Musings on Time Pressure

I hate doing things under time pressure, but I have to admit I do a lot more things when time pressure exists. One of the things is writing. Another is posting the things I write. They aren’t very good, but they’re better than writing that doesn’t exist.

(in case you forgot, I’m still posting this pretty much only because I made myself post once every weekend)

It’s interesting that I can impose time pressure on myself by declaring commitment devices by fiat and it works. Other people have developed other methods of doing this — I recently discovered The Most Dangerous Writing App, which puts time pressure on you to type every five seconds or it deletes everything you wrote. There are many other ways it’s done.

Of course, there are more organic sources of time pressure, like school and work assignments. But it occurred to me today that other people starting a discussion on something I want to comment on also provides time pressure. If I put off commenting too long it means I’ll miss the discussion and be necroposting, which is an online faux pas, except when it’s a funny anniversary or a forum game. So suddenly I find myself writing and writing (and hitting backspace a lot, and taking walks around my apartment).

This seems like a source I have little control over, but there is probably some way to take advantage of it or amplify its effects to make myself write more and think more, which I can’t think of right now because I’m writing this right before the deadline (Sunday, 11:59 pm, Hawaii–Aleutian Standard Time?) as usual and it’s too late for my brain to function.

The weird thing is that when I sit down to write anything, I almost inevitably end up realizing something I didn’t before — maybe because it allows me to follow a complicated train of thought to its conclusion, maybe because it lets me see the flaws in an argument more clearly after I have it all written down — and it feels pretty good. Yet I can’t internalize the feeling enough to want to write for its sake, and have to come up with these hacks to make myself do it. Brains are weird.

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No Excuses

Wow, this has been the longest silence on this blog in a long time.

I can’t justify it with lack of time either. Interning at Dropbox takes up all of my weekdays, but my weekends are much freer than I’m used to. I carelessly let two weeks at home in Taiwan pass by without doing much about blogging, and once again a lot of my few blog drafts have drifted into the temporally awkward zone, being too far away from the events they are about.

Neither is it for lack of things happening. At MIT, there was the Senior House turnaround and freshman moratorium. I can’t even begin to sum up the discussion around this issue, but I think the best response I’ve read is this open letter. Then there’s the official Senior House response. But that’s enough links, since I imagine the chances that this issue is relevant to you and you’d need this blog to link you to them if you’re reading this are pretty low. (Then again, the chances that you’re reading this are already pretty low. Although the chances you‘re reading this right now is 100%.)

Then there was the Orlando shooting of Christina Grimmie and nightclub shooting, which I even more probably don’t need to link to. I will just say that Vi Hart made this video and I watched it a couple times.

And finally, Brexit happened, which affects the most people but which I understand the least. Well, I do want to note that it seems lots of people are reading unreasonably much into the Google Trend about UK searches for “What is the EU?”

People seized on this as evidence that British voters didn’t know what they were voting for, but I don’t think it shows that at all, for a lot of reasons…

  1. The query is a very simple question; its search count will be exaggerated relative to more complicated queries, which might be phrased in slightly different ways that won’t get aggregated.
  2. Googling that question doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t know what the EU is; it might just be how you interact with Google and get a list of information or different opinions about the EU.
  3. The searches could come from children or tourists or others who couldn’t vote and only decided to learn about the referendum after it passed and started mattering. Even a few of these people could make the question rank highly; the ranking doesn’t have any absolute numbers.
  4. Why am I making this list. This takedown, Stop Using Google Trends, has far more details and is more entertaining anyway.

This is your every-so-often dose of unnecessary current events recapping. You are now all caught up. If you are reading this blog as your primary news source… stop doing that.

(And finally finally on a personal note, I didn’t make Google Code Jam World Finals, so I can put that aside, and maybe at some point put out the blog draft about last year online rounds…)

The question remains in the air, though; why haven’t I blogged?

I spent a long time listing a bunch of excuses and then deleting them. (I kept the above non-excuses because this post needs to have something in it.) I don’t have a good reason; the closest I can come is to say, it’s like I’m living a new life in a new place to a new schedule, a life that I haven’t integrated blogging into the flow of yet, and this post is actually part of that integration process.

So the commitment device returneth! Expect one post every weekend until my internship ends.

Pause

There are 30 minutes until my laundry finishes.

It is 2:30 in the morning as I write this. Normal people are not awake at this time of day. It’s possible that normal MIT students are, though.

