Monthly Archives: January 2009


I want to write a book with footnotes. It will be fiction and brimming with footnotes. Except none of these footnotes will actually exist. The pages will teem with 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, or maybe asterisks and daggers, but there will be no accompanying note. The reader will just be left to wonder1 what these numbers mean, and what the author meant to add.

That New Habit

I started on the 26th with a new habit I wanted to acquire: Writing down my 3 most important tasks in the morning.

So far, I’ve written them down every morning. That’s excellent.

It’s much better than having a really long to-do list, which will always disappoint because you can never finish it. I’ll add other things to the list, but I make sure to take care of the important things first. As Baltasar Gracian wrote, “A wise man does at once, what a fool does at last.”

Of the 5 days I’ve been doing this, I didn’t finish the MITs on two days. They were both Tuesday and Thursday, when I have the biggest class load. On Tuesday, I finished two of three MITs. On Thursday, I decided to only give myself two MITs, and then I ended up doing none of them. I got a lot more done on Friday, though, which I felt made up for it.

I was able to focus enough to finish my 3 current projects. As I wrote down my next 3 goals, I wanted to do so much more. I stopped myself. I limited myself to only 3 things.

We’ll see what happens as I get further into the school year, and the work piles up. For now, I’ll be proud of these small achievements. They’re the bricks, the foundation of something larger that we’ll only see a year from now.

Running out of ideas

Almost since the beginning of my comic, I’ve had this crushing fear of running out of ideas. It wasn’t until the day before yesterday that I realized how absurd it was. Here I am, almost 4 years later with over 400 comics, and I kept worrying that I would run out of ideas? What the heck?

As long as I’m living my life and observing it, I won’t ever run out of ideas.

The Cure for Dullness

A few days days ago, I sat in front of my computer ready to type. After weeks of frantic hanging out time in California, I finally had the solitude I sought. I was ready to write out something amazing. I had the time. But the words did not come.

I searched for something to write within my mind. Everything felt stale. I felt dull. “C’mon, I’m bored; I got nothing better to do. I should write,” I told myself.

I had no ideas. Or rather, I had nothing valuable to share with the world. I could not write.

A day later, I had several intriguing conversations with friends via instant messenger. One was about race, and one was about heartbreak. I found my mind buzzing with ideas — a storm of bees colliding with each other. I saw conflict; I saw beauty; new ideas burst forth.

No, my metaphors are confused. My mind was hard and barren. My old ideas decorate this landscape as trees who’ve lost their leaves and luster. Talking with my friends was like tilling the soil. New ideas grew rapidly — buds in spring.

Now, these ideas need to be cared for, so they can grow into something beautiful. Then, I will put them on display so people can admire them.

I had several bouts of boredom when I came back to school in Baltimore. I didn’t want to do anything, and I couldn’t think of anything new. For me, the cure for this is to talk to my friends. Really, it’s my panacaea. When I feel trapped by the drudgery of routine, I must open up to other people. When I am depressed and lonely, I must open up to other people. When I feel like life is dull and stale, I must open up to other people.

I am largely reactive when it comes to ideas. I need something in front of me. Tell me to sit down and write something funny, and I will be stumped. I find my best comedy comes when I’m in a store and I have a million items that just ask for a funny comment. My ideas for comedy and philosophy come mostly from my interaction with other people. I need outside stimulation.

Without my friends, I’d have nothing. I’d be a dull person with stale ideas. When I find myself feeling like that kind of person, I have to remember to seek out my friends.

Brick by Brick

I picked up Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less and have decided to try out the advice. I created a list of projects that I would like to do. Out of those, I chose only three to focus on. It was difficult to only choose three. There are so many projects that excite me and others that would be really nice to get done. By picking three, it forced me to pick the ones that were more important. For example, I listed some substantial blog entries I wanted to do for the TCM blog. Instead of working on those, I decided to go for the goal of building up a 1 week buffer (3 comics), which would allow me to reintroduce the TWC incentives. Since my goal is to get TCM to #1, I decided this step would be a better investment of my time.

