700 Miles of Fear

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Note: I seem to have developed a bad habit of wasting far too much time writing rambling, introspective, and vaguely depressing things with the general idea that I could use them on my blog. But then I always choose not to post them because they’re no good, or I never quite finish them, or they are a bit too disconnected and jumbled, or they’re too dismal. But I figured I ought to post at least one of them sometime, just so that I could somewhat justify the time I’ve spent on this kind of thing. The following blog post was written between classes early this afternoon, on a sheet of notebook paper that I borrowed from my calculus folder. I can’t say it’s completely unedited, because I did reword it a little as I typed it up, but it’s pretty close to what I originally wrote. If it sounds like stream-of-consciousness, that’s because that’s exactly what it is.

I think that all writers- amateur or professional, poet or novelist, experienced or aspiring- has a few favorite literary passages or lines that they wish they’d written. I know I have a few, and one such line comes from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”.  It goes, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”.  I know, that’s just one short line out of a long and complex poem, and it’s silly to single out those eleven syllables as being particularly profound. But it’s such a remarkably accurate description of life.

T.S. EliotIn general, I am not a big Eliot fan; in fact I resent him a little for being so famous that I’ve had to read “The Wasteland” a bajillion times. But there are things he wrote that I like, and that one line is chief among them. I could use this opportunity to make a few comments about other interesting things I’ve noticed or been told about my favorite Eliot lines, but I’m not going to do that. In my opinion, the less said about Eliot’s poetry, the better, because much of it is actually quite self-explanatory. Yes, there are many literary allusions and clever metaphors and a lot of symbolism that a literature class could fill up any amount of time trying to analyze. But the central meaning is something so basic and yet so hard to put into words that there is no way to say it better than the line itself does. The coffee spoon line is the prime example. Maybe that’s what I often dislike about Eliot; I love metaphors and allegories that translate neatly into literal language, resulting in a beautifully mathematical symmetry between reality and poetry. But I can appreciate this different kind of metaphor, which isn’t really a metaphor because there’s simply no other way to say it. It’s very true that life is measured out by coffee spoons. (And other seemingly trivial daily things)

roadThis morning, I counted. I counted how many days I have left before graduation,  how many of those days have classes, how many total classes I have left, how many exams I have to take, how many papers I have to write, and how many miles I have left to drive in that time. That last sum was about 700. It’s a frightening number because it’s so large and my car is so rickety. In the eleven months that I’ve had it, it has broken down numerous times and had several repairs, and there are several other repairs that it ought to have, if I could afford them. Every time I drive that car for any distance, no matter how short, it’s a nerve-wracking experience. And I have to drive a lot. Over the course of the last few months, it has gradually filled my life with a general sense of paranoia and dread that I sometimes forget was originally associated specifically with car problems.

booksAfter I counted, I stacked up my books and spent the last couple of hours before class reading from them alternatively. Many of these books and the concepts they discuss have played much too prominent a role in my life lately, and I was in no frame of mind to put the level of focus into each one that they all required. The ideas all jumbled together in my brain- the theorems of linear algebra, the disorienting randomness of postmodern fiction, the masterfully ironic tone of Douglas Adams. (The latter, actually, is one thing that I am not reading for school, but rather of my own volition) There somehow seemed to be common themes between all of them. A sarcastic attitude towards advertising, a few concepts regarding number of dimensions, something about technology and its relationship with people. And somehow they all combined into something very profound that had something to do with something very important, but I wasn’t quite sure what. This is the nature of liberal arts. Everything ceases to mean anything because anything can mean everything. Perhaps it’s all my own fault for taking Postmodernism in my last semester. I don’t know whether or not it makes any sense. To me, nothing makes sense right now, and it won’t make sense for another 700 miles.

Then there are the voices that speak in multivariable integrals. I noticed it one day when I was so tired that I was doing my calculus homework in my sleep while I was awake. In the next room, there were numerous people talking, saying all kinds of things all at once, and I thought that if you added up the area covered by their conversation, one voice at a time- each in terms of the ones you hadn’t done yet, because they were all talking to each other, of course- you could get a single, simple, numerical solution out of all the chaos. But that’s silly, if for no other reason, because it makes no sense to think of other people’s voices as steps in a calculus problem when I’m something different (I’m not even sure what) just because I’m the one who’s not talking.

puzzleFor the last couple months, at any given time, I’ve had a jigsaw puzzle on my dresser that’s never been finished. Every couple weeks, I almost finish one, but there’s always a piece or two missing, and so I put it away and start another one without ever quite finishing the previous puzzle. I’m not particularly prone to losing things; puzzle pieces are really the only things that I have a tendency to misplace, which makes the obvious metaphor even more poignant and a little disturbing. The missing pieces invariably do show up eventually, usually just a day or two later. But by then, they do me no good, because I’m working on a different puzzle and am searching for different pieces.

mileageThat’s what really scares me about the 700 miles. I’m not quite naïve enough to think that a college diploma is the metaphorical last step in a long calculus problem or the last piece in a big jigsaw puzzle. I am well aware that my life will continue to be measured out by coffee spoons after I graduate from college. The next 700 miles of my life don’t lead to a finish line, or even to a place where I can stop and take a break for a little while. They just lead up to an interesting landmark mileage number. And then I have to go on driving just as much in the same rickety old car, both metaphorically and literally.

