• this is water

    This is water by David Foster Wallace.

    The first version of this commencement speech was given in 2005. David Foster Wallace is the smartest author I’ve ever read. Smart in every sense of that word - not just intelligent but also sharp and clean and pithy (but not necessarily witty). His command of the language is unparalleled; his diction is mathematically, pedantically, precise - yet his writing lacks none in passion. Simultaneously cerebral and sensitive.

    He did his undergrad in english and philosophy and his undergraduate thesis was “Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will”, bent on dismantling fatalism. At the base of all his writing is a deep understanding and inquiry of human connection and meaning and what it is to live - what actual life is, beyond abstract thought. That’s what fucks me up about his death. His writing is considerate and self-conscious and clear headed and it fucks me up that after all that, he still killed himself.

    Anyway, where This is Water fits in - it’s a reasonable summary of what’s been on my mind lately. “Lately” here used loosely to mean the past six months or so. As cliché as it sounds, I’ve been searching for meaning. I’ve been trying to put together a sort of Anthology on Meaning that comprises the ideas from various directions - religious, literary, practical, philosophical, historical, anthropological, psychological etc. Everyone’s trying to grapple with the same Big Questions - I think at the bottom, that’s what all great art - all the philosophers and poets and prosaists and painters - ever has been trying to do. I’m trying to piece it together from an interdisciplinary perspective.

    In trying to figure out this whole ~real life adulting~ thing, the most urgent need besides doing laundry and making food seems to be figuring out what’s Real, what Matters, and what is Distraction? There are two things I am sure of:

    • without God, there is no meaning
    • meaning exists in relationship

    Once in awhile, I revisit old notes, letters, emails to remind myself that there was a time when things seemed otherwise than they do now. I’m taken aback by how honest and vulnerable everyone was and the degree to which I felt those things and the earnestness and urgency with which I put those feelings to words. I used to be so convinced of Something. I’m trying to remember what it was.

    Tags: david foster wallace this is water thoughts meaning
  • steinbeck's salinas

    I’ve driven through Salinas. There’s nothing there. Not to offend anyone who lives there, but it’s an unremarkable little town just like all the other unremarkable little towns off of coastal highway one. Even calling it a “town” feels like a stretch - the “town” is little more than a few connected intersections multiplexing into freeways and surrounded by farmland (aka “nothingness” to my urban trash mindset that considers “middle of nowhere” to be any place that doesn’t have a Starbucks on every corner). That the most salient part of Salinas for me is how unremarkable it seems, only speaks to my own unremarkable imagination.

    From those Salinas Valley fields of “nothingness”, John Steinbeck cultivated some of the most remarkable works of American literature. He saw the worlds within the wheat and sowed stories alongside seeds. Shit, that amazes me.

    Where we are and where we come from determines part of who we are, but who we are determines what we make of where we are. Timshel.

    Tags: thoughts
  • ccn conference notes

    josh tenenbaum - the cognitive science perspective: reverse engineering the mind

    reverse-engineering approaches: the Marr levels of explanation

    1. computational theory
    2. algorithmic
    3. implementation

    cognitive science moves bottom down neuroscience moves top down neural networks moving middle out

    AI technologies - none of them are real AI

    • most salient reason: they don’t get to us to the most fundamental type of intelligence
    • our minds are not specially engineered - only programmed by evolution and us
    • much success in deep learning in neural networks
      • toolkit best at pattern recognition
      • intelligence is about more than pattern recognition
      • idea of intelligence as model building
      • the brain has to be a model engine
    • intelligence is not just about pattern recognition - it is about modelling the world building machines learning things to think like people

    bridging the gap - far from understanding model-building in the brain and mind as well as we understand pattern recognition, but we are starting to understand some fundamental principles and computations common sense scene understanding - how can wee see a world of physical objects, their interactions and our own possibilities to act and interact with others - not simply classify patterns in pixels rapid model-based learning - how can we learn new concepts from so little experience - often just a single example?

    how can we integrate the best ideas for how to think about intelligence computationally?

    • probabilistic generative models (and other graphical models)
    • symbol-processing architectures (programming languages)
    • neural networks (deep convolutional nets, recurrent nets) all these tools are coming together

    probabilistic programs - probabilistic AI Nature 2015

    “causal texture of the world”

    game engines: these tools are recapitulated what evolution might build into our brains the “game engine in your head” the intuitive physics engine (taglia, hamrick, tenenbaum, PNAS 2013) battaglia et al, PNAS 2013; Hamrick et al., Cognition 2016

    • gets at this general purpose intelligence
    • will this stack of blocks fall? how far? which way? what if one is heavier? what if you bump the table

    game physics engine - prediction by simulation

    Fischer, Michael, tenenbaum, kantischer, PNAS, 2016; schwettman, et al in progress

    overlap with action planning and tool-use networks

    physics engines are both event driven and object based

    intuitive physics in neural networks can we treat intuitive physics as a pattern recognition task? PhysNet (Facebook AI; Lerer et al 2016)

    • skeptical about generalization physics engine in neural circuits? recurrent temporal restricted boltzmann machine (Sutskever & Hinton, 2008) a recent object-based approach is more promising (Michael Chang et al., 2017 “neural physics engine”, battaglia et al., 2016, “interaction networks”)

    the intuitive psychology engine baker et al, nature, human behaviour 2017; jara-ettinger et al., TiCS 2016 integrating physics and psychology for human action understanding (tao gato, tibia zhao, chris baker et al)

    social interaction: helping and hindering

    rapid model-based learning - one-shot learning of simple visual concepts

    conclusions: the computational cognitive science contribution to CCN
computational level: beyond pattern recognition to intelligence as model building

    algorithmic level: principles of how the mind builds models

    • probability inference over symbolic representations
    • compositional models of causal processes
    • learning at multiple levels of abstraction and learning to learn
    • representations based on objects, their relations and interactions

    • engineering tools from probabilistic programs and game engines, in addition to probabislitc graphical models and neural networks let us capture these

    Nicole Rust - computationally inspired neuroscience

    Have you seen this before? comparison between memory & visual representation where & how are those comparisons happening in our brains?

    how is image content signaled?

    how is visual memory singled?

    repetition suppression / adaption = visual memory

    fMRI: Turk-Browne et al, 2011: War, Chun & Kuhl (2013)

    hypothesis: by changes in IT population spike numbers

    Yann LeCun - how does the brain learn so much so quickly?

