Writing from a Different City

June 19, 2013 at 1:53am

I've been staying in Austin for about a week now, and I feel myself settled into routine as I undertake my first semi-independent college-like experience away from home. Such a statement obscures the fact that I've both stayed on a college campus before and spent extended time away from home (mostly on camping trips - 2010 National Scout Jamboree being the most memorable), but there is both much and little semblance to being almost completely responsible for my own actions. As I pass the one year anniversary of my blog's existence, I also have much on which to reflect on that front. The generality (yet activeness) of my title belies the fact that, penning this post late at night (contemplative), I'm ready to talk about anything at all.

"If I don't get up right now, I don't get to eat breakfast." The thought crossed my mind this morning as I serenely ignored my alarm. My carefully cultivated sleep schedule had fallen apart over the weekend as I marathoned the miraculous season 4 of Arrested Development. Lest you be judging, I did wait quite a while instead of breaking it out before finals and stuff. I've actually been pleasantly surprised to find that I need the alarm less than I would for school; the sun graciously trickles through my window in its own timely way, and on multiple occasions I've found myself opening my eyes at 8:59 in time for a 9:00 alarm. It doesn't take me that long to get ready once I'm up. Most days I grab breakfast - usually at Einstein Bros. - before crossing some streets and sidewalks and other types of pavement to arrive at work. Sometimes it just randomly hits me how fortunate I am to have my job. It's such a cool setup and a really nice fit for me and my skill set that it blows my mind that just over a week or so ago, I had no idea that I would be spending my summer how I am. The Startup Edition question a few weeks ago asks "Who took a chance on you?" I am living the answer.

I don't have a UT key card, so I have to be let in to the office in the morning. Sometimes it's nice and I bump into someone in the elevator up. In my time so far with our (stealth mode-ish) startup, I've wrestled with frustrating stacks and APIs, implemented some neat algorithms, debated server architectures, and gotten (generally) to put cool things into practice. I love that I'm doing real work: many interns can't say the same. I also appreciate that my experience can speak louder than my age. I watched the introductory lectures of Coursera Startup Engineering, in which Professor Srinivasan remarks on the inexperience of many academically trained computer scientists in practical technologies. I think there's an interesting discussion to be had in this. James Somers' article on what it means to develop in the web/startup scene really made me think long and hard about what I want out of computer science. My friend remarked on my intense academic interest in algorithms and some of the relatively abstract parts of CS, and I feel like that reflects Somers' idea that much of practical implementation is sadly menial. Web design is making boxes, coloring the boxes, and then putting things in the boxes. Can I find value in doing only that? But I know this about myself - and I say it all the time - that I'm interested in creating things that matter. I have to be able to make things to be able to value-assess them and see if they are meaningful to me. And sometimes even just the process of making is part of the meaningfulness. It's so nebulous and cross-domain - but at minimum I feel comfortable with myself knowing at this point that I have an interest (and hopefully talent) in both such aspects, the abstract and the practical. There's surely more self-discovery needs happening, but at least I have a starting point.

A year or so ago I started writing the PHP/SQL/HTML/CSS out of which would spring the blogging system you see before you. My design/code has improved since then, and maybe even my writing. Adapting to the blogging medium was something that kind of just happened as I wrote and found my blogging voice. Sometimes I look at old things I've written (and not just on the blog - even old World History essays) and, while I recognize myself and my thoughts and stylistic idiosyncrasies, marvel at the fact that I used to know these things off the top of my head, or think about those problems on a daily basis. Writing makes me a better person because it is inherently constructive. Sometimes someone mentions my blog in conversation and I'm immensely flattered that anyone actually reads this; often I'm surprised by the things with which people connect in my writing. Most of my web hits go to my demonstrative/instructive posts on algorithms (k-means and Prim's, I'm looking at you), which always comes as a surprise when I peek at the analytics dashboard. I publish posts publicly, but I always feel like I'm writing for me. And maybe that's the best way.

I was accidentally productive today. In order to procrastinate on a certain task, I ran two miles on the treadmill downstairs and did my laundry. Running is like coding is like writing: often you don't really feel like doing it, but once you start, you let it take you somewhere far away and...