The Attack of the Evil Interdimensional Psychic Trains

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10:00 PM

Cups of coffee: 0

It’s horrible just how many all-nighters I’ve pulled this semester. What makes it even worse is that the real reason this is necessary is just that the middle of the night is the only time I can get a moment’s quiet. My life is essentially characterized by an incessant cacophony of train whistles, airplanes, sirens, people’s voices, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, running faucets, hair dryers, loud footsteps, and slamming doors. The lawn mowers are the worst. The train whistles are really high on the list, too, and they unfortunately are the one that is still present in the middle of the night. But at least the noise level goes down enough that it’s technically possible to get work done, which simply isn’t true during the daytime. So I’ve gotten into the habit of pulling all-nighters at least once a week, and I think I’m actually in danger of literally going insane. If for no other reason, I’m looking forward to graduation because after that, I’ll be able to sleep occasionally.

 

11:00 PM

Cups of coffee: 1

As long as I’m going to be up all night, I decided that this would be a delightful opportunity to do my laundry. Once upon a time, (until about a month ago, in fact) Saturday mornings were laundry time, but now the universe is falling apart and laundry time has become a movable occurrence. I cannot shake the conviction that Monday night is not a time during which one really ought to be doing laundry, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do laundry last Saturday morning because I really, really didn’t feel like it, and so it is necessary that I do laundry early this week. So I put my laundry in a laundry bag and headed to the laundry room, only to find to my dismay that washer number nineteen had someone else’s laundry in it. Now, there’s nothing particularly significant about the number nineteen, (in fact, I happen to intensely dislike the number nineteen) but there is something significant about washer number nineteen. That significant thing is that I always use washer number nineteen. Except sometimes when it’s full of someone else’s clothes, and so I use washer number seventeen instead. But this time, washer number seventeen had someone else’s clothes in it, too. I settled for washer number seven, but this is not the way it should be. This is an even greater problem than the new uncharacteristically mobile nature of laundry time. In fact, the horror of this situation is comparable (although still significantly less) than the trauma of finding someone else in my favorite parking space. For the record, I am a Lutheran and a ballet dancer and I’m OCD which means that nobody had better take my parking spot. When they do, bad things happen, and considering that I’m the one to whom they happen, other people don’t necessarily have an incentive to stay away from my parking spot, which is really a problem. Granted, my parking spot has only been taken from me once in the last several months, but it was a very traumatic experience and will probably haunt me for as long as I live.

 

1:15 AM

Cups of coffee: Technically still one. I just poured the second cup.

This is a book I greatly enjoyed, and its title is very relevant to my life at the moment.

This is a book I greatly enjoyed, and its title is very relevant to my life at the moment.

I have no idea what has happened to the last three hours. Well, actually I do; they were killed by homework, a fate which I fear I may end up sharing. But while they were in the process of slowly and pitifully losing their battle against the overwhelmingly powerful army of my math homework, I was not aware how many of them had fallen. And now the three of them lie lifeless on the battle field, and I sadly stand here staring at their remains and thinking of all the potential they had. I could have used those three hours to read interesting books or to write Doctor Who fan fiction or to play many games of Settlers of Catan or to do any number of other delightful things. But instead, they gave their lives so that I might do my calculus and linear algebra homework, and indeed, they died in vain, for I still don’t understand math. Over the course of this semester, there have been times when I’ve hated calculus but been okay with linear algebra, and there have been times when I’ve hated linear algebra but been okay with calculus. At the moment, I’m not on very friendly terms with either of them. But if I had to choose one as a favorite over the other, I’d go with linear algebra. In calculus, I understand the concepts, but I somehow invariably get the wrong answers anyway, and I have no idea why. In linear algebra, I don’t really understand the concepts, which completely explains why I’m not always getting the right answers. It’s a much less frustrating situation, because it implies the possibility that there shall be a time in the future, perhaps the very near future, that I will understand the concepts and will find correct answers to the problems. Or maybe not. Because that’s just not the kind of thing that happens in my life.

