Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snowboarding and Thinking

Apologies for the lack of posting, busy-ness, grad school apps, etc. Plus quality is better than quantity. On to the post.

I went to Tahoe with my parents + cousin this weekend. I'm probably at a beginning intermediate level of snowboarding. I still don't usually make it down the hill without falling, though that's often because I'm trying something new, like catching a little air or doing S-turns when I'm riding switch (and let me just say, catching an edge = ouch!). But I must be getting better, because I can't think about it anymore.

Wait, don't I mean I don't have to think about it? Well, yes, but also that I can't think about it. This is the first time this season I've gone snowboarding, and the first couple of runs down the mountain, I was having a lot of trouble getting my S-turns to work. I was disappointed that like last year, I might have to spend a whole day just getting my rhythm back.

And then during my third run, I was watching a skier doing some fancy tricks, and totally forgot to think about what I was doing. When I came back to myself, I realized I was just carving down the (beginner) slope like I had been trying to do, but without trying. All I needed to do was stop thinking about it.

Research has shown that pro athletes inevitably flub their shots when they start thinking about the mechanics of what they're doing. They do much better when they let their unconscious deal with the details. Beginners, on the other hand, do much better when they concentrate on what they're doing. They have to consciously learn the correct habits before they can delegate the motion to their body.

So regular S-turns I can do without thinking. Switch S-turns, with my right foot in front, are something new, and therefore something I need to think about until I've had enough practice with them. The same goes for landing off a jump. Once I've gotten that balanced landing a few times, I'll be able to start thinking about new tricks to go with it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holy plagiarism, Batman!

I know students cheat, but I don't think any of my friends have ever paid someone to write essays for them. I'd heard rumors of such behavior way back in high school when we were all applying to college, but they seemed like isolated incidents. So how did this come to be so widespread without my knowledge?

Maybe it's because people who made it into Berkeley are just so smart they don't need to cheat.

Nope. I've seen many examples even here of writing that makes my brain ache, and not because of ingenious complexity. There are plenty of people who are unable to form a coherent sentence. To be fair, English is not a native language for some. Yet there are still plenty who mangle other languages with that hard, unsubtle American accent, who have grown up speaking English all their lives. You'd think they would know the language by now.

But why then, haven't I seen it?

Maybe it's just that the majority of my friends are in the biosciences and there are fewer papers assigned. So maybe I don't see it as much as I would if I were, say, a history major.

Maybe it's because I don't cheat and people see that and figure I'm not the person to tell about these amazing services.

Maybe it's because Berkeley is a public university, and the people here are less likely to be able to afford that $2000 per paper.

I don't know the reason. But as for those who (think they) need the service that badly, can't anybody tell from the quality of their other writing that somebody else wrote this paper? In many of the classes where I've had to write papers, our finals included in-class writing assignments. But as a lot of the comments on the article point out, the structure of academic councils and such is not set up in a way that encourages teachers to enforce the rules. It's just too damn complicated to try and prove that a student was not capable of writing something he or she handed in.

Where are you going now, American educational system? Off to test the Coriolis effect, perhaps?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


So I'm taking Psych 133, on the psychology of sleep.

Right now, I'm working on a project for that very class.

If you have 5 minutes to spare, help me out by taking our survey on sleep myths.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


4 out of 5 dentists recommend sugarless gum. What about the other one?

7 out of 8 mice recommend sticking your nose between my fingers while exploring and then curling up in my hand. What about the other one?

The other one recommends biting my thumb. Twice. Either the taste of blood + latex is addictive or he was just vindictive.

I suppose that's my fault for holding him too loosely as while trying to apply something to his paw. But I'm too soft-hearted and would rather err on the side of being bitten than hurting the mouse. Ah well, that's a price I will continue to pay (every now and then - this was my first bite all semester).

Googling "mouse bite" gave me this picture of a viper and its deadly little killer. You go, mouse!
(Story here: Telegraph)