Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Journal Entry: Thoughts About Being Bad At Keeping Track of Time and Numbers

I keep a typed Journal on my computer, and I've been keeping track of a few countdowns and "countups," such as the number of days since my birthday, and one of these countdowns is until a particularly unusual astronomical phenomenon, which I'll address in a future post (take note, if you google it, I am not of the opinion that it's a date that predicts the Rapture or Second Coming--the latter would be impossible, anyway, because we would be in the midst of the Tribulation, and that's patently not the case). Here's what I wrestled with one day.

Monday, July 8
Countdown 2 is numbering the days remaining until September 23rd, 2014. But I’ve been notoriously bad at keeping countdowns before, or countups for that matter, if you look at my [previous Journal] entries where I was trying to keep track of how many of the 180 days in the school year had passed. I was off by double digits by the end. So these counts I have are partly an experiment to see if I can keep track of time accurately and consistently.  I’m going to attempt to lay out my reasoning below so that it’ll be possible to check my process at some point in the future.

Okay, here’s my check on Countdown 2: Apparently I’ve been counting down to September 13. Here’s what I did. I counted the rest of the days in July, not including the 8th, and all the days in August. Then I counted 22 days in September, thus not including the 23rd. That gives me 23, 31 and 22, respectively, which add up to 76. The days from July 9th through next July 8th, inclusive, are 365 days, and so for the next year (2016 is the next leap year). The total of all this comes to 806. Subtracting 10 days gives 796 days until September 13, not inclusive. So even with meticulous attention, I can still have an error of one or two days after only a little more than a half year, as you can see. This irks me. I should note that the counts on the back inside folder page of (Volume 10) were done prior to the recount I’m doing right now. This way, anyone reading after can adjust for my errors. It would make so much more sense to me if the number I had was higher than the one I just got, because then I could justify it by saying that I was counting inclusively with either today’s date or the final date. But alas, the error is the opposite, and so I can’t find any other conclusion than that I have made a counting error at some point when I wasn’t going day-by-day. How frustrating! For a guy who isn’t stupid, to be this poor with numbers, it’s immensely irritating to consistently make mistakes of the simplest sort – forgetting a number here or there, or a minus sign, or misplacing a decimal. This is the ironic reason why I was bad at calculus. Not because the logic was difficult, but because I would make minute numerical errors that would completely throw off the answer, and it would be impossible to find out where the mistake was without a monumental waste of time that wasn’t guaranteed to even be fruitful. Logic isn’t hard for me to keep track off, it’s the quantifying of things that aren’t distinguishable (one ‘3’ is the same as any other ‘3’). I’m not the sort of person who can discover a new mathematical equation, or program a computer. I have a certain level of respect for those who can and do, although I’m reserved, because I recognize that they’re not fundamentally more intelligent than me (some are, quite a few, however, are not), just as I am not fundamentally more intelligent than someone whose expertise lies in law or economics whereas mine is in the life sciences – the thing to be aware of is that our brains work differently, and our minds think differently. Some people’s ‘way’ of thinking is simply better suited for highly numerical things, like accounting, cyber security, or teaching hyper-advanced Calculus to PhD candidates. Then there are those who are good with people, not numbers, and still others whose mindset (meant here in the same way as the word “skill-set”) makes them better able to be self-sufficient than others. There is a certain level of intelligence possessed by those who can build their own house, repair their own cars, farm their own land and hunt their own food, that is far too often overlooked by those who have been blessed by those who do these things for us, allowing our minds to think about things beyond what’s necessary to secure our immediate survival. My exasperating failure to keep track of numbers without an aid is a small blessing to me that reminds me to be humble in how I view myself, and to be appreciative and respectful of others who do the things that I can’t. My understanding of how intelligence works, moreover, prevents me from being overmuch impressed with someone’s performance to the point of being blinded to their fallibility as a human being. Just because someone’s an accountant, doesn’t mean he knows how to best improve the economy. Just because someone’s a psychiatrist, doesn’t mean they know how to talk to people. Just because someone’s a neuroseurgon, doesn’t mean he can tell you whether mind is all brain or if there’s a soul. Just because someone’s a biologist, doesn’t mean he can tell you how life begins. Just because someone’s smart, in other words, doesn’t mean that their knowledge is real knowledge, or that they can apply what they know wisely. Even smart people can make dumb decisions. So my wisdom to you is to be wary. No one can require you to listen to them as if they have a handle on the truth themselves, because no matter how much they know or think they know, there is ALWAYS someone better than them. Someone who knows more, and who can think about the same things without making mistakes. My voyage of thought has taught me this much.  

After posting this, now that I'm connected to the internet, I checked with a google search and found that my original end-date of September 13 was in fact the partial solar eclipse I was thinking of. I confused it with the final total lunar eclipse of that year, which is the 23rd. Alas, this serves to demonstrate why I lose track of dates so easily. But at least now I have the time remaining until both, accurate to the day. :P

~ Rak Chazak

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