 

2:30 AM

Cups of coffee: 2

I got this picture from Google, but it looks a lot like the train tracks I remember from when I was little.

I got this picture from Google, but it looks a lot like the train tracks I remember from when I was little.

I hate trains. This is a sad turn of events, for I once loved trains. That is, I loved toy trains. The wooden train track set that my siblings and I once played with, which is presumably still in a box in my parents’ garage, was a source of much entertainment and many good memories. I have not had many experiences involving real trains, although last year I read a very fascinating book on the history of the Milwaukee Railroad. That may sound like a somewhat dull subject, but I greatly enjoyed the book for two reasons. First, it was extremely well written, and I found myself admiring the prose in a way that one does not normally do when reading a book about the history of a railroad company. Second, as it turns out, the history of the Milwaukee Railroad is a riveting tale involving many interesting personalities, some very complex controversies, and probably a few illegal dealings. Unfortunately, I do not remember the title of the book and cannot specifically recommend it, but I do wish to express a general recommendation for books about the history of the Milwaukee Railroad. Nonetheless, I hate trains, for they seem bent upon preventing me from accomplishing anything tonight. The train whistles have been going constantly all night long, without so much as pause. I’ve been keeping track; it’s literally true that the train whistles haven’t stopped since I got back on campus hours ago. This has also been the case every other time I’ve tried to use the middle of the night to do homework. In fact, I have had this same problem for my entire college career, although it has been worse since I’ve lived in my current room, which has a window that doesn’t close and that looks out over downtown. It makes no sense for train whistles to blow constantly, so I can only come to the conclusion that this is a deliberate conspiracy aimed specifically at me. Unfortunately, it seems to be working, because I can’t do this anymore and will probably now have to drop out of college, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be graduating in less than four weeks. I can only imagine how odd it will sound when I try to explain to future prospective employers that the reason I don’t have a college degree is that the trains were out to get me. Alternatively, I could make an attempt to stay in college despite the train conspiracy, in which case “train whistles” will be the cause of death listed on my death certificate. This, I can only imagine, will both baffle and amuse many people. Many years from now, historians will have long
arguments as they try to guess what exactly happened to me. I will become famous as the only person to have ever died of sheer annoyance.

 

4:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

This was the episode I saw.

This was the episode I saw.

They say that one of the main purposes of sleep- and of dreams in particular- is to organize and arrange new information. It’s an essential part of the learning process. Unfortunately, I’m too busy learning to sleep. This is a problem; college is making me stupid. Fortunately, I’ve recently come up with something that helps a little. Sometimes, watching an episode of Doctor Who is a reasonable substitute for dreaming. I tend to dream in Doctor Who fan fiction anyway, so the only actual difference is that it isn’t my own brain that’s making up this stuff. (Admittedly, that’s a pretty significant difference, but I don’t really have a better option.) Also, Doctor Who only takes about 45 minutes, while sleeping takes a few hours. And Doctor Who involves wearing earphones and deliberately blasting noises into my eardrums, which temporarily block out the train noises. (Which, unfortunately, I can now hear again. This is ridiculous; it’s been at least eight hours since they’ve been quiet.) In case it isn’t obvious by now, trains are not my friends. I prefer weeping angels. Maybe, when I go downstairs to get my laundry in just a minute, there will be weeping angels down there, and they’ll catch me and send me back to a time before trains existed. That would be nice.

 

4:30 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

Pictured: An ordinary, harmless train

Pictured: An ordinary, harmless train

I have a theory. As you may have guessed, it involves trains. My theory is based upon two observations. For one thing, I don’t know where the train tracks are. In the course of my daily life, I drive a total of more than 200 miles each week, and I never ever cross train tracks. Yet these trains must pass quite close to where I am, since they’re so loud and disruptive. The other observation is that I rarely hear anyone else mention or complain about these trains. Instead, other people mention and complain about the birds. It’s true that the birds on campus are fairly loud and have a tendency to sing at all hours of the night. I’ve been hearing them for the past three or four hours now. But I am very baffled as to why someone would be bothered by the sweet, melodious tunes of a little bird when they could be bothered by the loud, mechanical bellow of a train whistle. Evidently, other people simply do not hear these train whistles, which is quite odd, considering the fact that they are absurdly loud and unbearably frequent. So I ask myself, why is it that there are trains without train tracks, and that other people can’t hear these trains? The answer is obvious. Well, not really, but I’m going to go with it anyway. These trains exist in an alternate set of dimensions. They are evil interdimensional trains that cross the void into my own dimensions for the sole purpose of antagonizing me, and their whistles of doom have properties that pull IQ points out of my brain, depriving me of intellectual capacity. That’s why I can’t ever get stuff done adequately. Maybe I should explain this to all of my professors and see what they have to say about it.

