dal niente

Month: December, 2008

A Taste of Home

Hades took me to a Korean pub / restaurant whose name I can’t remember at the moment, it’s at the South-ish side of Crescent, somewhat near Rene-Levesque.  It’s only the second time I’ve seen Hades since I got back from SK.  Had some bodaejigae (보대지게?) and, surprisingly, it was just as good as the stuff I used to have often enough in 수원 with Zanshin, and in 대촌 with my coworkers.  It was nice, the way that home-style Korean food always is.

The place was even sorta decorated the way foodshops would be back in Korea.  The owners of the place are Korean and it’s the first time in months that I’ve bowed to someone to say thanks and that they’ve bowed back sincerely, the way they used to back in SK.  It’s also the first time I speak Korean in about three months, and man– it’s already going down the drain.

It’s kinda nice, in retrospect, that I’ve had this opportunity– in a strange way, Korea feels like a second home, despite it’s quite likely I’ll never go back there. 


Christmas season is officially over.  New Years celebrations begin.  I’m pretty hard to reach in general– friends ask me to do things and I keep declining.  In part, this is because of family gatherings going on– on the other hand, there’s one big change for the new year, and I’d like to spend as much time with family as possible, even if it is to do nothing.  My sister is going to be moving to Toronto for about five months to study.  She recently graduated from Education but, along with the rest of her class, is having a very hard time finding decent jobs, so she’s got to make herself a bit more competitive by going for some extra certifications.

I think since I’ve already moved out, my parents have gotten used to a few ideas.  I don’t really feel like enumerating (maybe that’d be another post) but suffice it to say, it’s a lot easier for my sister to move out even though she’s 4 years younger than I was when I did.  Of course, I guess that if your son literally goes as far as he can from you (I did move 12 timezones away) then moving from Montreal to Toronto really isn’t all that bad.


My sister does get babyed a lot by my parents, but that’s their initiative, not hers.  She doesn’t take advantage of this fact, and in many ways, shares my resentment of it, even though it usually results in acceptance, since we understand they only do it because they are good parents.

In reality, I’m very proud to say, my sister is very street smart.  I’d like to think that this was my doing, but no– she deserves the credit.  She saved herself a lot of time by learning from my mistakes, and she built on that and went in her own directions.  She’s a lot more mature than many people my age and over.

And I wonder how people get “that”?

And do people “need” that?

Those smarts, I mean?

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Stick a fork in it, It’s done

A couple of days ago, the holidays began for me.

The tradition in my life with family is that the week of Christmas and the week of New Year generally mean gathering after gathering.  We coordinate with people from Missassauga, South Shore, Laval and the East end.  Some people obviously come from further than others, and really, many of them live within a stone’s throw away, but there is something about the tendency for our dysfunctional family network to try, at least at the end and beginning of a year, to pretend that we’re normal.

A few things that I’ve pointed out are that people in my family can never be told enough how to behave in public.  Ignorance is not the same thing as impoliteness.  Not knowing is one thing– actively not caring or attempting to figure out how to behave in public is impolite.  That’s everyone’s responsibility.

If for example you don’t know how to use chopsticks, that’s perfectly fine– but don’t make an ass of yourself.  For God’s sakes, don’t drum on the table with them.  I think if you held a knife and fork in each fist and started banging them on the table, your parents would probably punch you in the face.  Why should chopsticks be any different?

If you don’t know why there are extra knives and forks at the dinner table, that’s fine– they’re there so that your fork doesn’t carry over the flavor from a previous course.  Use them in whatever order you want, but be tidy. Technically the rule of thumb is to work your way from the outer ones to the inner ones.  It doesn’t however mean that you can use two forks together, or two spoons together, or (wtf?) two knives together.  If there’s extra forks at the 12 o’clock, they’re for desert.

The dinner table in a public restaurant doesn’t care if you’re among friends or family– that means it is inappropriate to be excessive about anything that could disturb people around you.  While that obviously means belching and swearing loud enough that other tables can hear it, this also means flash photography.

