how long it took for a similar project.

At a blog called "The Growing Life: Alternative Productivity, Anti-Hacks for Living," the author, Clay Collins, lays out his "alternative productivity manifesto." He tries to take down some common myths about productivity and bring us knowledge workers back to the reasons why we live and why life is worth living.

20 July 2008

Quote of the day: Backgammon vs chess

This quote comes from a Dr. Dobb's interview with computer science professor Christos Papadimitriou.
Frankly, I think backgammon is a much more interesting game [than chess], much harder to learn... In chess, when you play like an idiot, you always lose, so you learn. In backgammon, you can play 10 games, not play well, and win. So you think you are great but you have made a great number of mistakes. Tragically, life is closer to backgammon, because you can play a perfect game and lose!

The streak board

I started a five-day-a-week gym habit about a month ago. To inspire myself, I bought a piece of foam poster board and write a mark for everyday I went to the gym. The idea is to not break the streak. I read about this idea in a Lifehacker post. Apparently, Seinfeld wanted to improve his comedy skills and decided that he should write new jokes everyday. To pressure himself to keep up the habit, he bought a big wall calendar. He would draw a big "X" on each day that he completed his habit. The positive motivation was to make the chain bigger and bigger; the negative motivation was not to break the chain.

I call it the streak, rather than the chain. It really helped for the first three weeks of the habit. I've kind of gotten used to going to the gym now, but on that one slow day of the week when I don't really know, I think of my streak and that helps push me to go to the gym even though I don't feel motivated. I don't want to break the streak!

Here are a couple photos. Notice I don't use the standard tally where you draw four vertical lines and then complete the tally with a diagonal slash across the vertical lines. I use the Chinese method which is to write a character, stroke by stroke. It looks nicer and it's easier to track of where you are when you tally for a long time.

You can see that I've kept up my gym habit for five weeks, the start date being June 17th, 2008. The missing mark in the third week is because the gym was closed on the Fourth of July.

17 July 2008

Good teaching involves stealing and lying

I was visiting my undergraduate institution and chatting with a couple of my former physics professors. Bob and I were talking about a new course he was developing. I recalled a conversation with my favorite high school English teacher, who told me that "good teachers steal all the time" -- meaning that you should not be afraid to take good material from other teachers. Bob remarked, "You also have to lie all the time. Small lies because you don't want to get bogged down in details." Here's my interpretation of Bob's statement. Physics, like any other science, is an evolving subject filled with exceptions to the rule. You don't want to present all the complications to a first-time learner. Not only will your students get confused, you will probably get confused, too! So you end up glossing over details and giving your students a clean, admittedly sanitized version of the story.

13 July 2008

Practicing Chinese


That was "Hello World!" in Chinese (literally: "World, hello!")

So I am trying to practice my Mandarin Chinese more often. I installed Chinese languages on my Windows XP machine. The two main options for Chinese are PRC (People's Republic of China) and Taiwan. I prefer using Taiwan because you can input the words by writing them on the "IME pad." The way this works is that you write the character stroke by stroke in a white box. This means that you need to know how to write the character and also the stroke order. So I get a chance to practice writing characters. I'm sure it's much faster to enter pinyin because you don't have to look up how to write the character and because there is AI that completes common phrases for you. But I think it's better to write the character for educational purposes. Also, I don't know pinyin (pronunciation system in Roman characters commonly used in People's Republic of China), only zhuyin (pronunciation system commonly used in Taiwan).

To help me enter characters electronically, I picked up a Wacom Bamboo tablet. It's not too expensive for a tablet input device and works pretty well for my simple purposes.

I found a nice site called Chinese-Course.com which provides vocabulary words and sentences. You can have it email you a sentence everyday, which is what I am doing. It also breaks down the sentence by definition and pronunciation for you (both pinyin and zhuyin). If you have a member subscription, you can listen to the sentence/words being read out to you.

