25792 words

My theme - 77

I'm thinking 'year of building'.

I feel like I have a chance this year to create frameworks and bases for my future life, since I'm still half-quarantined and have some spare time on my hands. "building" things, like skills, habits, techniques, and even relationships I think is a good focus. Once I have this base for myself, I'll be able to focus on the things that matter, not the things that I don't want to focus on.

*(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I don't blame you. Here's an explainer.)

Categorization - 76

Humans really like categorization. I see it everywhere in my life, on such a scale that it's practically unnoticeable. And for good reason, too: humans need it to process the world in all of its complexity. The sheer volume of information in the form of sensory input along with thoughts swirling around our conscious and unconscious minds makes it so that we are forced to heavily compartamentalize and categorization; without doing these things, it would be impossible to focus on any one thing at a time, rendering us unable to function.

One thing about categories is that they trade usefulness for neatness. There are very few sets of categories that don't have exceptions - the smartphone is the perfect example. Despite this, we continue to get more specific with categories, like making new folders one after another in order to house more files. Suddenly, we don't know where to find anything because we have too many categories, and closely-related items end up in separate containers, meant not to escape them despite the point of their existence being use with other items.

But the human brain exists to make connections. That - connecting topic to topic - is how we learn, innovate, and create. Categories encourage connections between things *inside the categories*, which is nice, but not ideal in the long term. It's difficult to talk usefully about categories in general (as it is with any very very very large set) so I'll just end this ramble here.

^^ I wrote these paragraphs but they're half-incoherent so I'm de-emphasizing them.

TT;DW (too tired, didn't write): Categories are useful but shouldn't be depended on for everything. In fact, they should be a secondary or tertiary tool to use when trying to parse a large amount of things, as they are highly inflexible and ignore the reality that things quite often don't fit nicely the way we want them to. I myself have ended up wasting a lot of time trying to categorize things that don't really need to go into folders or boxes.

Sorry about this one.

Separation - 75

TL;DR I sectioned off different parts of my room in order to increase focus and help organization.

I put masking tape all over my room today.

"Why?" is a reasonable question to ask, especially when I deliberately give no context for a lackluster comedic effect. The reasoning comes from various different sources: "Spaceship You" by video creator and podcaster CGP Grey, Deep Work by Cal Newport, some articles I read online, the Cortex Podcast (also from CGP Grey), and also my own mind... but basically, it goes like this.

When my room and the smaller spaces in it are places of ambiguous purpose, there are two negative consequences:

  1. They're hard to keep clean
  2. It's hard to stay focused

For example, if I keep some old technology on a shelf next to my Math binder, the purposes of the shelf become mixed and I'm not exactly sure what goes there. Chances are, I'll end up just leaving an old tablet I get from someone I know (I like to keep outdated electronics for projects) sitting around somewhere, somewhere it doesn't belong, because I'm not sure exactly where to put it. "Does it deserve to be on that electronics shelf? What about the one under my desk?" When it comes to low-effort, tiny actions like these, it's crucial to minimize the friction involved in getting it done. Having to decide where the old tablet goes may be enough friction to, in that moment, leave it to be organized at some future time. (Another way to say I am going to deal with it later.) Also, obviously, it's generally difficult to clean things up if I don't know where they should go.

Let's follow that example to later, when I am sitting down to work on a project. To my right-hand side is that shelf of electronics, which entices me and tries to distract me. Suddenly my desk is no longer a space for work; it is also a space for tinkering and messing around. My initial goal was "work in the work space"; now it is "do things in the work and also tinkering space". The door has been opened, and while I'll probably have the self-control to keep working in that moment, it's the long-term erosion of will that I am worried about.

I pretty much sectioned off each part of my room and gave it a purpose. My bed is purely for sleeping and doing some light reading before I go to bed; my bedside table and the cabinet underneath it is for holding things that relate to personal projects, along with heavily-used personal items; the desk is purely for work, along with the shelves that go with it; the storage console is for storage; the beanbag next to the bookshelf is for leisure reading; and the closet is the only place that clothes can go. Most of the floor space is just for walking on, so I left it as an "empty" section, so that I don't let random items pile up on it.