Don’t be a cheap tipper.  10% is considered minimum in Montreal.  15% is more reasonable.  You CAN withhold a tip, but I think that if you’re going to do that you have to be pretty pissed.  What really bothers me is when people tell me “well, the waiter/waitress didn’t do anything special for us.”  If the waiter was professional and did their job, do the 10% at least– if they so much as smile or were thoughtful or even filled your waters in a timely fashion, go for the 15%!  What does a few extra dollars matter to you?  This is part of their livelihood.  I think also that if the behaviour of the group your with isn’t so great, the tip should be extra because the restaurant had to put up with you.  If you stayed and occupied their table for an unreasonable amount of time, if you had a whiny baby that wouldn’t stop, or if your people got drunk and rowdy– these are all things that are inconveniences to the restaurant.

Sit up straight!  Sit properly! GOD please don’t sit at your chair backwards, you’re not a freaking Madonna or a Backstreet Boy.

If you’re in a situation where you’re at a fancy all you can eat event, don’t heap your food.   You can go up as many times as you want and if the cook worked hard to make things tasty, he didn’t intend for you to mix everything into one big pile– otherwise he’d just ask you wanted and throw it in a blender.  Getting sushi and picking apart the ingredients you do from those you don’t like is totally inappropriate.

Don’t dirty the table or the tablecloth if at all possible.  If there are coasters for your pint, your tea or your soup, use them.

If you’re sharing dishes, target before you strike.  Don’t poke around the dish looking for what you want to eat– get in and get out and don’t touch anything you’re not going to eat.

If you’re dissatisfied with the food, you’ve gotta consider is that because the food is low in quality of if you just don’t like it.  If you just don’t like it, suck it up and save some face for your host.

When a waiter/waitress does something for you, say thank you.  Is that really too much to ask?

Merry Christmas everyone!

(I’m 1 hour and 55 minutes late, but take it or leave it.)

9:10 AM

I feel much better now.

I have no clue why my body decided to wake up only 5 hours later, but I guess my biological processes are nothing if not creatures of habit.

  • No memory loss. No hangover.  God I love my genetic make up!
  • I fell asleep with my sweater only slightly off– my arms were out of the sleeves but it was still around my neck, like a scarf.  When I awoke, it was quite tight around my neck and I’m rather pleased I didn’t choke myself with it in my sleep.
  • Next to my bed I found a stainless steel measuring cup with water and two and a half slices of soaked bread in it.   I did eat half a slice of bread yesterday night, that much I clearly remember– the measuring cup was the first thing I could find.  However, before I could eat the rest of it, I fell asleep and the bread has basically had 5 hours to become the water.  It’s pretty nasty looking right now, but surprisingly, breadwater tastes pretty good.
  • I fell asleep with my laptop inches from my face (in my bed) and I’m glad I don’t move too much in my sleep, because I might’ve knocked the laptop accidentally onto the floor.
  • To Chili, Hades and my sister, thanks for staying on MSN with me for a bit to help me try and get myself together a bit before falling unconscious.
  • I have a sore part of my leg where I was punching myself.  Why?  Because, at the time, I was fascinated/annoyed that I didn’t feel much of anything.  Thang God I didn’t think it was a good idea to snap one of my fingers backwards or something.
  • I got beaten, yet again, at chess last night, even though I swore I’d never again play chess against Mark under the influence.

So, I’m awake.  It’s interesting remembering everything from a sober perspective because now, in retrospect, many things are the sorts of things that I now ask… “WTF.”  I was at Mark and Rawda’s place with a few other invitees to celebrate Christmas.  I wasn’t originally intending on heading out there because I was a bit under the weather due to a  cold but in the end, it was good.  The food was interesting, the company was cool, and by the end of it, well, it was just interesting to have attended.  It was nice to meet new people as well.  They even served me cake– the chocolate sort, which is the best breed of cake there is, along with the cheesy sort.