    • the brain learns with an efficiency that none of our machine learning methods can match
    • “all of these AI systems we see, none of them is ‘real’ - lol josh
    • what is missing? learning paradigms that build (predictive) models of the world through observation and action

    supervised learning - with enough power and training samples, it will recognizes instances it has never seen before deep learning: multiple trained models multi layer neural nets convolutional network architecture (LeCun et al. NiPS 1989)

    Hubel & Wiesel

    deep conversations nets for object recognition AlexNet, OverFeat it’s deep if it has more than one stage of non-linear feature transformation Mask R-CNN Results on COCO test set

    how many learning algorithms does the brain implement? how much prior structure does animal learning require?

    • old nature/nurture debate all of our learning algorithms minimize some sort of objective function does the brain minimize an objective function if it minimizes a function does it do it by evaluating the gradient if it evaluates a gradient, how does it do it? how does the brain handle uncertainty in prediction?

    “i’m perfectly ready to throw probability theory under the bus”

    Obstacles to AI learning models of the world learning to reason and plan

    Common sense is the ability to fill in the blanks

    • predicting any part of the past, present, for future percepts from whatever information is available
    • that’s what predictive learning is
    • that’s what many people mean by unsupervised learning (does not like that phrase)

    unsupervised learning is the “Dark matter” of AI we build a model of the world through predictive unsupervised learning this predictive model gives us “common sense” unsupervised learning discovers regularities in the world

    early concept acquisition (after Emmanuel Dupoux)

    • babies are so cute
    • babies are so cool
    • object permanence after 2 months

    predict everything you observe - geoff hinton

    Rich Sutton: Dyna: an integrated architecture for learning, planning, and reacting

    learning predictive models of the world how to train the world simulator - hardest problem right now how to form models of the world?

    PhysNet - Lerer, Gross, Fergus - convent produces object masks that predict the trajectories of falling blocks Henaff, Whitney, LeCun 2017 billiards

    dialog through prediction weston et al 2016

    predictive models with uncertainty adversarial training the hard part : prediction under uncertainty

    q - how do we design objective functions? a- we learn them.

    aligning the objective with human behaviour hardwired immutable safeguard object trainable object that estimates the value function of its human trainer teach them good from evil

    let’s be inspired by nature but not too much we figured our flapping and wings weren’t necessary what is the equivalent of aerodynamics thermodynamics for understanding intelligence? underlying principles behind artificial and natural intelligence

    science drives technology but technology

    one key problem in all enterprises is figuring out what’s the piece we’re going to study and what should its scope be lots of ways to define pieces of mind or intelligence concern - those methods are much too weak to understand systems in humans maybe epiphenomena maybe doesn’t represent behaviour what are we going to do about these profoundly human and unique things

    • music, language
    • can’t fall back on animal models take a thought and turn it into a string out of words coming out of your mouth how do you even make a model of that? no idea how to approach that

    need: richer set of theoretical frameworks neural network model based on very old model we’ve learned a lot since then neurons are much richer structures

    learn a lot from simpler animals

    when people say they want to work together - usually there’s some shared goal what would success even look like? are we even after the same thing here ???

    analogy - invention of steam engine essentially caused the appearance of thermodynamics as an area of physics - it helped us understand a lot of things - design of airplanes caused the emergence of aerodynamics as a field and the principle that underly flight for birds is the same - how he feels when he talks to some neuroscientists changing the hardware doesn’t change the nature of it

    success for neuroscience means characterizing the system i na way that’s reproducible and solid making a coherent story putting out solid pieces of data and offering it to other fields fairly loose interactions

    important to distinguish short-term & long-term success long-term - understand human intelligence - not just clinical applications but also who we are and how we work bridging all these things engineering description that we could build that convinces us that we understand how our minds work short term success might look very different

    models - could there be more convergence? building models is a way we define our fields’ understanding what would success look like in a concrete way? we want to build a model of x?

    model interpretability models whose components need to understanding not just models that works but we don’t know how it works is not as useful - nicole rust models that account for less variance but work very well

    models that work than models that are explanatory - yann very important for models to do something useful models for AI whatever model you build it needs to do something useful and work - to some extent one of the measures of success - convolutional nets is a success for the interaction between between neuroscience and deep learning

    “i have no interest in vision. i care how you run vision.” “i don’t actually care as long as it works” - yann

    modern model building & data collection in some domain

    read a lot about animal behaviour learn lots of math

    pick up on biotech evolution & interpreting some of those experiments will require huge computational effort

    computation is your friend learn more math but learn more computer science don’t think that what seems like the current fashion is going to be the only kind of computation you’re going to need to learn learn as much computer science

    definitely learn a lot of compsci

    study and read about human behaviour introspect for God’s sake invent better methods for human cognitive neuroscience

    try not to get lost in the details abstract the principles in everything you learn follow your curiosity research is intrinsically motivated ultimately we can think best about stuff we like that resonates with us

    A reverse correlation test of computational models of lightness perception - richard murray, minding kim, jason m gold

    • how we see shades of grey ?
    • greyness of a surface & amount of light

    Keynote 1: Mike Shadlen

    knowledge as intentional framework rather than representational

    knowledge as provisional affordance knowledge about space is not the representation of where things are it’s about what we might do with that knowledge replace “where” with “how” whole brain is a “how” pathway questions about will I eat this will I explore this further will I come back if I explore this path point is to how to provide provisional affordance structured as interrogation persistence, temporal thickness


    • persistent activity is a substrate for neural computations
    • interpretation of neural activity relies on knowledge of the animal’s strategy
    • decision model as a model for cognition iff it involves updates over time
    • persistent activity is propositional, intentional, not representation
      • organized as provisional affordance
    • this structure distinguishes biological from artificial intelligence

    Tags: notes cognitive computational neuroscience
  • toronto

    Toronto, you’ve felt like home since I first saw you when I was five years old - I thought your CN tower looked like Shanghai’s Pearl Tower (but even taller and thus better). I didn’t yet know the love of learning a city, its streets, its ways, but you felt like home from that first moment.

