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Breaking People to Their Core

March 29th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Where do I find people like myself? That question has consumed me for as long as I can remember.  Over the past few years after college, I've managed to only come across maybe a handful of people out of the thousands I met who I can really relate to or consider like-minded.  In the eighteen years of school before that, there were maybe three, each at different times of my life.  What do I consider as being like-minded or similar to myself? For me, understanding a person is all about understanding the person's motivations - seeing through their actions, breaking them down and figuring out what really drives them deep within, what would cause them to crumble if they lost it but what would also make them truly happy.  While I have never considered this a formal skill or talent, I have gotten quite good at seeing into the motivations of those I meet.  This is a hard topic to discuss simply because it can easily be misconstrued as arrogance or...[More]
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Overemphasis on Numbers

January 21st, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
This is primarily a response to Erik McClure's blog post on age discrimination.

I'm of the same age, followed a roughly similar path through school, and also thought that young adults in general were fully capable if given the chance. I've since graduated and moved to the SF Bay Area though; you'd be surprised just how many new college grads actually cannot think freely and critically. I'm sure you must have seen at least a few headlines pointing out some of the absurdity in Silicon Valley now. (Having lived here for 6 years now, I'd say the media actually understates how nonsensical some of the thinking around here is, but that's for another discussion.) That's not to say we should box people up even more when they're younger, just that I can see where some of the prejudice is coming from (yet it can be argued that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy from treating people like drones in the first place).

Speaking on just my own experience in the SF Bay Area though, my thoughts are not so much that the issue is a prejudice against age as much as the issue is an overemphasis on credentials, test scores, and numbers in general. The problems with education today are what I personally see more as part of an overall lack of critical and creative thinking in society - too much data driven. People just want to look at some threshold, do an if-greater-then condition, and be done. If you look at some of the most talented programmers, as an example, many actually do not have a formal degree in Computer Science or are self taught; recruiting based on numbers like we do now would never find them and actually weed them out. On the other side of things, I've met engineers from Ivy League schools who can barely code but get the job nonetheless from great marks in school; some cannot build a program from scratch at all unless you give them the skeleton to fill in the details on, which is arguably the bulk of the work.  I've come across engineers from firms as prestigious as Google who would not even dare explore restaurants without some external confirmation of their decisions, justifying their decisions with "social validation" (their words, not mine); there's actual fear in their eyes at the thought of going somewhere that doesn't have enough Yelp reviews, fear of the uncertainty and making any decision not backed with numbers. Of course, this is flawed thinking, lots of appeal to majority, authority, and other fallacies, but the sad part is a lot of our peers who do this most likely are not even aware of what things like logical fallacies are (in a non-math context). If you've read books like "City and the Stars" or "Childhood's End", it is getting quite close to that at least in some pockets of the country.

I agree with...[More]
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Lack of Ambition in the Bay Area

May 29th, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
A year ago, I wrote of my frustrations in finding others who were hungry or wanting to take over the world.  I couldn't put my finger on why I was stuck in the situation (and still am).  I thought perhaps it was a generational gap, since my social circles mainly consisted of people who were often more than 8 years older than me when I was in middle and high school.  At other times, I thought it was perhaps society degrading overall and becoming more flakey, passive.

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I just don't belong on the west coast though, or at least in the bay area.  I've been reading more about the east coast (and just other places in general); this article, for example, mentions how ambition is often shunned in the bay and that really hit home for me as that is the treatment I get from most my peers:
http://www.therejectionist.com/2011/09/all-things.html

Likewise the herd mentality to do what's cool or trendy rather than find something...[More]
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Some Inspiration From the Past

July 8th, 2013 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     These days I don't know what I'm doing anymore.  It seems completely illogical that I'd be on the path I am now given my history.  What am I doing just making songs or chasing stocks when I used to make games, movies, entire websites, etc?

     Sometimes I forget my frustrations, but every once in a while something like this shows up and just really tests my patience with myself:
     http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011/02/10/crash-bandicoot-as-a-startup/

     Besides the fact I use to play those games when I was younger, being able to form a team and produce something on that scale was something I've always dreamed of doing.  It's tough finding finding people of equal or better calibur though and even tougher to find those who share similar ambitions and drive.  Like the author, I also learned most of my programming myself (home-brewed), so it's really hard to relate to colleagues who otherwise...[More]
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Void

May 10th, 2011 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     I fear boredom.  I don't know why.  It's just the way it is.  I should be happy that my two hardest classes are now over, but I instead feel empty.  I should look forward to a fun trip I've been planning this month, but I realize that once it passes (or even in the midst of it), there will be nothing but a void.

     I can't help feeling similar to Jonathan Shields in "The Bad and the Beautiful" (1952).  It has haunted me ever since I watched it two years ago for a film class.  Of course, I will never betray anyone for any means, but like Shields, once a project or goal is finished, I don't feel satisfied at all.  Instead, I feel anguish and longing - like I have just lost purpose and have suddenly been reduced to nothing.  I can be anything and do anything, but once I stop, I sink away into the shadows.

     It is not as if I pursue a goal or task because I enjoy it either.  It...[More]
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Juggling Dreams

March 10th, 2009 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #

  Sometimes you feel unstoppable, great, as if the world is only beginning, and you are at the center of it all.  You get ideas, schemes that you never dared consider before, and now that you have, you feel obligated to pursue them, to drive them as far as you possibly can.  At first you're not sure if you're up to the task; the first step looks hard and difficult.  Then you toss in the first challenge, the first dream, and then the second, and then the third.

  Pretty soon, you're not only tossing and catching all three, you are actually juggling.  You can juggle two at a time, worry about the third later.  Or you can juggle all three at once, perhaps without even breaking a sweat.  Over time, you get better; you've gone far beyond anything you ever hoped to do, juggling three when at first you dared not even juggle one.  You're ready for more; you want a challenge.

  And so you throw in the…[More]

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Why Not to Concentrate

February 6th, 2009 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
   I was walking home from school one day.  It was a bright and sunny afternoon.  The birds were chirping; the air smelled crisp and clean.  And then I stubbed my toe.  It was a painful stub.  The agony of my tiny toe scrubbing against the abrasive concrete, the concentration of all that pain in such a tiny insignificant stub on my foot, was more than I could bear.  I never wore sandals again.

   Yet that moment sparked a curious interest in me.  It made me realize that concentration, such as the concentration of all that pain in my toe, was not a good thing.  When one is trapped in a cell, concentrated in a small space, he is not happy.  When one is told how and what to think, to concentrate and narrow his mind, he is not happy.  Even in politics, concentration is not a good thing; Americans don’t like concentration of power.  Concentration means communism, dictatorship - all the things we fought to eliminate in past wars.  Just...[More]
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Open Doors

December 29th, 2008 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
   They say one doesn’t realize what he has until it’s gone.  When I broke my wrist two years ago, I not only realized that I had almost lost my hand completely, I realized how little I’d done, how much more I wanted to do, how close I came to losing the opportunity altogether.  As I spent the following summer bound to my chair with the injury, I taught myself web design and learned to program in six different languages.  The following year, as my friends and I began making videos but could find no outlet for our new hobby, we founded our own club, within months finishing three movies, hosting monthly Theater Days, and starting a VHS-DVD conversion service.  When I later reflected upon the events, after having made twelve websites for schools and organizations, after having had classmates join my club and become paid to teach our video editing to an afterschool class, I realized that opportunities are not sought but created, that it is not the opportunity that is...[More]
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