running and writing

It’s been a while. There was a time when I committed to writing on here once a week. Then once a week became once a month, now it seems it’s almost degenerated to about once a year. After not writing for so long I find it difficult.

About a year ago I began training for my first half marathon. I began at just half a mile, slowly ramping up the mileage on my weekend run by half a mile each week. In July of last year I completed the San Francisco half marathon. Notice how I didn’t say I ‘ran’ the marathon? I finished just barely fast enough to get a finisher medal, which is to say I completed the 13.1 miles in under 3 hours. I did run a good portion of it– I made it to about mile 10 before my legs started cramping up. For the last three miles I did a mixture of walking, stopping to stretch my calves and painfully jogging when my legs would cooperate. As I crossed the finish line I felt relieved, then joyful for finishing, then painful misery as my legs completely locked up from cramping. I vowed never to run another half marathon, let alone a full marathon.

True to that vow, I have not run anything close to another half marathon. I actually didn’t even run at all for a few months after the SF half marathon. It was well into fall when I decided to try giving running another chance. That first run after laying off for so long was eye opening. It was shocking to find how difficult it was to run even a couple of miles.

Running is very different in that respect from biking. I’ve laid off of biking before–in fact I pretty much hibernate from biking every winter. As much as I love biking, I don’t love it enough to bike when it’s cold and wet. But even after several months of hibernation, once spring rolls around I’m able to hop back on the bike and do something like a 50 mile or 3 hour ride. With running I find if I stop for even a few weeks my running muscles are completely gone, and running for even twenty minutes is painful.

This is my first time writing after a long time off. I’m finding it kind of painful–but it’s not physically painful like running. My calves aren’t cramping up and I’m not gasping for air. It’s more like a mental weariness, as if my brain is a muscle that’s atrophied over time. Strangely enough, it’s the pain that actually keeps me running– it’s a reminder that my body is getting weaker if I don’t run. I don’t run a lot, mind you, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never run anything like a marathon. But just the fact that starting again after stopping is so painful keeps me motivated to go out and run at least a couple of miles each week. Maybe struggling through this first post will make me want to be more consistent about writing as well.

dating data reporting

I’ve been working in the Data Reporting Office of the California Department of Education for about a year now. The logical and analytical left brain part of me enjoys the challenge of writing SQL statements (SQL is a database programming language) to extract the data needed for reports. The end result of my work is mostly reports filled with numbers. It actually sounds kind of boring when I describe it this way.

In general I like to do things that tell stories. I think that’s the creative right brain part of me. I like to take photographs and write on this blog, both of which are inherently methods of story telling. I think that’s why after a year in my job I’m still not bored– My work requires logic, but it also tells a story, albeit in a slightly different way. The numbers in the reports I generate tell the story about the successes and failures of education in California. For example, there’s a lot of interest in English learner students in California, and a data set I worked with recently seems to tell the story about how our state is failing to educate these kids– many of them never achieve English fluency.

On a completely unrelated note, it seems like there’s a lot of interest in my dating life (or actually the lack thereof). So I’ll try to tell the story of it. Unfortunately the usual modes of story telling don’t apply here. I don’t really have any interesting anecdotes to write about, and I don’t take pictures on dates (that would be awkward). But I’ve been on my fair share of first dates, so I suppose there’s enough data and numbers to tell some sort of story about my successes or failures. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll try write down any statistics I could think of– hopefully at the very least it’s an interesting story.

Let’s start with some big picture numbers. I’ll start with cost, since that one’s easy. I am currently on 4 dating apps– Match, eHarmony, Coffee Meets Bagel, and okCupid. Coffee Meets Bagel has costed me the least amount of money, a grand total of ZERO dollars. okCupid is free too, but I spent $9.99 for one month of their premium service, mostly out of curiosity, which I’ll explain later on. For both Match and eHarmony I’ve spent about $240 each. Interestingly enough I started both of them about the same time and I initially bought a six month subscription with each of them for around $120. I forgot to cancel both of them, and now I am about a third of the way through my second six month subscription with both. The total cost for each has worked out to about $20 per month.