There are several things I want to change about myself. Those “Iron Laws” I wanted to make were all about disciplining myself. (Many are written down, but they’re are not on this blog.) Babauta advises focusing on one habit at a time. I’m going to abandon my old plan of listing a bunch of laws and trying to follow then. Instead, I will work on one habit at a time. The first habit will be to write down my three Most Important Tasks in the morning. There are other things Baubata talks about with listing tasks, but for now, I just want to make sure I write them down. I’m starting small.

Not Mopey

Instead of being all mopey and sad that I’m going back to Baltimore, I’ve decided to be pumped up. There’s a lot that I can accomplish there, especially when it comes to my comic. I also can establish more discipline.

See you on the other side, dear readers.

What Will Happen Next?

I’ve been kind of out of the loop with what’s been happening in the political world. I haven’t listened to any of Obama’s speeches, and I plan on reading the inaugural address rather than hearing it. (This is to escape the emotions of the moment, which will cloud my thoughts.) Thus, I will not embarrass myself by making predictions. That does not stop me from making wild speculations.

One obvious historical parallel is FDR. Obama has called this the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. FDR struck quickly, and his first hundred days in office are a good model. Moreover, Obama’s popularity is sky-high right now, and one would want to take advantage of that. It seems the most prudent strategy would be to move quickly and to move boldly. Stake a position to the “far” left. Let the Republicans whine. They lost the election, and this will only make them look petty in the public’s eyes. The bigger Obama paints the crisis, the worse the Republicans will look for holding things up.

At this point, the Republicans will have, from what I can see, five different choices. One: Full surrender to Obama. Two: Stake the far-right position and call Obama a socialist. Basic fear-mongering. Three: Attack Obama for not being centrist enough. Ask where the old Obama went who wasn’t into partisan politics. Four: Simply be obstructionist while schizophrenically attacking Obama as unpatriotic, socialist, not centrist, a big spender, etc. Five: Present their own plan for getting out of this mess.

Option three is the best for Obama. Give the Republicans a couple meaningless concessions. This will not only placate their egos but also enhance Obama’s bipartisan, conciliatory image. I see option four as the most likely. However, you can easily morph option four into option three, simply by repeating, “My opponents say this…” while not mentioning any of their other attacks. Their lack of a coherent message could allow Obama to define the battleground. Option one is also the same as option three, except without the bitter battle. You still give them meaningless concessions to look gracious, bipartisan, and presidential. Option two probably allows Obama to splinter the Republicans into a moderate wing and a radical wing. Proceed from there, isolating the radical wing.

Option five is the most dangerous to the Democrats, but also the most unlikely. Still, even with a reasonable plan, it is probably very easy to goad the Republican attack machine into action, which will make them look unreasonable and unstable.

If Obama is bold and puts the Republicans on their heels, I suspect he will be rather successful in ramming things through. I also expect symbolic concessions in the form of cutting certain things from the budget. If Obama proceeds slowly, well then, I don’t know what will happen.

This is just wild speculation, but I really expect the same dynamic as the race to hold up. Republicans hyperventilate and win the occasional news-cycle, while Obama wins the larger war.

Dark Room

I’m loving Dark Room, the PC clone of WriteRoom. There’s something about the dark screen that allows you to disappear in it. You become mindful of the words instead of distracted by everything that the internet holds. Thanks for pointing it out, Lloyd. It’s made it easier to type out longer blog entries. I wonder how it’ll hold up when I go to school and use it for my essays because I have a huge problem concentrating when writing those.


I posted this on the Chalkboard Manifesto Blog with much trepidation. It’s hard to so publicly state an ambitious goal. (And by publicly, I mean all 5 people who read the TCM blog.) And now I’m basically going to spend the rest of this entry talking to myself.

