Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Why the blog?

(Warning: this is very self-referential)

When I was young (in the first grade, maybe?), my parents - one a physics professor at the local research university, and one who was working towards a physics PhD - figured out that my elementary school's math curriculum was worthless and had me do all sorts of math workbooks and stuff which quickly brought me to several years ahead in the curriculum. Based on my knowledge at the time, many people figured that I was on the way to becoming a Nobel-prize-winning physics genius. Or, at the very least, a Stephen Sachs type who, after graduating from Clayton High School, would go to Harvard and then become a Rhodes Scholar.

Of course, things couldn't have turned out that way. After several years I graduated to middle-school math textbooks, and then to high school math and science classes - now maintaining but not extending my head-start. After high school I entered a reasonably good college (not Harvard), and earned reasonable grades (but no noteworthy honors). This later history, I think, is in line with the extent of my natural abilities.

Why, then, were the initial assessments of my abilities so inflated?

I suspect that years of filling out math workbooks did little to affect my current mathematical knowledge. But for a few years I was more constantly immersed in mathematical thinking than any of my peers. I had no more ability, but much more of a constant familiarity with numbers than they did. And so, for a time, I did extremely well.

Being physicists, my parents immediately saw the deficiencies in the elementary school math program. It took them a little longer to realize that the English curriculum wasn't perfect either. They then tried to get me to do a series of "essays", one a week, on whatever topic I wanted. But I was now too old and too stubborn, and "essays" never caught on, since my parents didn't have the stamina to fight me about it every week. Thus, I never ended up spending any substantial amount of time writing "essays". And my writing skills never ramped up the way my math skills had.

Among other things, this blog is an attempt to revive the "essays" which I never took seriously while growing up. As an engineering student, my verbal skills are not in great demand. I'll have even less opportunity to practice them once I leave college and stop taking the occasional liberal arts course. Regularly writing down something coherent should, I hope, let me sharpen my writing skills over time - a transitory effect, perhaps, but one that I think will be useful and even personally necessary.

Of course, this blog has to be fun for me, or I won't have the motivation to update. But now, at least, my professional and self-actualizational motives for blogging should be clear to you.

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