Tuesday, 3/6/01

Sex and violence. Both are considered sinful in some way, and both have an inherent fascination. But the one that is pleasure and love and beauty, the one that creates life, is taboo... and the one that is pain and ugliness, the one that destroys life, is condoned...

I was thinking about this while watching John play Perfect Dark tonight. Now, although I am admittedly a pacifist, I have nothing against violent video games or movies. Entertainment is entertainment. If John gets a laugh out of a point-blank shot to the back of an polygonal head, that's okay with me. What I find wrong is that John can sit out in the middle of the living room, proudly gunning down security guards, whereas I wouldn't even think of reading Exploitation Now (which is fairly tame, all in all) without being safely in my room with the door shut.

Sex is unspeakable, but violence is dinner-table conversation. Only a pervert would look at pictures of naked women, but a healthy well-adjusted guy can enjoy watching simulated people get torn to gory little shreds, no stigmas attached. Something seems very, very wrong here. Good thing I'm too tired right now to think about it further.

I think I did work today. Well, I'm pretty certain I did work today. There was a very tricky, complicated research problem that I was hoping to solve by the end of the week. Here it is Tuesday, and I somehow have this little matlab script that goes and prints out a bunch of numbers. And they're the right numbers. They are the correct answers. So I must have solved the problem. But my brain is feeling really tired and confused, and I'm not really sure how I did it.

I remember, as I was working, my mind started getting hazy and disoriented, typically a sign that a problem has grown too large and has exceeded my mental grasp. In such a situation, I usually back off from the problem and give myself some time to familiarize myself with it, until I can again fit the whole thing in my head. But this time I decided to force myself to plow ahead. I simply added and convolved my vectors without clearly remembering why I was doing so, and in the end, I had a matlab script, and I ran it, and it worked. And I felt nothing. No ecstasy, no relief, not even surprise. I didn't feel like I had accomplished anything at all.

For me, this research work is primarily a quest for understanding. Understanding how all these numbers work together. A formula that describes my understanding of a solution is beautiful. A formula that gives the correct answer, without me quite remembering why, is meaningless.

I know that tomorrow I will be able to figure all this out and get a grasp on how it all works. I'm not worried about that. But the experience today of solving a problem without knowing exactly what I was doing was sort of disturbingly emotionless. I think I'll try not to do that anymore.