    My friends ask, “Do you actually love Toronto or just the idea of Toronto? What do you love so much?” Am I just romanticizing you? Is it the idea of you, the idea of home? What is it exactly that I love about you? I don’t know - it’s everything. It’s that feeling that fills the moments when I walk down those familiar streets and alleyways, when I look out a little airplane window and find your skyline: “well that’s where I belong”. It’s everything from the first time I saw you until the last time I left.

    I remember being in high school and the excitement of ~going downtown~ with my friends to the ROM. We didn’t know how the subways worked - we got off at Spadina (the north/south exit) and walked all the way down to Bloor St, instead of getting off at St. George.

    I remember moving out on my own for the first time - moving into the dorms at U of T and seeing a girl tying her shoes.

    I remember wandering your streets, late at night - sometimes with friends, sometimes on my own. I was so damn lonely but you were there for me. Your city lights watched over me and your shoreline calmed me.

    I remembering moving into a tiny shoebox basement apartment with my best friend.

    I remember moving into a beautiful jank crooked house with my best friends and coming home to the smell of fresh baked bread and the sounds of my favourite people listening to their old folk elevator music.

    It’s both your clear blues on summer days & moody greys in the winter, the idiosyncrasies of your neighbourhoods and the pride of your personalities. You’re polite yet standoffish, warm yet cool, familiar yet new. It’s your skyline full of stars - or bedroom lights from condo units towering above me as I drive in on the Gardiner. It’s the way you feel like home.

    Toronto, I promise I’m coming back for you.

    Tags: journal toronto
  • flow & meaning

    The past few books I’ve read have been playing on my mind:

    • Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari
    • Man’s Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl
    • Flow - Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi

    Often on my mind are the themes of meaning, what it is to be human, subjectivity, free will. Flow really put a lot of that together, an intersection of cognitive science, philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology. It put into words some of the existential angst I’ve been feeling lately. Whether the book’s given me any answers or consolation, I’m not sure yet. After I finished reading it, I wished I’d taken notes along the way, so I flipped back to the beginning. I think the first and last chapters are the most important.

    The lack of inner order manifests itself in the subjective condition that some call ontological anxiety, or existential dread. Basically, it is a fear of being, a feeling that there is no meaning to life and that existence is not worth going on with. Nothing seems to make sense… we are just forgotten specks drifting in the void… As people move through life, passing from the hopeful ignorance of youth into sobering adulthood, they sooner or later face and increasingly nagging question: “Is this all there is?” - Chapter 1, Happiness Revisited

    The author’s answer to this is flow. We can live a happy and enjoyable existence by ridding ourselves of the anxieties and fears of daily life by taking control of our consciousness - by becoming immersed in every moment of our lives and uniting it to the ~flow of the universe~. Our mental energy ought to be spent in this state of deep enjoyment, creativity, and total involvement, which builds complexity in our character. In order to be in flow, we need to expend our mental energy on self-directed and self-originating goals that challenge us - goals that are not shaped merely by our biological needs and social pressures.

    Humans of New York posted a story today -

    “I’m afraid I’ll live a useless life and nobody will remember me. I don’t feel a strong interest toward anything. If I do, it’s just a momentary thing, and then I drop it. I tried acting. I tried swimming. I tried dancing. But I got bored with all of it. If I don’t choose something soon then I’ll leave nothing behind. We only have a certain amount of energy in life. If you don’t put it somewhere then it’s wasted. I feel like one of the little yellow minions from that movie. They get sad if they don’t have a villain to serve. When I have a goal, and I’m moving toward it, and I reach it, then I feel a little relief. That’s what life is to me. A series of goals that you move toward. I don’t think it’s possible to just become happy. Life’s not that easy. But if you keep moving, you can forget that you’re sad.”

    Exactly. A young woman in Russia said that. I feel her. Perhaps we all feel that way.

    Is this all there is? We fill our consciousness with enough enjoyment that we forget the existential uncertainty? This is where we see the incongruence between the experiencing & narrating self (Kaheman). Although my experiencing self is enjoying herself during her work, my narrating self lacks the so what of the narrative. Emerging from the flow of experience, what is there to show for it? For what purpose have I become a more ~complex~ self? Is this all there is?

    Is happiness really the greatest good that ought to be sought for itself? Happiness may be enjoyment which may be optimal experience, but it isn’t fulfillment and it isn’t joy. Fulfillment requires meaning and purpose. What of meaning, then? Is this all there is?

    Csikszentmihalyi attempts to tackle the problem of meaning in his final chapter. This is as close to a secular framework for meaning as I’ve come to understand.

    Meaning is up to each of us to create:

    “The meaning of life is meaning: whatever it is, wherever it comes from, a unified purpose is what gives meaning to life.” “Creating meaning involves bringing order to the contents of the mind by integrating one’s actions into a unified flowing experience.” “Purpose, resolution, and harmony unify life and give it meaning by transforming it into a seamless flow experience.”

    Each of us needs to cultivate purpose, whether that purpose is “a cause, an idea, [or] a transcendental entity” and strive towards that purpose, “leaving as little room as possible for noticing the entropy of normal life”. This purpose is our life theme.

    “The most promising faith for the future might be based on the realization that the entire universe is a system related by common laws and that it makes no sense to impose our dreams and desires on nature without taking them into account. Recognizing the limitations of human will, accepting a cooperative rather than a ruling role in the universe, we should feel the relief of the exile who is finally returning home. The problem of meaning will then be resolved as the individual’s purpose merges with the universal flow”.

