14518 words

Cluttered - 15

For the past week, my room and phone - two major parts of what I refer to as my living spaces - have been cluttered. I managed to reach 500 tabs, the maximum tabs allowed in safari, because I haven't managed to iron out my flow for bookmarking and effectively organizing resources. My phone (as referenced in Clean - 5 below) has way too many applications on it, though I have been working in that. Most notably, though, has been my room. After opening up and sorting through some bins of stuff that I "temporarily" (read: indefinitely) stored in the basement and not putting things where they're supposed to go, my room is in terrible shape. Holiday presents from friends and family are taking up new space, too.

I've noticed a significant change in myself, and I am almost certain that it is due to this clutter. I have suddenly become significantly less motivated, less organized, less happy, and less energetic. It has been a bit paradoxical: I am unmotivated and unhappy, so I don't want to clean my living spaces up, making me more unmotivated, more disorganized, and more unhappy. They've never been perfect, and have generally been cyclical in nature - I will clean up, relax my rules, let it get messy for a short time, then clean up again - but I've come to expect a general sense of order, because that is the average state of them. This worsens my condition further: I am presented with an unpleasant surprise every time I return to any of those living spaces.

My mood has gone quickly downhill over the past few days, when the messiness has gotten much worse. I spent three hours on the couch yesterday feeling miserable and bored for absoluetly no reason, and the day before that I lied on my bed for a few hours and almost deliberately entered the state described in Near-Unconscious Consumption - 9

I am convinced of two things:

  1. the state of my living spaces is correlated with my mental state and
  2. the negative impacts of disorder (and disorder itself) increase exponentially-ish.

It has been actually extremely surprising, seeing how much I have changed mentally over the past week. It's possible that my feelings stem from some other factors, such as the fact that I'm on winter break from school, that it is finally winter (see Seasonal Affective Disorder) or that a major holiday has just passed, but having experienced my own feelings when I enter and spend time in my room and on my phone, I find it hard to believe otherwise. I'll have to collect some data on myself, to see if this adds up - survey myself on my own feelings of organization, mood, and rate how clean I think my living spaces are.

(please ignore any typos made in this document; it's written on mobile, at 2am, without spellcheck.)

Relinquishing Control - 14

When trying to enforce (upon myself) new habits and behaviors, I've always acted as though I have a choice in doing them. That's natural, since I do: I am able to make the decision to do or not to do something. This results often in me making the wrong choice.

I want to try a little experiment. What if, instead of the mentality of I am making a choice to do this, I tell myself that I am not in control? It seems a little weird, of course. It would be interesting, though, to see how I react mentally to this idea. If, when I have a thought that goes against my desired outcome, I simply say, "This is not a choice," how will I react mentally?

I'm unsure as to whether this is a unique idea, or if it's just resurfaced in my mind. Now that I think about it, I recall listening to a podcast over the summer from CGP Grey in which he mentions his idea that "exercise is non-optional" (I'd link it but I don't remember the episode - here's the show at least), even under shelter-in-place orders. This is pretty much in that same vein - preventing oneself from even considering alternatives - so maybe that idea just resurfaced in a slightly different form after it had some time to marinate.

Now, I've been lucky enough to live most of my life with relative freedom. My upbringing, schooling, and social environment in general have pushed me to think freely and make informed decisions about my own life. I've followed rules when I've thought they're reasonable (and broken them when I haven't) but it's always been my decision. Thus, my brain isn't really used to dealing in absolutes like "I will not do ___ " or "I cannot ___ " (in their archaic-ish, formal command tense like "you will clean the floor"). Whether this will be beneficial to my cause.

If this makes a splash whatsoever in my life, I'll make an update post.

(also, we're at two weeks! only... uh, ~13.3 left to go. Great.)

