My opinion blog, aatzzq, is closing, and merging into zyxyvy on this page, tyvraquetzy. If you want to view content that used to be on aatzzq, ask me for the posts, and I might share the post(s) with you.
At the time that it closed (2013 November 10), it has been around for about 18 months, and received 2781 views from 69 countries, including a few who had a visitor to aatzzq before having a visitor to zyxyvy (for example, Switzerland, Ukraine, Kuwait, Iceland, Jordan, and Uruguay, the last two of which have actually not yet visited zyxyvy at the time of this post). The first six countries to visit aatzzq were United States (2012 May 02), India (2012 May 02), South Korea (2012 May 16), Philippines (2012 June 14), China (via Hong Kong) (2012 July 03), and Switzerland (2012 July 03). The five countries with the most visits at the time of aatzzq’s closing were United States (2394), Taiwan (95), Canada (51), Brazil (17), and United Kingdom (15).
I’d like to also copy over a few passages that I wrote there in aatzzq that I on reflection liked to start off this page.
“…a while ago, I decided to try to rank what I felt were the top x pieces of classical music in my opinion. (Of course, I also took a while deciding what x would be—arbitrarity is quite an issue.) I didn’t finish doing it. Why? It’s not because I eventually became too lazy, it’s not because I’m indecisive, it’s because it dawned upon me that it’s the…wrong thing to do. Through any subject as multi-dimensional as music, ranking is ridiculous. Even if one did decide to carry on with ranking, one would realize, for example, that certain works are better than others in some occasions and in different occasions not. Ranking pays utmost disrespect to both the rich values of each individual work and the latent synergies that hold together the crystals of pan-musical resonance. No one piece by itself can truly overshadow even a significant fraction of the remainder of musical repertoire. It could be a really great piece, but there are still hundreds of other really great pieces, that the powerful emotional force of music has aggregated over centuries of history. Maybe one piece has clearly fine melody. Maybe another has uniquely sonorous harmony. Perhaps another exhibits counterpoint of genius. But in no case is it close to representative to state one superior to another when any possible net superiority is so insignificant. Maybe levels of superiority of music exist. The greatest of Beethoven symphonies might be regarded as at a higher level of music than Czerny etudes, which might be regarded as at a higher level than the plunking of random keys. But certainly distinctions among individual pieces are not to be made; the momentum of their vivacity is distinct enough to us to require the blurring of the position of their nobility (and in fact, now with the modern era, random keys begin to be respectable with an arguably honorable increasing myopia towards defining quality). There are too many dimensions to music. I would argue uncountably infinite. And it is destructive to meaning to weight these dimensions against each other….and the same is true for colleges. People could give their argument that a college is the best college. But it definitely does not apply to everyone. And most of all, it does not mean students who are accepted to “HYPSM” colleges are superior students. What makes a good student? Is a valedictorian a best student? Is one who goes to “HYPSM” a best student? Perhaps it is arguable that an attentive student that regularly completes homework is definitely a better student than one who sleeps in class half the time, which is better than a student with chronic truancy (and with the modern era, this inequality may not necessarily hold true any longer: standard education systems). This is a thoroughly subjective matter, and I would in fact like to point out that I am actually appalled at the round of college admissions this year: many students that I believe have towering intellectual value in the Class of 2012 are “only” going to UC Berkeley (quotes for two reasons: to emphasize the result of ranking and to demonstrate my newfound respect in UC Berkeley), a couple of which were even denied admission there. I believe that with the staggering increase of competitiveness in each new class, admissions are more and more a matter of luck. I also feel that MIT this year made a good selection of MSJHS students, not to speak for myself, although even in this case I could point out a few students that are definitely qualified to attend MIT that were not chosen (On a slight tangent, I profoundly respect that MIT does not acknowledge legacy as a factor in admissions.). Perhaps it is because my opinions and values happen to coincide with MIT’s that they decided I belonged there. As far as I can tell of what I’ve seen, I love MIT. I feel it could be a bit more nerdy, but in general, I greatly approve of the college. But I will not say “MIT is the #5 college” or even “MIT is the #1 college” if US News ranks it #1. It’s a college I maximally approve of and of which approval has been reciprocated. By no means am I automatically a better student than one who is going to Cal. And to the general usage of the abbreviation HYPSM as the symbol of paramount accomplishment of students, I express my full distaste.” (2012 May 02)
‘…[the] SAT is devoid of education and research. The Critical Reading section is not a Critical Reading section, the Math section is not a Math section, and the Writing section is not a Writing section, and the fact the colleges like it is pitiful. The SAT is so devoid of meaning that CollegeBoard has to decorate each page on the top with a different margin for each different section as a vain attempt to make it interesting and add an extra zero to the end of each score to make the test seem more important. (Okay, this is not necessarily true but it seriously seems to make the most sense.) At least AP courses have some interesting material in them, and may be worth the time and energy to take them (no, really, it’s delicately made—all the materials together cost $85; everybody knows that CollegeBoard is a nonprofit organization). The fact that they’re standardized automatically makes them uninteresting, though, although not to the same degree as standards deprive High School classes of educating (I should note especially that the standards for High School mathematics make me want to vomit). Anyway, back to standardized tests. There seems to be a hallmark of the Mission area known as the SAT prep class. You know, pay money, get points. In fact if I recall correctly, one SAT prep company offered a huge scholarship for being their student and getting a 2400. I’ll leave that without a comment.
