May 29, 2012

Answers To All The Questions I Asked As A Kid

When I was growing up and trying to figure out what was going on in this crazy planet I was born on, there were several important questions I asked that took many, many years to find answers to. What was frustrating is that almost every single answer was usually extremely obvious once I could just find someone who actually knew what they were talking about. So here are the answers to several simple life questions that always bugged me as a kid, based on my own life experiences. Many people will probably disagree with one or two things here, which is fine, because I don't care.

1. What is the purpose of Math?

Math is simply repeated abstraction and generalization. All of it. Every single formula and rule in mathematics is derived by generalizing a simpler concept, all the way down to the axioms of set theory. It was invented to make our lives easier by abstracting away annoying things. Why count from 2 to 6 when you can simply add 4? Adding is simply repeated counting, after all. But then, if you can add 4 to 2 and get 6, you should be able to generalize it so you can add 4 to 2.5 and get 6.5, and what about adding 2 to 4 over and over and over? Well that's just multiplication. What about multiplying 2 over and over and over? Well that's just exponentiation. What's that funky Gamma Function I see every now and then? That's simply the factorial ($5! = 5\cdot 4\cdot 3\cdot 2\cdot 1$) generalized to real and complex numbers, so it can evaluate 5.5!, its just written Γ(5.5 - 1) = Γ(4.5). Math is generalization.

Usually smart people figured all the generalizations out for you, so in some cases you can simply memorize a formula or look it up, but its much easier to simply remember the rules that the smart people figured out for you so you can rederive everything you need without having to memorize it. When you understand the rules (which are all carefully constructed to be consistent with each other), you can then use Mathematics as a language to express problems in. By abstracting the problem into mathematics, the answer becomes much easier to obtain. The only thing math does is make thing easier to do by abstracting them. That's all.

2. Why does college think high grades in math correspond to programming ability?

This is because programming is math. Programming is all about abstracting a problem to automate it. Think of it as a lingual descendant of Math. The problem is that in high school they teach you calculus and programming at the same time and try to tell you that they are related. They aren't. Calculus doesn't have anything to do with programming. Set Theory does. The mathematical constructs of logic are what programming derives from, not calculus. Naturally, they don't teach you any of that. Even though you can consider programming a sub-discipline of mathematics, ones programming ability is not connected to your test-taking abilities.

3. How do you compose music?

First, you come up with a melody. The best way to do this is to find a song you like, and figure out its melody. Knowing basic music theory will help, because then you know what a chord progression is, so you can find that too. Simply rip off all the common chord progressions you like - you'll come up with your own later. Rhythm is important too, so take note of that - be careful to focus on notes that seem to carry the beat.

Great, that was the easy part. But how do you make techno music? How do you record things? How does it get on a computer? All I have is this stupid electric piano I can record things off of, there has to be a better way! The answer is DAWs and VSTi, or Digital Audio Workstations and their virtual instrument plugins. A great DAW to start with is FL Studio, and there are a lot of free VSTi plugins floating around. VSTi plugins are simply synths or effects or other tools that you drop into your DAW and use to play notes or modify the sound. If you want natural sounding instruments, use samples. Soundfonts are widely supported, have an extension .sf2 and there are gigabytes upon gigabytes of free samples everywhere. You should try to hunt down an independent artist whose music you like, they'll often be willing to give on advice on how they create their style.

But now I've made a song, where do I post it? Soundcloud, newgrounds,, and bandcamp lets you sell it for moneys. Don't worry if you're terrible, just keep doing it over and over and over and paying attention to advice and constructive criticism.

4. How do you draw clean art?

Clean digital art is commonly done using vectorization and gradients. There are multiple photoshop techniques that can be combined with tablets to create very nice looking lines by doing fake-tapering and line adjustments, but more commonly the tablet is simply pressure sensitive. There are many different techniques for doing various styles, so its more appropriate to ask the artist themselves.