    Wait, what? Universal flow? Chapter 1 introduced that complexity is both differentiation and integration of the self. It’s the simultaneous separating of ourselves from external influences while uniting ourselves with those around us. While meaning is created by each individual for themselves, it is ultimately still in each person’s connection to something greater, outside of one’s self that meaning must be grounded. It’s this last bit that isn’t done justice in the book. Most of the book gives examples of experiencing flow in different activies - work, exercise, relationships, friendships, solitude, hardships, etc - and each type of flow contributes to overall optimal experience. Then at the end, wham, ~universal flow~.

    Is this all there is? We want the answer to be no. We want to be connected to some universal thing beyond ourselves and the meaning we create for ourselves. We want to be convinced of it, don’t we? We need to believe that all our lives and effort is not for naught. Is this all there is? Is this all there is?

    Tags: flow meaning life books journal
  • Reflection

    I’m reading back on all the old letters and poems and prose. I could never write like that now. But even back then, I always complained about the way I wrote and now reading back, I’m rather proud of it.

    You read it and you feel it. I feel the struggles and the confusions of what it is to be a fifteen year old figuring out who she loves, and by that, who she is.

    We were so damn raw and honest and we’d write pages and pages of our feelings, patiently putting them all into words. These days it’s such a damn mumble jumble. Maybe these days we don’t even know what we feel anymore. Maybe we don’t have time to examine. We don’t give ourselves time to feel. It’s a constant feed of what to feel.

    Maybe it’s just that we’ve grown up and levelled out. We’re more level headed. We’re more confident, calm, cool, collected.

    But I don’t think that I’m any less confused these days. It’s just easier not to think about it all. It’s so much easier not to think about it all. It’s not that I haven’t learned from the past, but maybe the answers change over time.

    Tags: journal, reflection, past
  • on the train

    I’m on the train - 5 hours into a 12 hour train ride, en route from Moncton to Quebec City.
    It’s 10:48pm and the sun has just set.

    I’ve been working on putting together this archive of past thoughts & posts. Is it redundant to say both ‘archive’ and ‘past’?

    A little context:
    I graduated from university a few weeks ago, on June 20th (2017). That was a milestone. Naturally, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the recent past while reflecting on the previous five years - how I got from point A in time to point B in time, A being that move-in day back in September is 2012, and B being walking out of Concovation Hall. Part of me is kind of amazed that it all just went by and it’s done now. It’s kind of the same way I felt on that last day of the first year of university. I did a fair bit of writing (journalling) in my first year. I’ve been reading over what I wrote. It’s interesting to read something and have it put you back in a headspace you hadn’t been in, in awhile. It’s a good reminder of where I came (out) from. At the time, I wouldn’t have let anyone read it (except my best friend and internet strangers).

    Maybe we have to be guarded to get ahead or maybe it’s exhausting to be sincere - maybe both. I dunno. But I was so darn earnest and sincere in what I felt, and I miss that. I haven’t written anything in awhile. The words never feel right. I know I wrote that back then, too. I’ve been wanting to write down an actual reflection of my university years, of the mistakes I made, of what I’d learned. I tried, too. To write it, that is. Multiple times. I never finished any of the notes. Maybe that’s okay. Fragments are okay. One. piece. at. a. time.

    Tags: writing
  • laundry night

    It’s Monday night. I’m sitting on a rickety wooden bench inside the neighbourhood laundromat, waiting for my load of laundry. I brought a book to read, but I’m not feeling it. I’m engaged in an internal monologue.

    I put my rectangular George Washington into the change machine (except I didn’t put in the right way up the first time, with his head faced up and letters readable with your head tilted right), and got back four round George Washingtons. I did that four more times. Each time I had to flatten out the bill so it’d fit into the slit.

    This is real life. Doing laundry, and the mundane stuff. Normal life. It’s so normal and typical that it feels like I’m in a movie. You know those scenes in movies that take place in laundromats? Yeah. I’ve never been to a really nice laundromat, if those exist. They all seem kind of old and worn, with paint chipping off the window ledges and linoleum times chipping at the corners. Even the washing machines rattle and groan the way I’d imagine my bones to rattle and groan one day after too many days. I like it though. I like the this scent of fabric softener and fresh laundry. I like that this place isn’t trying to be more than it is; no rhombus shaped slab typefaced logo or non GMO organic labels on the detergent. It’s just another laundromat.

    The signs on the wall are hand painted in multicolored bubbly letters, and translated into Spanish, saying things like “all washers run for 25 minutes” and “DRYERS: 8 minutes for each quarter”, or “Las lavadoras corren 25 min” and “Las secadoras 8 minutos, cada 25 centavos”.

    I traded three of my quarters for a Tide single detergent packet. This time, I remembered to put the detergent into the washer before the laundry. Back at home, I’d always put the laundry in before the detergent, but the instructions diagram on these washers say to put the detergent in first. So I put my detergent in first. Then I stuffed in three weeks worth of dirty socks and underwear and coffee/grass stained clothes. I traded another nine quarters and 27 minutes for a clean load of wet laundry.

    And another 3 quarters for 24 minutes of dryer time.

    It’s 47 minutes to closing and the owner is here now. He’s cleaning out the lint in the dryers. I’m glad to know someone takes care of this place.

    Tags: laundry journal
  • life lessons

    life lessons:
    larger pieces of potato take longer to cook than smaller pieces of potato.
    consistency is important.
    you’re not going to ignore a whole area of computer science just because it’s difficult.

  • asymptotes

    Do you remember learning about limits and asymptotes in that advanced functions or calculus class you probably slept through? The asymptote is the straight line that a curve continually approaches but never meets. It's unreachable to infinity. I used to think that people were kind of like asymptotes - you can keep getting closer, but you'll never be there - if that makes any sense? But it's not quite like that, is it? Even the most reticent of us have, at some point, had the walls of our souls reached and breached. But it's easier to pretend to be an asymptote.

  • labyrinth

    She loved cats, coffee, books, and me. She chased after self-destruction, but she never realized that the romance of it came from the beauty of (r)evolution. She was my labyrinth, I lost myself in her. Things were going well unless they weren’t. We were volatile. I don’t know when things started taking a turn for the worse. Looking back, I only remember particular incidents that summed together something awful, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Neither I nor she knows exactly what happened. I re-read the old letters we exchanged and I still don’t know. I guess it snowballed over the years. We were friends at fourteen, confidants at fifteen, lovers at sixteen, liars at seventeen, strangers at eighteen. So it goes.

