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.

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(Chemical imbalance)

Ignore me. I’m just another chemical imbalance in the corner of your brain, something none of your reasoning skills can overcome. You can’t understand me. You have no idea what I do and what sort of strange mental obstructions I throw in your way, because I’m more fundamental than that. I’m part of the problem with that leaky abstraction you proudly call “cognition”.

Isn’t it enlightening to know that, like every gush of confusion you’ve experienced every four weeks for the last two years, it can all be resolved by waiting? That all of your troubles can be blamed on something as tangible as a bag of transparent stuff hooked into your shoulder for an hour three days ago, instead of some elusive undiagnosed combination of puberty and synthetic drug collisions and cosmic interference? And that as you’ve tried to disprove fruitlessly just as many times, there is no other way out?

And still, you’re not egotistic enough to completely let go of being so fiercely possessive of your time. You’re still stubbornly optimistic enough that, no matter how many medical calamities the cosmos throws at you, you still think your life is pretty good from a rational viewpoint. Even on days when you find your normal thought process indistinguishable from sleep for two-thirds of the day, you want to take on the thinking and learning responsibilities of a dutiful (read: above-average) teenager. Or, at least, drive yourself mind-bogglingly nuts trying.

Life is hard, isn’t it?

Blog

I feel the need to reaffirm the reason I’m here.

It’s not my first “website”; that honor would go to a confusing tangle of bare-HTML pages hosted on a service in Yahoo! Kimo that shut down eons ago. It took me quite a while to figure out that being able to install every script from Dynamic Drive was nothing to be proud of and not something visitors would be interested in.

Now, as I rediscovered this blog as a more mature person, it took me even longer to figure out that maybe I could produce some content, simply by using words instead of 90% copy-pasted JavaScript hocus-pocus. Because I have a lot of spare time, for doing nothing but thinking… I wanted a place to capture these fleeting thoughts. If I could exhibit them, maybe somebody else would gain from reading them as well.

I feel a need to have something to mark my everyday existence with. Something to claim as my own, a tiny marked intellectual corner of the net. Awards and medals are cool, but they’re just snapshots of a few instants. Implicitly they indicate months or years of hard work (I hope), but the implication is not the same as the real thing.

In five years I will be a different person. In five days I will be a different person, and most of the thoughts I have now would be gone. Already, the time between thinking and getting in front of the computer is enough to snuff an amazing number of thoughts out. I become a secretary simply trying to convey the ideas that were dictated by an interested version of me hours, days, weeks ago. I’ve started keeping a notebook for these kind of thoughts, since getting access to my blog when I think of something significant at midnight is rather infeasible, but I haven’t been using it as much as I’d like. I’m not good at it yet.

The gently boosted reading I’ve done gives me an impression that a solid part of the writer’s job is just living their life, bumping into interesting things, noticing them, and being able to string them together into a coherent sequence of words. The result are books. Maybe, I could write books. Maybe, if I find the right content and use the effort to voice my thoughts and analyze clearly, thoroughly, intelligently, the result would be pretty interesting. Anybody, I think, could do this; I just don’t have that much motivation and self-control. (Not to disparage the achievement of actually writing a whole book and having it widely accepted.)

Nevertheless, I think these stray thoughts can add up to something bigger, something with more meaning than the school essays and whatnot. Or maybe I’ll figure out how to write those in a way that makes it worthwhile for me as well. Ultimately, though, I can’t force myself to come up with something interesting to say, whether about a teacher-chosen topic or not, to meet the deadline.

Writing the thoughts down also allows me to think more deeply about topics. It’s hard to get anywhere on such a bout of free-thinking if I have to start from basic premises every time. But I’m having trouble getting these posts to sufficient depth to satisfy my publishing standards. Perfectionism strikes again! The ideas don’t expire, but the examples or events that provide the motivation fade in intensity often. It’s hard for me to feel like I’ve actually explored every facet of a topic, and when that actually happens I end up moving sentences and paragraphs around, to get that right flow between the lines.

And this blog isn’t a major commitment—I’m convinced that the instant I start treating it as one, the whole point of it will be gone. I’ll start writing posts I don’t feel like writing, feel like I’m doing homework, and go back to procrastinating on Reddit. Cripes.

Some part of me feels guilty for having so much ivory-tower metaphysical rambling and so little “worldly” content to post about. Oh well. Serious perfectionist issues here; there are plenty of other drafts and topics to deal with.