HabitRPG: harnessing the addiction of web games with cheap leveling mechanisms to destroy bad habits, avoid procrastination, and improve your life.

(Ironically, I discovered it on /r/InternetIsBeautiful.)

These claims sound a bit hyperbolic, but they are actually working on me. Most notably: for the three days after I discovered it, most of which has been spent at IOI selection camp away from school and worldly concerns, I’ve only gone on reddit once — and only for about two minutes. Instead, when I got bored of programming, I worked on economics homework, which is something that never came close to happening during the earlier iteration of camp. I just finished it and checked the to-do item off; as a result, I leveled up to Level 2 and unlocked the item shop. Yay! The sense of achievement is every bit as real as it is ludicrous.

I don’t know if I should be happy that I finally found such an effective way to psychologically manipulate myself out of procrastination, or sad that I’m so susceptible to psychological manipulation. I also don’t know if this game will be so effective after its novelty wears off, but considering the fact that I stuck with my last equally ridiculous sort-of-RPG for about three years, I can hope it’ll work for a while.

One of the unproductive things I’m trying not to do is staring at blog posts that don’t really have a solid conclusion and spending half an hour writing and deleting the last sentence, so I’m going to avoid doing that. Let’s be productive together!

AP Biology Summer Homework

I finished it!

(I also changed my blog title to something that means something, kind of! But if I ever write about that, it will be in a separate post.)

Alright, when the correct edition of the book arrives with chapters that are numbered so that they actually correspond to the section titles, my perfectionist tendencies will probably make me check everything again and rewrite a good deal of it, but for now I finished it!

Highlights of my journey:

  • drawing a Hierarchy of Structural Levels in Biological Organization without having any idea what the point was supposed to be

    Hey, it told me to “draw”!

  • parsing a question that wanted me to “[d]raw a molecule that is covalent, polar covalent, and ionic”. It’s okay if you don’t get the point, I’ll explain because I’m nice and don’t have anything better to do. A molecule is covalent by its definition and cannot contain any ions; the term that also covers salts (i.e. ionic compounds) is “chemical compound”. I’m probably technically wrong about all this somewhere because I scraped it together from Wikipedia fragments while half-asleep and have not really learned any chemistry yet. So, like the hypersubmissive student I am, I took the liberty of completely reinterpreting the problem and drew two molecules and one ionic compound with one sodium and one chloride atom. Don’t say I didn’t try.
  • coming up with a “shoe factory analogy” for, among other things, a tight junction! In excessively simplified words, a tight junction is where two cells’ membranes join together to form something liquid can’t pass through. So the million-dollar question is why two shoe factories would want to join their walls together to form something liquid can’t pass through. I’ve stared at this sentence for ten minutes and can’t come up with a funny follow-up, so it’s left to the reader as an exercise!

Now, I’m sad because this should be such an exciting achievement and I make it sound anticlimactic. And because I’m running out of interesting things to do in the summer… to the point where I occasionally find myself… washing dishes randomly. And I know I will feel like the exact opposite once school starts.

Why isn’t anything interesting happening around here!?


[A collection of summer vacation homework books]

Well, that was disarmingly quick. Less than 24 hours and all of a sudden all of my summer excuses for doing nothing important have been whisked away from under my feet. Old version of biology textbook and questions (thanks, Jonathan)… check. Two books plus one extra just in case from the reading list… check. All of the bookstore websites said there were no copies left, but we went to Eslite and handed the titles to the information desk girl and she said there were plenty of then on the shelf. Easy to find, too. And now I have to start working instead of endlessly refreshing certain web pages. And I am having tremendous difficulty with this.

I have always wished they would split our vacation periods into shorter blocks and scatter them throughout the year, because once vacation drags out, the amount of relaxation you can get out of it becomes less and less. I get sick of relaxing after a while and even the number of work-ish projects I have feel homogenous. I don’t even feel motivated enough to playing pointless flash games. (My most recent Anti-Idle save file is still on the old laptop and I don’t feel like getting it. If you don’t know what that is consider yourself lucky.)

I have finished Fahrenheit 451 and it was good, but not un-put-down-able with excitement. I imagine I’ll probably have to go through it again, especially the ending. But I wasn’t expecting they’d put any thrillers on the book list, only books with lots of room for interpretation and many places to discover a social criticism or philosophical message or metaphor for human nature. I don’t have any issues with that sort of things in a good book, but I have to wonder if we’re looking too deeply between the lines occasionally.

Anyway, this leaves one other book, plus the guided reflection assignments on them, plus eight chapters of exciting scientific reading and responses to questions! Wonderful. Also, it’s hot and sweaty and I’ve run out of descriptive words for this a long time ago, although obviously if I were a serious, attentive reader I should probably have been able to pick up a few extra relevant figures of speech from Fahrenheit 451.

Well, I like this segment of figurative language.

The pains were spikes driven in the kneecap and then only darning needles and then only common ordinary safety pins, and after he had shagged along fifty more hops and jumps, filling his hand with slivers from the board fence, the prickling was like someone blowing a spray of scalding water on that leg.

And indeed, it’s absolutely irrelevant and I’ve gone off topic again, but if I never got off topic then I think this post would be boringly short.

Okay, summer plans! The next week is the highly unofficial IMOCamp, which I am participating in not as a student or as a teacher, but as a more-or-less bystander providing a couple extra board games. Also I get to provide stories and maybe teach everybody how to get partial credit on problems. Then there are about two weeks of vegetating at home trying very hard not to do my summer homework, probably punctuated by a few trips to random places for the sake of getting out there. Then there will be three to four days of cramming. Who says I’m optimistic?

The point is that now, when I’m procrastinating, such as by writing blog posts documenting no events of significance whatsoever (e.g. this one), it is much more authentic procrastination because there are actually moderately important, non-self-imposed tasks being put off. So, I am quite possibly going to keep on blogging with the same frequency but greatly decreased post quality because I’m not blogging to blog anymore.

Nope, I lied; there is no point to this post, it’s just less boring than some of the alternatives at this point. At the pace and the level of perfectionism at which I’ve been writing “serious” posts, which don’t include this one, it could be winter vacation before I finish the IMO series. Oh well.

And no, no matter how much it looks like it, I did not select my books by how many numerically meaningful words they contained in their titles. If I wanted math I would have gone through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (read its Wikipedia description) again, but I read it a long time ago and would rather try something different. Furthermore, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is more combinatorially suggestive, don’t you think?

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.