Standard Language - 13

Language is strange and incredible. We, as humans, somehow managed to create thousands of unique languages, with massive amounts of variance, somewhere along the line. It's something of an obstacle, nowadays, since globalization and global multilingualism don't pair that well, but it is nonetheless cool as hell. We should make a new one.

The first few steps don't sound that difficult; gather a few language experts from around the world, develop a new language that is easy to learn and simple, and then.... uh, I guess ask the UN to help with implementation?

Implementation is definitely the hard part, as evidenced by previous attempts to do this exact thing. Various attempts have been made, including Ido, Interlingua, and most notably Esperanto; the latter has speakers in the thousands to the millions, depending on who you ask. These languages were all developed, just not widely enough accepted to become the international lingua franca that they were envisioned as.

One major problem that all of these languages face is that that most, if not all of these 'constructed languages' are indo-european-ish in nature, with vocabulary, structure, alphabet, etc. based in the languages spoken by Europe and the Americas (I'm talking specifically about those that fall into the categories of Germanic, Italic, and to some extent Balto-slavic, Celtic, etc.). This is sort of a good thing, since it makes it easy for current speakers of those languages to learn these new ones, but it also means that people speaking languages that aren't in that family will have pretty similar difficulty learning them as a second languages as they would with, say, English - they'd needt to learn new pronunciations, alphabets, fundamental structures. The incredible diversity of world language ensures that there's no real way of making something 'easy to learn' for everyone.

Plus, people take pride in their language. I wouldn't consider myself someone who likes english, per se, but the idea of English being superseded by another language as the world's primary means of communication just seems wrong to me. I don't like it, but I couldn't tell you why - and I don't even have what one might consider 'deep cultural ties' to it. People just like their native language, I guess. That's another obstacle in making a new global language: people might not want to use it.

Anyway, hold onto this post for me, will you? I'm omw to go learn Esperanto.

Apple, Apps, and Ecosystems - 12

My primary laptop is a Windows computer. My phone is an iPhone. After using this system for years, I've come to appreciate the ability to sync outside of the built-in Apple ecosystem. I can't tell you how many times I've seen an app with a sync feature that I can't use - at no fault to the developers, two platforms is already hard enough - or how quietly annoying it is to discover that there's a mac app but no windows versions. At least it forced me to use more open-source software.

Anyway, I just got an old 2012 Mac. Needless to say, I'm hyped: I now can use Xcode, Airmessage, Littlesnitch, Alfred, etc. - all stuff I've seen everywhere but never had a chance to try. I've been heavily resisting a move to iCloud - I prefer to keep my data somewhere I can manage myself (and quickly copy, if need be), and there aren't any viable E2EE options that I'm aware of, but right now it is looking reaaaallly nice. (I briefly set up a Nextcloud instance, but uh... it didn't work out, for reasons I won't get into right now. Stupid stuff.)

Further experimentation is required to decide my opinion of Apple's products as a whole. At least it's generally pretty secure.

A strange mix - 11

Writing motivation tends to go in a generally repetitive pattern: get excited about doing it and write a very long post, crash and write a short post, then recover and write a medium post. The length of the long posts fluctuate too. 1400-word pseudo-essays mixed with 100-word shower thought-sort of things make for a blog that looks kinda funny.

As you can probably tell, I'm in a period of waning motivation. I'm currently working on various side projects, including getting my Zettelkasten into a functioning state and starting on weekly learning projects (I will probably write about both of these topics in the future), which I've noticed takes up a lot of the space in my brain that was previously occupied by my daily writing.
I'll leave it here for today.

More writing to come - enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate around this time, even if it's just the normal New Year next week.

The Moon - 10

The moon is a strange thing. We don't think about it very often, but when we do recognize it for what it is, it's really fucking weird: a massive sphere of solid rock, metal, and regolith, floating out in space and spinning endlessly around the earth. There's little interesting geology, (effectively) no atmosphere, just dust, craters, and moon-mountains, as far as the eye can see. Not only that, there's a side of the moon that never comes into our view from earth, since the moon spins as it orbits.

