Princeton writings September 1, 2008

Preface regarding articles from Princeton

by Kai L. Chan

During my six years at Princeton (1999-2005) I had the pleasure of penning quite a few articles for the Daily Princetonian, the school newspaper, and oftentimes also known simply as the ‘Prince’ — actually, all the writings came in the latter half of my time at Princeton.  Anyhow, writing for the Daily Princetonian (and other forums) was an apt continuation of a long held personal tradition: I had written for the school newspaper as far back as grades 7 and 8 (at Earl Grey Senior School in Toronto, Canada); I also wrote some stuff for Riverdale Collegiate’s (Toronto, Canada) school newspaper in my last year of high school.  This anthology constitutes a collection of all the writings that I did while at Princeton which were published in some way, shape or form. (Although, looking back, I shudder at the thought that such hastily written pieces had made it to print!)

In hindsight — which is always 20/20 — I cringe at how I wrote some of my pieces in such sloppy format or with lack of focus.  For others, my views may have even changed since I first offered my public opinion.  But some, even in retrospect, still ring true to my heart and are the best representations of my character.  I am particularly fond of my last submission to the Daily Princetonian, which was published in December 2005, at a time when I thought that my PhD was just around the corner.  (But as luck would have it, I ended up stuck in purgatory waiting to do my Final Public Oral for about 2 years!)  I wanted to call that piece “The loneliness of the PhD student” as I drew parallels between my experiences at Princeton and the classic novel, “The loneliness of the long-distance runner”.  That piece was special to me in many ways, including the fact that I credit long-distance running with putting structure into my life as a teenager; if not for running, I definitely would have not accomplished what I did the last 14 years of my life.  Indeed, why I even began running — I was a pack-a-day smoker as a teenager — is truly one of the greatest and most outrageous stories that life has to offer: if I were on the other side listening to my story about why I began running I would have a hard time believing it.  (I will save that for my memoir.)  But the story of my life is a collection of tales that seem stranger fiction.  Suffice it to say that I would likely be in jail if not for the discipline of long-distance running.  (Thank you Bert de Vries and Mary Nishio!)

The articles included here are in chronological order, starting with my PhD acknowledgment, then compile writings from the Daily Princetonian, followed by articles for the Princeton Soap Box, then letters that I submitted to the editor of the Daily Princetonian, as well as letters regarding my columns (and my responses).  I have my own preferences on style and format, but copied the articles exactly as they appeared in the Daily Princetonian, which has a preference for American formatting.  The only changes that I made, herein, were to correct typos and mistakes (and a bit of bad math by an editor) that appeared in the on-line published versions.  Austin Starkweather is the one who got me involved with the ‘Prince’ originally and I thank him for having opened up that door to me, as well as having been and continues to be a great buddy of mine.  With that said, I will dedicate this anthology to Austin Starkweather ’04, whom also graciously made me an honorary Class of 2004.