This page is, like me, a work-in-progress.
Hello! Jon here; thanks for visiting. On this page is the personal side of me – if you’re looking for my professional side (teaching and mad science skills), you should be looking at the For Grown-ups page.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong (·) to supportive parents and family, and left home as a lad to study in Europe on a scholarship. The two formative years in Italy at the United World College of the Adriatic (·) broadened my perspectives, formed life-long friendships, and was instrumental to developing my view of the world.
I did my undergraduate in Vancouver (·), during which I worked co-ops (study-related work experience) with Merck-Frosst process chemistry in Montreal (·). Having started in a doomed program called “Physics and Physiology” which then nobody completed, I would meander through physics, computer science, and ended up with BSc’s in chemistry, molecular biology & biochem. Throughout this entire time I tried very hard to avoid contracting artsy-fartsy things, lipid membranes, or statistics.
In 2004 I moved to Victoria (·) to work on my doctorate under the guidance of Prof. Tom Fyles, and recently finished an amply illustrated dissertation, about lipid membranes, with a section on statistics.
This Fall I will be making a trip through Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru (—), where I’ll hopefully acquire some broken spoken Spanish to go with the broken Italian.
Real Life Deficiencies
Restlessness starts the journeys, relentlessness (and a double-dose of patience) help walking down the path, but the same restlessness prevents me from becoming world-class in any of them. Here’s some of the current interests that I wish I could be better at. I teach some of these skills, and usually they’re free with a pinky promise that you’ll use the power for good and not evil.
I sing and play three woodwind instruments at various levels of deficiency, but all with the unifying features of an utter lack of musicality, as well as being oblivious to time and rhythm. The three instruments are the flute, the mountain ocarina, and the xanphoon (in descending agreeableness of my playing). Incidentally, despite the similarity in appearance and fingering, their acoustic physics is entirely different: the flute is an edge-blown aerophone, the MO a closed fipple, and the xanphoon a reed instrument.
Of the three the MOs (in G and C) are the most accessible instruments yet capable of virtuoso performances. If you want to learn to play your first instrument – and have it grow with you, it is an excellent choice. And if you’re in Victoria and wants a lesson or try it out, I would be happy to give you an introduction to the instrument; it is possible to play many folk songs after only two 1h sessions.
I draw with pencil and markers for concepts and visualizations. Since I am incompetent in mixing paint and handling brushes, I usually finish them digitally, mostly as vector illustrations. I enjoy the meticulous, methodological way of working and clean, no-nonsense aesthetic, as well as curves being more “upwind” than pixels. I also experiment with and make use of programmatic art and 3D, but those are usually only steps within the pipeline.
With my earthly body I practice Ashtanga yoga and play capoeira. (Nothing like either of the demo videos there.) I’m working towards being a long-distance butterfly swimmer, currently standing at 2000m – sadly, a mere fraction of what would be useful to swim open-water races. That said, swimming a easy efficient butterfly is a backwater niche that I’ve put more years into than most people: if you’re in the same city as I am, I may be able to give you pointers towards achieving this goal. Warning: it is a very technical skill and no amount of instruction will eliminate the need for at least weeks of mindful practice. A basic level of fitness will be required.
I twist balloon figures and am happy to share the skill (and joy!) Lessons are usually ~1.5h in length; contact me if you are interested, and I’ll host a session when a group of 5-6 is available (for beginners; usually individually for intermediate twisters wanting to learn new figures). I also entertain requests for teaching at local community centers, and twisting at special events for non-profits. (Sorry, I don’t do birthday parties.)
Regarding magic, in my experience many are curious but few people put in the time required to achieve proficiency. That said, if you are serious about learning sleight-of-hand (mostly with playing cards) and are ready to dedicate several months of daily practice, I’ll be happy to help you along in the process.
Offline stuff: balloons/pics, chemistry/pics, magic/pics, volunteering-PH/NCIL,
I use Wikipedia multiple times a day, and feel obliged to donate time to it. My comparative advantage there is preparing illustrations (“wikigraphists”) for various articles, and writing the niche entries where my professional biases are to be found.
I also enjoy reading Reddit AskScience, a forum where scientific questions are answered by a panel of experts. I contribute there as a chemistry panelist (and occasional babysitter); the questions that particularly interest me sometimes spin-off into entries on my sandbox/blog here.