In terms of bang for the buck, Coffee Meets Bagel (I’ll call it CMB since I’m tired of typing it out) has been the best for me. (That’s kind of a misnomer– there’s not actually any banging going on, neither literally or metaphorically.) CMB costs the least amount of money yet it has gotten me the most connections. The way CMB works is that you are matched with one profile every day, which you can either like or pass. If your match likes you as well, you are connected and can communicate through their messaging system. On a typical month I seem to connect with two or three matches, though not all of them will lead to first dates.

Next in effectiveness for me has been eHarmony. Like with CMB there’s some sort of matching algorithm which selects profiles for you to see. It’s slightly less structured than CMB because instead of needing a mutual like to initiate communication, either side can start the conversation by sending questions. In eight months I’ve gone on three dates matched through eHarmony.

I’ve had little to no success with Match and okCupid, mostly because of apathy on my part. With Match and okCupid you browse profiles and send messages to the people you are interested in. I find that it doesn’t work well for me. It takes a lot of messages to get a response, and even when I do get a few messages going back and forth none have ended with a date. So lately I haven’t been using either of these apps much.

Actually, now that I think about it, there’s an additional matching “app,” though it’s not a website and doesn’t exist on a smartphone. It’s my family. In terms of dates per dollar it’s actually the most effective, being the only one that’s actually been a financial gain. (My aunt in Korea actually gave me money to go on a blind date.) In terms of number of first dates it ranks pretty highly too, about on par with eHarmony.

I’m not sure if my results are typical. I have friends who have had success with both Match and okCupid, so my results there are probably not typical. But I’ve heard from several friends that CMB seems to work well for them, and I know of several married couples who have met on eHarmony, so in general it seems like within my circle of friends I’m fairly in typical in leaning towards CMB and eHarmony. In terms of match rate or number of first dates I have no idea if my results are typical, though if I had to guess I’d say they’re probably lower than average. All of the dating apps have a way of selecting preferences for matches, and in these preferences I am very selective which most likely severely lowers the number of potential first dates.

The reports I generate at work are typically aggregated or filtered based on several demographics– typically gender, race, age (or more likely grade), location (typically county or school district) and subgroup (typically these include demographic information like if a student is homeless or a foster child.) Similarly with these dating apps I filter my matches based on gender (females only please), race (Asian or Pacific Islander), age (25-35), location (typically just far enough to include the Bay Area) and subgroup (typically it’s Christian, never married, no kids currently, non smoker).

I don’t have any hard data on this, but I’m fairly certain my stringent preferences shrink the potential number of first dates significantly. The only thing I have resembling a statistic comes from okCupid. I briefly mentioned earlier that I paid $10 for a month of premium on okCupid, which they call A-List. okCupid lets you ‘like’ a profile. You can see a list at any time of the profiles you’ve liked, every single one of them fit the demographics I mentioned earlier, i.e. Asian girl between the ages of 25-35. It also shows you mutual likes for free. At the time (this was several months ago) I had liked a few dozen profiles but had only a single mutual like. I had twenty people who had liked my profile. If you pay for A-list you can see who likes you, so out of curiosity I paid for one month. Something like 95% of the people who had liked me were either white, black or Latino, the one mutual like was the only Asian who had liked me. I guess that’s the (dating) story of my life. The girls I like are not interested in me, and the girls that like me are the ones I’m not interested in…

Anyways, now we get to the heart of the report, the numbers. The numbers will basically be about whatever I feel like. Like my work reports the numbers will be broken down by demographics. We’ll ignore gender since they’re all female, race will mostly be either Korean or Chinese. I won’t report on age or subgroup (or like we say at work, that data is redacted). Location will basically be Sacramento or other. The numbers are mostly from memory so they may be off by one or two, and if you try to sum up the numbers you won’t get any meaningful result due to missing data (this often happens with work reports too), but hopefully the numbers tell an interesting story.

Here we go.

