27-Bit Color

I open my eyes, and the world animates in 100 million colors.

Eric ZhangDecember 12, 2023

Take a stroll by the Hudson. Taste the air. Smile at a stranger. Listen to the music of the city.

I had a moment of clarity this evening— it wasn’t much, but for a moment I thought I could stand tall and see further into the distance than I ever had; and out there, bathed in bright orange, was a kind and wonderful person I admired.

You do so much for a lot of people. And even if you didn’t, that’s still okay, since your unique characteristics will undoubtedly inspire visions of the future.

Day by day

Sometimes I think about starting new projects. But I have a high standard for my work; it builds on itself and grows through feedback and support, brainstorming, problem-solving, intuition and technique. Everything worthwhile is hard work, much harder than anyone else can understand, but if you inexplicably love it enough and try very hard, you can do it too in 4-ish years.

(Even if it’s writing an exhaustive picturebook about computers from the ground up. Don’t ask me what crazy ideas I’m cooking up. AH)

Why work on long-term projects? Mostly it’s because we desire to share a special moment with people—a photo memory, holiday gathering, or action that tells someone I care about you. Other times it’s to gain influence, building towards your lasting impact on the world.

What’s unusual is that, while engrossed in my work, I feel like I’ve never really been able to predict where I’d end up. The project may be complete in 2 weeks, or perhaps in 2 months or 2 years. Who knows? It’s hard enough to dedicate your attention to something in the moment, with life being so busy, and trying to predict the future would be yet another diversion.

(Yes, you need support when times are tough. Work doesn’t make people popular. I don’t have very many close relationships with friends and family, but I’m still lucky to know wonderful people. Worrying about attachments is exactly what exacerbates tough times. No room to worry! Just do more, for your own sake.)

In high school and early college, I’d make tiny things over a weekend or two, whenever inspiration struck. Back then I knew how to do much less.

Now, I’ve been programming for over a decade. Technical maturity means that projects get bigger, and friends find it harder to relate to what I do. The only thing that keeps me going is the time-worn trust that I will wake up tomorrow and feel that flash of creativity to continue pursuing something meaningful, day after day.

What’s really meaningful, anyway? I guess it’s circular by definition, and that’s okay.

A few bits from the last 5 months

  • July 2023: Rented an apartment
  • July 2023: Moving in while sentimental, tired, and busy—on my own
  • July 2023: Quiet, happy birthday
  • July 2023: Had some nice friend-dates and was a bit foolishly optimistic
  • August 2023: Got furniture
  • August 2023: Work trip
  • August 2023: Went to many parties and made several non-friends
  • August 2023: Read Thinking with Type as a bedtime story
  • August 2023: Early torschlusspanik
  • September 2023: Figured out a cooking routine
  • September 2023: “somewhere, a place for us” in concert
  • September 2023: Organized NYSRG, from scratch, with strangers
  • September 2023: Lots of fast progress at work
  • October 2023: Saw college from outside eyes for the first time
  • October 2023: “and you’re everything I wanted to be,” he said
  • October 2023: Had a tender walk with a friend when I was feeling upset
  • November 2023: Became an uncle
  • November 2023: Made hot pot at home with people over
  • November 2023: Released sshx after almost 2 years
  • November 2023: Visited Harvard and felt alien
  • December 2023: People return for the final (12th) NYSRG of the year
  • December 2023: Learning 25 languages, since, idk, why not?

If there’s one thing that I wish I could do more of, which was lost over time in the streets of NYC, it might be embodying that fragile optimism that made me initially very open to experience here. Every door opens so much possibility when you don’t know what to expect on the other side.

Then again, perhaps the city just isn’t so friendly. I’ve found it a lot more difficult to take pictures here because of how many people are around, and also partly because I’m not as comfortable around them. Getting around is uncomfortable and chaotic.


People my age often speak of growth—advancing towards something greater than yourself, perhaps more right than any individual has been before. I personally think knowing what’s truly right is way above my pay grade; but maybe if you believe in human progress, and by extension, individual progress, it systemically points toward growth anyway.

What’s right? What’s fashionable is not what is right, since fashion is fickle. I hope that “right” things are as timeless and refreshing as the taste of winter air.

It’s unverifiable and intangible, but that ideal comforts me.