Zanshin says:
Yo.
Zanshin says:
Feeling better.
Jinryu says:
you too?
Zanshin says:
Wait, that was supposed to be a question mark.
Zanshin says:
But yes, I am also feeling better.
Jinryu says:
yes
Jinryu says:
i feel better.
Jinryu says:
I seem to have a bruise on my hip
Jinryu says:
it is from punching myself, trying to coax myself to regain control of my body
Zanshin says:
Did I ever tell you about how most people don’t understand the whole ‘drink coffee to sober up’ deal?
Jinryu says:
nope
Zanshin says:
Well, only time sobers people up.  So I guess doctors might have said, “Drink a hot cup of coffee”, expecting people to sit down and take like an hour to drink.
Zanshin says:
Instead, people were like, “SHOTGUN THE COFFEE AND LET’S GO”
Zanshin says:
Hey, are you going to be on in an hour or so?
Jinryu says:
uncertain
Jinryu says:
you outta here?
Zanshin says:
I might be.
Zanshin says:
I need your cell phone number, by the by.
Jinryu says:
ah
Jinryu says:
514
Jinryu says:
586
Jinryu says:
6969
Jinryu says:
yes, the lass four digits of my phone number are totally taoist
Zanshin says:
Okay.  Miranda should be contacting you at some point to arrange soju handoff.
Jinryu says:
oh great
Jinryu says:
MORE ALCOHOL
Zanshin says:
‘lass’ four digits?
Jinryu says:
last
Zanshin says:
Ahahaha.
Zanshin says:
At least you don’t get hangovers.
Jinryu says:
amazingly this is true
Jinryu says:
i think this is as bad as i’ve ever been
Jinryu says:
and right now it’s not so bad except that i feel i could drink a river.
Jinryu says:
amusingly
Zanshin says:
I usually get headaches and a stomacheache.
Zanshin says:
er, stomachache.
Jinryu says:
i found a measuring cup with bread and water in it.
Jinryu says:
it’s quite nasty
Zanshin says:
Eeeew.
Zanshin says:
Were you trying to make kvass or maybe replicate the prison diet?
Jinryu says:
not quite
Jinryu says:
i had balanced two slices of bread on top of the measuring cup
Jinryu says:
i ate part of one piece of bread
Jinryu says:
but apparently i fell asleep
Jinryu says:
and the bread was also thirsty
Jinryu says:
and when i woke up
Jinryu says:
it was just waterbread
Zanshin says:
Gross.
Jinryu says:
yes
Jinryu says:
the bread was destroyed by it’s own greed!
Zanshin says:
Go all the way and turn defeat into victory!
Zanshin says:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kvass
Jinryu says:
ah
Jinryu says:
is that what it is.
Jinryu says:
Yesterday, I discovered something called “Gin and Tonic”
Jinryu says:
It reminds me of soju
Jinryu says:
but it tastes better.
Zanshin says:
I hear that it’s not very delicious.
Jinryu says:
well as far as taste goes, soju is somewhere higher than beer in my book but nontheless on a many many runged ladder.
Zanshin says:
Rumour has it that gin and tonic was invented to make quinine somewhat more palatable.
Jinryu says:
like soju, it looks deceptively like water.
Jinryu says:
i think that was the end of me.
Zanshin says:
I tried a ‘Black Russian’ yesterday.
Zanshin says:
I didn’t know what it was, but I know now.
Zanshin says:
I took one sip and was shocked.
Jinryu says:
my deffense mechanisms when tipping to the tipsy side are “SEEK GLASSES (bigger than shotglasses) WITH COLORLESS LIQUID”
Zanshin says:
“What’s in this?”  “Kahlua and vodka.”  “…oh.”
Zanshin says:
Uhhhh.
Zanshin says:
Hahaha.
Jinryu says:
huh
Jinryu says:
i heard about a drink called an Irish Carbomb.
Jinryu says:
Apparently, it’s like the Irish version of soju bombs.
Zanshin says:
Isn’t that stout with a shot of bailey’s?
Jinryu says:
something like that.
Jinryu says:
apparently it starts to make chunks of cheesy things because it specifically mixes strangely.
Zanshin says:
Do you miss Korea?
Jinryu says:
in some ways yeah
Zanshin says:
Yeah, you need to drink fast before the Bailey’s curdles.
Jinryu says:
Yesterday, I got home
Jinryu says:
and the first thing I did was log onto MSN
Jinryu says:
MAYDAY MAYDAY
Jinryu says:
that was interesting.
Jinryu says:
did you ever play metal gear solid 3?
Zanshin says:
Nope.
Zanshin says:
Well, I mean, I played it a little at your crib.
Jinryu says:
there’s this point in the game where you lose an eye, and your vision on the left side of the screen just gets blurry from that part of the game on.
Zanshin says:
Wow.
Jinryu says:
like, whenever you switch to First Person mode, the left half of the screen is slightly darker and foggy.
Zanshin says:
That sucks.
Jinryu says:
Yeah.
Zanshin says:
Is that why Snake wears an eyepatch for #4?
Jinryu says:
sorta.
Jinryu says:
The snake in MGS4 is Big BOss
Jinryu says:
oops
Jinryu says:
I mean, the Snake in MGS3 is Big Boss
Jinryu says:
In MGS4, it’s Solid Snake
Zanshin says:
Right, right.
Jinryu says:
(two different people)
Jinryu says:
Yesterday, and this wasn’t the plan, but the gin and tonic disguised as watetr really was clever, but I had so much to drink that I was
Jinryu says:
in a sense
Jinryu says:
a prisoner inside my own body
Zanshin says:
Yeah, that happens.
Jinryu says:
it was like playing a videogame and having all of my x- and y- axis controls dulled by like … 50%
Zanshin says:
Yeah, I find it’s like simultaneously acting and watching myself act.
Jinryu says:
and slightly before getting home i felt the photoreceptors starting to dim before i made it up the stairs
Zanshin says:
Ooh, passing out, huh.
Jinryu says:
Yes. I think that explains the bruise on my leg.
Jinryu says:
I was punching myself to stay awake.
Jinryu says:
Really not a great move.
Zanshin says:
Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Jinryu says:
I kept hearing a voice
Jinryu says:
“She’s not respond’n Cap’n!! We’re loosin’ ‘er!”
Zanshin says:
Uhhh.
Zanshin says:
That’s really weird.
Jinryu says:
I really think it’s only years of martial arts training that got me in bed.
Zanshin says:
You don’t think stubborn desperation would have done it?
Jinryu says:
Well, that’s part of the training.
Jinryu says:
But like, by the time i made it into bed, the controls were almost dead
Zanshin says:
That’s usually accurate.
Jinryu says:
I’ve never had that much to drink in my life so this is all new to me.
Zanshin says:
Man, who was pouring all this liquor into you?
Jinryu says:
Mark.
Jinryu says:
But i liken it to MAC training– where, for example, I would whacked in such a way that i’d lose sensation in my leg or arm
Zanshin says:
Yeah, I’m not very surprised.
Jinryu says:
and the only way to continue is to intellectually be aware of the limb, despite a total lack of feedback.
Jinryu says:
So it was still possible to maintain a guard
Jinryu says:
or to still move around
Jinryu says:
but it just became a matter of “put leg here” as if playing by remote.
Zanshin says:
Like a leper!
Jinryu says:
YES.
Jinryu says:
Like a lepper.
Jinryu says:
Yeah. That’s how i made it up the stairs.
Jinryu says:
It’s kinda cool because I remember everything.
Jinryu says:
I was literally putting one foot in front of the other
Zanshin says:
That seems like a poor decision.
Zanshin says:
I mean, I understand that it’s just a figure of speech.
Jinryu says:
Hah.
Zanshin says:
But if you actually try to put one foot directly in front of the other, well, that seems like a recipe for crappy comedy.
Jinryu says:
I also almost put my elbow through a wall.
Jinryu says:
I woke up my mom and she started asking me about my day
Jinryu says:
this is like… 3 or 4am
Jinryu says:
and I was thinking… oh crap!!! QUESTIONS
Zanshin says:
Oh, man, that’s awkward.
Jinryu says:
my bane!
Jinryu says:
yeah, it took like… 3 seconds to boot up the speech processors
Zanshin says:
Especially given that your mom hates alcohol.
Zanshin says:
“How was your day?”
Jinryu says:
luckily she didn’t get out of bed
Zanshin says:
“…”
Zanshin says:
“…”
Zanshin says:
“…good.”
Jinryu says:
I made full sentences and everything
Zanshin says:
Lucky.
Zanshin says:
Very, very lucky.
Zanshin says:
That’s one of the reasons why I never got lit up when I was living in Montreal.
Jinryu says:
Heh.
Jinryu says:
This is one reason why I miss living on my own, yes.
Zanshin says:
Well, that, and I was broke.
Zanshin says:
Shame-free debauchery.
Jinryu says:
My sister was walking me through it when i found her on msn
Jinryu says:
she was like
Jinryu says:
water
Jinryu says:
bread
Jinryu says:
sleep
Zanshin says:
Bread?  Why bread?
Jinryu says:
and in my geniousness, despite being reduced to like… 15% sync ratio with my own body, i decided to leave my bedroom in search of bread down two flights of stairs.
Zanshin says:
Good God.  I’m doubly impressed that you’re alive right now.
Jinryu says:
I think i just needed to eat something.
Jinryu says:
I was running pretty empty by 4am.
Jinryu says:
But that’s actually a good comparison
Jinryu says:
it’s like when Shinji is piloting an Eva and he’s just tugging at the controls screaming
Jinryu says:
MOVE DAMN YOU MOVE
Zanshin says:
Alcohol’s really weird in some ways.
Zanshin says:
I think most people are at 90% sync with their bodies.
Zanshin says:
When you drink alcohol, it goes up to like 95% briefly, but then drops to like 60% really fast.
Jinryu says:
I really think yesterday was just like you say
Jinryu says:
It was also kinda cool to just– play through it. I mean, to pilot in such a condition.
Zanshin says:
I’m still not sure why people enjoy alcohol so much.
Jinryu says:
Despite the fact that we still drink it.
Jinryu says:
At some point in the evening when controls were taking a hit, and I had alreay downed 4 cups (not glasses) of wine, 2 cups of port and 2 cups of gin and tonic, I was pointing at mark and giving orders.
Zanshin says:
I mean, I’ve hit the bottle quite a bit in the last year, but…  I think it’s still novelty.
Jinryu says:
“I am going to write down the intersection near my street right now
Jinryu says:
and you are going to give me 20$ so I can get there by means other than my natural bipedal skills of walkage.”
Zanshin says:
Nice.
Jinryu says:
Yes.
Zanshin says:
How much do taxis cost at home?
Jinryu says:
I am convinced that alcohol makes me stronger in the Force
Jinryu says:
makes my Jedi mind tricks more effective.
Zanshin says:
I have no data on this.
Jinryu says:
He lives near Vendome.
Jinryu says:
That cost me about 18 bucks to my house.
Zanshin says:
Hmm.  That’s not a bad price at all.
Zanshin says:
Given that it’s a pretty far distance.
Zanshin says:
Do you remember how long it took?
Jinryu says:
Yeah, no traffic.
Jinryu says:
Not at all.
Jinryu says:
I remember fighting the darkness and that’s it.
Zanshin says:
Hah.
Jinryu says:
I started chatting up the driver.
Jinryu says:
Like…. I never do that
Jinryu says:
but I was honestly afraid of passing out.
Jinryu says:
In my head, I was thinking “Talk to me talk to me talk to me don’t look at the light”
Zanshin says:
Yeah, I never go drinking without someone around.
Zanshin says:
In the unlikely case that I get too messed up, it’s good to have backup.
Jinryu says:
Yeah.
Jinryu says:
I found a paper in my pocket with my own address
Jinryu says:
which i wrote mind you
Jinryu says:
but it’s almost illegible.
Jinryu says:
at least, it’s almost illegible to ME
Jinryu says:
which by default, given my handwriting, makes it already a step or two illegible to most other mammals.
Jinryu says:
I was thinking to myself
Jinryu says:
nice try with the worst case scenario backup
Jinryu says:
but FAIL
Jinryu says:
Really, the whole experience was kinda cool
Jinryu says:
mostly because I remember it all this morning.

