Self vs. Other

My mom says I blog too much about myself. I am completely guilty of that and this post is mostly not an exception. Sorry.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to write posts about others and for others. But I know more about myself so obviously there’s more I can write about myself. It’s kind of a habit, and it’s been a very personally helpful habit. I discover lots of things when I write introspectively. But I’m a very weird person and a lot of the insightful things I discover when doing this are things I doubt I can generalize to other people. I tried getting a lot of my friends to join HabitRPG when I discovered it, but it was nowhere as effective on them as it was on me.

What else could I blog about? What else do people blog about?

World-event-inspired topics?

  • The AMAgeddon on reddit got so big that the much-reviled CEO stepped down. I confess I didn’t have any strong feelings about it because many of the tiny subreddits I spend the most time on (mostly /r/haskell and /r/furry, after further introspection) barely even noticed.
  • A water park in Taiwan had a really nasty fire incident when colored powder for a party exploded. There are still hundreds of burn victims.

    Lots of people are writing thoughtful posts about Taiwan’s medical system and the short memory of Taiwan’s media and public (somebody pointed out that one of the news channels bashing the park and the government and stuff for mishandling the incident had once reported on somebody else banning colorful powder by saying it ruined the fun.)

    I’m not, like, a doctor or nurse or medical student, or an experienced media person or anything. I don’t know what I can add.
  • Last month, the USA PATRIOT Act got… partially expired and partially reauthorized? I just realized I became so cynical and helpless about being able to do anything about this from here in Taiwan that I stopped really following the issue.

    But actually, come to think of it, I did read something that might help today. Many people aren’t bothered by surveillance because they think if they haven’t done anything wrong, it doesn’t negatively affect them. The argument is notable enough that it has its own Wikipedia article: it’s the Nothing to hide argument. I think privacy is important and I’ve read some counterarguments before, but nothing convincing enough to link. But I saw an excellent counterexample on Hacker News today and lots more in the HN comments, the punchiest of which is probably (paraphrased):

    even if you believe that you don’t require privacy, people working in your interest do.
    There’s also the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is really confusing and I don’t even know which side I’m on now.

Well, I actually found something to blog about!

There might be a spiritual successor to this post but I have to post before midnight!

edit: Oops. Streak. Also, this post sucks; I’m probably going to cheat and edit it later until I’m satisfied with it. Hey, the New York Times does this too! (also via Hacker News)

edit 2: Continuing…

Darn, that’s too fast to the punch line. On second though, it’s not entirely convincing because a bit of link aggregation and a couple quotes are too brief to be the type of deep blog post material I’m looking for. I am currently thinking about topics I can write 2,000-word original text walls about.

And I don’t want to write something long unless I’m confident I can do it better than anyone else. This is easier than it sounds because I can try writing things few people are writing — sometimes nobody else. I can analyze myself better than anybody else can analyze me, mainly because (as far as I know (and it would be really creepy if I were wrong)) nobody else has bothered trying.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be very much else. To be really good at something I need to have experience, but again, a lot of my experience is in really ungeneralizable quarters. I can blog about how to live for a few days with a surgical wound from getting a port-a-cath taken out of one’s shoulder. I would be surprised if I got a single reader in the next ten years for which such information could come in useful. There are a bunch other examples that I don’t want to list because I don’t want to descend into another cataclysm of humblebragging. Sorry.

I am not that weird, of course. I still have lots of attributes and do lots of things shared by normal people. The problem is I’m not very good at any of them. At least I’m nowhere near experienced enough to blog about them up to my own standards.

  • I am a normal human male with mostly normal biological functions and (so far) no concerns about my sexual orientation or gender identity. I’ve had 18 years of experience living in this body but I don’t think anybody really needs me to teach them how to do that. What could I say? Drink enough water, eat fruits and vegetables, brush your teeth and floss often? Boring. Everybody knows that. It might be interesting if I were a nutritionist or dentist and could give some examples or illustrations to explain why these things are good, but I’m not and it seems to go strongly against my comparative advantage to try to do so for the sake of getting a blog post about it. I don’t even do the last flossing part myself.
  • I am learning to cook. I’m not very good at it. So far it feels like most of the hard part is just learning/memorizing which things one should cook for longer than which other things. Leafy greens are at the fast end of the spectrum; mushrooms are at the slow end; I’m still trying to figure out everything else. End of experience.
  • I am learning how to play the guitar. I’m not very good at it either. Most of my barre chords sound atrocious and I’m worried half my hand movements are actually bad habits. Also, even here my experience is hard to generalize because I played piano for a couple years in elementary school and picked up basic music theory from there, so I know my semitones and many chords, and I don’t have to relearn them in a guitar context. So the order in which I learned guitar concepts is not going to be the same order in which most people learn them. That’s weird.
  • I like singing. I’m not even going to claim that I’m learning how to, though. I wallow in my vocal mediocrity.
  • I am learning to drive. I can’t even verbalize what I learned about driving.

The more I think about this, the more I think this is the wrong way to come up with blogging topics. I think good bloggers — good writers, really — start the blogging process by observing things, especially people, and then thinking about them and noticing interesting things.

Well, I’m a lot better at observing things about myself than others, firstly because I’ve practiced observing myself much more than I’ve practiced observing others (so it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg problem) and secondly because it’s summer vacation and most of my time is spent at home, so there aren’t a lot of people around me to observe. Yeah, that’s a bad excuse, but then, after two months I’ll be around lots more people to observe and, hopefully, make friends with. Maybe good blogging requires as much time being occupied with life for sources of inspiration as it does of time being sitting in front of the computer or with a notebook actually writing words down. Maybe I expect too much of myself for having this blog-every-day plan during a lull in my busy life.

But hmm, I still meet lots of people online and there are plenty of things to observe from there. Maybe the nature of some of these communities (reddit at large, for example) is that I wouldn’t be the most knowledgeable person about them. That doesn’t really argue against the other places I go, though.


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