I'm practicing my Chinese for two reasons. One, I am of Chinese descent and as I grow older, I find that I care more and more about my Chinese heritage. It's surprising to me. I feel critical of Chinese-Americans who seem to just assimilate and become "white." Of course, I don't tell them that, but I can't help feeling that way. Two, it's hard to keep in touch with my dad over the phone. I thought that if I started practicing Chinese, we can work together on it. Lately, I email my dad an elementary school level sentence and ask him if it's correct. Fun for both of us!

12 July 2008

USA Hockey rules - Crease rule and faceoffs

Just a few reminders to myself.

if the puck is not in the goal crease, the attacking player may not enter the goal crease.

On face-offs, the attacking player puts his/her stick down first unless the face-off is on the center red line. In that case, the visiting team player puts his/her stick down first.

The sticks of both players facing-off should have the blade on the ice in contact with the nearest white area of the face-off spot. For red face-off dots, this is the white crescent area of the dot. For blue dots, I assume you put your blade right outside the dot.

If there is no dot on the face-off, the players should be one stick length apart.

The players facing off need to stand square to the opponent's side of the rink.

11 July 2008

Use of the stick in defensive hockey

I got in major trouble at my last hockey game. The opposing player was being extremely aggressive. I was taught that you should harass an attacking threat to make the player know that they can't just walk into your goal area. My primary tactic (I think, though it's hard to remember clearly) was to lift the player's stick even though the puck was nowhere nearby.

The main point is that this incident revealed my complete ignorance of the rules. So I did a little research on USA Hockey rules. I want to summarize what I learned here.
  • The first general guiding principle is that you should use the stick to play the puck or prevent another player from gaining possession of the puck.
  • The second general guiding principle is that you cannot use the stick to interfere with a player's motion.
  • Lifting the stick is always legal as long as you do not commit a high stick or commit interference by preventing the other player from moving. However, lifting the stick is only encouraged to prevent another player from getting the puck or taking the puck away. Those tactics are examples of good hockey. Lifting the stick to "annoy" the opponent is legal, but most people consider it poor taste. In fact, they may retaliate.
  • You are allowed to battle for position in front of the goal and in the corners. You can push and shove with your body. You can also use your stick to move people as long as you hold the stick close in tight to your body (e.g. the stick is so close to you, it's almost like part of your body.)
  • As expected, slashing the player's body is always illegal.
  • Slashing the upper part of a player's stick is always illegal.
  • Pressing down on a player's stick blade is legal only if it is done to prevent the player from playing the puck.
  • Basically, lifting the stick blade is almost always safe, so if you want to attack a player's stick, that is the best tactic to use.
  • Of course, poke checking is always legal, since by definition, you are trying to play the puck.
  • Hooking is illegal, but it's pretty obvious when you see it, so I don't feel like it's necessary to discuss it in detail.
Based on the guiding principles, I draw the following conclusions about faceoffs.
  • You can play the opponent's stick when you are personally taking the faceoff (e.g. hold their stick or lift it) since by definition you are fighting for puck possession.
  • You cannot tie up another player on the faceoff because that would impede their motion. Lifting the stick is legal if it does not impede their motion. It is probably in better taste if you lift the stick only when the puck is coming in your direction. (NOT EXACTLY SURE ABOUT THIS) I have this habit of always lifting the stick of my opposing winger on a faceoff because that is what I was taught.

