January 28, 2018

The Infamous Liebster Award

As an encouragement to continue sharing my thoughts and experiences online, a person near and dear to my heart nominated me for the Liebster Award.

Liebster Award Logo

First and foremost, I highly recommend that you check out the blog of my nominator, Further Up and Further In by La Creadora Fantasma. Like myself, LCF is just beginning to learn how to record her own thoughts and inspire others through online publishing, and I am eager to watch her blossom both professionally and creatively through this experience. Keep it up!

As it turns out, the “rules” of nomination for the Liebster Award are slightly different from year to year: since 2018 just recently kicked off its opening act, I’ll try and satisfy both the rules given to me by my nominator and the new rules published by the originator. The links to both rulesets are given above.

Let’s go!

Intention Explained

Why do I write blogs?

My journey began when I took a trip abroad to Hangzhou, China, and was seeking a way to memorialize that unique experience and share it with friends and family back home. Being a quixotic techie with a dogged proclivity toward independence, I threw together a self-hosted website on which I built a resume page in spartan HTML/CSS and a Ghost blog for recording my time in China. Since then, I’ve spent much more time investing in the website’s technology rather than its content (form over function–an incorrigible flaw against which I battle), and have most recently settled on a Jekyll site hosted on Github (a platform to help software developers track their code and collaborate) and managed with Prose.

Github and Jekyll
Jekyll static website generator, plus Github Pages hosting: A match made in an evil genius's lab.

But, technologies aside, why do I still strive to immortalize my thoughts in text, and publish them online for the world to see? In truth, my motivation comes down to my love for storytelling: using narratives in every form to build connections with others. From the color palletes of the websites I build to the tension of the piano’s vibrations, from the worlds invented through extemporized theatrical performance to the themes shared through a video game, I am in love with communication–especially through non-traditional media. Building a website and contribuing to a blog is one way I believe that I can combine my two somewhat divergent passions–software development and narrative creation–into a single product.

I also like being able to save and revise drafts of my thoughts: a practice that most other forms of online social media don’t necessarily allow!

Questions Answered

I will now attempt to answer the eleven inquiries of my nominator, La Creadora Fantasma:

  1. Apple, Android, Microsoft, or Linux software?

    You’re killing me already! My knee-jerk response is Linux, because I’ve grown up using various Linux distributions for most of my journey so far as a computer scientist and I value the power and freedom of a community in which everyone is able to contribute to the functional development of the software system.

    That said, as I continue to grow in my understanding of various computer technologies, companies, and cultures, I am also beginning to take into account the pragmatic realities of the field. “Open Source” does not necessarily imply an open and inclusive development community. It doesn’t always yield accessible software, and the provided products and services often fail to bring food to the table of their contributors. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens1; free and open-source software has an important place in our community, but it is not the answer to all technological woes.

    From a practical perspective, I actually find myself leaning slightly toward Microsoft. Although I am perhaps least familiar with system administration and software development on Windows, I find Microsoft’s recent actions as a company pleasantly surprising and admirable. They seem eager to make their products accessible and open both to developers (who desire clear documentation and transparent sources) and end users (who desire dependability and elegant functionality). Microsoft doesn’t exhibit the vertical integration of their products and services that Apple does (allowing Apple to provide beautiful interfaces to their customers), but in relaxing their hold on the reins, Microsoft forms better relationships with their developer community. Microsoft still keeps much of their software closed-source, but without doing so they would struggle to make ends meet in order to deliver the high-quality services that end users have come to expect.

    Microsoft logo circa 2018
    A pretty (flat) logo

    So, long story short: In a perfect world, Linux. In this world, Microsoft!

  2. If you could play any instrument (other than one you already play), what would it be?

    I would definitely choose an instrument that I could carry with me, and perferrably one with which I could sing along. A guitar, despite its simplicity, would be ideal for these requirements! But since portability is more important to me than the ability to sing, I would also seriously consider a harmonica, because it could be a meditation and respite that could literally fit in my pocket.

  3. Herbal, green, black, or white tea?

    I think I’ll have to go with the only choice on the list that isn’t, biologically speaking, tea: the variety of potentials in herbal drinks are what cause me to choose them as my favorite. Of course, one can create concoctions of tea leaves infused with herbs and spices as well, making herbal drinks a perfectly valid option on the list, although I suppose the choice is a bit of a cop-out response as I’m defining it to encompass every other option.

