Daniel Mai

What I’ve Done This Summer

Here’s what I’ve done this summer.


I got my first job. I got an interview for one (didn’t get the job), and I got hired for another. (No interview needed. Got lucky.) Subsequently, I got hired for two more jobs. One as a grader, and another to work on a “little project” to help automate the grading.1

I have no idea what I’m doing. But that’s the beauty of the work. It’s a challenge, not a hindrance. I’ll only learn by doing.

I hope I don’t screw up, though. That would be bad.


I’ve spent so much time on the computer this summer it’s probably not healthy. For my heart, at least. I think my brain’s doing quite well.

Programming languages

I started off my summer mainly reading How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. Luckily I did, because I started to really write Python code for work.

But I’m still a novice. I don’t know how to write “idiomatic Pythonese.” I use underscores for variable_names instead of camelCase like in Java. It’s a different style and culture, and I’m trying to adapt, but it’s not easy to move away from what I initially learned.

In due time, though.

I also begun dabbling with Perl. I’ve gotten through the basics, like sigils. That’s basically nothing. I’ve done nothing with Perl. In due time, I guess.

Command Line

I borrowed a UNIX primer book that was written in the ’90s to learn about the “basics” of the command line in UNIX. The book wasn’t using bash (I don’t know what it was using, but it’s not really used today), and it had these little programs that aren’t on my machine (they’re probably obsolete, I don’t know). But I learned a lot of shortcuts and details about UNIX, such as what the hell each part in drwxr-xr-x+ 73 Daniel staff 2.4K Aug 11 22:09 Daniel/ means.

“Being safe”

I finally got an external hard drive to use as a backup drive for my computer. Now I shouldn’t be scared about losing my data in the event of losing this laptop or something like that.

I’ve been looking into encryption stuff, and I’m now using 1Password to manage and generate secure passwords. I’ve used LastPass for about two years, but I feel more safe with 1Password. At least, I kind of know where my information is stored and how 1Password deals with it (they’re pretty transparent about their security methods), and my passwords aren’t going to be simple, guessable phrases “maimaidanielmai94” (that has never been one of my passwords, by the way). But I can’t bash LastPass because I rarely used it to generate random passwords for my accounts. It was my fault entirely. I find the experience with 1Password to be much better, though.

This whole topic of security may be really nerdy and paranoid, but I guess it’s “better to be safe than sorry.” Having a program fill in login information for websites takes off the cognitive load of remembering them, which means less time logging in and more time working with the important stuff.

My friend always forgets which of his five-or-so passwords he used for his login, for which he has his who-knows-how-many emails to choose from. I keep on telling him to use a password manager, but he doesn’t listen. “No, that’s lame,” is his general response for anything that’s, well, lame to him. He would be saving so much more time and be more secure in the end.


My Xanga days are over, but it’s for the better. I find myself writing a blog post more often now than I did with Xanga. I’m owning my identity and putting my name out there, for whomever to see. I shouldn’t care about what people think about what I write here because everyone has opinions about everything, and I’m just one person putting something out there. I’m writing mainly for me.

Monster Hunter

This game took over my life for a significant portion of my summer. I’ve played over 170 hours of it so far, and the hours will keep on growing. I’ve been playing this game with my brother. Even after so long, we’re still not even close to finishing this game, if an end even exists. It probably doesn’t, which may be part of the beauty of this game. Some people say that “Monster Hunter isn’t a game. It’s a way of life.”

While I’m definitely not engrossed by the game to that extreme, I can see how it can be a “way of life.” The game is just that good, where experience is not gained through numerical stat boosts and level ups, but through actual intellect and strategizing.


I kind of drove a lot this summer. Little times here and there. I drove my friends and myself around places. I went to friends’ houses, like I usually do during school breaks nowadays.

The significant distances were going to L.A. and Panther Beach. For L.A. I drove about two hours on the I-5 going there and another two going back home. The I-5 is pretty much a straight road, so it wasn’t too bad. Going up the mountain was harder, but I’m still alive. Going on CA-17 to get to Panther Beach was somewhat exhausting because it’s a snaky road. And driving there in the dark on the way back home was even worse. But again, I’m alive.

Reading books

I didn’t follow Aaron Swartz’s rules for reading books, but I did a fair amount of reading this summer. Here are the books I finished reading.

  • Here’s looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math by Alex Bellos.
    • It’s a great book about math and how people are obsessed with its wondrous properties. I stumbled upon it in the library database search when I was looking for Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin. I haven’t finished reading Benjamin’s book, but both books are great reads for anyone who’s interested in numbers.
  • The Best Software Writing I selected and introduced by Joel Spolsky.
    • It’s a collection of essays of all sorts of topics. Topics such as Python, Microsoft Word, and managers, to name a few.
  • Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works by Erik Spiekermann and E.M. Ginger.
    • I’m still trying to learn about great typography, and Erik Spiekermann is one of the great “typomaniacs” to consult.
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.
    • I heard about this book from my friend at dinner (this, along with Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, which is about finding the happiest place on earth). He told me that “it’s a book that made me cry so damn hard, man.” It’s a good story with positive advice from a dying man about doing what’s most important in our short lives.
  • These Days by Jack Cheng.
    • I found out about this book while it was still in its Kickstarter campaign. I was intrigued right from the beginning, with a great marketing video attached to the project and story. I read the first chapter preview of the book at the time and wanted to read more. Finding about this novel led me to Jack Cheng, who has a collection of great essays on his website. These Days is a great book, with a writing style that I would like to have, but currently don’t.

Right now I’m in the midst of reading The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick Brooks, which was written in 1975 and is considered the “Bible of Software Engineering,” even to this day.

Watching movies

  • 127 Hours
  • Rain Man
  • Ocean’s Eleven
  • Ocean’s Twelve
  • Ocean’s Thirteen
  • World Trade Center
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • The Hunger Games
  • The Town
  • Man of Steel
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Indie Game: The Movie Special Edition
  • Pacific Rim
  • Aardvark’d: 12 Weeks with Geeks
  • Garden of Words
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
  • Despicable Me 2

Hanging out with friends

I’ve been socializing with my friends over the summer. I was invited to numerous outings, which I almost always agreed to. I’ve watched movies, ate at restaurants, went to the beach, talked, played games (video games and board games), programmed, and did much more that I can’t recall right now.

I did a lot more this summer, of course. There are hundreds of hours unaccounted for. Most of that is probably sleeping, reading (blog posts and other books), listening to podcasts, and who knows what.

It’s been a good summer. Now that school’s about to start, I gotta get into “school mode.”

  1. I’m learning HTTP for the project, which isn’t that bad. But I need to read API documentation, which I can’t read; I’ve been reading it wrong and getting errors.