07 July 2008

Goal celebration ideas

I've been watching YouTube videos of hockey goal celebrations. There are some great ideas which I will list here. They go start from classic technique and progress towards higher and higher risk of getting an unsportman-like conduct penalty.
  1. Raise your stick high above your head.
  2. Jump into your teammate's arms.
  3. Glove bump your teammates.
  4. Drop down on one knee and do a fist pump.
  5. Glide on one skate and do a fist pump.
  6. Spin around while you skate forward.
  7. Shoulder check/jump into the glass.
  8. Do a butt slide.
  9. Make snow angels.
  10. High step, knees high.
  11. Jump up and down, both skates in the air.
  12. Sprint down the ice, drop to your knees, and pump your fists.
  13. Skate by your team's bench and glove bump everyone on the bench.
  14. Sprint down the ice, fall down, and swim freestyle with your arms.
  15. Slide on your butt and use your stick to row kayak-style.
  16. Drop down on the ice and do pushups.
  17. Lie down on your back and bench press your stick.
  18. Take a bow.
  19. Go up to your assisting teammate, drop on one knee, and propose to him/her.
  20. Knight your teammate.
  21. Sheathe your stick like a sword and salute.
  22. Play air guitar on your stick.
  23. Blow a kiss.
  24. Kiss your teammate.
  25. Pretend to faint and resist your teammates's attempts to wake you up.
  26. Throw one glove into the air and shoot at it with your stick machine gun style.
  27. Line up your teammates and shoot them with your stick. They all fall down as you shoot them.
  28. Mime pulling an arrow from your back and shooting it with your stick as a bow.
  29. Pose for a picture with one teammate and have another teammate mime shooting the photo.
  30. Have your teammates escort you back to the bench like bodyguards.
  31. Go up to the glass, breathe on it to fog it up, and sign your name on it.
  32. Put your stick between your legs and ride it like a pony.
  33. Put your skate on your teammate's knee and have him/her shine your boot for you.
  34. Hold your stick by the blade like a cane, put your glove over your eyes, and tap your stick butt on the ice like a blind person.
  35. Fish the puck out of the net, pretend to sign it, and hand it to the goalie.
  36. Grab the goalie's water bottle and spray the goalie.
  37. Lean on the net, and drink from the goalie's water bottle like it's champagne. Hand the bottle back to the goalie.

06 July 2008

Song of the day: "96,000" by Lin-Manuel Miranda

The hottest new musical on Broadway is "In the Heights," winner of the 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Choreography. New York native Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived the concept for the musical when he was a sophomore in college eight years ago. He also wrote the music and lyrics for the show, plus he stars as leading character Usnavi! Talk about a Broadway debut!

My favorite song is the big ensemble number "96,000." Usnavi discovers that someone has bought a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000 from his convenience store. Everyone in the neighborhood sings about what he/she would do if they won $96,000. The rapping is incredible.

From In the Heights



Dollers? Holla.


Yo, somebody won!


If I won the lotto tomorrow
well I know
I wouldn't bother going on no spending spree
I'd pick a business school and pay the entrance fee
Then maybe, if you're lucky, you'll stay friends with me.
I'll be a business man,
richer than Nina's daddy,
Donald Trump and I on the links,
and he's my caddy
My money's making money, I'm going from po' to moto
Keep the bling, I want the brass ring like Frodo!

Oh no, here goes Mr. Braggadocio
Next thing you know, he's lying like Pinocchio

Well if you're scared of the bull, stay out of the rodeo!

Yo, I got more hoes than a phone book in Tokyo!

Ooh, you'd better stop rappin'
You're not ready
It's gonna get hot and heavy and you're already sweaty-


Yo, I'm sorry, was that an answer?
Shut up, go home and pull your damn pants up!
As for you, Mr. Frodo of the shire, 96 gs ain't enough to retire

I'll have enough to knock your ass of its axis!

You'll have a knapsack full of jack after taxes!


Ay, alabanza!


No me diga!


I never win shit!


for real, though,
imagine how it must feel going real slow
down the highway of life
with no regrets
and no breaking your neck for respect or a paycheck
for real, though, I'll take a break from the wheel and we'll throw the biggest block party,
everybody here
a weekend when we can breathe, take it easy

Yo! ma, it's me, check my tickets!

Check one two three what would you do with 96 gs?

who, me?

I mean, if it's just between you and me-

esa pregunta es tricky!

I know!

with 96 g,
I'd start my life with a brand new lease
atlantic city with a malibu breeze

and a brand new weave-

or maybe just bleach...

