Monthly Archives: September 2017

Constrained

As I play the Turnabout Sisters 2005 theme from Ace Attorney and listen to the upbeat tune, I try to recall the easy times of my life – the time where I didn’t have to worry about anything, I didn’t have to worry about the next day.

There is really one memorable moment in my life where I can recall being truly free. It was not in Japan, for I was constrained by time and equipment then. (Having to carry a passport and money pouch inside my clothes, along with a flimsy blue backpack, I would consider to be rather constraining.) It was not any time during high school, for I was constrained and controlled by the rigid bell schedule that killed many opportunities for me.

And time, too, also constrains the writing of this post, so I must make this rather short. It was in 2006. I was very tired and I was watching my brother play Tekken against the computer, in training mode, trying to learn the combos. He was playing on my uncle’s projector, while I remained cognitively incapable, it seems, to actually remember any combos for anything longer than a few seconds. But it didn’t matter: dazedly watching my brother play was fun enough for me

I remember few moments of true timelessness. I probably experienced this same feeling a few times at the end of a retreat, but usually it would be for a few seconds, too short for me to grasp the emotion and hold it in my hand for me to examine and reproduce.

And the truth is that college is nowhere near heaven. I thought to myself that everything would magically improve when I started a college life. Indeed, things changed – but within the status quo, and perhaps not for the better.

I’m not having fun. It’s overwhelmingly large. If I meet someone, chances are very low I’ll find the person again the next day, or the day after that. But the size is at a sweet spot where coincidences do tend to occur interestingly frequently. Yet, my pessimistic mind does not work on coincidences, so they serve merely to annoy me.

Now it’s 10:56 and I’m out of time. I have to finish writing and I’m not done. Now it will be 11:00 and I will be back on the cycle of rigid 7.5-hour sleep. I do homework whenever I’m not at some random club meeting, leaving absolutely no time to do any real projects at any given day.

I wish I could just ease the load on myself. I feel like I lose hair every time I lose a point on a homework problem. I calculated that there is not enough money in my meal plan to make it through the whole year, so I’m conserving as much money as possible, you guessed it, by eating as little as possible. My dad will probably say something like “but don’t worry about the money!” even though it does matter.

Friends have screwed me over; I screwed myself over. Heck, today I really screwed myself over by forgetting to go to an important meeting for my department-assigned small-group. The penalty for not doing so is losing the opportunity to hear whatever important thing the mentor wishes to say, which is often very useful because it is geared specifically toward us freshmen and relates to mistakes the mentor has done himself.

After all of these times of being screwed over, my mind doesn’t think forgiveness, it thinks “trust no one.” If I never give anyone an opportunity to fail, then I will never give myself an opportunity to further disappoint myself. Don’t trust people with money. Don’t trust people to give me a ride. Don’t trust people to write good, clean code. Don’t trust people to do a good job making anything. Don’t trust people to care about me. Don’t trust people to come to anything. Don’t trust people to try to have a relationship with me. Don’t trust people to be near me, lest I snap back at them and hurt them.

The facets of my life I literally dream I had never materialize. “The right person” never comes to assist me. No one really cares enough to help me solve my problems. Those counselor appointments, are they helping? – no they’re not, these people are bogged down listening to people’s problems daily. They are nothing more than mere sounding boards at this point. I just talk and talk to him and he just nods his head and sometimes gives a little frown or a “Hmm.” as if some unfortunate event was so painful for me. But it is not painful for me, because I have at this point just conditioned myself to take a pessimistic attitude to most things. And his lines of dialogue are basically grouping events up or drawing parallels as if my life were some big book. I tell him that I’m antisocial and I really don’t know why. There is some repulsive force that I don’t understand, a force that repulses me from society, and that seems to be the root cause of everything.

I’m just waiting for the stars to align at this point…

Self-humiliation

Last week, I was feeling all right. Very stressed, but all right nonetheless. But today, I feel terrible again. After a weekend of not doing anything other than spending my time with my family, I return to college thinking about nothing except the homework that has mounted on my shoulders once again.