I could spend hours gazing at the moon, honestly - I can see why ancient mythologies liked telling so many stories about it.

Space is cool.

Near-Unconscious Consumption - 9

Near-Unconscious consumption is the name I've (just) given to that state of just consuming, not thinking about what you're doing, not really thinking all that much about the content, just sort of floating on the breeze that what ever you're consuming is blowing at you.

I notice it the most on the internet. It's one of the (many) reasons why I've left social media almost entirely: I couldn't, without unreasonable effort, consistently avoid falling into this state. (When it's me against a recommendation algorithm designed to keep my attention as long as possible (with millions, even billions of users' behavior data to back it up, I'm somehow unsurprised that I sometimes lose.) When I let myself get pulled in, I pretty much become unconscious; time flies by, and I don't think about anything other than what I'm consuming. I will often emerge from this state unhappy and with little memory of what I consumed except for the final pieces of content closest to the end.

It's pretty dystopian when you think about it.

Sometimes I'll see people I care about browsing TikTok. They will just lay down, open up the app, and then sit there for hours on end (if their schedule allows) just scrolling, random sounds blaring from their phone, eyes flitting up and down the screen. Once they're done, it's like it never even happened; they don't have anything cool to talk about, anything interesting they read, just a few hours gone to ByteDance's profit machine. It really hurts me to watch, because there's no way to bring it up to them without sounding patronizing or uncool, despite the fact that I am years younger than them. When I do, it'll just go:

"Dude it's really painful for me to watch you just scroll for so long."
"But hehe TikTok funny"

And that will be the end of the conversation. I'm not even joking about their response: they literally say, "Hehe TikTok funny". (This is turning into a rant about social media so I'll turn back toward the main idea of this article, but this is something that's been on my mind for a long time and once I started writing I realized how I actualy felt about it.)

This state of Near-Unconscious Consumption is not limited to the reach of AI; humans do it plenty well. It's this same focus that allows me to do things like read Orwell's 1984 in one day over the course of a seven-hour reading session, then read two more books before the week ends, and then not read any more for like a month. Strangely, my reading habits are very similar to my social media habits: occasionally open a book, get pulled in, probably read for a few hours, then stop for a while. I also tend to decieve myself about their nature - when opening a book, I'll tell myself that i can read for just 10 minutes, and when opening twitter.com/explore I'll tell myself that "I'm just checking out what's happening, in case I'm missing something important". (I don't read books consistently, unfortunately - I think it has something to do with a lack of good choices in books, but that's for another time.) For some reason, this state only seems to work, for me at least, in long bursts.

Like with most of the posts here, I don't have anything scientific data or sources to explain this phenomenon. I'm just observing, and I'm content to do so at this moment. One day I can revisit these posts and turn them into full-on essays, but for now I'll leave it here.

I haven't forgotten about the Firefox Focus update post - I'm waiting until I've used it for about a week.

Subjective man in an objective world 😔 - 8

Though I'm almost never active there, I occasionally return to Twitter just to see what's happening. What I see there scares me.

Using the power of the internet and by exploiting the minds of people who aren't great at figuring out what factual sources look like, multiple huge groups of users on the platform have been entrapped in various narratives by various charismatic figures or organizations, and are at the point of flat-out denying reality. '''''''Alternative news''''''' sources push them to view the world through a heavily-filtered, propagandized lens -- and they obviously don't know it.

While I'd like to say that my ability to judge facts is better than theirs, the mere existence of those groups troubles me. Their rejection of what I understand to be objective reality (or close to it) is, in their eyes, them avoiding the propaganda, and it is their belief that those sources that I consider to be realiably factual are outright lying to them.

