Okay, so this used to be a terribly long-winded description of me and what I like and other such nonsense. I got kinda bored of looking at it, though, so I've decided to replace it with another long-winded description that makes even less sense.
If that makes you go WTF, then you're on the right track. Keep going.
Warning that should be statutory, but isn't: Pay no attention to what you see here. Like most people, my view of myself is rather unique. What you need - and all you're ever going to be able to get - is the perspective of someone on the outside looking in.
Now that that's out of the way, let's dance. Since I feel slightly staccato, I'm going to express myself in something close to sound-bite format. I'll also fail miserably at doing this. Feel free to disregard the overwhelming stench of gravitas in the upcoming sections.
I've been a grad student for nearly a year now. This last year has been the happiest of my whole life. Cliched as it sounds, I'm finally doing what I was born to do. The feeling of fulfillment that comes from that is beyond words, so I'm not going to try to articulate it.
Well, actually I do end up mentioning it later, but keep it quiet.
I've noticed that my life is governed by themes - strange topics of interest, characteristic feelings, even something to do with intellectual ambience, if there is such a thing. They suddenly appear, and then for a while, I perceive related patterns everywhere. There's this eerie feeling that the universe is maneuvering behind the scenes to guide my attention. Everywhere I turn, the same set of themes leap out at me, leading gradually but flawlessly to the next set, one blending softly casual into the other. Eventually, the original theme is subsumed into my character to some extent, and becomes part of the background music of my existence.
The prevailing theme in my life at the moment seems to be perseverance to an insane degree. As a kind of reaction to my sudden increase in workload, I've acquired a strong streak of ambition and determination this last semester. I can almost understand how those chaps in Bollywood movies get shot a dozen times, and then force themselves to get up and beat the shit out of the bad guy. It manifests in my life in strange ways - my own insistence on putting in an insane amount of time to get something exactly right, a crazy feeling that I'm some kind of juggernaut that cannot be stopped, movies on YouTube, books I read...everywhere. It's like I'm looking at the universe through strange glasses that highlight some things very very strongly.
I've also begun to see glimpses of the next theme - I suspect it will be something related to fear and confidence. After overcoming a weird fear of speaking to an audience a few weeks ago, I've almost started enjoying the experience. It's amazing what you can do if you defy your fear. Grad school has finally allowed me to indulge one of my deepest drives - to toss aside the unimportant things and concentrate only on what really matters. That's probably why I love it so much.
One more theme in incubation - the importance of pushing oneself to the limits, with determination that borders on psychosis. And that always brings to mind the Bene Gesserit aphorism about dancing along the edge of a sword. Also something about cellular automata, and how life seems to flourish on the border between order and chaos. There's another theme for you.
As you've probably figured out by now, my mind is a strange place.
If you that hasn't occurred to you yet, then *your* mind must be a strange place.
Yeah, I know I do too much abstraction. Goes with being a grad student, I guess. Can't look at anything without trying to find underlying principles and cutting away the irrelevant cruft. And writing a paper about it, of course.
When I was a kid, I used to make a big hue and cry about my 'superior intellect', without having done anything to deserve it. Now I've done several things that justify that declaration, and ironically, I find that I no longer care to broadcast it to the world. Some people will probably argue that merely talking about it here is a form of trumpeting it far and wide. Maybe it is, but I'm not so naive as to believe that one should be blind to one's greatest qualities in the name of modesty. Hell, unwarranted modesty can be terribly dangerous.
I used to be religious, believing in god and all the associated mythology that goes with it. To the disappointment and dismay of some friends and family (many of whom don't really know this), I'm one of those people who find it impossible to take things on faith, especially when they're amenable to scientific inquiry. It's probably the inevitable outcome of my fundamental conviction that the universe is a wondrous place, but one that is comprehensible, and not subject to the whims of a god who doesn't merit any recognition. Gods that want worship and demand things from humans aren't really gods - they're just superpowered megalomaniacs that reflect the tyrants of their time.
I don't deny that religion can be a source of inspiration and guidance for many people. It's just that it doesn't do it for me - I make my own meaning out of life, rather than follow that of ancient Middle Eastern tribes. I can still remember the old days when I used to think that religion gave me some kind of purpose, that I really cared about it all, and that I didn't feel furious resentment when prayer times interrupted my exploration of something interesting. Even then I could hear the contemptuous laughter of a certain part of my mind, jeering at my attempts to force myself to believe that it was true. I have an interesting relationship with that demi-personality - it sees the truth about myself with harsh clarity, and doesn't pull any punches when it judges me. Very useful, but occasionally painful. Always rewarding.
The only god that I really revere is my ideal vision of what I could be - what I would be if I had no fear, and had unleashed all my potential.
I occasionally feel alone and isolated, but I'm also highly optimistic, and unjustifiably happy. Someday, a theme that addresses loneliness will pop up, and that'll get fixed too. Hopefully there's a prospective goddess out there somewhere.
From one of David Zindell's books:
"All rules and boundaries must someday be broken. How else can we go beyond ourselves? A thallow chick must break out of his egg, but this does not mean that the shell is without value."
Yeah, what he said.
Programming, algorithms, mathematics, arguing about stuff, reading - especially science fiction and occasionally even fantasy.
I'm currently reading Douglas Hofstadter's classic tome - Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.
I read all sorts of crazy stuff, and if I start enumerating the list I'm never going to stop. So I'll mention a few that come immediately to mind. Don't expect the list to be exhaustive.
Dune - all 6 books, and even the new 7th one (This is *the* greatest SF saga ever written).
The Golden Age Trilogy (Amazing post-Singularity SF).
The Vorkosigan Saga (Phenomenal space opera).
The Culture Novels, by Iain M Banks.
The Language Instinct.
The Computational Beauty of Nature.
The Pleasures of Counting.
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
This will probably cause some people to keel over, but I love Cormen et al's classic text, Introduction to Algorithms.
How I'll rule:
Letting people run things themselves, and stepping in occasionally to brutally dispatch those who get out of line.
Competitive programming - I'm a regular on TopCoder, and I had a fun trip to the ACM World Finals in Tokyo this March.
I almost never iron my clothes. Too darn lazy. Plus no one seems to notice. Or maybe they do, but crumpled cargos are probably some kind of fashion statement. Who cares?
I've got myself conditioned to automatically drink 8 glasses of water a day with very little conscious involvement.
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