And then last night, my computer science TA/grader just realizes my worst nightmares: 13/20 for my first programming assignment. Furious, frustrated, and helpless, I just tumbled into bed at 11 pm, head hurting thinking of ways to get back at him, on the verge of crying, off to a sound sleep. My roommate was not helping, as he plays games during the day and then sometime during the night hits the books – but I never get to see that side of him (he gets all As); all I see him do is play some game on his laptop, yelling some things in Korean and clicking hard and fast.

And then I talk to him, and I take the quiz during his discussion session. Out of nervousness, I botch the time complexity proportionality questions, bringing me down to an 8/10 for my second quiz: exactly where I was on my first quiz.

After a while, he ends up giving back one point for finally seeing the instructor’s logic for allowing the use of a constant from an external class. But he seems adamant on not giving me back any of the points he stacked on one single method. I kept asking him why he deducted this or that, and why I’m penalized more points than if I had not written the method at all. I broke him; he can’t give an explanation for everything. Eventually, he tells me for why he deducted points on a nested class, even though there is absolutely no place on the rubric he is allowed to deduct points for that, nor any rule on the assignment stating that I can’t use nested classes within a method, “I don’t know… it just doesn’t… feel right.” So, it seems fairly clear my grader does not really know how to grade correctly.

Also, for my discrete math course, I botched two questions and another one is at the mercy of the grader, which probably brings me to an 85%. I probably failed that homework in a similar dramatic fashion.

This is extremely demoralizing: I am now scared of going to class. I’m scared of continuously failing, of continuously receiving homework, of never getting time for myself, of having to fulfill obligations and commitments I have regrettably decided to place myself in. And now, my anger and frustration is causing me to forget things so that I do not have to think about their implications for me.

Everything seems slower. When I was in high school, everything was simple and easy. Now there are so many points of failure that I can overlook so easily. Did I put my pajamas in the duffel bag for when I go home? Did I lock the door on my way out? Is there a flaw in my calculation or proof? Does it really work out?

When I search online, all the fault points to me, that I don’t study enough, that I need to talk to the professor more, that I need to just fail because I deserve to fail and failing is fine and it’s also totally fine to be stuck in college for five or six years. No, it’s not totally fine to be stuck in college for so long. I have a goal and I will get there. I had an A in each and every one of my classes in high school, and failing a class is absolutely unacceptable.

And here, it’s worse: if I fail a class, not only would I have wasted my parents’ money on the class, but I would also have wasted it on humiliating myself and pulling my hair out.

I hardly eat anymore, and my scalp is beginning to show. I don’t sleep enough because I worry too much about what will happen the next day and the day after that. I sweat uncontrollably from my hands.

As always, my mother tells me to pray, but I can’t pray when my mind is clouded with frustration. I need medical help, and I have been waiting for two weeks now. “Help” will finally “arrive” later this week for a short appointment. And if this does not lead me to the right path… then I’ll be on my last leg.

Making an e-bike with display

This is an explanation of another one of those ambitious projects which I really want to do, but I have neither the experience nor the people to actually do it with.

I hate rough inclines: they kill my legs. The number one detractor to riding a bike in my childhood was that in my neighborhood, there are some very steep inclines. It made riding a bicycle not a very pleasant experience, and my father never wanted to bring me to a park for me to ride my bike on, so in the end, I never really used my bike.

However, given the fact that using a bicycle is the only practical mode of rapid transit in the city where I attend college, I want to actually start riding a bike again. And after a year or so of riding that bike, I want to make the riding experience cooler.

First, I want to retrofit a brushless DC motor to the drive shaft; something rated for around 600 W of power output. If it is not possible to attach it directly to the hub, I’ll attach it to the shaft with a belt; ideally, a belt with the quality of a timing belt. But I hope I don’t have to do this, because if so, I’d have to play with the tension, pitch, and so on of the belt, which would be problematic.