I’ve been meaning to blog for a while, but things happen and other things happen and still more things happen. From a state of total inexperience in the kitchen, I’ve already managed to single-handedly cook six six-person meals for my co-op, not to mention all the weird meals I make for myself (which is just as well, I don’t think they are of typically mentionable caliber.) I’ve already taken two exams in three of my classes and the big midterm for my fourth. Four puzzlehunts — Simmons, aquarium, Palantir, ΣUMS; five if you perhaps include Next Haunt. Six SIPB meetings. A few bottles of Soylent; I lost count and don’t want to check my room because that’ll disturb my roommate. Θ(3000) zephyrs. And after many weekends of eye-opening group practice, tonight I have to catch a flight to Rochester, NY for ACM-ICPC regionals.

(On the other hand, Drop Date for this term, the deadline for dropping classes, is yet to arrive.)

I really wanted to capture all of this somewhere. Still do. But words take time and even then they fail me. What can I say about all of this, in these thirty sleep-deprived minutes I barely manage to squeeze out of my schedule?

Life is hard, and in so many different ways. People are amazing, and in so many different ways. Time is such a painfully illiquid asset. I think I made the right choice coming here.

Sharpies

As readers of this blog probably know, I am not an MITAdmissions blogger. It was kind of disappointing at the moment, but now I rarely think about it except when I come up with good reasons why I shouldn’t be an MITAdmissions blogger. One reason is that I am not very good at coming up with advice that could generalize to a wide audience, even an audience only as wide as people at or coming to the ‘Tvte. (There can be only one!) This by itself probably wouldn’t be so bad because there’s plenty of generalizable advice to go around, but I also don’t like repeating well-known stuff. Don’t skip class, except when you really know when you’re doing, which you probably think you do when you skip class. Get enough sleep, maintain good study habits, set aside time to keep up with old friends, back up your zarking data, alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, do not forget the factor of one-half when computing the area of a triangle. You get the picture.

There’s only one piece of advice I can say that I believe is generalizable to any degree, and in particular I think my past self would have appreciated and also had not heard, even in passing, from any other source: Get a Sharpie.

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C-c-c-Combo Breaker!

I made it!

After a misstep on the fourth day I managed to post one post every day, completing the rest of the streak! This post is scheduled to go out around the time my plane takes off.

I’m free!

I’d insert a Frozen gif here if I could find a good one, but I don’t like any of the ones I found and besides, copyright is an issue. So instead:

source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

IMO2007.C6. In a mathematical competition some competitors are friends. Friendship is always mutual. Call a group of competitors a clique if each two of them are friends. (In particular, any group of fewer than two competitiors is a clique.) The number of members of a clique is called its size.

Given that, in this competition, the largest size of a clique is even, prove that the competitors can be arranged into two rooms such that the largest size of a clique contained in one room is the same as the largest size of a clique contained in the other room.

Author: Vasily Astakhov, Russia

If you remember where I first posted this to break a combo, you have an excellent memory and/or spend too much time stalking me. If you remember the context under which I posted this to break a combo, you have a better memory than I do.

Was my streak a success? On the bright side, I definitely generated lots of posts, many of which were radical departures from my old blogging habits:

I also had lots of fun conversations about my posts, such as:

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A Commitment

Obligatory life update: I have graduated [from] high school.

But that’s not what this post is about. I contemplated setting up a schedule for my blogging three long years ago, and decided against it, because I didn’t think writing was a high enough priority for me. Well, I am setting up a schedule now: I am going to post something on this blog every day until I have to leave the country (which is happening once before college, so it’s not for as long as you think; but I might decide to continue the schedule anyway after I get back. We’ll see when the time comes.)

This has nothing to do with writing; it has everything to do with following through by actually posting the stuff I write. As of the last time I attempted to summarize my blogging status, I had 12 blog post drafts. By looking at chat logs I think it was February 7. As of starting this post, I now have, I don’t know, somewhere between 13 and 30, I lost count. I am very good at getting inspired and writing a lot of incoherent jumbles of words, and very bad at coming back the next day (or week, or month, or year) and polishing the word jumble enough to feel like I should post it. This is not a sustainable way of blogging. And since high school is over I can no longer claim that homework or other commitments are getting in the way.

Standard disclaimers: Expect low-quality stuff that is incomplete or not well thought out, and stuff entirely unlike anything previously on this blog, and one-paragraph or even one-sentence posts if I get desperate. But expect posts. And nag me (or better yet, provide post ideas (that can be explored in a single sentence)) through any communication channels you want if it’s nearing midnight in my time zone and I haven’t posted in the previous day.

This is the first day’s post.