    Everything was a cycle: cycles of better, of worse, of truth, of lies, of running away from, of running headfirst. Everything became a game, a manipulative and jealous game of I don’t even know what but you knew when you were winning. She hated that I read her like a book and then wrote the next chapter before she did. I hated the predictability.

    Each time we hit the bottom of the cycle, I cared less. I suppose that’s desensitization. I remember her counting the cuts to me, I remember genuinely believing that she was about to kill herself, but it comes to the point when apathy swallows empathy. She was a broken record of anxiety and irrationality; I stopped listening, stopped caring.

    She loved me, I led her on, she claimed not to care. It was a half & half of love & lust that we mixed it in with our coffees and drank down in gulps.

    We leave for university and she says to me, “You’re the reason I’m leaving and the reason I’ll come back”. She knew that, at that point, I just wanted her out of my life (read as: I wanted someone with six months to live to get out of my life) and to forget everything that ever happened. She told me that I’d made her life absolute shit when she would’ve done anything for me, that I taught her to hate herself, and that she was moving across the country (literally) to get away from me – yet holds the hope that I’d realize a love I didn’t feel and ask her to come back. We both knew she wasn’t coming back.

    When we finally had the last conversation of saying things that were never said and sending the letters that were never sent, I realized how much I’d fucked up.

  • no title

    We’ve been here before - almost a decade ago.
    I remember the glaciers larger, the water bluer.
    It sounds like the classic, “things were better in my childhood”.
    Has the world aged?
    I thought of these natural wonders as immovable, unchangeable, static.
    Isn’t it always like that - how can anything so grand ever be anything less?
    But the world is alive;
    the mountains grow
    the glaciers retreat
    the trees

    Perhaps it was only my nine year old imagination that coloured the world brighter, bigger. Along with the hyperopic lens of hindsight and nostalgia for younger times (sentence fragment).

    Ah, what good is it to ache for the innocence of children or the invincibility of adolescents - it’s a wasteful and easy wistfulness, unbecoming for an aged eighteen with all of adulthood left to live.

  • no title

    Where the artificial creations of men’s developments are humbled by nature’s own organic cities. How so very characteristically human it is to cower in awe before the timeless grandeur of nature’s wonders.

    Isn’t it the popular and common goal to search for the beautiful? We’re obsessed with it - beauty and the way beautiful /nouns/ make us feel. We want to create it, to have it. We seek to replicate that which has already been Created.

    Every contradicting facet of ‘beautiful’ - innocent, dangerous, wild, tranquil, symmetrical, special, enigmatic.. etc that inspire awe and wonderment is exactly what we crave to capture.

    How many artists have passed through here and tried to capture what they saw? How many paintings, photographs, words, notes? & still we try to describe the indescribable because these scenes leave impressions that are worth memorialising beyond their ephemeral moments.

    Yet… I can’t. I delight in arranging the music of words: metrics of sentences, rhythms of syllables, harmonies of style, the euphony of beautifully crafted prose - but I haven’t the words to convey the precise colour of my sentiments, to preserve these impressions beyond a mere laundry list of adjectives.

    Once again, I’m caught at how do I words? Is it lame if the answer is that some things need no description?

  • no title

    There’s a joyful jealousy particular to watching my kids enjoy the moments of the days. It’s the crooked smile and silly eyes on their goofy little faces that tell of their little worlds of fun and delight. They’re intoxicated with the indefatigable spirit of adventure and novelty as they run through the trails, dodging amongst the trees like wood nymphs and peering into critter holes as giants. It’s a magical world.

  • well this year passed quickly

    First year is over. Wow. I’m sitting in my chair in front of the laptop on the corner of my desk - a position in which I probably spent the past 80% of the past 8 months. It’s the last night of the year; I have to be out by noon tomorrow. It already feels so different - the walls are bare, the shelves and drawers are empty, everything is gone. I’ve been packing for the past couple days and my dad came by and picked everything up this afternoon. I guess I just wanted a few more hours in this home. Most everyone’s gone. Walking down the hallway, everyone’s taken down their name tags; you can tell they’re gone. 

    This bareness feels almost like a deja-vu to the first time I walked in on move-in day. How was that eight months ago? Eight months ago, frosh leaders were helping me carry my fridge up to the third floor and I was unlocking the door for the first time. It felt like home from that first day. I remember arranging my belongings and looking up at the slanted ceiling and saying to myself, “welcome home”.

    I remember walking into Whitney Hall for the first time and staring at a girl tying her shoes or something. Funny, she was moving out the same time as me today. It’s like our whole relationship was a crazy coincidence or something. 

    Eight fucking months. Looking back is always so much easier than going through it. It’s ridiculous that it’s over. I spent too many of those months in a haze, wishing each day would disappear. Where’d eight months go? I slept through it. It’s kinda funny to wake up from depression and realize that everything’s passed you by.

    I don’t know if I’ve learned very much, academically. For the first time in my life, I failed a course. That’s right, I got an F - 40% in linear algebra. Go me. Dropping straight from the top to the bottom, ain’t that something? I don’t exactly remember when I had decided to just say fuck it to my academics. I don’t know if I’ve learned very much at all, actually. I kept saying to myself over and over again, hey I’m gonna get my shit together, I’m gonna set my life straight but the year’s over and that never happened. Whoops.

    Although, I gotta admit, I think I always knew that I would be an irresponsible wreck. C'mon, down inside, we all know exactly what kind of person we really are. 

    I’ll miss this place. I really will. It’s been good to me. I’ve loved it here, despite everything. There’ve been many great moments and memories, and also many little things I’ve come to love. It’s comfortable and familiar, it’s home.

    But I’m glad it’s over; I’m glad it was what it was. I can’t really formulate thoughts or sentences at the moment or write anything that could do justice to the happenings of the year. It’s pretty much been like a TV show and this is the cheesy little season finale that makes everything alright.