I’m going to play the “What’s the worst that could happen?” game. The worst that can happen is that I completely fail in my goal and TCM is right where it is right now: An obscure web comic with the occasional traffic spike. Am I currently embarrassed about having such a web comic? No. Besides, I’ve done similar things before, stating goals for TCM and then never fulfilling them. Things can’t get worse than the times I stopped updating and a few people got mad at me.

The other fear is success. Well, not really success. The fear is that the same thing will happen to TCM that happened to my old web comic. Because I referred someone to this thing, I got free advertising. I used it, and one person wrote a rather scathing criticism of my webcomic. This wouldn’t have meant anything, but I realized that the criticisms were very spot-on. I stopped updating. The fear is that someone will pierce into my very soul and see that TCM is just a piece of junk. But look what happened after I stopped updating TCM: I took the criticisms to heart and revamped Majestic (another webcomic). I’m still very proud of some of those comics I made. Good criticisms will force me to improve.

I’m also afraid of the garden-variety haters. Anything that’s popular will attract haters. I’m afraid I won’t be able to handle the heat. But I’d get the occasional piece of hate mail with and I learned to love it. The lack of an ability to form a coherent thought, in those e-mails, is often very entertaining. I’ll re-learn how to shrug those things off. Anyway, it’s worse to be completely ignored, isn’t it?

I’m not afraid of people criticizing my crappy art skills. That will never go away, but I do want to improve the art process. I’m currently drawing things on paper with a mechanical pencil. However, I am afraid of people calling me lazy because it’s a legit criticism for many of the earlier comics. Yet with the mindset of obsession, no one will be able to call me lazy. If they can legitimately call me lazy, then I need to get off my ass and work. If they can’t, then why should I care what they accuse me of.

I’m also afraid that by choosing to focus on webcomics, I’ll miss other opportunities. Shouldn’t I focus on something more useful? Like writing or oratory? First of all, The Chalkboard Manifesto is writing. Secondly, if I tell people I authored one of the most popular web comics on the internet, it’s not as if that’s nothing. No one’s going to say, “Why didn’t you do something more useful?” Even if I fall far short of my goal, I’ll still be able to point to a readership more significant than people’s private blogs. It’ll still be pretty cool.

Speaking of which, another fear is falling short of my goal. What if I only make it to #50 on TWC or something? That’s still over 30 votes a day, which isn’t nothing. 30 very dedicated readers also means you’ve got quite a bit more readers who aren’t so dedicated. By that point, I’ll have built up some type of community. That’s a cool skill to have — experience with building your own online community.

At the end of this exercise, I feel much less trepidation. Those fears really didn’t have much to them.

Trouble Concentrating

I’m having trouble focusing on just one thing. Occasionally, I will have flashes of inspiration, but I haven’t been able to translate it into action. I’m typing downstairs right now because I find it impossible to focus when trying to type on the laptop in my room. While at school, I complain about not having a car. Now, though, I don’t have anywhere convenient to walk to when I need to just get away. I’d have to take a car to get to the library, but I have to share the car with my other family members. I suppose a possible solution is to get dropped off somewhere for a couple of hours, and then I can make myself work.

I also am don’t want to commit to anything. Spending time reading is taking away time from writing. Spending time doing X is taking away time from doing Y. It’s hard to get anything done unless you do one thing at a time, but I’m reluctant to commit to one thing. I can’t even read an article on the internet without flipping to another tab. It’s stupid, but sometimes I’ll read two articles at once. At least right now I only have one tab open.

Every time I’ve thought about productivity, I’ve thought about frenzy. I thought I had to be in a hyperactive state to be prolific. Perhaps it’s the exact opposite. Maybe I need to slow down. Do one thing at a time. Don’t think about what’s coming next. Just focus on what’s in front of me. I don’t know when’s the last time I felt really calm. For the past week or so, I’ve often been in a state of anticipation, waiting to hang out with my friends.