 

6:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

sunshine‘Tis approaching sunrise, that time of day when the sunshine reappears on the horizon and says in its cheery early morning voice, “Good morning! I’ve just gotten back from having a lovely day on the other side of the world, during which time I provided light and warmth to billions of people and made all the plants grow and brought smiles to many faces. What about you? What have you done in the last few hours?” To which I respond, in my grumpy early morning voice, “Be quiet, sunshine. I’ve done my best, and it isn’t my fault it hasn’t worked out. Don’t criticize me unless you yourself have experienced the plague of evil psychic interdimensional trains stealing your brain from you.”

 

7:00 AM

Cups of coffee: 3 ½

At last, there is some progress being made on my linear algebra homework. In fact, I have suddenly found that I’m nearly halfway done. That’s after working on it for the past nine hours, and it’s due in about five and a half hours. Um, never mind, I guess this isn’t such a good thing after all. Especially considering that I have other homework to do during that time, too. Meanwhile, the city has woken up and the train whistles have been joined by their friends, the ambulance sirens and a lawn mower. Meanwhile, I’m pondering how ironic it is that I once loved the song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. On an unrelated note, I think it’s about time for me to take a short break to get breakfast and, more importantly, coffee.

 

8:00 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4

My question is what the trains want with my brain anyway. I mean, they’re presumably from some planet with advanced knowledge and technology; otherwise, they wouldn’t be capable of mind theft. I doubt there’s any information in my brain that would benefit them in any way. Even I am not quite paranoid enough to imagine that an alien race would do things to mess with my mind for no other reason than to be evil to me. There must be some motive. If I can come up with a good one, this could be the basis for a decent science fiction story. I would call it “Train of Thought”.

 

9:30 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4 ½

I posted this on tumblr the other day for the purpose of complaining about math.

I posted this on tumblr the other day for the purpose of complaining about math.

I was finally starting to think I was actually going to get this algebra homework done, and even have a couple of hours to spare for other stuff, like, you know, calculus or something. But this last problem clearly just isn’t going to happen.  I hate eigenstuff so much because I have no idea what the camaduka any of it means, which probably is due to the fact that I was in Louisville, Kentucky, presenting a paper, during the time when the rest of my linear algebra class was learning what the camaduka eigenthingies are. Considering the fact that this was a couple weeks ago, you’d think I’d have caught up by now, but the book makes no sense and my notes from subsequent classes contain contradictions. I have come to the conclusion that eigenstuff, like trigonometric functions, have no purpose or definition and exist solely for the purpose of making mathematics more confusing. At some point, some evil genius realized that he was so much cleverer than everybody else that he could make up random things that sounded like math, and everyone would believe him, and some people would even pretend to understand it, just so that they could feel clever. And thus was born a branch of mathematics that doesn’t actually exist. Either that, or I’m too stupid to understand it, and I don’t like that theory much.

 

10:45 AM

Cups of coffee: About 4 ½

The morning has more or less come to an end, and I’m about to go to class. Therefore, I shall now wrap up this blog post with the acknowledgement that I have succeeded in surviving one more night without having my brain taken over by a sinister extraterrestrial psychic train. I can still hear them even now, but their power seems to be diminished slightly in the daytime, or maybe it’s just that I can’t hear them as clearly over all the daytime noises. At any rate, the fact remains that I still have at least some remnant of my mind more or less intact. One more alien invasion survived.

Homework, Coffee, Settlers of Catan, and Color-Coded Stuff: A Tale of a Night When I Didn’t Sleep

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9:39 PM

Cups of coffee: 0

M&Ms: 0

Homework done: None

Games of Catan: 0

 

The pattern is now familiar. I make a list of homework and a plan of attack, I get some M&Ms and make some coffee, and I sit down in front of my computer to document my sleepless night by writing random and rambling things about it, which shall then appear on my blog for all the world to see. Generally, these all-nighter chronicles begin with a remark that I wasn’t expecting to need to do this. That is certainly the case in this situation; I really thought that this semester wouldn’t call for any all-nighters. Academically, this is the lightest semester I’ve ever had. But around midterms, there’s no such thing as an academically light semester.

To be honest, this all-nighter probably isn’t necessary. I think that I could be ready to call it a night by about two O’clock or so. That’s really late for me, but it is much less drastic than pulling an all-nighter, especially since I don’t even need to be up at a reasonable time tomorrow. This semester, I only have morning classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and tomorrow is a Tuesday. I prefer to be up at a reasonable time anyway, but I could make an exception to that habit if I felt it was necessary.