That is exactly my thought pattern. I believe that I am avoiding propaganda, and taking news from credible sources. Of course, I can say with relative certainty that my understanding of the internet is more complex than theirs, but that doesn't guarantee that my understanding of the world is more correct than theirs. I can be able to navigate the web as well as I'd like, but that doesn't really mean anything if I mentally filter out what is actually objective reality as someone else's flawed views or propaganda. It would be possible for me to be in an identical (albeit more complex) filter bubble, one that serves the same purpose as that of the people I'm discussing. Were that the case, I find it unlikely that I would be able to break out of it.

Everyone in these groups is just as human as I am. We are all susceptible to persuasion, lies, and false narratives. I can say with relative certainty here that there is someone out there with a better grasp on the world than mine; what am I missing, that they find concerning? Who looks down their nose upon people like me as I look down upon those twitter users, and what do they know that I don't? I deliberately avoid participating on Twitter because I would feel like I'm sinking to the level of the ad homenim attacks and faulty logic that pervade the platform; who reads my discussion spaces and does the same? I'd hope that the answer would be no one, but I find that hard to believe.

I think that I understand the world pretty well, but I, as everyone else, am a victim of my own worldview. There isn't much I can do about this, much that I could do about this theoretically possible filter bubble that I could theoretically possibly live in, other than continue trying to learn and grow as a person.I cannot protect myself from misguided beliefs when I experience subjective reality in an objective world. I spend a lot of time dealing with certainty and quantities, like in computer science and math, so I guess this scares me a little.

Like with #6, I'm not sure if this is entirely coherent. Oh well. Hope you liked the title - it has not serious relevance or meaning, I just thought it was funny.

Firefox Focus (Part 1) - 7

I started using Firefox Focus today.

I initially discovered it probably a year-year and a half ago when I began looking for browser alternatives (to whatever I was using at the time, I don't remember) on my phone. I've always enjoyed downloading and testing new apps, for better or for worse (see Clean - 5 down below), and when I tried Focus out for the first time, it was a strange experience. I found myself liking the app's aesthetics, and was excited for its built-in content blockers - I didn't have the Safari setup that I do now - but did notice one thing that I felt was missing: where's the Tab view?

Turns out there wasn't one. Firefox Focus limits you to one tab, no matter how much you want to add more.

This turned me off at the time, especially since my lack of a laptop computer meant that I had to do my primary browsing on my phone. I was disappointed, and deleted the app; how could I browse without tabs?

When I rediscovered it yesterday, by accident, I found myself intrigued rather than disappointed.

What if I could only have one tab? How much would that change my browsing habits?

Tabs were thought of as an improvement when they became commercial in 1992 (though buzzfeed says they were invented in 1987). And they were, no doubt. Tabs make the web browser much more versatile and allow you to pursue multiple items at once, while keeping others open to be looked at later. Suddenly, cross-referencing sites became a breeze, and multitasking became much more possible.

However, that exact behavior - multitasking and pursuing multiple agenda items at once - has become a problem for me, mostly on mobile. The design of Safari, my usual primary browser, makes it incredibly easy for me to pile up tabs, since they persist across sessions and can be easily opened silently in the background. (other factors contribute, but that's not really what this post is about.) This is The Collector's Fallacy at its finest: I see something potentially cool, open it in the background, but end up exiting the app without looking into it further. Repeat this over and over for months, and I end up with the 458 tabs that are sitting in my single private window.

On a separate but connected note, I've also noticed myself getting more and more forgetful and aloof. I think this is due in part to the massive amount of time I spend reinforcing this browsing behavior - I often work on side projects during boring classes - but that's a discussion for another time. Noticing this behavior has made me want to change it, so I'm taking steps to try to do so; this is one of them.

I'm hoping that moving to Firefox Focus, if only temporarily, will help me change my thought patterns and browsing habits for the better. I've already noticed myself feeling more organized and streamlined, so I'm hoping that if (and probably when) I do end up returning and starting fresh in Safari, I'll behave differently - I'll have become mpre 'Focused'.