Our modern world seems to encourage a frenetic, multi-tasking lifestyle. The back of James Gleick’s book, Faster says, “Society’s in overdrive with no signs of braking.” Sure, multi-tasking will make me look busier but you don’t get shit done. Bouncing from activity to activity doesn’t provide adequate focus. Everytime you get interrupted, it takes another few minutes to get back into the flow of things. I have this terrible habit of playing music while I try to do work. Yet I don’t set a playlist, so I end up clicking on a new song every 3-4 minutes. It’s impossible to focus when working under those conditions.

So what? I’m saying I need to block time to work on something. I need to slow down. I need to do one thing at a time. I need to minimize interruptions. This isn’t anything I haven’t told myself before. But this is supposedly the year of discipline, so I’m actually going to have to do something about it. I’m not going to do anything drastic or revolutionary. I’m just going to praise myself everytime I do those things I need to do. Like right now, I haven’t flipped to check my e-mail or anything. I did get distracted by conversation with my sister, but whatever. Baby steps, haha.

The computer is just one giant distraction machine, isn’t it? I’ve got billions of things to distract me. Will power is a limited resource. Is working on the computer just going to sap me like being in the city? It may be wise to download one of those programs that will make my computer screen one giant word editor. I’ll experiment with that. It may fail because I need the internets so much, but I should just try it first.

Reconsidering a Move

I’m reconsidering my idea of moving the weblog because of Anirudh’s comment:

Everyone seems to go through this dilemma. It might be really hard if you start over from scratch and it’s worse if you’re writing it with an idea that people should want to read it. Also, online personas are overrated :)

While a symbolic reset is good, it’s stressful. I tried moving all my technical material to another domain and something just didn’t click.

The best thing to do at this time, as a friend of mine suggests, is to meet other weblog authors with similar mindsets, not necessarily the one’s you know in real life. Since everybody loves getting email you can get in touch with some of them.

I found it really nice and almost therapeutic to write to people who write online and keep up with their life.

A New Home

This “Agnoiologist” blog started on March 10, 2003. Originally, I was on a subdomain for, and then I moved the blog to proper. I’ve gone through some minor and major site redesigns, including completely changing the backend with a switch from MT to WordPress. Even with all these changes, the nearly six years have felt as if they’ve happened in one place. It was like I rearranged the furniture and even got a new phone number, but I’ve still been living in the same house. I’ve got an itch for something new and this time a redesign is not enough. It’s time to move on. It’s time to find a new home.

I’m not leaving quite yet. I’m still looking for that new place. My plan is to find a new URL for my weblog. I’m not sure if I’ll migrate all the old entries over or not. Regardless, I’m keeping up this website. I like having this public record of who I’ve been these past 6 years, even though I’m embarrassed by much of what I’ve written. Of course, I’m very proud of some of the writing.

It’ll be good to do this as a symbolic reset. It’ll allow me to form a new online persona. I also want a URL that’ll be easier to remember.

To Inspire

I “co-wrote” an article with my friend, Nick (guest post here), a while back in the Black Student Union’s news-letter, Perspectives. We didn’t communicate well, so Nick did most of the writing. I changed the ending, wanting to include a call to action. He added a bit more, and there it was. I probably would’ve forgotten about it if it wasn’t for something my friend Ryan said afterwards.

He’s the one who edited the article, and he noticed the tone was a little different at the end. He correctly accused me of writing it. I jokingly wondered if that was a bad thing, but he told me it was good. It made him inspired to act. The article was about how both parties were not doing what was in the best interest of the African-American community, like how Democrats took them for granted and how Republicans liked to take pictures with black people instead of working on issues (this was before Obama). I included a call to make sure one’s voice was heard, instead of lost within these two parties. (Perhaps I should find the actual text sometime.) It wasn’t the most elegant, poetic thing I’ve written, but it was good to hear that I helped light a fire within someone. When the protests took place after the whole racist party affair, I think Ryan said something about those words helping inspire him to act. Putting aside the politics of the issue, I’m really happy to have done my little part to spark a flame big enough that it led to action.