But, after giving the matter due consideration, I decided to pull an all-nighter. That way, I have all the time I need and don’t have to feel stressed about finishing by a certain time. Besides, it gives me an excuse to eat M&Ms, and it makes it possible for me to take the time for Catan breaks. Anyone who has been reading my blog regularly may have noticed a bit of a pattern lately, which is that I have a tendency to mention Catan quite frequently.

 

I didn't win. Life is tough.

I didn’t win. Life is tough.

11:26 PM

Cups of coffee: 1

M&Ms: 10 blue, 7 red, 3 yellow, 3 brown, 8 green, 8 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus homework and one single-spaced page of a paper that shall be double-spaced later

Games of Catan: 1. I lost. It wasn’t fair. I totally should have won.

 

I would say that I was making pretty good time, except that I’m supposed to have three pages of this paper done by midnight. That is, I’m supposed to submit a three-page draft online. Three pages really isn’t a big deal, especially because this draft isn’t going to be graded. The professor is just having us submit it to make sure that we actually have that much done. Originally, the paper was going to be due tonight, but now it’s due on Wednesday instead. Compared to certain papers from last semester, this will be quick and easy; it’s basically a paper on a project that was already presented in class today. But I’m a very slow writer. For me, any paper is a long paper. That’s a little ironic, considering just how much writing I do, even outside of schoolwork. I’m also very slow at math. I’m slightly proud of myself for being done with my calculus homework for tonight, even though it was a pretty easy homework assignment. It was on the partial derivative. Partial derivatives are pretty simple. Incidentally, I really don’t seem to have many yellow M&Ms here. That’s a little odd.

 

11:57 PM

Cups of coffee: Still just one

M&Ms:  12 blue, 9 red, 4 yellow, 3 brown, 9 green, 9 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus and that draft of that paper

Games of Catan: Still just one. I still think I should have won.

 

An incredible and very good thing as happened. As I logged onto the thingy to submit my paper draft, nothing went wrong. This is rare indeed. My college’s internet system doesn’t like me; whenever I try to log into something that’s through the college, it won’t accept my password the first few times I try. Sometimes, I keep on trying over and over and over and never even get in because it eventually blocks my access because of so many failed attempts to enter the password. This is extremely frustrating. But it didn’t happen tonight, which is good because I submitted that draft at 11:54, which was cutting it pretty close. The uncool part is that it’s a pretty lousy draft, but that’s not a big problem. I still have two days to finish it and clean it up, and I’ll probably be able to dedicate a significant portion of tonight to it. But I do have to concentrate on my algebra homework for tomorrow first.

 

Here's why the number of green M&Ms isn't a whole number.

Here’s why the number of green M&Ms isn’t a whole number.

1:57 AM

Cups of coffee: one and a half

M&Ms: 21 blue, 10 red, 8 yellow, 4 brown, 12 ½ green, 10 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, that draft of that paper, and practically all of the computer assignment for linear algebra

Games of Catan: Just one. I really want to play another one now, but it isn’t time yet, according to my detailed plan for tonight.

 

Normally, whether I’m staying up all night or just staying up really late, I don’t actually leave my room in the middle of the night. Tonight was an exception, though, because the aforementioned computer assignment for linear algebra required a computer program that I can only use on the computers in the math building. So I headed over there a little after midnight and spent about an hour and a half on that assignment. It was weird being outside at that time of night; for once, it was quiet. There were a few people in the math building, because that happens to be a favorite late-night-studying place and all-nighter place. The assignment in question was actually pretty cool; it had to do with ciphering. I made a slight mistake on a cipher that I was supposed to be deciphering, so it came out correct except for one word in the middle, which said ‘rMOk’. This amused me greatly. But I redid the exercise anyway, and it came out with real words that time. I couldn’t quite figure out how to do the last exercise, though, so I’ll have to do that one later. I’ll probably do it right before class, because that’s the only way I’ll have a chance to ask the professor about it.

 

3:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 14 red, 14 yellow, 14 brown, 22 ½ green, 18 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, the draft for that paper, almost all of that algebra assignment, and the reading for my postmodernism class on Wednesday

Games of Catan: Still just one. But the time for game number two is near at hand. First, I have some algebra homework to do, but Catan is next after that.

 

Colored index cardsThere are five greatly awesome things that are within inches of my hands right now, all of which I have used quite a bit within the past few hours. The list is as follows: coffee, M&Ms, colored index cards, sharpies, and dry erase boards. A few minutes ago, I was surprised and confused to discover that my fingers were speckled, but a moment’s reflection enabled me to realize that this was because I had been using my fingers to erase numbers off of my dry erase board in order to replace them with other numbers. I love using dry erase boards to keep track of random and inconsequential details of my life. ‘Tis an entertaining thing to do. The appeal of colored index cards and sharpies, of course, is that they allow you to color code stuff, and color coded stuff is automatically cooler than non-color coded stuff. As a matter of fact, this point also can be extended to explain the coolness of M&Ms, and to relate to my interest in keeping track of M&M colors on my dry erase board. But coffee isn’t colorful. The coolness of coffee is independent of its visual appearance. Maybe someone should invent colored color-coded coffee. By definition, that would be incredibly cool, but I can’t actually think of a good purpose for it. I’ll have to think about this.

