Quarantine Projects

I’m a firm believer that no matter your circumstances, you can always find ways to keep moving forward.

Enter the quarantine.

Ok, maybe not a full quarantine, but at least we’ve had a shelter-in-place order here in Silicon Valley since… mid-March? And lots of places started voluntarily closing even a few weeks before that.

In particular, all of the table tennis clubs have been closed for about three months now, and if you know me at all, you know that I love table tennis. On an average week, I spend 10-12 hours training and playing at various clubs. So, with no clubs open, and with only a tiny, one-car garage at home that a table would never fit in, I’ve had plenty of free time on my hands.

Here’s how I’ve spent it so far:


The best time to learn new things is before you need them, with bonus points if you’re in a situation without many distractions. (did I mention that attending restaurants, movie theaters, and even gatherings with friends has been illegal for three months now due to a pandemic?)

  • I finished off the last few labs I had left from MIT’s 6.02 - Digital Communications Systems Course on OCW. This was a blast, and I’ll have a full project page dedicated to my notes and lessons learned soon.

  • I went through the entirety of MIT’s Missing Semester Course, which covers a number of topics not typically explicitly included in a CS degree. For me, this was both an excellent refresher on some things I know and use widely (hello Vim!), as well as a nice learning opportunity to pick up skills with some new tools (tmux, awk, sed, and others).

  • I had never actually studied Kalman Filters before, so when I was asked to give a technical lecture on them, it seemed like a great opportunity to dive in the deep end. To that end, I studied through the entirety of the Jupyter Notebook textbook that I link to in my project page on How to Learn (Extended) Kalman Filters.


Obviously, with all of the table tennis clubs closed, and no table at home, this was a golden opportunity to focus solely on my lifting.

  • I’ve so far completed almost two full cycles of the Tactical Barbell program, using the four-day-a-week routine. After the end of the first cycle, my 1RMs hit 191 lbs on bench press, 267.5 lbs (including bodyweight) for weighted pull ups, 133.5 lbs for seated overhead press, and 360 lbs (including bodyweight) for Bulgarian split squats.

  • Simultaneous with the lifting, I decided to do a significant cut diet. Since the progress on my previous cuts was always slowed by the need to eat enough to have enough energy for my table tennis training, and since now all the table tennis clubs were closed, I was looking forward to doing a proper cut. The results were great:

    screenshot from the RP App, an invaluable tool for successful lifting

  • So, uhh, about not being able to train table tennis. Turns out I found a way to keep doing that too…

    I’ve continued to train table tennis using shadow stroke (no ball) practice, combined with analysis sessions over video chat with my coach. Between this work and discussions of match strategy, I’ve compiled 20 pages of detailed notes over the last three months, and have made at least one major, discrete improvement to my forehand technique—all without touching a ball.


  • First, we did a silly, small puzzle. Then we did a 2,000-piece monstrosity of brown cats sitting on a wooden, brown bookshelf. Unsurprisingly, outside of a small minority, all of the other pieces were some shade of brown or another. It took weeks.

    this is almost 4ft tall…

  • We also had the good fortune to pick up a new board game on the last day that shops were open before the shelter-in-place order took effect. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, driven almost entirely by the whimsical quality of the box art (ok, I’ll admit it, we did look up reviews on BoardGameGeek before making the final decision…).

    The game is called Root and it is unique, excellent, highly asymmetric (seriously, among the factions, some work by building an economic engine, others are warlike conquerors, and one is just straight-up playing an RPG), and tons of fun.


  • We discovered H Mart, a Korean grocery chain that recently expanded into California. It’s a fantastic source for not only great quality produce, but also excellent proteins, from beef to seafood. Not to mention all of the other tasty treats they’ve got, from premade bonchon to spices, sauces, and every manner of frozen dumplings.