Cognitive Asymptotics

Short blog content for daily posting streak. Standard disclaimers apply. Not much to see here.

At some point in the past, because I was a bored teenager, I memorized this.

So now, in theory, I can tell you the capital of each state of the U.S. This is already a lame trick, but as I realized yesterday, it’s made even lamer by the fact that the data structure I chose only supports O(n) lookup.

This is really slow! Moral of the story: Asymptotics matter.

P.S. Okay, to be pedantic, since the number of states in the song is pretty much fixed at 50, any lookup method is O(1), and I made that argument once before myself. But you know the intuitive sense I’m trying to get at.

More Fiction (Part 1)

I’m going to do it again! I’m going to break a post into parts to milk it for the daily posting streak. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

This is mostly a self-analysis post though.

WARNING: This post contains many, many TVTropes links. If you are like me and need to be productive but are liable to being sucked into TVTropes, maybe you should find a way to commit to not clicking on any of these links, or just stop reading. The obligatory xkcd is kind of long and also featured on one of the TVTropes links I’ve already made, so I’m not going to embed it.

I blogged about this before in 2013 — how I felt that the analysis trained into me by English class was dulling my ability to appreciate and write the types of fiction I really enjoyed. After thinking about it I realized the mismatch goes deeper than that. Because the things I seek the most in fiction are escapism and entertainment. I like simple fiction with obvious (though maybe not that obvious) Aesops and extreme economy of characters via making all the reveals being of the form “X and Y are the same person” (which does not quite seem to be a trope but may be an occurrence of Connected All Along, with the most famous subtrope being Luke, I Am Your Father (which is a misquote!), and is also one common Stock Epileptic Tree, so maybe this isn’t the best example), because not only are such reveals fun, they make the plot simpler. What can I say, it works.

The qualities of being thought-provoking or heartwarming are only bonuses for me; needless complexity in the number of characters or plots is a strict negative. Sorry, I don’t want to spend effort trying to remember which person is which and how a hundred different storylines relate to each other if they don’t build to a convincing, cohesive, and awesome Reveal, and often not even then. And I like closure, so I feel pretty miserable when writers resolve a long-awaited plot point just to add a bunch more. Because of this I am ambivalent about long book series; most of my favorite works of fiction have come in long series but starting a new one always gives me Commitment Anxiety. Even when there’s closure, when I finish an immersive movie or book I’m always left kind of disoriented, like I’ve just been lifted out of a deep pool and have to readjust to breathing and seeing the world from the perspective of a normal person on land. I like when I’m reading good fiction, but I don’t like going through withdrawal symptoms. If I want to read complicated open-ended events, I’ll go read a history textbook, because at least the trivia might come up useful some day; if I want tough problems I’ll just look at real life and think about the possibility of college debt and having to find a job and everything. (If it wasn’t obvious yet, this is why I hyperbolically hate on Game of Thrones often.) Even worse than all of this is multiple paragraphs full of scenery and nothing else, unless of course parts or maybe all of the scenery are Chekhov’s Guns.

Some part of me is embarrassed to admit this because I’ve been educated for so long about deep literature that makes social commentary or reveals an inner evil of humanity or whatever. But then again, I don’t really need an education to appreciate the simple, fun fiction I apparently do.

So: there are a lot of famous classics or mainstream works I can’t really enjoy too much, or in some cases, at all. And yet, sometimes a random story or webcomic will appear and I just won’t be able to stop reading. Why? I decided to try making a list of things I like in fiction:

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20 posts so far in my daily streak, ignoring the time I posted after midnight but including exactly one of this post and the commitment-starting post. You pick which one. The arithmetic works out either way. My last four posts have been made with less than two minutes to spare before midnight, and my last post in particular made it by just seven seconds. This is working as intended in that I’ve knocked out nine drafts that I’m pretty sure would have rotted in my draft folder for at least a few more months otherwise, and I’ve also jotted down more spontaneous thoughts and posted them instead of postponing them until they was too late to be applicable. But this is also a problem because I can’t spend every day procrastinating blogging and then frantically blogging before midnight — I have some serious programming work to do, and a talk to prepare for, and, of course, linear algebra homework!!!

I’m kind of stuck here so


Now I have 23 hours today during which I don’t feel pressured to blog. Yay. See you in 47 hours, probably.