 

4:06 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 18 red, 14 yellow, 15 blue, 26 ½ green, 19 orange

Homework done: See above, plus just a couple algebra problems. But those couple that I did took a really, really long time.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. The website’s down, so that last game was aborted. That’s okay; it was making me really mad because I was losing really badly because nobody was rolling fours, sixes, eights, or nines, which just shouldn’t happen. People were basically just rolling tens every single time, which was very much in orange’s favor and did me no good at all. It was really unfair, especially since I had had a very similar problem in the previous game. Sometimes I wonder if other people have discovered ways to rig the dice on internet board games. It seems feasible, since those are just imaginary dice anyway. Presumably, if someone was really good with computers, they could figure out a way to trick the system. I’m not necessarily saying that’s what happens, I’m just saying that it sure seems like it.

 

101_9851Aside from the Catan problems which I have lamented in the previous paragraph, I’m also frustrated that this algebra homework isn’t going well. I still have several hours before class, but I don’t want to spend that entire time on this one homework assignment. At the rate I’m going, that’s how long it’ll take.

The weird thing is that it’s almost morning now, and it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I got back from dance class at around eight O’clock. It’s no wonder I always feel tired; apparently nights go faster than days, and so one doesn’t get a lot of sleep by sleeping through the night. But it wouldn’t be any better to sleep during the day, since I have just determined that nights aren’t long enough for doing homework.

The only solution I can think of is that days just need to be longer. Since the length of a day is determined by the amount of time it takes the Earth to revolve around its axis, we just need to slow the Earth’s rotation. I wonder what kind of an impact this would have on the Earth’s climate. Of course, in order to minimize these effects, it is important that the Earth’s orbit around the sun should not be changed at all. I think years are a pretty good length.

Although it would be nice if the number of days in a year was something a little nicer than 365 ¼. That’s such a random number. I would like to suggest 350. That’s close enough to the current year length that it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it’s easier to remember and it has more factors than 365 or 366. We could divide the 350-day year into ten months of 35 days each, which I think is a lovely length for a month to be, and ten is a nice number of months. And there will be exactly 50 weeks in a year, which would be convenient. It would also mean that holidays and birthdays would fall on the same day of the week every year, which is an appealing idea and would make it very easy to keep holiday traditions the same from year to year. And Advent would always be the same length, so Advent calendars could actually be Advent calendars instead of December calendars that call themselves Advent calendars.

It would seem that I don’t feel like returning to my algebra homework.

 

Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

5:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Three and a half. Now my coffee is gone, but that’s okay, because I’ll be able to go and get some more from the cafeteria in just a couple hours. It is worth noting that, on days when I sleep, I hardly ever drink more than one cup of coffee.

M&Ms: 43 blue, 22 red, 19 yellow, 24 brown, 38 ½ green, 26 orange. This is a final count; my M&Ms are now gone.

Homework done: All I have accomplished since the last update was another couple paragraphs on that paper.

Games of Catan: Two and a half.

 

It’s still dark and will be for a while, but I hear birds singing. Some people on campus complain about how loud the birds are, and I am puzzled by their annoyance. Personally, I don’t mind the birds nearly as much as I mind the leafblowers and lawn mowers, which are also noises that one hears almost constantly on this campus, and frequently right under one’s window when one is trying to do homework.

I think I’m going to go take a shower now. After that, I have to get back to my algebra homework, and then I’m allowed to take a break to check tumblr.

 

6:26 AM

Cups of coffee: Still at three and a half.

Homework done: See above, plus a couple more algebra problems.

Games of Catan: Still at two and a half.

 

I actually didn’t take a shower shortly after five, like I said I would, because my roommate was in the shower. In my residence hall, we have suites, and each suite has its own shower. I definitely prefer that to a communal bathroom, but it’s more than a little annoying hearing water running when I’m trying to do homework. It’s weird how some noises, like showers and squeaky doors, drive me crazy, while other noises, like ticking clocks and the strangely loud hum of my desk light, don’t bother or distract me at all.

Right now, I’m a little annoyed at the world in general for the fact that it’s morning. I don’t know where all the time went last night. I was expecting that I’d get more done. Now I still have homework to finish and stuff to study for midterm exams later this week, but I have lost the quiet and solitude that the nighttime offers.

