-- A blog maintained by a pessimistic over-confident High-School kid.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Batch Reading - Active Improvement

I do not know why, but around March to June of every year, I always get a drive for reading. Three years ago, I got into the habit with the Mortal Instruments series. Two years ago, Ayn Rand's fiction book the Fountainhead got me into her philosophy books. A year ago, Seth Godin's This is Marketing inspired me to go through tens of self-help books. And ultimately, this year, my desire to become better equipped for a "mature" life drove me to go through blog posts, Ted talks, manifestos, programming guidelines, and award-winning fictions. It seems like each of my years is a repeating existential crisis of wanting to achieve more, and somehow, I am gaining understanding each time I go through this process. While most of my other blogs are repeating thoughts in my head that grew irresistible to write about, this one is a one of mystery. I see a pattern of personal growth, and I can't figure the cause of it.

Similar to my chopped up periods of reading, most of my skills, including basketball, coding, gaming, drawing, and almost everything else are improved from chopped up pieces of training. I would do things pertaining to one skill for a month or so, and then drop it for the following month. And every time I return to my skill, I get extensively better at it. In the past, I understand it as an unconscious yet consistent development within my brain, but looking at it now, it seems like the improvement comes from how I am free to revisit the topic with a new perspective each time. I see people stuck in certain phases in life all the time, insisting that they had mastered their speciality when, in reality, they rank low in the mass. It happened to me too, even when I am openly listening to constructive criticism about my coding skills, I insisted that I am a borderline expert at coding. One summer, my Dad openly said that I still got much too learn, and while I completely agree with the statement, I think I am closer to being a professional than I actually am. I was stuck in a trap of comparing myself to sub-par programmers that I know of from the internet. To my credit, there are a lot of programmers at my level that, with a little bit of luck, are making a perfectly fine living. But what I had mastered was just the tip of the iceberg, and I hadn't take into account all the researchers, specialities and consultants that do not have a youtube channel. My personal experience with how each question of mine is just a 6-minute tutorial away gave me confidence that I can code anything. And while I might be able to code a lot of stuff, the quality lacks in a way that I am not optimizing everything. The solution to the problem is a half-a-year break from coding, and I came back with an understanding of the importance to optimize performance and cleanliness in code. While there are a lot more categories that I am lacking at in coding, in my limited field of vision now, optimization is what I see.

A TED talk that I watched recently very effectively put this phenomenon of the plateauing of skills into words. It outlined that there are two different types of work modes: one being "the performance zone", and another one being "the learning zone". It takes us an effort, whether conscious or not, of reaching over our limits to get better at a skill. This act of reaching is where we learn, and where risks are involved. The problem with modern life is that we are constantly trapped in doing performance task, and being stuck at a skill level, a phase. And tying this back to my chopped up pieces of learning, it relates to that each time I get back to a skill, I am doing something foreign. But this became foreign skill had already its existent in my memory, making my reach of a better attempt in the past. By freeing myself from remembering the exact details of a certain skill, I had to reassemble it all together again, making it an act within the learning zone. According to the talk, the interval nature of my improvement does not have to be spread out. The presenter theorizes that we can go into a learning zone just by actively trying. While I cannot picture myself improving at basketball by analysing my hand gesture as it is more involved with intuition. But at least for things of a more definite nature such as coding, I could start improving without the half-a-year-long breaks.

Adapting to this idea, I had lately started to document my loose thoughts. As I said at the beginning of the blog, my blogs are places where my more sounding thoughts get recorded, but small sparks of inspiration mostly get lost. To actively try to improve my thought process, I added a section called "Thought Bubble" into my digital notebook to jot down incomplete thoughts. While some of the thoughts are thousands of words long and would over an effort of a blog post, it gives me a place to harshly write down speeding thoughts. I just had to thank how my daily schedule now is flexible enough to allow for the disappearance of chucks of hours that service the recording of these thoughts.

Thinking more each day make time flies by. And while I am feeling smarter, I feel more and more cliche, even when writing this exact sentence. I need to stress to myself the importance to maintain my normal life of practical work, and not step into a path of pure philosophy. While I would welcome a cringy thought experiment to take place, it is scary to not produce work. I had, again and again, got defeated by the resistance from producing work. I have to remind myself that an hour-long thinking session cannot be count as a productive action.

I have officially run out of artwork to display.
I am ashamed of myself.
But no worries, I will get back to it very soon.

