Greetings from scenic,

Category: Diary
Tags: People I

Arcadia of my Youth

Recently I've felt keenly aware of something that's only vaguely haunted me for years. It's terrifying to know of and simply knowing the fact has paralyzed me more than I like to say. But dually, the idea is inspiring, just the notion that it can be achieved at all. I'm sure many people suffer from this, too, but I do not open up so much to many people so I'm not sure how widely it's felt.

By title I'm a software engineer, or something close. I was trained though to be an electrical / computer engineer in school; from a young age I fell in love with computers and electronics. In the 7th grade (that's age ~13) I was first exposed to the TI-84, a scientific graphing calculator that supports a very minimal programming language called TI-BASIC in an algebra class I was enrolled in at the time. This calculator became my obsession for months; there was never an hour in that class where my nose was not buried in this 84, programming the hell out of it and exploring the boundaries where I could cause this computer to break, either via infinitely recursive loops or by throwing very large numbers at it or by inputting very, very long strings.

The little chip in this TI-84 captured my imagination and I dreamt day and night of all the possibilities of TI-BASIC. Through this calculator and the modding community around it I learned of the z80 assembly language that TI-BASIC was interpreted to and began playing, after some weeks, with the raw opcodes on the calculator. This caused many soft crashes and many "oh fuck, I think I bricked the whole thing" moments. I gradually scaled back my experiemnts on this expensive little calculator for fear of retribution from the people who bought it for me but I continued to program more and more complex things in BASIC on that 84 The little thing was still fascinating to me.

Eventually I graduated to high-school and, somewhere around the same time, to x86 opcodes. In x86 one of the most concrete things I accomplished was writing a real-mode program on a floppy disk to sing Daisy on the PC speaker when the device was booted from BIOS.

Bootsector "Daisy" diskette

This exploration into the lower-level of "regular computers" led me to learn C during the empty hours of my high-school classes. My exposure to C, then, led me to look into colleges that offered robust computer / electrical engineering courses. N.C. State, Virginia Tech and UM-W among the ones I was considering at the time. My edgy teenage-brand angst obliged me to scorn computer science and software engineering in general in favor of "hard" engineering like computer / electrical so, when the time came to select a major in college, I never even gave "computer science as a major" a single thought.

60. Name: The taste of summer : 2013-07-08 02:13 Yesterday I woke up around 1:00PM and studied Hiragana. Then went outside from some archery practice. It was so nice out I brought out a blanket, a pillow, and some tea and sat in the sun to read my friends linguistics textbook. Got sunburned. Then I drove my scooter to the river for a swim. There was a bunch of kids there on the other side of the river. One kid was sitting in a tree over the river and was being made fun of for not wanting to go in the water because he saw a snapping turtle. I sat down next to him and told him the snapping turtles don't come after humans unless you hurt them, and that even then he does not have to go in the water if he does not want to, that it was his choice.

Even given my long-held interest in these things, still, I have never produced something bigger than myself. Many of the people who inspire me to try new things and to get better at the things I'm good at have all created very notable protocols or programs or whitepapers by the time they were my age. It's an unfortunate thing to realize but something I've realized nonetheless.

24 is still quite young, but I know many people much older who are much younger than me. And it bothers me every day that I've not produced a magnum-opus or anything I'd consider even close. I've tried before, with RalEE but I grew so jaded about the platform (that is, textboard culture) before it even came to fruition that I stopped as soon as I had a minimum viable product. And sure, with my typical work it's great to work on something cute with a group of people but some days I want to be a person of remotely relevant consequence, with at least a body of work to stand behind me. Now and despite what I've done in my free moments I'm still quite small. When I hold up a ruler and measure my height against the people I find inspiration in I always come up short.

And it bothers me a lot. It makes me question myself a lot. Am I doing what I want to do most? Am I happy where I am? Am I limiting my own self-actualization? These are the questions that make me uncomfortable the most.

Many people never seem bothered by this problem. Is it not a problem at all? Surely if everyone had these thoughts then we'd all show them somehow. But the people I enounter everyday, from friends to strangers to people I meet at the supermarket seem complacent where they are. Maybe not complacent, but at the very least not hopelessly frustrated, feeling mired and stuck like this.


On the contrary, I've had conversations with friends who do feel stuck. Some days I feel the same, that no matter how hard I slam on the accelerator I never even so much as spin out. It's a sad and depressing place to be. When these thoughts get in my head I tend to do nothing, I tend to surrender myself to whatever happens in the coming moments and hide out in my house for a few days until the heavy feelings pass. Recently I've taken medication to counter these feelings so instead of being depressed in these slumps I'm just, simply, not doing anything. That's its own brand of depressing, though arguably better than being so completely depressed as I was before. And when the things I work on during the day don't line-up with the things I'm programming at night I'm not sure even which way I should go to get "un-stuck." Where I am during the day, it's an excessively comfy place to be, but I'm perpetually tired from writing and designing and coding until very very late at night most weeknights. There are people who have their priorities straight but I, clearly, am not one of them.

Dwarf Fortress

When I was in high-school one of my favorite games was Dwarf Fortress. This game, brutal with its application of ANSI graphics, conveys the lives of hundreds of dwarves in a fictional colony fending off hoardes of goblin and demonic invaders entirely through text and its own system of rudimentary graphics. In the game, dogs are represented with the lowercase "d", dwarves are very small smiley-faces and goblins are represented with "g". Though you can manage tasks in the fortress, you cannot directly control what each dwarf does.

And sometimes dwarves simply do not do the tasks you lay out for the fortress. One of the most notable instances of this is when a dwarf is posessed by a "strange mood". When this text flashes across the screen, the dwarf will do absolutely nothing else except work on his / her profession with unreal devotion, day and night, crafting a masterwork creation after working for days on end. For instance, if a jeweler is undertaken by a strange mood s/he may make an emerald-encrusted masterwork necklace that is more beautiful and more valuable than anything in the entire fortress. If a weaponsmith is taken by the same mood s/he may forge an impossibly sharp and nearly unbreakable sword for a soldier to wield in battle.

For me, the me who's met with this frustration, I've found inspiration in the notion that, since I've not yet made my life's work, that's upset me so much that I can't think of anything else. It's enveloped me and some days all I can think of is: how can I get there? Am I limiting myself? Am I happy where I am? etc. etc.

I already have the idea; I've spent the last 6 months plotting out the details. All I can do now is not fuck it up.

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