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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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.

xkcd

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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Signal Boost

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

For the interested, I wrote a post summarizing issues in copyright and patent law on a new blog for a school club. Actually, if you’re reading this post, you’re probably already interested enough / bored enough to read that post, so go read it. I think the videos are worth watching despite their length, but I tried to summarize the key points in text, so decide how much to read or watch depending on how much spare time you have.

I don’t know if that blog will work out, but anyway WordPress tells me I have 8500% more followers on this blog than the other one, even though I have doubts about how many of those followers actually read anything I post at all, so I thought I should link to that post here. Also, by publicizing the blog, I get to shame my friends and fellow club members into posting so that it doesn’t look so empty. Social media expertise, you know?

If I had any sense of foresight, I’d have ordered a bunch of EFF or Creative Commons pins or stickers or something to sell, to actually leave people with an impression, and also leave myself with something cool to stick on my next laptop. But I don’t and I didn’t. Oh well.

Darn.

Maybe I should try to prepare for things it is actually early enough to prepare for now. Like the Calculus II and Linear Algebra exams I will probably be taking in one and a half months. Or the next five weeks of daily blog posts.

(Wow I just realized that is a lot of blog posts.)

Redesign

List of things I did this weekend instead of studying for next week’s midterms:

  • create that Python gist from last post with all the atomic weights of the elements in it
  • arrange all the weights in said gist into a space-aligned periodic table
  • solve (read: walked through via chat) chaotic_iak’s non-hoax hidden puzzle
  • listen to approximately every Pentatonix video in existence (these people are just insanely skilled)
  • randomly play the piano and sing to myself for the first time in a few months
  • three separate commits on Gridderface (not that they’re big changes or anything)
  • go through tane.us (you’ll know when you reach the end)
  • update my pixelated avatar
  • attempt to use rudimentary trial-and-error to make my Twitter profile seamless
  • choose a new design for this blog and create a banner almost from scratch
  • write two random blog posts, including this one (but not the one-liner on AoPS about a certain troll polynomial)

What a productive weekend!

Thoughts

I rediscovered a previous notebook I used to write stuff. It turns out I have a lot of scattered writing that never made it here. Not even drafts of stuff I want to write, just random sentences from my thoughts. This was the feeling that triggered me to start blogging again.

For example, I actually imagined writing an essay to discuss my thoughts on gaming. There’s still a draft of it somewhere, dated 2012/05/04. But then it was stuck as a draft and I realized that although I could discuss a lot of things, none of it meant anything. The whole point could fit in a tweet: A majority of people play complicated strategy games — StarCraft, DotA, LoL, whatever; I play too much Anti-Idle: The Game. Everything else is boring rambling facts that are less interesting than the digits in the decimal expansion of 1/3.

Then there are some thoughts about public speaking. I decided to stop alluding to things I did in my past as if my audience only consisted of myself, so: I went to the Gathering 4 Gardner 9 in Atlanta three years ago, a massive conference on recreational mathematics and puzzles and magic and stuff honoring Martin Gardner, the great Scientific American Mathematical Games columnist. Somehow I gave a talk about triangles of absolute differences: when can one arrange the first n(n-1)/2 positive integers in an inverted triangle so that each positive integer is the absolute difference of the two above it? As I remember it, my presentation just consisted of me rushing mechanically through a minimalistic plain white slideshow of all the cases and proofs. People came up to me afterwards and said I spoke well, but I don’t know how much of that was out of sympathy for being so young at a conference full of established adults with years of experience. In any case, it was a significant experience in speaking publicly for me.

Hey, I just told a story. But that wasn’t even what the thoughts were about; I was writing stuff about what my expectations for myself were and how I compared with my classmates who were all doing Model United Nations. Now it reads like something written to fill an assigned word count.

There are some thoughts about people who memorized the answers to multiple-choice test questions and then got them wrong when the teacher changed the numbers — I was surprised that I actually knew people who did that. Some thoughts about growing up and making “choices that matter” such as which AP classes to take — I have to admit societal pressure was a big factor in deciding to take AP Biology, even though it is interesting, and I don’t like that. Some thoughts about procrastination — how typical. Some thoughts about how hot it is — I ranted about the feeling last time, and it’s probably confirmation bias but the temperature here really seems to only jump between “too hot” and “too cold”. Some thoughts about all the paperwork from school and how I feel like I forgot everything. Some thoughts about Twitter locking down its API… how long ago was that?

Blah blah blah. I was trying to produce content, instead of consuming boatloads of it like I did for the whole Friday night on Reddit. I do think it’s a better way to spend time, but the content that I produced for the sake of producing content is pretty meaningless. There’s just no room for any discussion that anybody would care about. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure there are things I could write about in an interesting way, but they don’t seem to be the things that give me a spontaneous urge to write.