I'll write an update post, eventually. Look out for that (though if you're reading in reverse chronological order you might have already read it).

Let's Change How We Think About Teaching - 6

Brace yourself, because this one is long as hell and has way less editing than I wish I could do. I'm honestly not sure if what I say here is coherent but I'm getting my thoughts down and that's what matters to me currently. Once I eventually link this identity back to my main one, I can thoroughly rewrite this and throw it up on my actual, personal site. I apologize in advance if what I write here sounds like the faux-philosophical ramblings of a twelve year old, or if a badly-written description ends up sounding insensitive.

To teach:

intransitive verb - To impart knowledge or skill to.
intransitive verb - To provide knowledge of; instruct in.
-The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language*
*(third definition excluded for brevity and clarity)

There are three ways that teaching generally manifests in life, at least in my experience: learning from peers, learning from teachers (schoolteachers), and learning from online resources. Of course, there are other ways, but these are the ones that I feel are most common and most relevant to the sense of teaching that I'm describing here.

All of these forms of teaching have their downsides - many school environments end up with either huge, impersonal classes or rooms with authoritarian, supposedly 'infallible' teachers, and online teaching (like creating online resources) is impersonal and high-effort - but most noticeably to me is the difficulty I face in learning from and teaching my peers.

This may just be the social environment or stage of life in which I currently am, but teaching my friends about things that I am interested in and vice versa is, to put it lightly, awkward. There's a delicate balance between friend and teacher that needs to be kept; too much friend and not much gets done, too much teacher and the relationship gets damaged. See, there's a strange feeling somewhere between worry and humiliation that we get when someone our age takes on too much of a 'teacher' role, since we're conditioned to believe that teachers are above us. We don't want to look inferior, however foolish that may be, in the eyes of society, worried that whoever's teaching us becomes 'better' than us simply because they know something that we don't so we instead reject the opportunity to learn.

This is just as visible in classrooms. Societal standards dictate that teachers be held up on a pedestal, some sort of infallible being that imparts knowledge upon their unenlightened pupils. Making teachers into the ultimate authority makes meaningful discussions about class material, critical thinking about presented facts, and the normal, healthy, questioning of authority impossible. This sucks for multiple (mostly obvious) reasons, but one I especially want to note is the fact that nearly everyone in this type of school environment is still in early stages of mental development, ensuring that those who experience this are ripe for mental conditioning and in a perfect position to get unrealistic expectations for and wildly incorrect images of the real world. When we are conditioned to believe what we are told by higher authorities, when we are graded on our ability to follow instructions and unable to give any input into what we are taught, what kind of society are we most likely to accept?

I also feel like I should note thatbeing lectured in class all day is boring, making the act of learning seem like a chore. A populace that is unmotivated to learn precedes a society that is stagnant and discontented, and we're heading on that path pretty quickly with the education system in the state that it is. The ability to learn is one of the most important human traits; whether we're conscious of it or not, taking that away is taking away some of our humanity.

The problems with this school environment go beyond the students. Teachers, too, will have more difficult and less fulfilling jobs when all they're doing is telling facts to children, trying to get them to be quiet, gesturing at a whiteboard or screen, and assigning work. Combining this type of labor with a salary that is far lower than it should be, low-quality teacher education programs, and a lack of mental stimuli during the workday makes it a wonder that there are any surviving teachers at all.

Finally, there is online teaching, most notably in the form of resources like how-tos and youtube videos. This is plagued by many of the same issues as in-person teaching; there's little monetary benefit to doing it in most cases, especially when compared with the massive amount of work that must go into creating educational resources. However, this comes with an added difficulty: there's very little interaction between student and teacher. One might leave a comment or send an email and hope it gets answered, but there's nothing like raising a hand during class or having a meeting with the teacher after school. It's harder for students to learn, and it's hard for online teachers to figure out what is most valuable to the people they want to teach, along with what they're missing.