Now that each place has a purpose, identifying locations for storage and focused activity is a lot easier. My tablet goes into the storage console > tech section > old devices, while my math binder goes into the desk area > shelves > lower shelf for highly-used school items. Additionally, when I go to sit down for work, I know exactly what I want to do: open up my math binder and pull up a lecture or a textbook. There's no hesitation, because everything has its place and every place has its purpose.

I used the masking tape to visually represent these sections. Thick lines of yellow-white on my floor and some parts of my furniture now mark out clearly where I'm allowed to do things and where I'm not. It's a nice reminder of my goals, too.


Secret Religion - 73

I'm not religious in the way that the term is normally used; I don't follow any mainstream religion, dedicate myself to some higher entity or so on. (this one may have inferred from reading past posts.) I've seen, however, the way that things that wouldn't be necessarily defined as religion can easily take on the role of one. Take, for example, conspiracy theoricists: some people are willing to commit insane acts (such as bring a rifle to a pizzaria thinking that there is child trafficking in the basement) because of what they believe in. They're in a community with people who believe the same thing, often with a charismatic leader at the helm, and most importantly, their beliefs give them answers. Where do we draw the line as to what is a religion and what is not?

This makes me wonder if there are any things in my life that I treat as though they are my religion. The one that comes to mind immediately is my dedication to learning; I am constantly thinking about how I can learn, optimize my learning, plan out my learning, etc.. At this point, it pretty much dominates my life along with schoolwork and some social interaction. I think that it would be plausible for me to say that this drive to learn could be compared to a religion, though I would have to study the way that I behave based on it in order to get a compelling answer.

Classifying Information - 72

(Uh oh, [potential identifier]!)

One thing that I've realized in my ever-continuing quest for knowledge is that there are many different types of information, some that I want to keep, some that should be discarded. For example, most news is not stuff that I want to keep tucked away for future use, whereas understanding I gain from reading books is.

Also, I've discovered that talking to people about my ideas forces me to develop them, as does writing them down. This is not a very unique discovery, but it is very useful nonetheless.

I will hopefully have time to write more in general over the next few days, not including today; I have been grinding hard for this whole week and it will hopefully be done by then. Tomorrow is the last day!


Firefox Focus (II) - 71

(Here's that post I've talked about for 60 days. A bit anticlimactic, no?)

To be honest, I'm not 100% sure.

I've liked the single-tab feel, but it's a little bit annoying. It has multiple UX improvements (e.g. more useful share options, search bar improvements) but also some UI and customizability things that I'm not that happy about.

It may just be that I'm so used to Safari I don't like anything else. Focus feels, well, more focused, but it has multiple limitations that frustrate me ever-so-slightly (e.g. no custom content blockers, less open feel, inability to press and hold things to copy them like I can in safari, etc.) which cause me to want to switch back to Safari.

When I think about doing so, though, I kind of feel attached to FF. Then again, I'm not sure if it's right for me long-term. I guess it's not that big of an issue, is it?

I have come to such great conclusions! Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoy your day!


Taking a Break - 70

I'm going to do another filler post tonight. I wrote 8 pages of assignment and wrote the majority of and recorded a song over an 11-hour stretch of work today; I am fucking exhausted. And I probably will be tomorrow, too. Hope you had a better day than I did.


Paper Books - 69

Reading paper books and annotating with post-its is fun. It's slow, but fun. I am currently halfway through two books that I've wanted to read for a while, and I'm making steady progress.

What remains to be seen will be (a) will it be effective for retaining and using knowledge? and (b) will its inefficiency be too big a tradeoff?

I think that (a) will be a yes. (b) will need some thought to resolve; I'll have to figure out what my intentions for reading books are. Is leisure meant to be part of it? Is it purely for learning?

Always asking questions that I don't often bother to answer.


Death (II) - 68

Here's #1, feel free to read it. They share a theme and some insight but otherwise Death (I) and Death (II) aren't very connected.