Y'all are freaks

Yo, I'm just sayin...
it's silly when we get into
these crazy hypotheticals
you really want some bread
then go ahead and create a list of goals
and cross them off the list as you pursue them
and with those 96 i know precisely what i'm doing

what you doing?

What am i doing? what am I doing?
It takes most of that cash just to save my ass from financial ruin
sonny can keep the coffee brewin'
and i'll spend a few on you
cause the only room with a view's a room with you in it
and i could give abuela claudia the rest of it
just fly me down to puerta plata, I'll make the best of it
You really love this business?


tough, merry christmas.
You're now the youngest tycoon in washington heights.

with 96,000, I'd finally fix housing
give the barrio computers and wireless web browsing
Your kids are living without a good education
change the station, teach them about gentrification, the rent is escalating


the rich are penetrating


We pay our corporations
when we should be demonstrating


What about immigration?


politicians be hating


Racism in this nation's gone from latent to blatant!
I'll cash my ticket and picket, invest in protest,
never lose my focus till the city takes notice.
and you know this man! I'll never sleep
because the ghetto has a million promises for me to keep!

You are so cute!

I was just thinking off the top of my head.

96k. go.

If I won the lottery, you'd never see me again.

Damn, we're only jokin', stay broke, then...

I'll be downtown, get a nice studio, get out of the barrio

If i win the lottery, you'll wonder where I've been

For real, though, imagine how it would feel going real slow down the highway of life with no regrets
and no breakin' your neck for respect or a paycheck-


No me diga!
Ninety six thousand!
I never win shit!
Ninety six thousand!
For real, though, imagine how
it would feel goin’ real slow
Down the highway of life
with no regrets
And no breakin’ your neck for
respect or a paycheck
For real though, I’ll take a
break from the wheel and
we’ll throw
The biggest block party,
everybody here
A weekend when we can
breathe, take it easy. . .
Yo! Ma it’s me, check my
Check one two three
What would you do with
ninety-six G’s—
Who me?
I mean if it’s just between
you and me—
Esa pregunta es tricky!
I know
With ninety-six G’s
I’d start my life with a brand
new lease
Atlantic city with a Malibu
And a brand new weave—
Or maybe just bleach.
Y’all are freaks.
Yo, I’m just sayin’
It’s silly when we get into
these crazy hypotheticals
You really want some bread
then go ahead create a set
of goals
And cross them off the list
as you pursue ‘em,
And with those ninety-six I
know precisely what I’m doin’.
What you doin’?
What’m I doin? What’m I doin?
It takes most of that cash
just to save my ass from
financial ruin
Sonny can keep the coffee
brewin’, and I’ll spend a few
on you
‘Cuz the only room with a
view’s a room with you in it.
And I could give Abuela
Claudia the rest of it
Just fly me down to Puerta
Plata, I’ll make the best of it
You really love this business?
Tough, merry Christmas.
You’re now the youngest
tycoon in Washington Hiznits.
With ninety six thousand, I’d
finally fix housin’,
Give the barrio computers
and wireless web browsin’,
Your kids are livin’ without a
good edumacation,
Change the station, teach ‘em
about gentrification.
The rent is escalatin’
The rich are penetratin’
We pay our corporations
when we should be
What about immigration?
Politicians be hatin’
Racism in this nation’s gone
from latent to blatant!
I’ll cash my ticket and picket,
invest in protest,
Never lose my focus till the
city takes notice
And you know this man! I’ll
never sleep
Because the ghetto has a
million promises for me to
You are so cute!
I was just thinking off the top of
my head.
96k. Go.
If I win the lottery, you’ll
never see me again.
Damn, we’re only jokin’, stay
broke then
I’ll be downtown,
Get a nice studio, get out of
the barrio
If I win the lottery,
You’ll wonder where
I’ve been
For real, though,
Imagine how it would feel
Goin’ real slow
Down the highway of life
With no regrets
And no breakin’ your neck for
respect Or a paycheck—