I have no idea what to say


Everyone who writes for a living will eventually write about themselves. It's almost a natural law. Heck, someone else has probably thought of a name for it. (Hint: it starts with an 'N'.)

So why this piece?

In my first post, I laid down certain laws. Rough guides on what I consider good writing. Indeed they're more of a summary of whose writing I've read and enjoyed so far, people such as:

  • Isaac Asimov
  • Paul Graham
  • hacker/preachers from the bygone era of Usenet
  • storytelling novelty accounts on Reddit

So whatever comes out of my mental mouth will probably sound like them. But how do I write? I do something I call channeling, or simulating the writing style of people after reading them.

There's this idea that Michelangelo didn't have to be taught how to sculpt, rather he had to be taught how NOT to. And I don't know where I heard it from. It sounds like something Paul Graham would say, but cursory Googling has planted doubts1. What I can tell you is, I'm no Michelangelo. I don't know of anything I'd have to be wrested away from. I don't breath mathematics, nor programming, nor actually hacking stuff. And those are just about the only things I know I ought to care about.

Maybe there's something here. I've recently gotten hold of the idea that whatever stuff I deal with, it's the singular pursuit of it that makes me giddy with excitement. It's like I'm tickled pink not by actual things but by the methods people use to achieve them. It's why I want to build a computing monastery before I die (which is also partly supported by my having known The Promised Land through Steven Levy's account of the TMRC in the post-war era).

I'm also no Scott Alexander. In raw verbal skill, I'm 2-3 standard deviations from the national mean (in a country whose average IQ is a standard deviation below the global mean).

I'm no windytan, whose tinkering with digital signals is one of the purest expressions of the hacker ethic.

I'm no Linus Torvalds who was hacking away at OSs before being allowed to drink.

So who am I? And what can I do?

I'm an imperfect citizen of the Universe.

I inhabit an imperfect body which almost shat itself to death before graduating from kindergarten. This event has had ramifications I am only beginning to witness.

My toolkit is imperfect. I wield problem solving techniques like a caveman (who ought to have been rather good at what they did or else I won't be here typing this, but you get the point). I can learn things quickly but only until I'm good enough.

I have perfect standards though, in the sense that whatever I do must be perfect for sufficiently reasonable values of perfect.

This then is the crux of the matter: I reach for the sky on insect wings.

  1. Another round of cursory Googling suggests that this is in fact a Perlisism as quoted by Peter Norvig in his most famous essay.