More important is the fact that mimicing a teacher-centric environment gives similar results; only those that are highly self-motivated to learn and explore will get much out of it, leaving all others, in the case of the internet, generally stuck in the empty addiction of mindless consumption, doomscrolling, and wasting time.

There is a theme going through the middle of all of these types of teaching: teaching is viewed as a one-way trade, a gift or service from a teacher more intelligent than the learner. This is what makes learning from my peers so uncomfortable, what makes teaching in a classroom or online so difficult and often so boring for everyone involved.

So why don't we change it? Let's change how we think about (and execute) teaching. Everyone is equally, yet uniquely human, which ensures that everyone has something to contribute: their perspective. Rather than putting those who are better-informed on a subject than others into a position of superiority (thereby making it harder for them to learn from others and for others to learn from them), we could treat the flow of information and ideas between people as what it really is: an exchange that can be made equal, if only it is allowed to be so. Even someone who doesn't understand how to even open the command prompt can contribute to a conversation about bash; for example, they could help figure out how to make it more accessible to people who don't think of themselves as power-users.

Those that we regard as the 'most intelligent' become so because of a willingness to learn from others, not the opposite; why do we act like learning is the activity of the stupid or the childish?

What if we thought about teaching and learning as a constant activity, rather than that one-way trade?

This basic yet impactful change in mentality could potentially improve education in a significant way. Those called 'teachers' in schools would have better relationships with students, and hopefully get more out of their jobs by learning themselves; 'students' would get much more out of the education and practice the skills that they truly will need in real life (like critical thinking and, of course, learning from and by extension teaching others). At the same time, online resources would be made more available and diverse. Though this wouldn't solve the teacher pay issue - that's a mostly separate issue that I'm not sure how to address - or many of the other issues with the merican education system as a whole, it would be, in my view, a massive step forward.

This change would impact not just our educational institutions, but society as a whole. Suddenly, day jobs could become more fulfilling when we're constantly trying to learn and grow. Capitalism itself would be more effective; its principal driver is innovation, and fostering an environment of learning heavily encourages that force. Science, Philosophy, Arts - all of these aspects would benefit.

I'm not trying to eliminate the roles of teacher and student altogether. They're necessary ideas, and will probably exist regardless of our efforts to push them out. However, changing the way that we think about those roles could change the way we learn, even how we live, altogether.

Hey, you know what? If you have something to teach me - or just something to say, really - please feel free to go sign my guestbook. (It'd nice to know that I'm not just yelling into a void, too.)

Clean - 5

Keeping shit clean is hard, sometimes agonizingly so. Despite my consistent motivation to keep my living spaces (physical and digital) organized, things always manage to spiral out of control. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, and sometimes only hours, but the ultimate result remains unchanged.

I'm almost absolutely certain that the problem is the sheer amount of stuff that I keep around, a large part of which is stuff that I don't often use but keep for that one use case or for sentimental value.

In my room, for example, I have a lot of objects that don't really need to be kept around. In my desk I keep old electronics that I might use at some point for messing around with software. In my closet there are heaps of clothes that I don't wear very often but don't feel like getting rid of, and a few old sentimental shirts like my elementary school soccer jersey. On my bed there are five pillows - only one of which I use for sleeping (I have to throw the rest on the floor and clean them up in the morning) - along with a blanket and a quilt. On the digital side, the Google Sheets app makes for a great example of this issue: I use it about twice per year, since I only use the google suite for school and rarely need to edit my spreadsheets on the go, but I swear that the moment I delete it always somehow ends up becoming the moment I need it.

Suddenly it makes sense why my room is disorganized for so much of the time; it's overfilled, in the sense that it holds more than it needs to. The same goes for my phone: 129 applications are hard to organize well. Logically, if I had less stuff, I would have a cleaner environment. Of course things would get messy eventually as I bring in more unnecessary items, but nonetheless I find it difficult to imagine a scenario in which my room looks cluttered when all that's in it is minimal clothing, a bookshelf, a computer, and my phone. That's a dream that I'll never achieve, as I will always have other things I can't or won't move out, but like with utopian societies, it's there to critique the present, not to help me fantasize about the future.

