Monday, August 13, 2007


Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.

I feel like I've been living in Slaughterhouse Five for at least the last week, if not longer. Haven't slept in the same bed more than two nights in a row for the past three weeks. Haven't slept vaguely the same hours, either. I've been eating and sleeping enough, but not regularly; with a lot of work to catch up on and no reason to knock myself back into a normal Boston-hour schedule after returning from Taiwan, I seem to have stepped into a quasi-bohemian mindset that features 3AM chocolate cake munchings, 6am tromps across the city, midnight bookstore-browsing trips, and a growing sense of walking around the world pushing the "view source" button that peels back the technological, psychological, and social constructs I'd normally take for granted.

I haven't figured out how to deal with this "Blaaah! World looks different!" feeling yet, so my mind is consequently quite a mess as it tries as many different ways of handling the new input as possible. Last time a paradigm shift of this magnitude happened, its effects were kept relatively in check by the fact that I was still a student and had classes to go to and homework to turn in. Last paradigm shift was of the "wait, I don't have to stay in engineering?" variety - it was the realization that loving education was okay, and that I could work in any field I wanted to. This shift is more like realizing that I don't have to work in any particular field at all - or rather, that what constitutes the possibilities for "work" and "field" are much, much broader than I'd previously imagined.

The previous two paragraphs probably sounded quite strange. Coherence is something I think I'll be struggling with a lot in the next 9 years - I'm taking the "your twenties are a time of personal growth!" adage very seriously, so any blog of mine is going to sound like a "download: mel.unstable.tzg" release for a while. Translation for the non-coders reading this blog, courtesy Wikipedia (with mild rewordings):

...the term unstable does not necessarily mean that there are
problems - rather, that enhancements or changes have been made to the
Mel that have not undergone rigorous testing and that more changes
are expected to be imminent. Friends and family of Mel are advised to use
the stable version of the Mel-interface if this weirds them out (consult man mel or just say "Man, Mel, I don't understand why you're doing X...") but are requested to test the unstable version if the new functionality is of interest that exceeds the risk that something might simply be confusing and chaotic for a while (for both Mel and you).
I've been experimenting with a (self-invented, as far as I know) TMLMT rubric for two weeks, and it seems to be working pretty well. Basically, every day I try to Teach something, Make something, Learn something, Move (physically - do something that's good for my body) and Think (take some time out to feed the meditative, spiritual, and otherwise contemplative part of me). I formerly tried Ben Franklin's 13 virtues, but found that list to be too long to remember - plus I had to rate how well I did something - whereas this is a handy "one-thing-for-each-finger" check-off. Hypothetically, I could get five colored rubber-bands or bracelets and slip them from one wrist to the other throughout the day if I really wanted to outsource my brain to external memory, but I've yet to find bracelets I actually enjoy wearing.

Particularly important right now is the "think" bit. Homeostasis tends to pull me into constant whirlwind sleepless action, and sometimes I need some time to step back and sort things out (which, for me, usually means "writing things down.") Being busy tends to make me less transparent, but that's exactly the time when I need to be told to stop, go outside, breathe, talk to someone, start making sense again.

I think blogging will become especially important to me in the next few years. In the absence of a fixed physical location, semistable job, and coherent external input in general, the best I can do is to try to produce some coherent, constant stream of output in an attempt to make sense of it all and to make it all make sense to those who are watching. If you're confused and you broadcast it loud and clear, at least others can see, make suggestions, and keep you from stampeding off cliffs. (In other words, given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.)

I can start by going through my Wikipedia notes and writing about what the hell happened to me in Taiwan. (Short answer: lots. mindblowingly lots.) I'm also tinkering with dokuwiki as my eventual all-in-one blog/projects/notes solution, though I won't move cleanly on until the start of September or so. (Really nice codebase & devel community, though. Mmm. I was really tempted to use Semantic Mediawiki, but decided somewhat regretfully that it was overkill and that flat textfiles were my friend. This parenthetical aside is devolving into a technology drool-fest, so I shall end it.)

Sorry about that. My mind tends to wander. But if there's an overarching theme to this post at all, it's that my mind likes to wander, that it's at its strength when spinning off on wild, random, exploratory tangents - and that I'm going to be trying every way I can think of to feed that talent while harnessing its powers for Awesome and still remaining able to interact comprehensibly with the world at large.

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