5. Why do adults kiss?

I say instinct but no one really knows yet (only 90% of humans kiss). Provided you are in a culture that does kiss, you'll grow up to be around 16-17 and suddenly you'll feel this inexplicable urge to kiss whomever you've fallen in love with for no apparent reason. It's theorized to have arisen due to needing to evaluate certain proteins in a potential partner, which requires physical contact, along with various other things. I say instinct because I always thought it wasn't instinct and I wouldn't fall for it and then why am I fantasizing about kissing girls CRAP.

6. Why do adults fall in love in the first place?

Instinct. By the time you are 20, if you haven't yet found an intimate partner, you will feel crushing loneliness regardless of how many friends you have. Do not underestimate just how badly Nature wants you to have babies. This is why people get desperate - the desire to be in an intimate, loving relationship can be extremely powerful. It also leaves a giant hole that often explains various other bizarre things adults do in apparent attempts to kill themselves in the most amusing way possible.

7. Why don't popular people respond to fan mail very often?

This usually only comes up if you are using a bad medium. Artists often want to talk to their non-retarded fans, but the majority of people are incredibly stupid (see below), and thus in certain cases the signal-to-noise ratio is so high they simply can't justify spending the time to find you in a sea of insane idiocy when they have better things to do, like be awesome. Some artists simply don't want to be bothered, and this is usually the result of being disillusioned with how utterly stupid most people are, so it's hard to blame them, but unfortunate. Usually there will be a way to at least throw a meaningful thank you to the artist, possibly by e-mail or twitter if you look hard enough, and they will always appreciate it if they can just find your message. Never assume an artist is too stuck up and full of themselves to answer you. They just can't find you. Although quite a few of them actually are assholes.

8. Why is everything I do always wrong?

Because people are idiots and have no idea what they're talking about. Only ever listen to someone telling you that you are doing something wrong if you know they have extensive experience in exactly what you are trying to do. Otherwise, take the advice with a mountain-sized lump of salt, because people in specialized professions almost always take advice out of context and inappropriately simplify it to the point of it actually being completely wrong. There is always a catch. This is taken up to eleven in programming - I once had someone who did networking tell me my choice of language for my graphics engine was completely wrong and insisted I was so bad at programming I should just stop, because it would make the world a better place. He is an asshole, and he is completely wrong. Don't listen to those people, ever.

9. Why does everyone call everyone else an idiot?

BECAUSE EVERYONE IS AN IDIOT. Trying to comprehend just how unbelievably stupid people can be is one of the most difficult things to learn while growing up. It's far too easy to disregard someone as evil when in fact they really are that dumb. "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" - Hanlon's Razor. The best you can hope to do is dedicate your life to not being an idiot in your choice of profession and don't think it makes you qualified to give advice on vaguely related fields (see networking programmer above).

10. Why do adults argue about everything?

Because they are 10-year-olds that have to pay taxes, and nobody really knows how to pay taxes properly. They don't know what they're doing. Common sense is not common, people are not rational, and people are idiots. They don't care if they're wrong, and they don't care if you're right. They just don't care, because life sucks, and life isn't fair, and they didn't get the memo until after they wasted their youth either being too drunk to remember anything, or studying in a library all day to get a useless scrap of paper.

Do something that matters to you, and know this: Life isn't fair, so you have to make it fair. You have to do things the hard way. You have to fail miserably hundreds of times and keep on trying because you aren't going to let life win. You have to do what matters to you, no matter what anyone else thinks. You have to fight for it, and you have from now until you die to win. Go.

Cheat Codes

1. If you don't know how to properly socialize with someone, ask them about themselves. There is nothing people love more than talking about themselves.
2. If you like programming, bury yourself in it. It is, by far, the most useful skill you can have right now.
3. Read the instructions.
4. Bunnies make everything better =:3

1 comment:

  1. Hi Erik -
    I wonder if you have come across Transactional Analysis? There's a good intro here:

    It helped me figure out answers to the issues you raise in questions 5,6,9 & 10.