 

7:34 AM

Cups of coffee: A little more than three and a half. I just came back from breakfast in the cafeteria, and I brought back a cup of coffee with me. Coffee is good stuff.

Homework done: None since I last gave an update, actually. Unless I’ve done a couple algebra problems since then. I can’t remember how many I’d done before that point. I’m still less than halfway done with what I have due today.

Games of Catan: Two and a half

 

This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

Today’s sunrise was disappointingly nonspectacular, but that’s okay, because now that the sun’s up, it’s a really beautiful day. Maybe it’s a bit chilly, but it’ll probably be really nice in a few hours.

Next on my agenda is the game I like to play where I use a random number generator to get twenty random digits and then try to memorize them in under a minute. Lately, I’ve only been doing this once a day. I’m on a good streak now, though. I’ve gotten a perfect score four out of the last five times. This may not be an achievement that means anything to anyone besides me, but I am rather proud of it. I just hope I can keep this streak going. Considering the fact that I haven’t sleep in over a day and I’m dead tired, my brain might not be at its best this morning, though.

I really wish I was playing Settlers of Catan right now. And I really wish I was winning.

 

9:13 AM

Cups of coffee: Four and a half

Homework done: More algebra, but I’m still not done with today’s assignment yet. I am actually making progress; it just really takes that long. Seriously, math is hard.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. But I’m getting close to my next Catan break. This excites me greatly.

 

Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn't look as pretty as it really is.

Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn’t look as pretty as it really is.

I just opened my window. It’s so ridiculously beautiful out there today. The thing about Alabama is that you never know from one minute to the next what the weather is going to be like. On Sunday, it was nice like this, but yesterday, it was gloomy and wet and rainy and just really ugly. But then it suddenly cleared up in the middle of dance class, very shortly before it got dark. And last night it was pretty chilly. As clear as the weather is now, there’s no telling whether it’ll rain again. For all I know, it could snow tomorrow.

I’m trying to remember what I normally write in my all-nighter blog posts. I seem to recall that they aren’t normally about the weather, but right now, the weather seems to be the most noteworthy thing. I tried to take a beautiful picture from my window so that I could show the beautiful weather, but it didn’t turn out looking very beautiful because most of the trees still don’t have leaves yet. I’m guessing that will happen soon.

 

10:28 AM

Cups of coffee: I’ve stopped at four and a half.

Homework: A couple more algebra problems

 

CatanOkay, I admit it, I just played several consecutive games of Catan; I don’t even know how many because I lost count. Most of those games were ridiculously short because one person got all the luck and won before I’d even had a chance to do anything. It was getting quite frustrating. I mean, here I’ve been awake all night, working long and hard in an effort to learn stuff. I feel like the universe at least owes me a few lucky rolls. So I just kept playing until I finally won.

And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put this on my blog, then I’m going to finish my algebra homework (which is finally almost done), and by then, it’ll probably be about time for me to get all my books and stuff together, go to the cafeteria for lunch, check my mailbox quickly, and then head off to math class.

 

 

Unedited Ramblings, Episode Two

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warningAs I pondered the many reasons that my life is meaningless and pointless, my mind latched onto the topic of how much I dislike a certain cliché. ‘Tis often said that one’s self-worth should not be defined by other people. This idea, which is related to the self-esteem trend, is used to negate the insecurities of people who feel disliked, to critique the opinions of people who feel lonely, and to undermine the unrealistic and superficial definition of love that is prevalent in pop culture. The last of these three objectives is the only one that has any merit, and even then, this cliché phrase addresses this cliché idea in the wrong way. I may or may not explain what I mean by that later. I can’t be sure at this point, since this is an unedited and unoutlined blog post. (Otherwise, it would be destined to forever remain an unfinished blog post, ‘cause I am kind of busy and stuff.)

disclaimerThe point of the aforementioned cliché about self-worth is that you shouldn’t worry about what other people think, that your relationships with other people don’t define who you are, and that you can live a good, happy, and purposeful life without other people being an important part of it. The first of those three points is often (but not always) true, depending upon the context. The second is kind of a philosophical point that you could argue either way; but I would argue that it’s false. I think that the relationships between family members, friends, classmates and coworkers, and even random strangers are so significant that it really is fair to say that a person is largely defined by their relationships with other people. After all, we describe people’s personalities based upon the way they interact with other people. The obvious example is that introversion vs. extroversion is one of the basic personality distinctions in every personality model with which I’m familiar. (Certainly in both the Myers-Briggs and the Big Five, which are the only two that are widely considered to be useful) Furthermore, most people’s moral values, opinions, interests, and tastes are at least strongly influenced by those of their family and friends. I realize that the “other people don’t define you” cliché doesn’t mean quite what I’m taking it to imply, but it seems to be that those implications are definitely present even if they aren’t intended. And then the third point mentioned above is definitely untrue. It’s meaningless to even try to argue that life is meaningful without other people.

