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Brian T. Liao
Jan 20, 2019 • 7 min read

My Childhood Dreams Part 1

So I originally wanted to write a post about my childhood dreams after reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I wrote another post about the book so this post is about my childhood dreams and lessons I’ve learned from them.

Becoming a Farmer


As a kid, I loved the Little House on the Prairie series. I loved the adventure, the joy, the sense of family, and freedom the Ingalls family had roughing out the midwest. I loved watching them grow up and go on adventures as kids, with animals and friends and family around.

One of the books I remember dearly was Farmer Boy, which tells the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband, Almanzo Wilder as a boy. There’s a scene where the family has a good harvest and Almanzo chomps down to his heart’s desire. I wanted that. Another part was the freedom of the farmer out west. As a kid Almanzo could go on so many farming adventures and grow up to be a respectable farmer too.

So I wanted to be a farmer, and be like Almanzo And Laura Ingalls Wilder. In my elementary school yearbook, that’s what I wrote. So this never became a reality, I think I realized how difficult the life of farmers are. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s last book, The First Four Years details the hardships and grit of farmers. Their crops can be destroyed and they’ll get into debt, but they hold hope that next years harvest will be better. Sickness and fire plague their farm as well. Out of the Dust mirrors this as well, it follows Billie Jo in the Dust Bowl, where Earth had turned to dust and crops would fail every year. Again these farmers lived in a false hope that harvest would be better next year.

Modern farming isn’t that much prettier. It is extremely industrialized and unfavorable to the farmers. It is nothing like the family farming of the 19th century, instead it involves farming at a mass scale for the commercialized world.

I do think the future of farming seems cool. Vertical farms are way more efficient and less land intensive. About 38% of land is used for agriculture and people are condensed into large cities. Vertical farms are farms in warehouses which can created to optimally create conditions, water, soil, light, types of produce, for the production of produce.

Another part is the reduction of meat consumption. As global warming becomes an increasingly worsening problem, agriculture plays a big part of it. Meat is inefficient, this video shows consuming a steak produces 330g of CO2, the same as driving a car 3 miles compared to 14g for vegetables and 2g for lentils. Fruits and vegetables are also better for you health!

As we continue to face these problems, we will have to innovate in agriculture. We can face these problems with vertical farming revolutionizing produce production and the necessity to reduce meat consumption as well as lab grown meat to reach sustainability and hopefully allow us to face global warming head on.

While I never was a farmer, I did get to enjoyed when our family went self fruit picking. A tradition we had was going to a blueberry self-pick farm and I loved it. You can eat right off the bush for free and pay for anything you take home. Self-picked fresh fruit for days! I also enjoyed the fruits and vegetables in our yard. We used to pick blackberries, have blueberry bushes, some bitter berry, an apple tree, a pear tree, a plum tree, and a cherry tree. We had a garden and had giant cucumber one year.

Being a Marine Biologist

This one came when I was really little. I loved swimming. I loved the sea. Dolphins were my favorite animal. They are so fast and sleek. Being a marine biologist seemed like the greatest job in the world. I also played a game Zoo Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon 2 in my childhood, where you get to run a zoo and part of it is care of many animals. And destroy everything and wreck havoc letting the dinosaurs out and eat everything.

I didn’t get to become a marine biologist, but I did get to hang out and swim with dolphins in my life!

Little me at Seaworld (2003)

Mexico (2012)

Dolphins are fast and strong

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Becoming a Mathematician/Physicist


What would Richard Feynman do?

So I developed a love of physics after taking AP Physics my sophomore year of high school. It felt really elegant and full of beauty; describing the universe in a formal way and have it predict things that turn out to be true? How cool is that? I read on Wikipedia a lot of physics that I didn’t fully understand and still don’t fully understand. But ideas like quantum mechanics and general relativity are crazy and pushed me to try and understand them.

Eventually I found math looking at Wikipedia’s list of unsolved problems in mathematics. The abstract beauty of them, analysis and algebra, of the vastness drew to me. There is abstract algebra, real analysis, number theory, complex analysis, algebraic geometry, algebraic topology, differential geometry, differential topology, combinatorics, discrete mathematics, partial differential equations and tons of things I didn’t understand but wanted to. I wanted to solve a problem like Andrew Wiles solved Fermat’s Last Theorem. I wanted to solve problems like crazy old Erdős and discrete mathematics. I wanted to be like Terence Tao and develop beautiful work in mathematics.

While I didn’t become a mathematician or physicist, I did write my UC application essays on them and my love of it. This lead me to get into Berkeley! Physics and math also gave me the foundation to study computer science and achieve what I do today 😊. Honestly, I went into computer science because the career prospects were better, and it still used the beauty of mathematics.

I also almost studied mathematics at UCSB CSS, a program that gives you freedom to study a subject deeply, take the class you want (lots of people take grad classes), and become incredibly well versed in the subject. It was super tempting! Ultimately, though I decided to go to Berkeley because it would be the place I would least regret to go. And I have no regrets now.

End of Part 1

So I still had stuff planned for this post, but I’ll put that into a part 2. Sorry for the tease 😉. I’d say what I’ve learned is to pursue these dreams and let them build up who you are! Even though I didn’t become what I set out to be, I learned a lot and it helped me grow into the person I am today.

Post by: Brian T. Liao