Confession: I actually enjoy writing college essays.
Everything else about the process makes me groan a bit, but the essays are a time to be genuine, to reflect, where faults are admired instead of scorned upon. It reminds me a bit of this blog.
But like nearly everything else I do, I’m most likely doing it backwards, going from stories, to a coherent essay, to adjusting it to answer the question. And in that process, I’ve accumulated other fringe thoughts/non-epiphanies that are 1) irrelevant and 2) incomplete. Including them below, because not all writing has to be incredibly refined in order to be effective, and these could easily be the starting point for a future blog post.
In no particular order:
- Where and how I record life events depends on the emotion it evokes
- Ranting generally has to go into a physical notebook, with a pen or pencil pressing into the paper
- Happy feelings always end up typed out during a 10 minute Write or Die session, where I non-stop-no-checking-for-grammar ride off the energy until the feeling is gone from my fingers. and then dumped into my Google Keep afterwards
- Random epiphanies/analytical thoughts go in Keep or my notebook depending on convenience. (That’s where most of the ideas in this post were first recorded.)
- Blog posts are generally more refined versions of any of the above.
- I almost finished reading Incognito a few weeks ago. (My library loan expired before I could get to the last 2%) Along with the Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, I’ve come to realize how many things in everyday life are the result of extreme conscious deliberate design, and how we’re all just vehicles of evolution. Just because something exists doesn’t mean people will know about it and use it. But just because people know about something doesn’t mean that it works. Between the engineer and the marketer, I am most definitely the engineer.
- After realizing long term sleep deprivation is probably detrimental to my health and not sustainable (I’m talking throughout college and into the real world), I’ve really getting more sleep. But I’ve come to realize a disturbing reality– being well rested is a waste of energy in some cases. If I had 5 hours a week to learn a subject, I wouldn’t spend it passively listening to someone else. It’s demotivating to not control my own learning process, unless it’s created by someone who clearly has designed lesson plans that are better than the path I would have taken to learn the material.
- I don’t ever feel like I’m getting enough sleep, even on the weekends, which bothers me. I’m afraid that I’ll fall into the rut of blaming everything on being tired.
- My own learning process generally goes something like this: After I first encounter something, I form my own personal model of the information. 90% of the time, this model is wrong. Ultimately, how well I learn the material depends on how well I recognize my own mistakes and fix them. For math and science, this takes a couple practice problems. For the humanities, going through every subtlety and mentally correcting it seems stupid and unsustainable if I’m to learn increasing amounts of information. There’s a greater expectation to learn the content correctly the first time.
- There’s always been the debate over whether to learn things that are interesting or things that are useful, but the question I’m more interested in is whether to learn things in a useful way or an interesting way. Paul Graham advocates that the best to way to write an essay is to flow in the “interesting” way. School tends to go with the path of least resistance. Some people can learn material regardless of how it’s presented, but some people need learning to be relevant and engaging in order for material to stick.
- I realized it’s unrealistic for everyone to know 100% of everything. Hence the general agreed-upon cutoff of 70% of passing, not 100%. But where is the tradeoff? Maybe I’d be fine if a 70% means that the other 30% is part of the “things I know I don’t know”. But most of the time, what’s not learned properly is learned wrong. In science terms, I don’t mind if something isn’t learned precisely as long as it’s learned accurately. (Did not appreciate this until I took art class and failed.)
- I used to overlearn material in a lot of my classes, most notably in middle school. I wouldn’t be satisfied with a chunk of material until I could recite it in my sleep, until I could instantly figure out how to solve a problem involving a concept at first glance, until it wove into my conversations, until I became part of it and it became part of me. To this date, I can label a diagram of the heart, derive the infinite series formula, and remember and explain Mathcounts problems I struggled with in middle school. I wish I could summon that motivation back again.
- I’ve come to admire two characteristics in people
- In terms of intelligence: People who can look at a new situation and instantly know what to do. First observed this with math problems, but it’s something that exudes from anyone who knows what they’re doing and isn’t afraid to show it
- In terms of personality: People who are unabashedly nice and authentic to the point they don’t have to worry about the haters.
- I reflected over UPenn’s 5 I’s over the summer to finish off the last few pages in my scratch paper notebook. Perhaps the most shocking thing I got out of it was that almost all of it was self-critical. I had very few positive things to say about myself. I hate coming across as prideful (though I get the impression that I often do), but there’s something deeply wrong with my self esteem if deep down inside, I have nothing positive to say about myself.
- My goal in writing these blog posts has been seeing how long I can hold down a specific idea. Not counting posts with details about my life, the record has still been “The Joy of Discovery,” nearing 1700 words. That was second semester sophomore year, during a period where I was lucky to even have time to write a post a month. Most of my other posts reach around 700-800 words before I run out of ideas or decide to break the post up into two.
- Instead of taking pictures, I’ve started taking audio recordings instead. Conversations, the atmosphere of a place, inspirational speeches, interesting sounds, seem to capture more of what I want to remember about an event rather than a photograph. But I’ve noticed a couple of differences
- If they can be properly compared, phone microphone quality is a lot worse than phone camera quality
- I’m comfortable with taking a picture of something/someone and showing it to someone else. Not so much with audio. It’s a lot more spontaneous, usually a lot more discreet, and a lot more personal. I feel like I’m handling a piece of someone’s soul when I play an audio recording of someone’s voice. Either society hasn’t appreciated audio documentation beyond the radio, or there’s something that simply appeals more in a visual scene.
- My four years of high school, my grades have definitely been dropping. Nothing terrible drastic, roughly 1- 1.5 points each year, but it’s surely happening. I don’t think it’s a matter of my classes getting “harder” so much as my motivation slipping. I knew freshman year that my grades were the highest they would ever be.
- The Harvard debate team was forced to think more logically because they had specific constraints. Similarly, this is why I tend to only trust my logic with math. Given the chance, I will tend to think as sloppily as the situation will allow. Math forces the logic to be impeccable, with no other option other than the right answer. Alternatively, if the material is interesting (see 6 and 7), I can convince myself to learn the content more adequately.
- I plugged a few of my blog posts into this thing: https://watson-pi-demo.mybluemix.net/. Depending on which posts I choose, I come out with a different personality each time.
On another note, I’m considering doing NaBloPoMo again. Nothing like a full schedule to motivate you to write.