Out of 3 Korean girls that I met for first dates in the greater Sacramento area, 100% were through CMB. 100% were at purveyors of caffeine. Out of those, 2 were at Starbucks, 1 was at a boba place. Only 1 of those went beyond a first date, the 1 that was NOT Starbucks. Clearly Coffee Meets Bagel should not be taken literally…

Out of 4 Korean girls that I met for first dates outside of the greater Sacramento area but within the US, 25% were from CMB, 25% were from eHarmony and 50% were from family. One date was at a purveyor of caffeine (Starbucks). Out of the original 4 a total of 50% forgot to bring their wallet. Out of those that forgot to bring their wallet I thought 100% of them were really cute. Sadly out of those cute forgetful girls 0% went past a first date.

Out of 4 Chinese girls that I met for first dates outside of the greater Sacramento area 50% were from eHarmony and 50% from CMB. 0% forgot to bring their wallet. Out of the original 4 a total of 50% were grad students at UC Berkeley. Out of the original 4 a total of 50% of the time I went on the first date with a bicycle on my car. Out of those I actually only rode my bicycle on the date 50% of the time. Out of the original 4 only 1 was at a purveyor of caffeine (Philz!)

Out of 2 Chinese girls and 1 Japanese girl I met in the greater Sacramento area 100% were through CMB. 100% were in the medical field yet 0% were doctors. Two were at purveyors of caffeine and one was at a purveyor of beer (is there anything to do in Sac for a first date besides coffee or beer?) 0% forgot to bring their wallet.

Out of 7 blind dates that my family has tried to set me up on, 100% have been Korean. Three of them were located in Korea, two were in California, one in New York, and one in Seattle. I have gone on 100% of the ones in California, 33% of the ones in Korea, and 0% of the ones in Seattle and New York.

The farthest date from home was the one in Korea, over 5,000 miles away, which was organized by family. The farthest that was not organized by family was nearly 2,400 miles away in Washington DC, initially met through eHarmony.

The most expensive date I can remember was nearly $200, though that wasn’t a first date. It consisted of dinner and musical tickets. The most expensive first date I can remember was around $20, which was two cheap entrees at a Chinese restaurant. The cheapest first date was closer to $2, one small coffee at Starbucks for myself (she paid for her own, obviously she didn’t forget her wallet). Maybe I shouldn’t cheap out so much on first dates…

If I tried harder I could probably come up with more statistics, but I’ll stop here. In hindsight my dating life isn’t all that interesting, maybe someday I’ll have an interesting anecdote to share instead of these boring numbers.

the new year, the new resolve, and up with the old

As I write this the first month of 2016 is already almost over.

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In 2015 I had planned to write more often. In fact, the first post of 2015, “promiscuous writing,” was a long spiel about planning to write more on this blog. If anything 2015 was the least promiscuous (what’s the opposite of promiscuity? celibacy?)– with a grand total of three posts.

It’s not that 2015 was uneventful. If anything, it was more eventful, at least in terms of blog worthy events. I sold a house and bought a house. Ended a job and started a new one. I crossed off some major items on my bucket list. I drove the Icelandic Ring Road (well most of it anyways.) I hiked the John Muir Trail (well like half of it, which I suppose still counts).

I suppose I have excuses. I was busy. I was without a permanent home for part of the year, so the desktop computer that I do most of my writing on was not setup. There’s not a lot of traffic on this site, so no one would even know if I stopped writing. Ultimately it was just laziness and lack of motivation that kept me from writing. But now when I look at my blog, it looks almost like a piece of me is missing. I have some good memories in 2015, but none of them are chronicled here.

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Thankfully Google Photos has an amazing timeline feature, with which I can go back and piece together my memories and hopefully make coherent blog posts from them. So that’s the plan at least– I’ll go back and write some posts for 2015, then get back on track and post at least once a month in 2016.

promiscuous writing

The seventeenth century French playwright Moliere had this to say about writing:

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.”

I can’t say I know too much about prostitution, especially in seventeenth century France, but I can’t imagine how it would ever be done for love or friendship. What I can say is that Moliere’s thoughts on writing seem accurate to me, at least as it pertains to this blog.