Death fascinates me. It plays a major role in defining my personal philosophy, and its unanswered questions lie at the heart of the thoughts on meaninglessness that so permeate this blog. It's the great equalizer, an inevitability only comparable to suffering and (as the saying goes) taxes. It is explored in all major faiths, spiritualities, religions, and nothing, not even the universe, can escape it. It is the end of the metaphorical tunnel, though its status as a light or a great darkness remains to be seen by each one of us when we reach it.

Death is what makes time scarce. Death is what causes natural selection, what brought us to where we are now and what will define our lives moving forward through the ages.

As explored in Small Sacrifices - my first and fittingly probably my most linked-to post on here - death and what comes after it defines morality. To what extent must we go, altruistically, to be morally 'good'? Well, if death is not the true end for us, and time remains linear, what is more important than improving the world? Whereas, if death is the end, how do we balance our own happiness, goals, interests, and the happiness of those around us with the need to improve the world? Talk about any philosophical or religious concept and I'd be surprised if you don't reach it at some point along the way. Since we know so little about it until it actually happens to us, death is a nagging question in the back of any philosopher's mind.

I'd say that it also plays a major role in any religion's spread, influence, and persistence. Without an afterlife component, organized religions don't have any power, and become nothing more than a thought framework, a moral compass, and a set of famous writings and myths. With one, obeying a religious hierarchy suddenly has significantly higher stakes. And not only does it give religion its power; it drives humans to convert and believe. In my own experience, I've found myself pulled heavily toward the concept of faith and spirituality because it has answers for me. Of course, I am relatively quickly repelled by the histories, traditions, and teachings by the groups that I find, but that is beside the point. The desire for religiosity and faith can be seen in plenty of places, such as conspiracy theories, and online communities. Especially in the case of the former, it is the desire for explanations (why does the world fucking suck? why are these senseless acts of violence ocurring?) that causes 'conversion'. What death means and what it holds in store for us is one such question that religions answer soundly.

I also mentioned death being the great equalizer. As the only true constant in our lives - I commit tax evasion all the time,* so the saying about death and taxes is obviously only a half-truth - death is everyone's final destination. No amount of wealth, power, influence, enlightenment, intelligence, or success can prevent it, so much as postpone it; the only thing as inescapable as death, if anything, is suffering. (I think if I explore this line of thinking any more, I will run myself back into the pit of despair as I do often here.)

Also why do people enjoy horror movies? I feel like it could have some interesting psychological explanation but honestly my brain is fried right now. Good night/day/morning/evening/afternoon.


*I don't

What's next? - 67

"Just having a rough week. Once I get through these next few days I'll be good."

"Yeah, I'm just a lot busier than usual. It's fine."

"No, it's cool - I'm just tired."

Home stretch. Two weeks till break

Two more hours until the weekend.

Life is passing me by. I live day-by-day, week-by-week, task-by-task. Everything is just a task or event, something else for me to get through in pursuit of the next restless break.

It's not about me. It's about what's next.

Just how things are, I guess.

I've been reading Deep Work by Cal Newport (I'm not at all under the impression that I am unique in this respect. In fact, there's an entire ). I just finished a chapter early in the second part of his book, one that addresses various 'deep work philosophies': strategies to aid in consistently getting deep work in. One such philosophy is called 'the monastic philosophy'. Essentially, there's a group of writers, mathematicians, and scholars that simply lock themselves away from distraction and go for very extensive periods of focus. With some, this becomes literally their life; they very rarely do anything that is not in pursuit of their goal (whatever it may be), instead choosing to spend each day in a flow state as best they can.

I wish I could lock myself away like that. What a life. 


No Post Today

Wind-down - 66

I hate going to bed. It's just a fact of life at my age, I guess. I have no idea what to do about it. I'm either unhappy every night I go to bed - feel like I don't have enough time to do what I want to - or wake up tired every day. It's mostly the latter at the moment. Part of the problem is that I'm taking too long to finish my work - I finished up at 9pm on the dot today, and got home at 10:20pm. I would love to have a long, leisurely wind-down period, but things just keep getting derailed. I keep coming back to this thought implanted in my brain by Sönke Ahrens' How to Take Smart Notes: The schedule is an inflexible thing. So how am I supposed to manage my time, flexibly?