Some people have started asking me what is necessary to make it to a college like MIT. Oh my, these things. First of all, the reason why I made a continuous conscious effort to avoid studying for the SAT as much as possible is that otherwise I could actually spend time living and learning. There is nothing more important than doing what one likes. Not just what you think you like, not just what you say you like, not just what others say you like, what you actually like. What you’re willing to secretly be doing when your parents aren’t watching. Don’t try to do it, just do it. Being different is nothing like being yourself, which is automatically different. Make sure that by doing what you’re doing you can call yourself living, because there is nothing to live but life itself. Don’t think “achievements.” That’s what I call noun-thinking as opposed to verb-thinking. Keep doing and achievements will generate faster than an academic community generates SAT prep classes. And stop thinking of college. It’s a lottery if you don’t pay them millions of dollars. It’s very sad that that’s what determines so much these days. And stop valuing those As like they’re made of solid gold. It definitely means so much that you get 90.0% of everything you “know, ” specifically not 89.9%. I have no idea why colleges like that particular letter, and it makes what college one goes to an even less indicator of skill. In the words of Mark Twain, ”I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” It’s now summertime. Start to learn.’ (2012 June 15)
“That is not my greatest concern over the system, though. Places like colleges, in fact, get over this silly 70% business and use curves, frequently overall curves. What I would want to point out the most is the fact that grades are done out of a total.
That’s what I don’t like. There is a 100%. And you’re not supposed to get above it. Yes, occasionally extra credit is offered, but the fashion with which it is offered typically makes more unexplainable twists in the grading system. If I were to make a grading system, I’d have a huge spectrum of possible given scores. Specifically, I wouldn’t have an upper limit and give extra credit liberally: in fact probably on any assignment, as long as what is done is stellar enough.” (2012 October 16)
“The problem with the allegation that the ideas that ‘them liberals’ introduce can be dangerous new stuff, though, falls flat on the fact that the ideas aren’t even new. Much of what liberal political thought claims is the way things should be was actually the way things were until somebody decided that a book someone wrote a couple of millenia ago should be the moral register of the world. The way grander older nature planned things out corresponds much more with the supposedly liberal ideas: numerous species explored homosexuality way before humans did. Abortion was a method of nature back in the good ol’ days before the morally epileptic humans. If there’s something humans brought about that nature would most frown at, how would it not be guns? Why don’t we ask nature whether or not humans are making temperatures on this Earth skyrocket? And boy oh boy oh boy, no one supports evolution more than nature itself. In a sense, what progressive liberals are doing is more reactionary than what the claims of conservatives are. We have as a society made ourselves call make-up work in changing policy to what it should have been all along…progress. And that is an example of something called “sad.” If we were really exploring the unexplored and actually doing new stuff that could thus be qualified for the “new and possibly dangerous” label, we’d have to go beyond plain old sodomy to things like the SMBC proposal of nose and ear sex, like possibly via orifice expansion…[or] consider getting guns to play Russian Roulette with other guns. But unless it actually is unexplored, the term “progressive” is applied only partially correctly and the idea that we should think twice before breaking moral standards held for centuries is an absurd proposal against the standards known for millions of years on this Earth.” (2013 July 19)
Update: by the request of a reader, I have appended a passage from my 2012 June 15 post on Academics.