Thursday November 27, 2014

“Pack your stuff. I mean, you stop whatever you are doing right now. We are going to take a stroll at the downtown, but before that we have to go to a computer store, need to get a small laptop but with decent powerhouse,” and that stopped me from wrapping up my last calculation on Wolfram Alpha. “OK this is so sudden,” tapping the uninked side of my pen to my lips, “and downtown for what? And why, on god’s green earth, you need a new laptop?”

“The secret will be revealed any minute from now, if you will. Fancy to be the witness of what I call the next breakthrough in the history of humankind?” a question with eyes of dancing eyelid. “Whatever”, and I lifted my butt, grabbing a winter jacket.

That snowy dusk. The light from the streetlamp cast a brighter light, thanks to snow’s reflective index. I was the one holding the new Dell laptop, while he was navigating around the neighborhood. Vigilant, looking for something… or someone?

A small alley leading to a room, and the door creaked open with a slight push. Unlocked? A portable heater at the corner on my right. A man half-sleeping next to it, awakened by the sound of the door. In his thirties, eyes gleaming with the look of being stranded and hopeless.

“Give him the laptop, and we are going to teach this homeless guy how to code. At least some javascript after 3 weeks. And maybe a bit into Ruby after that,” a moment of suspended belief left me dangling between his echoing command, and the chill of the winter was instantly replaced with the heat of joy. “The next breakthrough in the history of humankind, eh?” a question from me that drew a radiant smile on his face. “You didn’t believe at first, did you?”


Teaching a homeless guy how to code isn’t just a fiction. It is a real mission in this real world, and I was thrilled when I heard that, and I still am. Breathing a life into a poor soul, whom yesterday piled under the weight of poverty. Not just giving a new hope, but making him functional again. Making him at least to have a purpose.

“6 months have gone through. He now works at City Hall. Last time I heard he was with a team making a mobile app for public to alert if they spotted a homeless guy.”

I would be glad to write more about the story of this homeless guy. It would make a great book, but for the sake of arriving at my point, treat the story above as the metaphor of what I am going to say next. The Loft of an Eldritch Metaphor needs a good story as the kickstart, doesn’t it?

The morning you always dread

syafiz - the morning you always dread

What’s more troubling than a pair of wet shoes and socks because of the melting snow? 8 AM class, because both are potent enough to sit you down at the edge of your bed, doing nothing, mumbling rites of death passages, muttering how unfair this world to have a) a pair of wet shoes and socks, b) 8 AM class.

I can’t help with your drenched socks, but I could offer an advice for the latter. Once I had a conversation with Sam Nasim (pre-medical student, RIT). We were discussing how hard chemistry and organic chemistry, and how hard to pay attention in the class. Out of nowhere, the philosophical me said “push it your maximum, till the maximum becomes your new average. You will eventually bump into a plateau, that time you won’t push, but improvise a new hack around it.” A cup of coffee to burn the midnight oil sooner will increase in dosage into 2 cups, 3 cups, 4 cups, and the trend might elevate to a point you feel “coffee won’t work on me”, but the tension is there, you might try Monster Energy. That’s it. The first step is to push it, and when you hit a wall, find another hole to move forward.

The problem with 8 AM class is real, but it doesn’t really bother me. There is a real pinning issue that I guess we all need to find a new curative power to at least close the wound from continuously bleeding. The problem with…

“I don’t know why the hell I am doing this course…”

“I don’t know why I took this major in the first place…”

Occasionally I do that too, and when I do that it feels like I see a coffin in front of me, and there is someone reading an eulogy. Not surprising just yet. Out of the blue, thunder cracks and the room is washed in blue light, and my name is pronounced. An ambient sound echoing along with the thunder’s wrath. I take a peek into the coffin. Rose tucked inside the left pocket of the black tux, a face resembling someone in the mirror that I used to to meet everyday when I was fixing my necktie and doing my hair.

Suddenly the world is spiraling, a humongous whirlpool sucking the roof. And then it stops when I gain my composure. “Crap, that’s me!” would be the most appropriate reaction, and then the dream gets cast away by the warm sweat. Thank god I am still alive.

I would be glad to write more about the story of this weird dream. It would make a great book, but for the sake of arriving at my point, treat the story above as the metaphor of what I am going to say next. The Loft of an Eldritch Metaphor needs a good story as the kickstart, doesn’t it?

Oh well.

My plot twist

August 2013. I was scratching my head, tracking the documents that I needed to send to SUNY Buffalo and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Essays some more. The RIT’s essay prompt was like walking in the garden. Write an essay that describes you, so I wrote what I wanted to achieve with biotechnology. SUNY’s essay prompt was a bit disturbing. Why you decided to major in this field, more or less. Should I bullshit by saying “I love biotech because I always get a boner talking about it”, or should I not?

Most aspiring Malaysian high school students are defaulted either to medical career or engineering. I was there too, but not for long. Actually, I had been trained to be competent with computers. A detour to biotechnology seemed to flip the computer table. However, in my first essay, I perceived biotechnology as a combination between biology and technology (I still hold the same belief till now).

I would be glad to write more about the story of this plot twist. It would make a great book, but for the sake of arriving at my point, treat the story above as the metaphor of what I am going to say next. The Loft of an Eldritch Metaphor needs a good story as the kickstart, doesn’t it?

Oh well. Again.

Function-Perception Complex

What you have read so far are nothing but pleats, frills, and flounces of my actual point. But those frills have function. What makes a little girl more presentable is the blouse with frills, and when she tries to walk and then falls, it is a graceful fall (… if this article fails to function, it fails gracefully, eh?).

function interaction graph

My actual point is pivoting around this figure: the graph of age versus social-functional interaction, and I am going to walk you through it right now.