I hate trying to come up with my own systems, even though I know that it's likely the only way that I will find something that works for me personally.

(If you have a good system, please drop something in the guestbook. Wink.)


Sssccchhhheeeedddduuuuulllllleeeee - 65

I'm trying to use a day calendar + time blocking to manage my schedule. It isn't flexible. I planned to get out of a meeting at 8pm, do some work, wind down at 9:30 tonight, and be in bed by 10:30. I ended up getting out of a meeting late - it's 8:30 now - eating dinner late - it's 9 now - spending time with my family - whoops, now it's 9:45 and I don't feel like winding down. Life is not built around me, and no matter how I try I won't be able to shape it around me - so why try?

I can keep trying new ideas, I guess. Dedicating a work period every day, day theming... I'm just not sure if the calendar should be used for anything non-mandatory. Maybe what I could do is introduce two calendars, one for things that really need to get done and another for things that should get done. I think that may add more complexity, actually. Nevermind.

I'll keep trying. Here's my list of things I want to try:

  • Making a decision flowchart or program that I run any time I want to do something other than do work
  • Seriously blocking time
  • [x] Day theming
  • [ ] Keep trying (lol)

Agh... nothing seems appealing. I don't know how to get myself to stop what I'm doing - I can't plan for the moment. (I'd say that 'planning for the moment' is a concept I'll probably write about in the future but it seems that anytime I say that I doom the piece to be shelved forever. I still haven't done the Firefox Focus follow-up from... holy shit, 47 days ago.)


Playful? - 64

Today I was shown a video about how 'life should be playful', like a song and not a journey. It said that there should be no end goal for us, that we should enjoy the present moment and be unafraid.

This has me thinking way back, to Small Sacrifices, my first actual post here. While I believe that my writing and style (and ability to actually make sense) has improved significantly since I wrote that, the question I posed - what is more important, my service or my happiness? - remains unanswered. I will probably struggle with it for a while yet.

My life as it is right now is driven by three things:

  1. A desire to learn and improve myself
  2. A desire to reach a position from which I may improve the world
  3. Social expectations

And I approach these things seriously, as though there is nothing more important in the world. Grades, influence, learning, and, you know, conforming - these are my life's goals. But when I think back to my younger years, the time I remember is not the time I spent trying to learn math over the summer, or the time I spent reading alone; what I remember, and appreciate, is the time I spent playing Minecraft with my older sister, the time spent running around outside, the time I spent with my family over the holidays. While "learning" might be a really important thimg to me, what my priorities should probably look like right now (and what I imagine will matter to me when I am old) should be more like this:

  1. Spending time with people I care about, and doing things that I enjoy
  2. Writing, thinking, philosophizing - learning and considering things that will actually impact me and the way I live. ("enlightenment" vs. "knowledge"
  3. Helping others, improving the world

...and then I can add the things that matter right now, but might not necessarily be helpful later.

  1. Obtaining 'knowledge'
  2. Conforming to societal expectations (this doesn't matter, really, except for the impact that it has on relationships)

I continue to throw myself blindly at opportunities, new projects, new classes - anything novel that seems to have some semblance of value. I live my life day-by-day, week-by-week, in the worst sense: I am not enjoying the current moment, but looking ahead to some short period of relaxation and happiness. That may be the end of the day, that may be the weekend, that may be next week, but at any given moment I am most likely looking ahead, not being present now.

At least right now, I need to play more. Long-term, my goals remain to be seen.


I Have Nothing To Write About - 62

What the title says. This is the first time since probably day 10 that I've had trouble finding something to write about, and I'm under a time crunch right now, so I don't have the time to simply sit around until something interesting comes to me. Rather than a normal post, here's some stuff I did:

  • I cleaned my room a bit today. Very happy I did.
  • I worked a bit on the accompaniment for a song I'm writing. I feel pretty good about it - the chorus is pretty much done.
  • I did some math
  • I spent a long time interacting with my friends over video call.

It hasn't been an amazing day, but I'm making it through. See you tomorrow.