I don’t really know if this makes any sense, but I don’t care now because I don’t want those thoughts of my former self to vanish without a trace.

Comments

Here’s a guilty secret: I like getting feedback.

I’m not restricting myself to painstakingly thoughtful comments that attempt to build upon and transform the post to form an interesting conversation, the kind English teachers are hellbent on promoting. Sure, I get the most kicks out of those, but I’m not picky. Even single-digit pageview bars or a handful of Facebook “like”s give me buzzes of excitement.

It’s a guilty feeling, because I also think that that these are unimaginably cheap internet currencies and should not qualify as “meaningful” under a rational mindset. I strongly suspect visitors accidentally click on my blog and leave after five seconds without taking in anything, because I do that all the time to other people’s blogs and sites. Sometimes it is out of boredom, sometimes it is because I actually have something of higher priority to do than indiscriminate reading, sometimes it is simply because I cannot read the language. I’ve seen plenty of people like posts on Facebook based on the poster, only occasionally taking into consideration the first word of the post in question, before actually reading them.

Yes, the proliferation of “liking” on Facebook bothers me. I don’t expect everybody to reply meaningfully to everything when they just want to express approval lightly. However, when I see that tiny minority of people handing them out to people in their own threads like programs at a concert, I become indignant. Under their influence, what was originally a straightforward, meaningful badge of appreciation becomes a handwavy gesture that carries virtually no weight, and then I don’t know what to do when I see something I like seriously. Will clicking that button still express the feeling strongly enough?

I accept that, in our stressful world, a few instant effortless gags that take ten seconds to fully process and approve deserve a place. Nevertheless, the number of people who seem to want to make the “like” a completely passive and automatic action is almost physically painful:

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Scheduled Blogging

Some bloggers have a regular schedule for posting and forcing themselves to meet the deadlines. In essence, something like ” updates every Thursday.”

For me, I think this is a bad idea, because it forces me to write. If my day is boring and uneventful as it quite often is and I still have to crank out a post, it would not be a post that readers would enjoy. Better once-a-month enthusiastic, interesting posts then an ugly stream of tedious drudgery for the visitor to wade through every time, stuff like (quoting one random ancient post):

Yay! I got 40.

Well thatz gonna have to wait. No it doesn’t. Yes it does.
Humanities, approx. 10:13

Mr. C gave out our tests. I got a 40/40, a perfect! Not
ONE
single mistake! Oh joy! I secured a 20% out of my daring 98%.

We reviewed it.

A schedule also makes writing a responsibility, which I feel takes away all the fun and enjoyment. From the three hiatuses documented on the about page or looking at any post before March 2010 (by the way, please don’t (I have a feeling this will make more people actually do so via reverse psychology but I don’t even know if I’m not subconsciously secretly enjoying the idea, so anyway)), you can see the result. Pages and pages and pages of documenting my life as if I were an endangered specimen in a zoo. Now I can kind of appreciate it as reminding me of what I was like only two years ago, how differently I saw the world and how I loved hyperbole… but I don’t think anybody else would read it for the content.

Aside: come to think of it, I don’t really see myself as a generally hyperbolic person, even though rationally thinking, it does seem like I do this ALL THE TIME. See what I did there? Sometimes when I’m reading my own posts from a while back I have trouble comprehending that they were written by the same person.

It might also clash with other priorities… as a student, my schedule isn’t packed, but it wouldn’t be easy to fit one more regular hobby into it. And my posts might be rushed, rough around the edges with missing anecdotes, confusing flow, and stupid typos. Knowing how perfectionist I am, maybe I should just accept this and hit the Publish button sooner, but I think a little polishing is definitely necessary.

Of course, maybe I struggle with the idea of regularly scheduled posts because I’m not good enough at writing, at observing the world, at deriving a life lesson from every scrap of overheard conversation, or transforming every small event into a hilarious and thought-provoking narrative, or distilling the magical poetic essence out of every scene of rain and sun and sticking in a metaphor about perseverance. So yes, I’m sure there are bloggers who can do one or all of the above and who can regularly create awesome walls of text. I’m not one of them. (Yet.)

And of course there is an advantage to this schedule, and it can be phrased in the same way to sound cool and stress my point: it forces me to write. I’ll get better at writing, get more ideas out of my brain and onto the blog for other people and my future self to think about, sometimes not even ideas I consciously realized I had before I started writing the post. I’ll get closer to reaching blogging nirvana, having a post idea for every occasion, and my schedule will become sustainable with meaningful posts only.

Unfortunately, writing is not extremely high on my list of priorities, so I guess that’s not going to happen.

I wonder though. Once upon a time I wrote fiction too, when we had writing assignments that weren’t all about analyzing ourselves or important characters in the plot of a book or something. There’s a little bit of yearning for that in me still. But I have only one life to use on these things…