Next would be the electronic speed controller and charge controller. I want the controllers to automatically switch to a regenerative mode for slight brakes by bypassing the ESC, inverting the poles of the motor, and taking the current straight to the charge controller. Then, on pedaling, the controllers should switch back to drive mode. This behavior would be directed by the main controller, since regenerative braking is a non-essential feature.

Speaking of a main controller, what exactly is it? The main controller is the Arduino or whatever microcontroller I decide to use that is wired to the ESC and charge controller, but is not required to be run in order to operate the bike in case of a fatal error or low battery charge. It would run a real-time operating system with prioritized continuous tasks and many, many interrupt routines. These would be its high-level tasks, in order of descending priority:

  1. Emergency brake applicator. Continuously checks “emergency stop” button, dead man’s switch (clipped to clothes, but the clamp is limited enough such that it cannot be clipped to the handlebars or other part of bike; then the other end of the clamp is magnetically attached to a port on the control box), or >95% application of brakes while moving at a formidable speed.
  2. 10 Hz alternating pulse. This signal is generated and passes through some kind of failsafe circuit, which then determines whether or not the ESC should be enabled. The alternating pulse ensures that the main controller is not “frozen” on an operation that could prevent it from stopping the motor. This assumes that as long as the pulse is alternating, the controller is working as intended.
  3. Speedometer. It simply samples the speed at which the back wheel is spinning and determines the current speed.
  4. Speed regulator. This task scales back the output DC current based on how close the bike is to the speed limit. This task can be overridden, but it’s not a good idea to do so.
  5. Brake detector. This task detects the brake application percent. The actuation of the brakes is completely analog, but if it is significant, the main controller can signal to go to regenerative mode.
  6. Pedal detector. This task simply detects how much positive force is being applied on the pedal and sets the target DC current proportional to this force (clamped, of course).
  7. Odometer. It uses the same sampling metric as the speed counter, but it increments the distance by the circumference of the wheel. After around .2 miles, it writes to the EEPROM. I suppose I could use a pointer to level the wear on the flash, or I could use a preexisting file system designed specifically for microcontrollers.
  8. Display driver. This assumes that there exists a layer of abstraction between the UI and the display itself.
  9. Sound driver. Just for basic beeps and boops.
  10. Main UI. This handles button interrupts (the calls of which are passed to the foreground user task), the failsafe UI (if all user-mode UI tasks are dead), and the UI toolkit itself.
  11. Foreground user task. Dashboard, options, etc. Must not directly control motor operation.
  12. Background user tasks. Battery icon, clock, etc. Must be non-critical.

The e-bike’s main controller would require a key for operation and then a simple on/off SPST switch located in front of the handlebars. The display would ideally be a Hitachi HD44780-esque LCD, but it could also be the Nokia-style LCDs, although these might be a little too small. There will be six buttons: on the left below the display, there will be four directional buttons laid horizontally (in a style familiar to Vim users or Dance Dance Revolution/StepMania players), and on the right, a back button and an enter button. The display and controls need to be water-proofed.

Instead of using heavy deep-cycle lead-acid batteries, I’d just opt for using LiPo cells, which are ubiquitous in hobby usage for high-performance electronics. Industry professionals are not fond of LiPo cells because they are comparatively more dangerous and volatile than other types of cells, and this increased risk cannot be tolerated in mass production. However, since I am not mass-producing e-bikes, it should be OK to accept the risks and enjoy the power of lightweight LiPos, as long as their charging is supervised closely.

This e-bike also needs a brake light, signal lights, and an LED headlight with a white color temperature rather than blue.

That’s all I want the bike to do. All of this, but I want to keep it street-legal and be able to prove that it can be safely ridden in busy streets under the consideration of various fail-safe mechanisms, including a speed regulator that requires manual override.

Sadly, I don’t know if I will ever be able to make this contraption.

Crushed

I don’t want to do anything anymore. I thought I would feel better in college now that I’m supposed to be doing things, but I actually feel significantly worse.