Each of the titles is a cliche in itself 

Friday, May 15, 2020

speedstor | 0x(2)12192259

speedstor 0x(2)12192259  by Aldrin

Drown in feelings I do not know what to do
Flood with longing I could not keep it at bay
Thought one to one that (it's/that’s) the end of my flu
But your glow is never grey
Your cruel brews fuel but soothes
Steps ahead makes your ray
Bracing change and follow suit
Could I be supported by your sane

Lean(ing) on you,
Our future’s bright
We can fight for our view and let them cite our hights
Then settle down (to/for) a simple life
Why would you refuse


Am I following the motions
Repeating the process again
Am I lost in my attractions
My descriptions of you are bain

I am (shortsighted/inconsiderate) in my vision
Am I bound to make a stain
(Best to keep me frozen)
How (should/do) I respond to this frame
(Before, ) I’ve said this devotion

Lean(ing) on you,
Our future’s bright
We can fight for our view and let them cite our hights
Then settle down (to/for) a simple life
Why would you refuse


Symmetry along with contrast
You do what I would
You come in with a blast while I’m learning how to cast
We wouldn’t bide by loot
Run miles on foot
But you will definitely last


Lean(ing) on you,
Our future’s bright
We can fight for our view and let them cite our hights
Then settle down (to/for) a simple life
Why would you refuse

Or would you

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Thoughts on "Where the Crawdads Sing" - Delia Owens

In getting back into the habit of reading again, I picked up the book Where the Crawdads Sing. Fiction books have the power to help one experience years of living within hours, and this book is definitely one of them. As books are the embodiment of fast-forwarded life experiences, I feel entitled to record my gained understanding and the lessons I learned. And as this book contains a very big twist in the end, I would avoid spoilers as much as possible.

Structured as a semi-detective story, this book is about the narrative of the main character, Kya, dealing with the harshness of life and going through stages of denial. She was given false hope repeatedly from age 5 and throughout her teenage years. She was not gifted with education and is bullied on the first and only day of school. Her development in the book signifies the outcome of hard work and determination. Her dedication to her interest brings her to extraordinary feats, and her analytical mind empowers her to the description of "prowess"chapter 54 (my new favourite word).

One of the themes of the book is survival. It is expanded into sub-categories of achieving fitness, cultural incompetence, and the battle between individuals. In the use of foreshadowing, the scene of conflict tangling with competence is shown repeatedly. There is the survival of the fittest in the wild, the juxtaposition of the rural(competent) and urban, and revenge. The central message that the author is trying to convey is that life is cruel and it is necessary for us to rise up to face troubles. While our urban society hides us from the rule of the wilderness where you get killed when you are not alert, the rule persists with only the consequences reduced to being unsuccessful. In the wilderness before villages and urban cities, everyone is for themselves. It is completely the concept of capitalism where you are in charge of your own success, so when danger comes, there will be no police or unemployment benefits. This book applies this concept to the civilized world and brings out the consequences of incompetency. When being unwareful of our surroundings in our current society, the outcome is that we fall behind in school or work. The penalty of procrastinating which equivalate to not protecting oneself in the wild is being unsuccessful. The dull reality of being unsuccessful as a consequence is tuned down from the death we had before. It indirectly shows how some people in society strive to improve and be "fit" to society, others prevail and fall behind.

An animation I did a while back. I haven't been
drawing lately, so I have nothing to post

One of the striking scenes in the book is the comparison made between people within the court and animals in the marsh. She connected the situation in court to animals of different tiers: "Kya saw similarities in (the marsh's and the court's) nature. The judge, obviously the alpha male, was secure in his position, so his posture was imposing, but relaxed and threatened as the territorial boar. Tom Milton, too, exuded confidence and rank with easy movement and stance...The prosecutor, on the other hand, relied on wide, bright ties and broad-shouldered suit jackets to enhance his status"start of chapter 51. The dynamic shift in power between individuals always fascinated me, and it shows the consequence of not developing your skill in the civilized world. While an incompetent individual might still be well-off, he/she will be crushed under in situations. It details the features of the unforgiving wild onto our civilized world. In our current state in the world, we pride for understanding and sympathy for the weak, and it shades us from the Earth's fundamental feature of harshness. We should be reminded that this tolerant world that we live in is built upon us dominating other species, where inferior species become endangered, and then extinct. The narrative of sympathy for the inferior species is lacklustre when compared to the amount set for humans of you and me. The harsh environment once motivated us, and now that it is strived away (for good, for greatness), we should be reminded of it and stay motivated.

A gif animation referenced from Stephen Curry's
method of dribbling into a shot

Setting this book in the single light of power dynamics and survival is unfair because, in reality, it is much more colourful than that. On top of the theme of survival, there is the motif of love, hope, care, overcoming struggles and much more. It offers a roller-coaster ride of a plot as it narrates the ups and downs in the life of the main character, Kya. The humble beginnings of Kya paint the picture of defeating the impossible, and the ending would surely leave you in awe, disbelief, and immediate understanding. If it is not for the brilliance of the structure of pace within the novel, I would not have cared to enclose the plot as I had not before. It had been an excellent read.

The author of the book, as being a biologist, integrates the life lessons ought to be learnt from biology into our urban culture. Reading it is absorbing the condensed knowledge biology has to offer to daily life. This being her first fiction novel tells the brilliance biology can offer.

P.S: I like how my kindle's battery can hold on for the reading of two whole books, I read:

  • The Romantic Manifesto - by Ayn Rand
  • Half of a Yellow Sun - by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  And I also like how I finished two books within 20 sittings ;)

And, I also wrote this for 2 hours to 1:22 AM. There goes my sleeping schedule