    If I had to choose a type of tea leaf, I would probably choose green tea, because of my lovely experience with Longjing tea in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China (which you can read more about here).

  4. What was your favorite song as a small kid?

    I don’t remember having a single favorite song. However, there were several songs that stood out as hallmarks of my musical “coming-of-age”:

    The first song I remember falling in love with as a performance piece (on the piano) was Clocks by Coldplay.

    The first song I ever purchased was Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton. I also ended up parodying this song as a goodbye gift for the music teacher who directed the theatre production that was pivotal in maturing me emotionally and socially.

    The protagonist of Portal
    Fan art of Portal--the video game in which Jonathan Coulton's song was featured

    Speaking of that show, I am quite fond of several songs in the soundtrack of HONK Jr.

    The first song I ever performed for a romantic interest was The Pout-Pout Fish.

    And by far the most important, this song has grown up with me since elementary school as a vivid reminder of God’s relationship with me. Even as an adult it brings tears to my eyes remembering all the situations God carried me through with this song in my mind.

  5. What is the best joke you’ve ever heard?

    I hate telling puns to kleptomaniacs; they always take things literally.

  6. Do you know what a viola is?

    Yeah… Isn’t it a string instrument that specializes in producing tones between the ranges of a violin and cello? I’m purposely not going to look up whether I’m right or not to preserve the innocence of my potentially incorrect and offensive answer.

    Something like this, I think
  7. Have you ever been out of the country? If so, where?

    I’ve been to China (Shameless plug! Read more about the experience on this blog!) and the Caribbean. I would only consider the former experience to be true “cultural immersion,” as the trip to the Caribbean was simply a week-long vacation to a beautiful (but somewhat isolated) resort. It was a wonderful experience nonetheless!

  8. What are some inside family quotes that you’ll never forget?

    In my younger and more self-conscious years, I hated the word “play” when it came to my social interactions with friends. My dad would sometimes reference a “play date” in which I participated, or asked if I would invite some classmates over to “play” after I finished my homework. My answer was invariably, “No! It isn’t called ‘playing’! It’s ‘hanging out’!”

    Well, my dad took a while to get the picture, but he somehow found the compassion and patience to accept my ridicules and attempt to change his perfectly appropriate vocabulary. Bless his heart; that pursuit had deleterious consequences.

    One evening, as a friend and I were enjoying dinner, I asked my dad if my friend could just stay overnight so we could have more time together. Eager to encourage my social interactions (of which I did not have many), my dad readily called up my friend’s parents to organize the evening. “Hi Rick,” he began. “This is Forrest, Neill’s dad. I was wondering if you would be willing– uh, I mean, could Jacob and Neill have a–”

    Dad was struggling to find the socially acceptable term for the request: he was sure that the phrase “sleep-over” was eschewed by the younger crowd. What was the word for “hanging out” overnight? Finally, in a well-intentioned epiphany of vocabulary, my dad sputtered,

    …Could Jacob and Neill have a HANG-over tonight?!

    Needless to say, Jacob did not spend the night at the Robson household that evening.

  9. Best board game? Best video game?

    Although I’ve never played a full session before, I have always venerated the Japanese board game Go for its simplicity and stunning depth of strategy. There is only one type of piece, and they never move once placed, yet it took exponentially more computing power for artificial intelligence to beat a human at Go than it did for the game of Chess, with its sundry rules and moves.

    Best video game is, without the shadow of a doubt, The Witness. It is a marvellous tapestry outlining human intelligence and philosophy, and a shining example of nonverbal communication. It is the one video game that I believe would have engaged C.S. Lewis, Steve Jobs, and Douglas Hofstadter alike.

    logo for The Witness
  10. How do you feel about autocorrect when texting?

    I’ve personally turned it off on my phone, because I like to make a habit of proofreading whatever I write (even if it’s just a text message). However, I also readily admit that this practice decreases the efficiency of my communication with others and that the misunderstandings arising from autocorrect are sometimes more valuable lessons than simply fixing typos in the first place. It all depends on your audience, I suppose!

  11. If someone gave you a free, two-way ticket to Mars would you go?

    Actually, I think I would! Now, I would still want a year or so to get all of my affairs in order and make sure that my family and friends are all comfortable (!) with the decision. But considering the scientific and psychological advances that humanity would approach through such an experience, if some space-exploring entity deemed me fit to take such a journey, I would happily spend a significant part of my life exploring God’s creation in a way that no one else to this day has been privileged to do.