4:10am

Yes

I’ve had a bit much to drink and I will attempt to write something meaningful.

It’s intersting being in this state.

Correcting my spelling mistakes is just not going to happen.

I’ve realize also gthat i don’t feel as much pain as i normally would.  Punching myself int he face yields almost no pain whatsoever!

INCREDIBLE.

(i am drunk

It’s an awful time right now
ithink this is as drunk as i’ve ever been in once sitting

and man

my head hurts
i want to die

and god nothing makes sense right now

buti i figure if all the stories of memorhy loss are true this will be something intersting to read in the morning.

Good christmas eve folks!!!  Drive safely!!

Luck / Unluck

A friend at our RsM badminton club recently fucked up his knee at a provincial tournament.  I’m not sure exactly of the details, but last I heard, it’s going to be weeks before he can even hope to walk, and months before it’s safe to play badminton.  By “months” it just means, not any time soon, we’ll see how it goes, but really most are doubtful it’ll ever be the same.  I mean, every time an injury requires more than a few days of recovery, there are lasting reprecussions, not matter how minor we may deem them.  And they add up.

It really makes you think about how ‘lucky’ we are really.  But luck, really, what is that?  And does it have anything to do with anything, given what definition we give to it?

I’ve always sorta held that luck is really something that you use to describe conditions that you’re ignorant of.  If you won the lotto, it’s not that you’re lucky in a magical fated sorta way– it’s more, simply, that you chose a bunch of numbers without knowing, and they were the right ones.  Is that luck?  I suppose– if you define luck as the intersection between your arbitrary numbers and not knowing what numbers the lotto company chose.

Luck in some sense has to do with success despite ignorance.

If, for example, you did know the lotto numbers in advance, you wouldn’t be considered lucky when you picked them– it’d just be smart.

Yet, if you didn’t know the numbers, you wouldn’t be considered stupid if you lost.

I’ve been pretty lucky in the past when it came to injuries.  I’ve never had a serious injury that required hospitalization, but considering the kinds of activities I engage in, that is luck– I simply that I don’t know how I didn’t get injured.


On the other hand, maybe luck is only about ignorance on one level.

I’ve got this bottle that says “Luck is my Skill.”

This can, sort of be true– I think that good execution in anything is a coincidence of preparation and opportunity.  It doesn’t always mean that you are consciously aware of what you are doing– it might be that it happens all on it’s own, and because you are ignorant of your own subconscious, you will do something ‘lucky.’


So I guess, there are two sortsa lucks.  There’s the external sort– where things happen around you, and you call it luck because you don’t know why something good happened to you.  Or you call it bad luck because you don’t know why something bad happened to you (or you do, but you didn’t know any way to prevent it).  And there’s internal luck–

Have you ever met people who seemed to be simply chronically unlucky?

Ever noticed any patterns in their behavior? Their way of life?

What about those who are lucky?

Do you think it has to do with how much understanding those people have with themselves and their surroundings?

Or do you really think that for some reason, God or Fate favors certain people?

Advent

I think it’s a pretty good sign when I say that 2008 has been a good year so far, perhaps one of the best. I mean, if you’re really living it up, then the best should be up to now, right?

2009’s coming up.

These last few months haven’t been particularly ‘productive’ but I’ve really, really enjoyed the downtime from the hustle and bustle of employed life.  In the last little while, I’ve had the chance to

  • get back into playing piano
  • get a bit better at the guitar
  • renew my library membership (and pay of 7$ of fines outstanding from over a year ago apparently)
  • get back into cooking
  • get back into video gaming
  • get back into organizing my finances

Music is one of those things that’s a lot more fun when you really have nothing better to do.

I suppose it’s one of those things about my personality– I don’t like being told what to do, because if I am, my natural reaction is to want to do it less.  That includes when I myself am telling myself “if you don’t pick up that guitar, your calouses will wear off and you’ll have to hurt yourself all over again to get them back.”  That makes me not want to do it.  But if I’ve got a free day (which has pretty much been every weekday since I left Korea) it’s easy for me to just pick it up for a little stint here and there every day.

It’s strange but after having played guitar and understanding a bit more theory about arpeggiated chords it’s actually become easier to play piano.  I’m currently working on figuring out how to play this on piano, just by ear.


As to the library membership, well, it’s been a long time since I’d been in a library.  Having lost my card to the Bibliotheque Nationale de Quebec (BNQ, “the Quebec National Library”) I had to pay to have a new one made for me.  While in Korea, I passed through one once but didn’t really bother.  I used to go to the bookstore in CoEx mall at Samsung station (yes, there’s a station called Samsung in Korea, and yes, it’s named after the brand) to read English books every now and then, and that follows in the tradition of spending a lot of time at Indigo’s here both before and after Korea.

But it’d been a long time since I actually stepped into a library.  Before I worked at the hospital, I worked at a library.  I think that working at the library coincided with a time in my life when I really enjoyed reading.  I kinda fell out of it during the hospital years, because that’s when my university studies were coming to their close and the work at RsM was getting complicated.  With all the homework and term papers constantly at my heels, reading just wasn’t fun anymore.  Why?  Well, to follow the profile, it’s because I was told to do it.

So most of my trips to Indigo were actually just to read mangas or comic books.  While in Korea, that’s when my subject target changed a bit, because I’d just read a bit of any non-fiction book that I could get my hands on because it made for interesting class discussion materials– whether it was about Korean culture, North American culture, photography, traveling, ballet, kendo, pottery, gardening– whatever.  It was the first time that I really started reading just about any random thing off a shelf.  It didn’t matter if I didn’t become an expert at any of it, beacuase they were really just doorways.

It’s an interesting turn of events to actually want to pick up paper in my hands to read given that this is the age of information technology– everything is as easy as googling.  To the point where “googling” is now a common use verb.

