(Uncohesive blog content, posted as part of a daily posting streak I have openly committed to; standard disclaimers apply. Whew, made it by a few minutes…)
This essay was partly inspired by but mostly orthogonal in purpose to dzaefn’s essay on a similar subject, Humans, Photographs, and Names. I agree with many of its points, although I deviate in that I think it’s more important for my Facebook picture to identify me than to inform about me (there’s the rest of Facebook, plus my maybe half a dozen other sites, for doing so). Part of the problem for me there, and part of the reason I hang on to my nine-letter random handle from fourth grade, is that my names, first and last, are so commonplace. Among the people who share them (according to DuckDuckGo) are a New York Times tech writer, more than one computer science professor, a photographer, a couple doctors, and some guy who did some sort of graphics work for a short clip and two movies. This means that, to somebody not already in my social circles trying to match me to my account, my Facebook photo is my primary tool for disambiguating myself from all these other people, and I don’t think there is anything that could do that job quite as precisely as a picture of my actual face and body.
Still, I agree enough to be bothered by having a profile picture suffering from “the whole extent of photographic informational void”. I always planned to add some GIMP layers to the photo to indicate context and content more precisely. Except I procrastinated and it got more and more awkward to do this as time went by, since as far as I know, normal people update their profile pictures only to reflect more recent events, especially when they’re important. Like, you know, graduating from high school? So yes, I’ve been waiting to do this for an entire year now.
Eh, to hell with awkwardness. That’s the spirit of this daily-posting exercise.
(Fun fact: The code in what I’m about to set as my profile picture, if I don’t procrastinate even more, is real IOI 2014 code I submitted successfully (for
rail, as previously featured; the visually selected fragment was the key fix for the final bug I fixed). Except I actually had to manually retype my code printout to get the picture because I lacked the foresight (sound familiar?) to save an electronic copy of my IOI submissions.)
Also, I’m glad this isn’t a smiling photo because I feel like it’s easier to appreciate happy posts from a person whom one associates with a serious face, than serious posts from a person whom one associates with a happy face, and I want both types of posts to impact people when I post them. I could be overgeneralizing from my own feelings though. If you are reading this and want to chat me feedback (as way more than one of you has been doing), I’d welcome more data points on this issue.
That’s not what I really wanted to rant about in this post, though.
Why do people take photographs?
Note from the future, 2017-11-25: I am fairly unhappy with this rant as it stands — it makes many points I still agree with, but it just sounds sooo pretentious — but it is one of very few posts to actually receive a link from an external post I’m aware of, so I am letting it stand for historical interest. I wrote this years ago; please don’t take it out of context.
I have to admit, I got unhealthily worked up about getting this score.
For the purposes of college, I only ever wanted a score that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker — anything above 2300 would be enough. Any other time I had left would be better spent in other endeavors. Such endeavors might help on the college app, but more importantly, I’d also get to enjoy them.
So why am I here? Partly it’s because my classmates got worked up about it. Somebody specifically requested me to post my score somewhere. And partly it’s because there couldn’t be a better way at the moment to establish my authority to (yet again) rant against standardized tests here.
Note from 2019: My 2012 self wrote this. I don’t remember writing it. This is the first time I have felt personally attacked by a post I wrote seven years ago.
Why do so many people have these three- or four- or even five-digit inbox unread counts? I become uncomfortable when I have more than about five unread emails, or if there are twenty emails of whatever status in my inbox — the rest get archived, of course. Out of sight, out of mind. Whew. It’s hard for me to fathom how anybody can sleep knowing they have such a scary number of unread emails waiting for them.
Why does the status of being unread matter, one might ask? There are already so many ways to classify things in the typical inbox: stars or labels or folders or flags or whatever your mail service may call them. Well, the thing that makes the unread qualifier stand out is that it already has meaning; you don’t need to assign it any. It means you haven’t read it! Thank you, Captain Obvious.
If you know how to use email, there are no good reasons to ignore the status. Is the email actually not important to the point where you won’t even bother to read it? In that case, why is it even in your inbox? If it’s spam, mark it as such; spam filters are pretty effective nowadays, but only if you train them, and even if not it only takes one click to get rid of it. If it’s some notification you don’t care about, unsuscribe or fine-tune your subscription. As invasive as web services are getting nowadays, I haven’t yet seen a legitimate one that doesn’t provide a link to let you do one of these things, even if it’s concealed in small gray text at the bottom of the email. Should you encounter a notification that doesn’t have these links or doesn’t stop spawning evil clones after you tell it to, don’t think twice; it is spam and should be mercilessly filtered as such. And if you still have two hundred emails left after all that, you should either rethink your values or start reading them now.
So, as triggered by my confrontation with the Chinese book report (remember? whatever the answer is, it’s okay): a reflection on my incompetence at dealing with two languages, and why this matters, or not.
I can think in both languages. It’s a natural product of our school environment. The two languages often have to complement each other; most of the nerdy terms or globally relevant allusions are English-exclusive (I couldn’t talk coherently about SOPA in any language other than English!), but a lot of cultural and geographical staples around here are Chinese only. And sometimes there are unexpected holes where an innocuous-looking phrase simply has a few too many connotations to translate perfectly (the example I always get stuck on, and have yet to solve satisfactorily with anything short of a full sentence recasting, is “appreciate”.)