Facts Delivered

  1. My favorite ingredient in any dish (where it is appropriate, of course) is the caper.
  2. I drove my date to the senior prom in my grandfather’s 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.
  3. I’ve remapped my keyboard so that the capslock key acts as esc when tapped and as ctrl when held down along with another key. My left ctrl key is mapped to capslock.
  4. My first paying job was acting as the cow mascot for Chick-fil-A. I had to quit because I grew too tall for the suit.

    A Chick-fil-A cow mascot
    Is that me?! Wouldn't you like to know...
  5. The first programming language I took classes and achieved fluency in is J. My teacher was Henry Rich.
  6. When I took an ideology test in high school, measuring my political views on a spectrum of -72 (left/liberal) to +72 (right/conservative), I received a stunning +2. Since then, my views haven’t changed much: last time I took the test, I had migrated to +6.
  7. I have never crashed a motor vehicle (knock on wood!).
  8. The latest I have ever stayed awake is 3am: I was infuriated because I could not connect to a Raspberry Pi headless (without a monitor). I have never pulled a true all-nighter.

    The Raspberry Pi motherboard, shown to sacle.
    I've never tasted a real raspberry pie before: only the bitter tears of bootstrapping one.
  9. I prefer colder climates over warmer ones: not because I like being outside in the cold, but because I love the feeling and smell of indoor heating (stove, fireplace, etc) more than the atmosphere made by indoor cooling (fans, air conditioning).
  10. One of my childhood comfort foods was white rice with cupcake sprinkles mixed in.
  11. I used to be terrified of my elementary school’s janitor, because he was from China and could not speak English well. Being unable to communicate was a prodigious fear for me, so I never talked to him.

Questions Asked

  1. If you could replace all the water on Earth with one other homogeneous chemical substance–with the assurance that life on Earth could still survive exactly as it does now by drinking that chemical–what substance would you choose and why?
  2. What are three adjectives that your worst enemy would use to describe you?
  3. You’re going to a desert island and you get to take one book with you, but I get to rip out my choice of 50% of the pages before giving it to you. What book do you choose?
  4. All world governments are now replaced with arbitrary Fortune 500 companies. You have your choice of living under any one of them. Which do you choose?
  5. You’re sentenced to death row, and given the choice of your last meal. What do you choose?
  6. What is your favorite constant number? Zero, One, Pi, Euler’s Constant, the Imaginary Number? Constant of permittivity or permeability? Something else?

    Handwritten Latin and Greek alphabets
    My handwriting? Ha. I wish...
  7. Describe the last experience that made you laugh without those around you finding it amusing.
  8. Describe the last experience where everyone else found something hilarious that you didn’t understand.
  9. From now on, you are only allowed to listen to one genre of music. Which genre do you choose?
  10. Which conspiracy theory do you most want/hope to be true? Why?
  11. Set a timer for four hours from now (or whenever you are not working on the blog post you are currently writing). When the timer rings, immediately paste the contents of your computer’s clipboard, save them, and explain their context as the answer to this final question.


a.k.a. The Plot Twist

Having poured so much effort into this blog so far, I am ashamed to leave it incomplete due to a single negative perspective found on the Internet. However, as a matter of respect for other content producers and young professionals trying to establish a personal brand online, I have decided not to distribute any nominations for the Liebster award.

Why did I make this decision?

Upon attempting to find eleven blogs with under two hundred followers (as the rules specify), I stumbled upon this conversation that condemned “blog awards” as amateurish attempts to artificially raise SEO rankings. Even blogs with valuable and unique content can have their reputation undermined by getting caught up in chain-based blog awards. Regardless of one’s intention in posting, partaking in such activities gives the appearance of one floundering for quality material.

I will still publish this post as it is, because I respect the person who awarded me the Liebster and wish to support her in her first steps into blogging. However, I do not want to put anyone else under duress by publicly pressuring them to publish content that they do not feel is consistent with their online persona or professional image.

(As an aside, I am well aware of the irony of my decision, given that my blog likely has under 10 readers and is far from “public pressure”!)

That being said, I encourage anyone reading this blog who feels comfortable responding to the aforementioned questions–whether by commenting, blogging, posting on social media, or even shooting me an email–to take a chance and codify your thoughts! Sharing our lives with others through written language is a stimulating challenge and a wonderful blessing from God, and if nothing else I hope that this discursive draft has inspired a few others to transform thoughts into words.

  1. Ecclesiastes 3:1. 

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