triangle warningsI don’t mean that in a corny way. I’m not talking about emotional validation coming from the support and affection of other people. I’m questioning what it means to talk about meaning and purpose in life, and as far as I’m concerned, the answer to that question is pretty obvious. You accomplish meaningful things in life when your existence and your actions have a positive impact on the world around you. “The world around you”, of course, means other people. I suppose you could argue for the value of environmental work, but I would counter that even then, the reason it’s good to protect the environment is that it helps other people. Your personal talents, abilities, and situation in life will determine how exactly you’re supposed to make this impact, what degree of influence you will have, and how many people will be affected by you. But if nobody else is benefitting from you in any way, you’re either living only for your own enjoyment or accomplishing literally nothing at all. I don’t mean that to be a moralistic statement; I just think that it’s the obvious definition of purpose in life.

trianglesI didn’t intend to make that into a religious statement, either, and I feel like it’s necessary to point that out, because if this was supposed to have religious connotations, it would be terribly legalistic. The fact of the matter is that sin negates any good and purposeful things that we do, and that any individual’s net value is negative until you bring God’s forgiveness and salvation into the equation. And by Christ’s crucifixion, we are clothed in His righteousness, and it’s therefore no longer necessary for us to wonder whether we are living good and purposeful lives. That is, it’s not necessary for our salvation. That certainly doesn’t mean that we’re actually supposed to spend the rest of our lives doing nothing but lazily sitting around, playing Settlers of Catan online, and watching Mythbusters. (On a related note, guess what I did with my Friday night yesterday?)

tangent lineThe above paragraph, by the way, was not where I was intending to go with this; it was just a long tangent, which is what happens to one’s writing when one decides that one doesn’t have the time to decide what to write before one writes it, or to edit one’s writing afterwards. As I trace the tangent back to the point where it meets the topic at hand, I find that I seem to have gone off-course at the point that one’s purpose in life is in fact not independent of one’s relationship with other people. So I’ll go back to that point and follow it in the direction I had originally intended, until my brain gets distracted by another tangent. (I blame it on calculus. It’s hard to avoid tangents when you’re taking a calculus class and are expected to look for tangents.)

trigonometrySo, I am disagreeing with the idea that a person’s value is independent of other people, and instead saying that a person’s value comes from their relationships with other people, and that a person’s purpose is to make life a better place for other people. And just for clarification, I will add that by “relationship”, I’m not talking specifically about romantic relationships. I’m talking about any connection between people, whether it is between family, friends, acquaintances, or random strangers who briefly interact in a public place and never meet again or even remember the encounter. If I’m going to stick with my definition of purpose, then I have to come to the conclusion that any of these relationships can be used to do something purposeful.

scrabble and speed of lightHowever, since I have already used the term “romantic relationships”, (even though I used it only to say that I wasn’t specifically talking about it) I actually have something else to say about it, and that is this: I really don’t like the English word ‘love’. It’s not that I’m not opposed to the idea of romance, as anyone who knows me on tumblr would attest. (For some reason, tumblr seems to bring out an overly sentimental side in me, the kind of side that probably would have liked Titanic even if it didn’t have a great soundtrack and exploding lights. For example, the other day, I informed tumblr that I needed to fall in love with someone so that I could use the line, “The only thing that will ever come between us is the word ‘and.’“)The reason that I don’t like the word ‘love’ is that it has too many meanings that are very different. The Greek language has the right idea when it distinguishes between αγαπη, ερως, and φιλια. Incidentally, can you tell that I recently figured out how to use Greek letters in Microsoft Word? This, in my opinion, is extremely cool. I have now forgotten what I was about to say, and I think it was completely irrelevant anyway.

voicesThe general gist of what I’ve been saying here is that it’s not true that a person’s value has nothing to do with other people. And the reason that this seemed relevant is that it offered a somewhat more specific way for me to tell myself that my own life is pointless. I mean, I’m a full-time student, so pretty much all of my effort and energy goes into the attempts to make myself more knowledgeable. This has absolutely no impact whatsoever on the world around me. If I just randomly decided to stop trying and to instead dedicate my life to internet games, nobody except me would even notice any difference. It’s a depressing thought. Yeah, I think that’s where I was going with this whole thing. It may have looked like I had more positive and/or interesting things to say, but I didn’t. I warned you that this was a very disorganized and rambling blog post.

catanAnd now, the next thing I need to do is to decide whether Settlers of Catan or homework is more important tonight, and to rewrite a version of my to-do list that reflects this priority.