Getting rid of things is easier said than done. Maybe it gets easier the more I do it; maybe not. Either way, there's clear and obvious reason for me to practice. Further experimentation required.

The Learning Paradox - 4

Getting started learning something completely new is difficult, with few exceptions. It's hard to dedicate yourself to a new activity or subject. It's hard to find the time, it's hard to find the motivation to do something that you're not very good at, but most of all, it's hard to know what you need to know and where you need to look to learn it.

I'm calling that last one "the learning paradox" since (1) it is sort-of paradoxical and (2) it makes for a good title. It is a serious problem though; when you're not familiar with a subject and don't have someone to introduce you to it, you have no idea where to start. That's where the paradox is: you want to learn something, but don't know what to learn to learn that thing. Let me give an example.

I first heard about open-source software and self-hosting (and the various other concepts that go along with those two things) from a friend in eighth grade. I wanted to learn more about it, so I looked up self-hosting. I didn't know where to go for information, but I'd spent a lot of time on Wikipedia and I knew it to be a very useful resources, so I tried to read the article. It makes plenty of sense to me now - I'm doing it on multiple servers - but at the time it was to me, to put it bluntly, useless jargon.

Self-hosting in the context of website management and online publishing is used to describe the practice of running and maintaining a website using a private web server.

What the hell is a private web server? Okay, why don't I go find that out. Let's look at the article for web server.

A web server is server software, or hardware dedicated to running this software, that can satisfy client requests on the World Wide Web. A web server can, in general, contain one or more websites. A web server processes incoming network requests over HTTP and several other related protocols.

???????????????????

I went and looked at other sources. Most of it was shit about self-hosting a wordpress site - not my goal (though if you fast forward to now, that's one of the things I'm doing) - and the beginner tutorials were unsatisfactory. I then went to the person that introduced it to me and asked them about it, and ended up walking for an hour to lunch while his attempted explanations flew over my head like F-22s.

That is the learning paradox, well summed up. I didn't know where to look for a beginner's guide; search engines didn't give me what I needed. There was all this prerequisite knowledge on my usual sources, and when I went to go and try and understand that prerequisite knowledge, what did I find? Ah yes, more prerequisite knowledge. Terms I didn't understand were explained in terms I didn't understand, keeping me locked in this cycle until my eventual breakthrough. I ended up having to first learn the parts of a computer, then get something of a grasp on how web pages work and a vague understanding of the various parts of the internet protocol suite, then figure out what the hell a server is and what it does, and then I ended up having an epiphany and realizing that all these concepts (save for the internet protocols) were simple and that, if there had been an adult to explain it to me simply, I could have learned all these concepts in a few hours rather than a few weeks or even months. Admittedly, self-hosting wasn't the easiest thing to start learning nearly from scratch. However, once again, I didn't know what I didn't know and had no way of discerning easy subjects from hard ones at the time.

The Learning Paradox is not perfectly paradoxical, as there are some solutions. Most of the ones that I can think of involve posting on forums and asking people, but that can only get you so far. To be honest, it's not actually that much of an issue, since the cycle of not understanding things will eventually get broken. It will often take a while, and you need to be dedicated to it, but if you just learn things eventually you'll get it. Sounds simple, right?

I'm not trying to solve this problem at this current moment. I'm just trying to write it down, and I think this is good enough for now.

Stop Asking Me About My Usernames - 3

Listed's servers must be located in a different timezone than mine, since it's December 16th for me and the published post says December 17th. Oh well. #100days still stands.

Usernames are, strangely, one of my favorite parts of the internet. The creativity, individuality, and childlike "coolness" involved in their creation makes for a fun creation process. Seeing the results of a search term, sticking words into translation programs, finding words related to one another, adopting character patterns and styles that I see in others' usernames - it's all strangely entertaining to me.