Quixotic Reimagining of Standardized Tests (Part 2)

If you remember, Part 1 was here and my goal is to construct a theoretical system of standardized tests that I would be satisfied by. Here’s what I’ve got. As usual, because of the daily posting streak I have openly committed to, standard disclaimers apply.

  • We’d have a first-tier test like the SAT, except this will be explicitly designed not to distinguish among the high performers.

    The goal of the test is to assess basic proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics. Nothing else. Most good students, those who have a shot at “good colleges” and know it, will be able to ace this test with minimal effort and can spend their time studying for other things or engaging in other pursuits. Students who don’t will still have to study and it will probably be boring, but the hope is that, especially if you’re motivated to get into a good college, there won’t be much of that studying.

    For colleges, the intention of this test is to allow them to require this test score from everybody without having to put up disclaimers that go like,

    there is really not a difference in our process between someone who scores, say, a 740 on the SAT math, and someone who scores an 800 on the SAT math. So why, as the commentor asks, is there such a difference in the admit rate? Aha! Clearly we DO prefer higher SAT scores!

    Well no, we don’t. What we prefer are things which may coincide with higher SAT scores…

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Search Engine Terms Dump

(daily posting streak)

One of the panels in the WordPress stats page shows me all the search terms people reach my blog with. Other writers sometimes grab this as free post fodder, because there are usually pretty bizarre things in there.

That’s what I’m doing… And I’ve already mentioned two as an aside to a puzzle… In my defense my plans were largely derailed today I expected my new MacBook Pro to arrive tomorrow but it came today.

The most frequent search term is, by far, [happy birthday sudoku], with 20 views. Um, okay. Darn Sudoku is still so much more popular than other logic puzzle genres.

The runners-up, each with 10 views, are [mr parr dna song], [imo 2012 solutions], and [betaveros]. There are many more logic puzzle queries in the next few places; [sashigane puzzles] has 9, [ice barn puzzle] has 8, [sashigane] and [slitherlink] each have 6, [yajilin] and [multiplicative corral] each have 5, [fillomino] has 4. The remaining top few places are also made up by huge variations on “mr parr dna song”. I made exactly one post on the subject, which was just a link and a short excerpt; I really don’t know why everybody comes to this blog for it. Eh.

Anyway, I just checked and the Mr. Parr guy is still doing it. Wow. He’s actually pretty good.

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(daily posting streak)

Facetious paintbrush dragon filler is best filler!


I actually drew a paintbrush picture like this one the day before that surgery last Friday so I would have something to post if I was too groggy to write anything, but I wasn’t. Instead I am just finding the surgical wound in my shoulder really demotivating two days later and didn’t feel like blogging. So instead I considered posting the picture, then decided it was too ugly to post without the excuse of grogginess and redid the picture in GIMP. In other words, I lied and it’s neither facetious nor paintbrush. It is a dragon though.

He is a dragon though. They can get really irritated if you don’t acknowledge their human-level sentience with the proper pronouns. And you don’t want to irritate a dragon.

Public commitment (WE NEED TO GO DEEPER /snark): I’ll be productive tomorrow and

  1. start booking my GCJ flights
  2. start doing linear algebra homework, even if only one problem
  3. program
  4. work on one of my intense text posts and post it
  5. send out my FPOP response form. Oops how could I forget

Coming Up with Blog Post Titles Is Hard

(Disjointed blog content, posted as part of a daily posting streak I have openly committed to; standard disclaimers apply)

Blogging is weird. I’m still nervous when I post stuff because I’m concerned I’m wrong, and end up looking unprofessional or attracting a bunch of Cueballs or something.


Before I told people about this blog, during the time when 100% of its traffic came from its coincidental placement in search results, I didn’t have to worry about this. Now, I choose my words. Because some Important Person™ might show up. Maybe even misinterpret something I said and/or get furiously offended at a badly phrased joke.

I also fear that I’ll update my beliefs quickly; maybe I’ll change my mind or discover a much better argument for the other side really soon. But the blog post would still be there, displaying my old belief, giving the reader an inaccurate or misleading impression of myself. People might even chat with me to argue about it, and then I have to admit I’m wrong oh no! It feels a lot better admitting I’m wrong on my own turf, in my own time.

This passage from Lord of the Flies comes to mind (I had hurriedly reread the book as ammunition for the AP Literature test and noticed that my past self had marked it):

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