Around age 10, you are just a kid. Nothing much we can talk here actually. Things start to get a bit more interesting during the next 3 stages, namely, the function-latent, function-differentiation, and function-specialization. During the function-latent phase (age 16), you would begin to feel that you have the yet-to-be-discovered hidden talent, or talents. Some might have minimally manifested certain unique traits. As far as I could recall during my high school year, when I was 16 some of my friends showed their skillfull hands with art, bikes, leadership, and computer skills. Mine was computer skill. At the age of 15 I purchased my first web-hosting from Rawanaz, which was located in Denver USA.

first web-hosting with Rawanaz

Slowly progressing into function-differentiation (age 20), some people are going to the path that they had been training themselves since 16. From just a student with hands good at arts, they might choose the route to be an architect. A person with distinguishable tech skill during high school might choose computer science to further his studies. The trend continues with function-specialization (age 24), the year when one would’ve graduated from university with pretty honed skills. Well, that’s quite obvious, is it not?

vertical vs horizontal skill development

But there is actually a problem, not with this model but the people themselves: more often than not, they don’t realize this graph exists. Things go quite straightforward from age 10 to age 16, but most likely the phase function-latent won’t go any further. It stops there.

Can we trace the problem? I guess so. Wait, we can relate with the story about 8 AM class. No not the story specifically about the 8 AM class, but the real pinning issue that I guess we all need to find a new curative power to at least close the wound from continuously bleeding. The problem with…

“I don’t know why the hell I am doing this course…”

“I don’t know why I took this major in the first place…”

If you can recall the story about the weird dream in front of that coffin, that’s what actually happening. Each time you mutter about your fate being coupled with the course that you don’t like, you’ve sentenced yourself to death, and you realize you are dead. You put a stop sign, blocking the road of your (academic) life.

But a stop sign never tells you to stop walking, right? It simply prohibits you from walking the direction you were about to go. You take a momentary stop. You breathe, and clear your clogged mind. Remember my story about my SUNY application essay? Even though biotechnology wasn’t my ambition, and in fact, I didn’t even think of it when I was in high school, I created a detour with my own creativity. Because I can.

“Do… do you have any idea how to fix this?”

I think I do have, but this is from my limited experience. Since I was in high school, my friends were not only the ones around me, friends that I met in classroom and tuition classes. I had friends who were a programmer, blogger, tech journalist, and accountant. Yes that’s right! My friends back then weren’t limited to the circle around on my age group, but the guys in the university, and even working in the industry!

Today, that trait of making friends outside the range of my age group is still in effect. I have a friend working as policy maker (specifically in sustainable development). Also there is an old guy, an MIT alum, that I’ve been keeping in touch with. The surge of inspiration comes from them, helping me to progress from function-latent to function-differentiation and function-specialization.

If “making friends” is the trait that you really lack at, find something to read. I would suggest Reddit AMA and Reddit CMV. Both websites are quite daunting at first, but train you way to walk through it. Push it to the maximum until that maximum is your new average, remember?

Being functional

“You desire to change the world, no?”

“Yes, I will try… with small things that people often overlook, maybe?”

It scares me when I am on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I find scarcity of interaction between students, their studies, and the society around them. I mean, all I find are the regular rinse-and-repeat posts of selfie with #SoDeepQuoteTakenFromBook, dating pictures… (I could rant more, but let me stop here). There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is like a branch growing during autumn just to face winter leafless. You do something, but some function-less?

The way I am seeing this is that I think this is an overdue problem waiting to be adequately addressed. I see less young adults posting what they have achieved, what milestone they have marked, and what skill they have learned. I couldn’t help myself but to draw a smile from ear to ear even though my friend posted an alphabetical poem that she wrote when she was high on caffeine. That’s an art.

alphabetical poem by Piqasshi

I couldn’t help but to laugh and be impressed when I saw my friend, who is majoring in Economics, created an AR character during his free time. That’s a breakthrough.

Nazran’s AR on instagram

And the list goes on, but sadly, this list only accumulates a tiny percentage of the whole young adults population. Where are the others? Don’t you feel the need to try something new for good?

“So, if you desire to change the world, and fixing small things that people often overlook, what would that be?”

“I will teach them first about the graph of age versus social-functional interaction, and then I will define what is meant by function, and how does that function can make a world that sucks less”


You know, this is like the story about that homeless guy with a laptop. Two cool dudes found him, giving him a laptop, and later he discovered how to function in the society. He was giving back to the public, and that’s inspirational.


Reading a long article (well-articulated, but somehow convulated) is a taxing, long, and arduous job. So this is the too long; didn’t read version of this whole mess of metaphors.

  1. It is unfortunate to take a major/Degree that you are not fond of. I have been there, or I am still there (it might be), but you can always hack your way around, because you always can.
  2. Your limited exposure to others’ life experience is detrimental in the long run. Meeting, chatting, and having a coffee talk with successful people (the definition of successful is yours to perceive) is great and can be really helpful. Spending time on Reddit AMA (Ask Me Everything subreddit) and Reddit CMV (Change My View subreddit) does help.
  3. I am living in a circle of friends that are always doing magnificent wonders, but majority of them do not want to announce their ability (fear of backlash?). I want to recognize your ability, to make you feel good and appreciated, and to keep you motivated to do more. Well, this is quite selfish, but I don’t want my Facebook and Instagram timeline filled with photos of food and travel bag only.