That’s the kind of person I want to be. The whole positivity paradigm I was talking about included being an uplifting, positive person. But I want to extend beyond my personal circle of friends. I want to inspire people to act. And that’s the kind of politician I want to be. I want to be the kind of public figure who inspires millions not only during his or her lifetime, but for generations after.

My Facebook Statuses for 2008

Because I am so enamored with myself, I kept a list of all my facebook statuses for 2008:

Shawn saw Tony and Angela get divorced.
Shawn has a special announcement coming.
Shawn is not leaving this Sunday; he is leaving the following Sunday. Good news!
Shawn is watching Sanford and Son.
Shawn is going back to Baltimore tomorrow. *sigh*.
Shawn enjoys yelling at the television. SEVEN FIFTY! ONE DOLLAR!
Shawn is recovering from the SARS and pumped for Super Tuesday.
Shawn is still recovering from the SARS.
Shawn is getting his daily dose of Wilford Brimley. Yet another reason to love The Price is Right.
Shawn is OVER 9000!!!
Shawn is total. TOTAL ECLIPSE, that is.
Shawn would walk 500 miles.
Shawn is hoping for a knock-out blow.
Shawn is going to do everything he can to help Obama win in Pennsylvania.
Shawn doesn’t think Obama will win Pennsylvania, but Obama will still end up with a bigger delegate lead at the convention.
Shawn is oh so close to spring break.
Shawn is back from Spring Break. *sigh*.
Shawn is going to have a lonely weekend.
Shawn is King Dedede. Ee-yup!
Shawn can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.
Shawn shouldn’t be surprised that ABC News would sink so low, but, nonetheless, he is shocked.
Shawn is thinking about Pennsylvania instead of work.
Shawn is worried about (another) all-out civil war in Iraq, and also why the media doesn’t harp on this instead of the Distraction of the Day.
Shawn is suffering from insomnia. argh.
Shawn is excited about the next round of primaries. Obama’s delegate lead will widen.
Shawn is waiting on Lake County.
Shawn is optimistic that Obama has essentially secured the nomination.
Shawn is not drinking before 11, really, he’s not. Done with finals.
Shawn hates packing.
Shawn is back home.
Shawn is just around the river bend.
Shawn is excited! Obama is the nominee!
Shawn is a Siamese cat who pretends he’s a chihuahua.
Shawn is wanted dead or alive or none of the above.
Shawn is aware of all internet traditions.
Shawn is what long trousers?
Shawn just watched Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. CHESTNUT WINS! CHESTNUT WINS! USA! USA!
Shawn is psyched for rafting!
Shawn is trying blue. It’s the new red!
Shawn will hit you with so many objects you’ll think you’re a Taiwanese politician.
Shawn needs to put together his filing cabinet.
Shawn is back from a video game marathon in Davis.
Shawn used to smoke pot with Johnny Hopkins.
Shawn has no phone, no lights, no motorcar. Well, he does have a phone.
Shawn once said, “If you are a racist, I will attack you with the North.”
Shawn likes how his friends still have rafting photos as their profile pics.
Shawn is listening to cats on mars.
Shawn had an interesting thought about noodles the other day.
Shawn temporarily switched places with someone who looks exactly like him. Watch out.
Shawn could put lipstick on an insurance company, or a pig; it’s still an insurance company.
Shawn is tomorrow homeward bound (starring Michael J. Fox and Sally Field).
Shawn put a gun in the waistband of his sweat pants and then shot himself in the thigh.
Shawn is waltzing with snowflakes. (LSD + Tchaikovsky = Awesome.)
Shawn is emerging from his finals-induced hibernation.
Shawn is laughing his ass off at the Cowboys.