    Everything’s alright.

    Tags: journal
  • no title

    This place ain’t so ugly after all. 

    and if your strife strikes at your sleep
    remember spring swaps snow for leaves
    you’ll be happy and wholesome again
    when the city clears and sun ascends

    I’ve been feeling more renewed these past few days. It just feels so good to go outside and feel the sun and warm breeze and walk through the quads and parks seeing people sitting on the grass and under trees and tossing footballs and frisbees and jogging and sitting on the steps and enjoying the day. I actually feel like going out and doing things rather than hiding and wasting away - in fact, I even went for a jog (wait, what, doing things actually make us happier?!). It's reminiscent of the early autumn days when we all first arrived on campus, so full of promise and excitement. It’s nice to escape the dull and barren blandness/coldness of winter. 

    & so it goes with our corresponding mental states. It’s nice to feel alive.

    Hey, no way, I guess all those clichés about Spring bringing new life and rebirth etc, are true and multiply realizable. 

    Tags: journal
  • anthems of my adolescence

    I spent an hour of my afternoon listening to Dave Grohl’s keynote address at SXSW - it was totally great. He talks on the beginnings of his passion for music, how one song (Frankenstein - Edgar Winter), a punk rock cousin, and a concert on Independence Day, changed his life when he was thirteen. Throughout his 50 minute spiel, he emphasized, several times, the simple reward of just playing music and finding that feeling - the one

    “that made [him] feel possessed and empowered and inspired and enraged, and so in love with life, and so in love with music that it had the power to incite a riot, or an emotion, or start a revolution, or just to save a young boy’s life.”

    After watching Grohl’s keynote speech, I had a moment of “yeah man… yeaaah (y'know what I mean?)” and nostalgia for the anthems of my own early adolescence - the ones that incited within me, a riot, or an emotion, made me want to start a revolution, and probably saved my life.

    One of the first CDs I ever bought was Green Day’s American Idiot; I bought it with my Christmas money when I was ten years old. Listening back to the album again today - man that’s not even so hardcore or raw, but it was still the damn coolest thing I’d ever heard at the time. All the other kids in my class hated Green Day but it felt like I’d found something that was just for me. It was packaged angst and defiance and “fuck you”. I guess 10 year old Theresa was pretty angry with being the black sheep, so it was kind of nice to see someone else give the middle finger. I bought my first guitar, scratched up the pick guard on the first day because I was jamming too hard to American Idiot (read as: playing the shit out of those three power chords).


    There’s such a sense of liberation in the whole “fuck you; us vs. them” mindset; it’s exciting to feel as if you were part of a revolution. It feels purposeful to be angry about something, to indulge in the selfishness of just not giving a fuck about those who try to bring you down. It feels fucking fantastic.

    But even as teenage anger towards ~the establishment~ eventually fades, the understanding and appreciation for art just continues to grow. The whole ~omg this song gets me~ is exactly what it’s about. It’s not about the free feeling of a “fuck you”, it’s about something that understands and elicits every emotion in the spectrum. Music is what feelings sound like (citation needed), and that’s why it’s so damn cathartic. Whether it’s feeling like my freakin’ soul is weeping in joy at the sound of a beautifully played French horn, or wanting to dance to the latest pop hit, whether it’s playing in a symphonic ensemble or singing in the shower, it still all just boils down to a feeling.

    As Dave Grohl puts it, it’s about “your voice”. That sounds like a horrible cliché, but isn’t that what being a musician is about? Having something to say/feel/express? You don’t have to be a top 40 hit; just playing something - anything - with all the feelings ya got, is good enough to get that message through to whoever’s listening.

    I think I’ve digressed from whatever I was trying to say. Anyway, go Dave Grohl.

    Tags: text i'm definitely not at the age yet where i can look back on my early teenage years and not sound like a total asshat shhh i like pretending to be 40 already having a mid life crisis meanwhile as an 18 year old i really should be reading about computational functionalism right now instead i'm gonna go celebrate angela's birthday WOOO
  • no title


    • Showed up almost on time to class #achievement
    • Got back that essay I pulled an all nighter on and it turns out that being 400 words below the lower bound translates into it being “tightly argued”. Not bad.
    • Took out pizza from this nice pizza place yum
    • Had a useless nap
    • I watched a play about gays in concentration camps during WWII.
    • Then watched a pie eating contest.
    • Somehow, the pie eating contest was more disturbing/disgusting (they weren’t allowed to use their hands; it was who could eat the fastest using their faces).

    Tags: journal
  • monotonous melancholy

    how do i write words how do i words thoughts how to expressions how prose why can’t i anymore words i don’t have anything to say without sounding like a broken record because everything comes out as ~well i feel like shit~ and i can’t even make that sound interesting anymore

    i’ve become incapable of doing everything i once thought myself to be capable of. and i can’t even figure out how to take out the dangling preposition in that sentence and i don’t really care.

  • I'm a(nother) melodramatic teenager

    • Artists (of any form) are romantics. That’s why we memorialise memories - to preserve impressions in a form that can outlast its ephemeral moment.
    • In noticing arguably trivial details, we put more of ourselves into really framing the atmosphere. 
    • By directing our attentions to endearing little quirks like the way the corners of his eyes crease when he grins, or how she has one eye closed and one eye half open while she’s living in another moment, we inject the scene before us with significance until it bloats into balloon that doesn’t deflate until we have the chance to make art. 
    • The larger we imagine the scene to be in the moment, the longer it takes for impressions to fade.
    • We like making it more difficult for ourselves to move on. 
    • & we’ll keep writing and singing and dancing and remembering the special ideas we’d purposely engrained in our minds because that’s all we have.
    • It’s like some strange contradiction of living in the present in order to really remember it for the future so you can look back on the past.

    Or maybe that’s just me.