I hate myself again. Over and over and over. I try so hard to shield myself from it, but it comes from all angles now. The thing called “diversity” has a hidden face to it, and it is that which oppresses me.

I failed a code interview with a professor who wanted to give me an honors class. He spoke so quickly and efficiently, I was simply left without words and felt too intimidated to describe the solutions to the questions he asked me. There was no certainty at all to my answers. My brain melted down in doubt, and there was nothing in my scratch paper but circles with lines attached to each other. Why couldn’t I find a solution to this easy problem?

I feel like an idiot. I know so much, I have so much experience, I can sniff code, but guess what – none of it matters because I was not able to answer a simple question. No one can recognize me for what I have done. Look at all of the people who were so, so accomplished. They interned at Intel, oh look at them. There’s no need to test them on anything at all. They’re scholars now, the cream of the crop. And I just tried getting to the top, but the way up is impossible now.

As for Japanese, it’s a lost cause – I’m not getting into that class by the end of the day, I assure you that. And I’m probably not going to study Japanese for 4 MORE MONTHS because I entered the waitlist a little too late, again, because I am an idiot.

Nobody gives a crap about me. My dad doesn’t give a crap. He just says, “Okay, son, good luck, bye.” He only cares about me not depending on them anymore but that I don’t turn against the family. My mom says, “What are your weapons? The Bible, the Rosary, …yes, so where are they? Do you have them packed?” She only cares about me preserving my faith and that I read whatever I give her, because if I don’t read it then I go to hell (“oh, no, I never said that!”). My friends/acquaintances don’t give a crap, because I don’t talk to them and they have other circles of friends stronger than my own.

It has come to the point where I have to pay people for them to listen to me for a little while and give me advice – those would be counselors. And even then, I can’t verbalize my problems, but they listen, not read. And this is the point where my mom would say, “Then go to a spiritual director! You don’t have to give them any money!” She also told me that more and more people take anxiety medication because less and less of them pray. It was just moot to argue anything against it, because I knew I could not win any theological debate against her. I’m still Catholic and I still believe in a merciful God. But she bends words to her own will in a manipulative way that only serves to further deprecate me and mark me as a candidate for hell “if I don’t take action.” But no, she “never said that.” She denies everything that is implied by her words and says, “they’re just for you to meditate in your own time.”

And the Internet doesn’t help, either. They don’t offer solutions. They just throw more trash into the fire. They just condemn more parents, condemn any sort of organized religion, condemn university, condemn government, condemn science, condemn politics, condemn everything, and they just throw their hands up and say, “Life is pointless.” And as much as their claims are so radical, so too would it be incorrect to say that any of them seem to make any logical sense against the realities of the world and the realities of human phenomena.

On top of this, I have even failed to impress my referrer for a decently timed counseling appointment, so I now must wait two entire weeks to have less than an hour’s time speaking with a perhaps more professional individual. I wish someone could just help me. I deserve the help.

I want to stop pacing around and feeling like nothing. I can’t even get myself to work on assignments. I feel worthless, like I don’t deserve anything. I will never be one of the greats. There are too many people in the world to stand out.

Most people’s advice is just to think of people who are worse off than me. Basically, they’re asking me to benefit and smile off other people, which is an idea I am not fond of. Professionals would perhaps go right ahead and prescribe me medication. But I don’t want medication because it’s not a logical solution to a problem. I’m just drugging myself with less logic and more illusion, because again, nobody gives a crap about fixing problems. Just listen to problems, make a diagnosis, prescribe medication, repeat. Rinse and repeat until you can pay rent and food with the money you make from it.

I hate today. I hate today so much I just want to tear it off the wall, crumple it up, and throw it in the trash. I feel like a moron, like I wasted someone’s time today (even though the professor knew very well that I would fail!), like my friends don’t give a crap about me, like I’m about to have a stroke and it could happen at any time – hence why I periodically test both sides of my body, scared sick of having a stroke if it looks like I am disusing either side of my body.

It’s already the second week of college, and I wish I could just reset it back to day one.