At the end of the process, I'll often end up with usernames with personal meanings, funneled through layers of obscurity until that meaning isn't discernable to anyone but myself (and, of course, until they sound cool). I won't list any here - see my first post on this site - but suffice it to say I take pride in my usernames.

The problem is that those personal meanings are, of course, personal. If I join voice chat, I'll occasionally get offhand comments asking about my username: "what does your username mean?" "where'd your username come from?" et cetera. I am then put into a weird position - I can either (a) lie and tell them that it's meaningless, taking away from the value of my name; (b) tell them the actual meaning of the username, potentially revealing something about myself and taking away the mystery of it (one of the things that makes a name 'cool'); or (c) refuse to tell them the meaning, making the conversation awkward. None of these options are that great. I'd much rather avoid the conversation altogether.

I am largely responsible for this. I'm the one making the usernames. But also, I never inquire about other people's "green267" or "DRAGON203946843"; it feels like sort of a violation of internet customs to ask. Maybe that's just some bullshit rule that I made up myself and now abide by, but I really do believe it: usernames shouldn't require justification or explanation, just... uh, appreciation, I guess.

This has been a long-winded way to say:
Just stop asking me about my usernames. Please.

Home Maintenance - 2

We had the vents cleaned in my house today. People were sneezing a lot, so we called in a vent-cleaning crew, put on masks, and locked ourselves away (for coronavirus safety reasons) for a few hours.

It really makes me realize how many stupid little things you need to take care of when you own a house. Along with cleaning out the lint in the washing machine, taking care of the yard, fixing structural issues, leaks, electrical issues, and messed-up roofing, repainting the exterior, getting the chimney cleaned, calling a plumber to get the drainpipe snaked, fixing or buying new appliances, etc... (I asked.)

I half-wrote three other posts this evening but all of them felt wrong - pretentious, inappropriate, just bad in general, or all three - so instead you get to hear a mundane story about my house's vents. #100days has no rules, right?*

*Actually, there is one rule (write every day) and it seems that the post dating systems on Listed think that #1 was posted two days ago, not one, since I posted it in the early morning yesterday :/
I guess there's nothing to do but say that we're off to a rocky start and get on with it.

Small Sacrifices - 1

I'd argue that small sacrifices are always a good thing to do. Helping others at your own expense - getting up to refill someone's glass at dinner, staying with your friend when they're going through rough times, giving donations to charity - is a net positive for the world, and it makes for a network of happier people. There's very little good reason not to make make small sacrifices from time to time.

Larger sacrifices - namely, the sacrifice of one's own well-being or life - are a much more more difficlt moral question. Religion tells us that there is an afterlife; if there is, sacrificing our lives to improve the world is a simple, obvious choice. Sacrificing our lives is nothing more than another small sacrifice on a much longer spiritual journey. Without an afterlife, higher plane, or second chance, though, it's a much more complex decision. Is it right for me to sacrifice my own life if it means saving that of multiple others? Of course, I'd have anyone else do the same, but (of course, again) with myself it's different. I only have one chance at life if the religions are wrong, leaving me with nothing but my own experience of life; am I willing to squander that for some intangible ideal?

I can't help but say that the answer is no. With no afterlife or 'second chance', my own life and happiness is infinitely valuable to me, for without it I have nothing. While small sacrifices make others (and thereby making myself) happier and do not impede me from pursuing my own goals - in fact, it aids in pursuing my goals - a larger sacrifice like that simply doesn't make sense. Of course, this only holds true to a certain extent; for example, if my death was provably the only way to stop a nuclear holocaust, I would obviously be willing to make the sacrifice. As scale decreases, though, my certainty in my decision-making decreases. I feel as though the direction of a moral compass doesn't work as well when you're facing a potentially lethal risk.