I was a computer science major in college. Most of my time was taken up by my programming projects. I did have the chance to take one creative writing class, and I found that I really enjoyed it. It was probably my favorite class in college. As a side project, to sort of bridge my interest in programming and writing, I created a little blog platform in php and mySQL. After a while it became too much of a hassle to run my own blog, so I joined the Xanga bandwagon, which was a popular social blog platform at the time.

After college Xanga just sort of died a slow death. And not just my own. Xanga as a whole was dying, replaced by social networks like MySpace and the later juggernaut Facebook. I jumped on the Facebook bandwagon like everyone else, but I found that I still wanted a place to write longer and more in depth. Facebook just wasn’t a great platform for that. It’s not really meant for long form writing.

So I started a new blog. I had a domain that I owned, dahhh.com– and decided that I would start a blog on one of its subdomains. Thus this blog, mt.dahhh.com was born. This time around, instead of developing my own blog I decided to use WordPress, a full feature blogging platform that’s freely available to download.

So it was the love for writing (combined with a little bit of knowledge in technology) that got me started on this blog. After five years I’m actually kind of amazed that it still exists. Back to the Moliere quote, it’s like he said. It was love that got me started but it’s friends that kept me going. Most people know that I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people, and so this is my small way of keeping in touch with friends, letting them know what I’m up to. There are a few friends out there that semi-regularly read the blog, and once in a while I’ll get an email or chat or text message from them about something they’ve read which gets me back in touch with them. So that keeps me motivated to write at least once every few months. And I suppose that I’m my own best friend, in that I find that I continue to blog largely for myself, so that I can go back and relive past experiences.

So it was love that got me started on writing, friendship that kept me going, and it’s money that nearly got me to stop. My web hosting for the dahhh domain is set to expire in a couple of months, and for a while I debated whether to keep paying for it. It costs me ten dollars a month, not a huge sum of money, but enough that I was considering cancelling my hosting. But halfway through writing this I realized that I really want to continue with this blog. So I’m renewing my web hosting for another three years– for love and for friendship, money be damned.

So anyways, I’ll end by going back to where we started, by musing about prostitution. Again, I don’t know too much about prostitution, but I suppose the ones who make the most money from it are the most promiscuous. And so for this blog, if I want it to be worth my money, it makes that I should be more promiscuous with my writing in it. So for my friends out there who still read this (and for myself I suppose), I hope that I’ll be somewhat more promiscuous with this than I have been in the past.

positive is positive?

Yesterday I went in for a routine physical. Part of the reason for the physical was for me to check if I needed any immunizations for an upcoming trip. The other main reason was to ask for blood lab work to be done. I was curious about my cholesterol levels, especially since I haven’t done much cardio for a couple of months. I guess I’m kind of a hypochondriac. Actually I take that back. I’m actually a massive hypochondriac.

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Today I started receiving the results from my tests, so I’ve been checking the website as the test results come in. The third test result I received was this: VARICELLA ZOSTER VIRUS, POSITIVE. So of course the hypochondriac in me kicks in and I convince myself that I have a life threatening illness. First order of business, click the link above that says “About this test.”

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Clicking the link does not ease my worries one bit. It lumps all the viral tests together, including HIV, which I know I definitely don’t want to be tested positive for. The third sentence is particularly worrying: “Viruses cause disease by destroying or damaging the cells they infect, damaging the body’s immune system, changing the genetic material (DNA) of the cells they infect, or causing inflammation that can damage an organ.” So now I’m convinced that I must be dying. Since the website doesn’t have much information on my particular viral outbreak I turn to trusty Google for more information.

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So it turns out that a positive Varicella Zoster virus test result means that I’ve had the chicken pox before. It means that I should be immune to a future outbreak of chicken pox. Reading that on a random website was a huge relief, but it’s information that probably should be on the test results page. Or at the very least it should indicate that testing positive in this case is something positive (i.e. constructive or good) unlike the case of HIV where testing positive would be unequivocally bad.