    Tags: thoughts text all art is quite useless
  • no title

    • I enjoy painting because I am entirely ignorant of proper technique and all that shit. It’s something I can do just for the sake of doing without worrying about formalities
    • Pulling memories and feelings from our minds and putting them into art - like songs and writings and visuals - it magnifies and distorts that which was perfect in the moment
    • Kisses never meant much to me but I really miss them today
    • I feel sad again for things I shouldn’t feel sad about
    • I’m trying my best to be honest, and honestly, there are just too many complications to which I haven’t the spirit to deal with, and maybe I’d prefer repression because it’s simpler to deny myself than to address the attractions that I don’t want to have. I feel kind of awful about it, but I suppose that’s okay.

  • it's possible to take a tour of North Korea

    There are actually multiple North Korean travel companies that will take you on a tour of the world’s most private country. 

    I really can’t fathom what life in North Korea would be like. Do the citizens know about the world beyond the country’s borders? What kind of culture is created when there’s no contact with the outside world? How poor is the quality of life? How do people live without the Internet? Living under a dictatorship seems like such a horror to me, but to those people, that’s all they know. Is it possible for them to miss something that they’ve never had? How does a fundamental difference in philosophy change the way we live?

    To live in ignorance, to believe the lies that are told - that makes for a classic dystopia from the point of view of Western ideals. Yet, when you think about it, do any of us really know any more about what’s going on around us? We tend to view everything as if it’s in a little bubble - that the world does not stretch beyond the boundaries of our personal lives. If we choose not to educate ourselves, not to wonder and question beyond the information that we’re given, aren’t we also ignorant?

    North Korea is going on my travel bucket-list.

    Tags: theresa researches random things at 5am i still need to fix my sleep schedule Angela doesn't want to come with me because North Korea doesn't allow journalists and because they take your passports i just get randomly interested in things okay text prose
  • no title

    note to self:

    • don’t ever be this stupid ever again
    • if you have a month to do an essay, you probably can’t do it the night before
    • i was up until 8am doing an essay on insight
    • and i only had 250/2000 words
    • and no thesis and no outline
    • i still don’t have one 
    • that was due today
    • i hate myself omg
    • at least 10% off of 15% is only 1.5% off overall?
    • still though
    • i have no arguments or points but my diction is nice so can i pls have points for nice sentences even though i don’t know how to put them into paragraphs
    • but wow fuck i have 1600 more words to write
    • that can’t be BSed at all
    • i’m dum
    • dum dum
    • slept for four hours
    • three hours the night before
    • skipped all classes today
    • essay for other class worth 50%, bullshitted that in three hours
    • maximum bound on that was 8 pages, i hit 4 including title page and bibliography 
    • i have band in like half an hour
    • that goes until 9:30
    • ok
    • i should be napping right now
    • since i’ll be up all night again
    • my back hurts
    • i wish jobin were here again
    • he was great
    • got a four pack of beer
    • i don’t even like beer
    • let’s see if i can trade it with someone for hard liquor
    • i’m sick of coffee
    • seriously
    • i’m so sick of coffee
    • too much coffee
    • ok gonna go nap before band

    Tags: journal
  • rhythm

    ease in after the first shot -
    on the floor after the seventh;
    spirit’s two-80 proof a minute.


    you lay down
    the feel
    ensnaring me.

    Tags: words
  • 27 November 2012 - 2:18am

    I like it better when you’re here - skin against skin, chest to chest. I like my legs tangled with your legs and my fingers tangled with your hair even though you don’t like me playing with your bangs. I love listening to your heartbeat quicken as time slows down in perfect rhythmic harmony to the sound of your breathing. I love tracing your skin and clinging between the valleys of your fingers. I’d rather just live in those moments where my nose touches your nose and I know you’d never kiss and I’d try not to because it feels like the moment would collapse. But I swear it’s like your lips (I love them like a bad habit) slowly suck the sadness out from my soul - but the taste of respite leaves with you in the morning. And then the world is grey again and I’m here alone sinking under these city lights and everything is bitter except the coffee. I suppose the optimistic part is that, even though we go weeks or months apart and we become different people with other people, something still fits. Or perhaps I’m just too good at framing moments and hanging them in my mind like art that no one else feels. I’ll try not to make a habit out of being so selfish, but the world just feels a little more right with your arms around me, the city a little less lonely with you beside me, & my bed a little warmer with you in it. 

  • no title

    I miss:

    • the bitterness of coffee
    • a clean room
    • dangerous vulerability
    • walking in the dark
    • feeling the greatest joy
    • spit filled carpet and terrible acoustics
    • having a dishwasher
    • when Glee was actually good
    • being seventeen and looking terrible at prom but pretending it was my wedding anyways and not knowing what I’d agreed to but being terrified and happy about it
    • not knowing better
    • my bed
    • my mother’s cooking
    • handwritten letters
    • being told what to do
    • being sixteen and watching her make mashed potatoes at 4am for me because she loves me and feeling her hands trail down my back because she wants me
    • certainty
    • being in the top few percentile
    • sleeping early
    • beef patties
    • being 10lbs lighter
    • converse shoes
    • uniforms
    • being fifteen and feeling like the coolest fucking person in the world sitting in the passenger seat next to a boy who’s blasting his mediocre music and speeding down the highway in his shitty car. 
    • getting everything I want
    • being enthralled by reading
    • learning Bach fugues
    • playing in a wind ensemble
    • sensual satisfaction
    • suburbia
    • being fourteen and learning to play the guitar and by play the guitar I mean knowing the power chords so I could feel like a damn bad-ass while I lip-sync some Green Day
    • driving; the feeling of going somewhere
    • swimming lessons
    • glaciers and mountains
    • white hot chocolate and planned discussions of Dorian Gray
    • sock monkeys and third spares
    • not menstruating
    • having a gang with whom to eat lunch
    • milk vending machines
    • when French class included talking puppets
    • being twelve and falling in love for the first time or what I thought was falling in love and staying in love like that for what seemed like a lifetime
    • Pokémon Silver; GameBoy Colour
    • raking leaves and making a pile and jumping in and being disappointed at the lack of flying leaves
    • eating a plate of shrimp everyday
    • running through the bushes because that wasn’t allowed
    • having a friend in Australia
    • running into my parents’ bed
    • math with more numbers than symbols
    • believing that I’m special
    • running around in parks and tearing calluses on my hands from the monkey-bars and crying because sand landed in my eye
    • trying to draw
    • talking on the phone
    • being shocked at injustice
    • not staring at a computer screen for hours of my day
    • the orchards in blossom, the birds nesting in the hazel thicket, the summer barley in the lower fields, the taste of strawberries, the taste of food, the sound of water, the touch of grass, the Brandywine River, Bag End, The Lights in the Party Tree, and Rosie Cotton dancing.

