Positive definition

I feel like this turned up somewhere in my computer science education. Maybe it was one of those classes I took off to the side. Some logicky philosophical thing which is like super important because it proves that computers can’t solve the halting problem or whatever, but which is like not important because it doesn’t tell me how to like run a server, but which is like super important because I’m a Computer Scientist (oooh!) and not a server runner.

Positive vs. negative definitions. Where you have some object that you’re trying to define, and a positive definition is where you say what it is, and a negative definition is where you say what it isn’t. Like “what kind of car do you want to buy?” “A yellow camaro, because it’s so fast and pretty and Brian Bell of Weezer wrote a song about it once.” That’s a positive definition. A negative one is “Well, not a truck or minivan or other big thing, because I don’t like driving big cars, and not a sports car because I don’t want a gas guzzler, and not an American car because they suck, and nothing too unsafe or flashy or expensive.”

They can both be useful, but positive definitions are almost always more fun, Weezer or no. How many times have you been around people and said “what do you want to do today?” and they say “well, not go to a movie, and not go to a park, and not go here, and not there” and you end up sitting inside and rereading Reuters’s “Oddly Enough” because it’s all that comes up on the little bar across the top of your gmail. That is so frustrating! Maybe there are psychological reasons that people do this (they don’t want to be responsible for bad decisions, etc., but I’m not going into that here because I don’t know.

I do know that defining yourself and your life positively is a good way to go. I negatively-defined myself into a career (no humanities because I don’t like to write, no sciences because I hate decimal points, not business because I don’t like suits, no math or finance because I hate decimal points and integrals and derivatives, not arts because I don’t like to draw… CS it is). That’s turning out well so far. I mean, plus I really like programming, so there’s that. But now I have to define the rest of who I am and what I like to do, and it’s difficult to do it positively. But here are two more pieces of information:

- I saw Coraline the other day and it was so good. I mean, the story was weak (and it would have been so much better with no dialogue), but it was so goddamn sonically and aurally pretty. The garden scene alone is up there with the opening sequence of Paprika and the fight with a bunch of Agent Smiths in the Matrix Reloaded (shut up) as “entirely worth the price of admission alone.” (and then the other father’s playing the piano and oh shit this guy is John Linnell!)
Self-definition point here: I freakin' love dark kids' beautifully-animated wonderland-adventure stories, or anything that blurs the stylistic line between movie and video game. If it were possible, I would have already bought a ticket to 9. And not just because The Knife opens the trailer.

- Self-definition point #2: I love food and markets. I wandered around at the Pike Place market for like 3 hours today. Found dinner. I love putting things together. It’s a big algorithmic puzzle that can’t be solved trivially. And every piece you get to buy a thing. Buying things is fun, talking to market-shop-owners is fun, looking around and gawking at all the colorful things is fun. Exclamation point!


Pete -

Positively define life.
I really like this article.

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