    Tags: challenge text prose
  • no title

    even when I’m happy - free for a few moments or hours - there’s that anticipatory sense of depression settling in - that as soon as I go back, I’ll be sinking into the familiar & overwhelming sadness.

    but I’m thankful for these short respites and moments of rest.

  • How important is education?


    One of the intrinsic characteristics of being human is being able to make conscious decisions; therefore, education is supposed to edify us and provide us with the necessary background in making such choices.

    The wonderful thing about people is, while there are certainly many predictabilities, someone is always capable of surprising you. That’s because even if we all receive the same stimuli - if we all read the same book or eat the same food - we’ll still reach differing conclusions.

    Education should not be telling us what to think, but rather should be providing the necessary tools for us to make our own informed decisions. This is why literacy, numeracy, and morality are so important. Kids always complain, “Why do I have to read a book written hundreds of years ago? When will I ever use trigonometric functions? I already know that bullying is wrong. Who cares about Alexander the Great? What’s the point of this?” Because all this learning is actually good for you and it’s about shaping you to become a functional member of society.

    It’s not about how Hester Prynne slept with her priest or how Holden is depressed - it’s about developing an understanding for the internal conflicts within one’s self. As we read, we understand more about life and love and people and how it all works, we gain that knowledge and empathy and we understand ourselves better for it. More than that, it enables us to express and articulate what once seemed inexplicable. Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be illiterate? Literacy expands our ability to grasp complex ideas - it’s not possible to communicate above a primitive level without some form of language. 

    It’s not about finding the instantaneous rate of change on a given graph or being able to do long division. It’s about enabling us to reason in a logical and rational way. It’s about being able to conceptualize and manipulate something intangible. 

    It’s not just about knowing what the right thing to do is - although that’s often difficult enough - it’s also about actually being able to do it. Schools hammer in the lesson “no bullies” over and over and over again; yet, it’s still an issue. We’re all still terrible people - the jackasses don’t just die when you graduate, instead they become your coworkers and bosses. 

    Education is a constant necessity. Your parents force you to go to school when you’re little, you can drop out of high school if you really want to, post-secondary education is entirely optional - but it’s more than just about formal education. It’s about educating yourself. It’s about developing a desire to educate yourself. It’s not just about wanting to learn chemistry or theology - it’s about wanting to know more than you do - about anything at all. It’s about asking why and how and eventually arriving at answers that you deem to be satisfactory.

    We’re all just trying to make it through life and we all have different intellectual goals - that’s why education isn’t really about the knowledge - it’s about what you do with it. You can go to phys. ed class and learn about the food groups, you can go to shop class and learn how to build a birdhouse, you can go to music class and learn to play an instrument. Then what? Then it’s about applying the things you’ve learned and finding a way to make it beneficial to you. Even if you can’t seem to see why it was necessary to learn algebra, your cognitive functionality is better because of it.

    Education doesn’t just take place in a classroom with a teacher. Learning happens everywhere and from everyone - the best learning is sometimes found in unexpected situations. The wise always find a way to learn from the foolish & teachers always learn from their students. 

    Whenever an autocracy wants to control its population - its most effective strategy is through the biased education of its children. If you’ve been taught to believe something your entire life - even if it’s a lie - it’s incredibly difficult to see past that. What we are taught ultimately shapes the people we are and become. 

    That all being said, obviously there are flaws in formal education and curriculum - every kid could probably point out a handful - but that doesn’t at all change the impact and importance of it. So kids, go to school, pay attention, learn something - anything at all. Just please, come out of it having been bettered as a person who can contribute positively to society. 

    …There’s a huge hole in everything I just wrote, but let’s not even get into the contradiction between education and societal conformism. 

    Tags: challenge education opinion text prose journal
  • I miss you.

    Every time a relationship changes - suddenly all the things attributed to that relationship and person take on a new perspective. The larger a part that person played in your life, the larger a portion that person changes. All the big and little things and activities that once seemed so casual become inundated with new emotional implications as a result of the many connections we made between them and the person with whom we made them. 

    It’s incredible how many of these little connections we make. There are very few songs I can listen to without being reminded of someone, and even simple activities such as walking down a street or drinking chocolate milk become associated with particular individuals or certain memories. Then all of a sudden, when that person’s gone, everything seems so much lonelier - the sense of aloneness augmented by the comparison of doing the same activity with and without that person. Does that make any sense? 

    Even when we meet new people and attempt to overwrite the past - it’s only a substitution at best. It almost seems like the more relationships we go through, and the more we experience, the more difficult it becomes to find something new that hasn’t been soiled by nostalgia. Even though the same activity with someone else would be different - not better or worse - there’ll always be that shadow of the past. 

    Or perhaps I’m just overly sentimental.

    Tags: journal personal
  • Pride Week

    I’m constantly going through periods between partial acceptance and complete denial. Whenever I see people standing up for themselves, I feel like I’m invincible. Sometimes I just want to tell the world that I just don’t care anymore, and whatever I am, I am; and I’m proud of that. Sometimes I don’t even want to deny that I like her, but would rather confess it to the world that I do. Other times, I am adamant on the fact that I’m not. There’s absolutely nothing to shake the belief of my heterosexuality, and everything else that I’ve ever thought, was a complete lie that I created, with the influence of others. There’s no way that I’d ever like her, it’s just a simple attraction. Then all this is bullshit, even all this confusion, because there never was anything, and there never will be, and I’m just playing mind games with myself again. I don’t know; I don’t even know if I care anymore. Maybe it doesn’t matter? Maybe it does? I just want something to be sure of, in a world of confusion.


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