I think it’s through teaching that I really rediscovered reading, to be honest.  It actually, finally made it useful for me to have been in all those literary criticism classes back in univ, and it made me want to read something for myself and not just for others.

I’ve recently picked up Williams’ Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.  Yes, I know it’s a videogame. I’m reading the novel.

Star Wars books aren’t exactly things I pick up because I appreciate the fine writing (sarcasm).  I read them because they’re fun.  Much like how Dragonlance books were my thing back in the day.  It’s just nice to have some continuity even if it’s only the shared physics of several fantastic books.


As to cooking, well, I did a fair amount of cooking in Korea but my style of cooking is really no style at all. I basically make myself balanced meals that are low in fat, high in carbs and fibre, with balanced vit and min content and not more protein than I need.  It wasn’t to the point of being mathematical, but it was certainly methodical and I felt that having control over my diet really made me a more sharp person, ready to ‘run and gun’ whenever it came to anything.

My diet here in Montreal is very different though.  In part, it’s because of the difference of prices and ingredients, that will tend to steer you towards buying some things more or less than others.  For example, beef in Korea is ludicrously expensive compared to Montreal.  Actually, in general, anything fatty and really tasty (both in grocery stores and in restaurants) is more expensive in Korea compared to Montreal, but that’s mostly due to regional differences.   My diet is also different because of my family.  Either they’re cooking what they like, or I’m cooking not just for myself but for everyone– and they wouldn’t eat the kinds of things that I would prepare for myself. (Not that this is a Korean issue– even prior to Korea, most people wouldn’t eat my cooking.)

Most of what I setup for myself to eat (and I purposely use the word ‘setup’) is gagued in terms of what serves my body’s current needs.  And sure, many people will tell you that it’s not impossible to eat healthy and effectively while still having good tasting food.  It’s just that I don’t really care about cooking delicious food for myself.  And it’s not that I don’t appreciate it– if anything, it makes going out and eating that much more enjoyable!

I will admit though that cooking for my family, which happens pretty often since I’m home all day and they’re all coming home from work or school, is a nice change of pace.  It gives me a responsibility.


Gaming is something I went cold turkey for about a year.  Nintendo DS doesn’t really count as gaming, because I never played anything in lockdown mode.  I mean, the NDS is designed to be fun and portable– that means that the average game isn’t the sort that you’re likely to be playing 6 hours in a row.  The worlds have become distinct– console titles on the other hand have, I feel, become more emersive and require more dedicated time than in the past.  I’m not talking about length of game– I’m talking about the pace of events, such that they influence your ability to put down the controller and say “okay, that’s it for now.”

Basically, an NDS game is portable and fun, but not as ‘engaging.’

Being back though, i’ve had the opportunity of catching up.  I’ve come to understand frankly that there’s no sense in trying to deny myself gaming.  I went a year without a console and I thought that I’d grow out of it.  I didn’t bring a console to Korea (Chuck had just bought me a brand new PS2 slim to boot, since I burned out my previous PS2 and that prevented me from finishing FFXII) because I feard that it would keep me in my apartment.  And I didn’t miss gaming so much in Korea because frankly, it was mostly impossible: I’m first and foremost an RPG player, and that’s just impossible if they were all written or dubbed in Korean.

Or… perhaps it’s not that I didn’t miss it.  It’s simply that even if I did, I didn’t have a choice.  When you really consider it, the fact that I got an NDS was probably a cry for help, because at least with the NDS I could download North American or European titles that were in English or French.

Now that I’m back, I’ve had the privlege of playing a fair number of great titles.  There were a few bust ones, but overal, I think this is a part of me that I cannot deny, nor will I grow out of it any time soon.


While I was in Korea, I mostly was just sending my money back to my sister who held on to it for me and just invested it in some balanced funds.  Now that I’m back and have some time on my hands to do the research, it’s come time to start looking at more specific investment goals.

I’ve long been awaiting it since their first foregrounding in the early and mid 2000s (though they’d been around for at least a dozen years before that), but something that caught my eye back then were “Ethical,” “Green” or “Sustainable” funds.  The idea is that these sorts of mutual funds invest primarily in companies that are responsible. These companies aim at developing markets or technologies that are related mostly with sustainability and environment.

Of course, you could argue that it’s all a marketing scam or something.  But I did some of the homework now, and really, it’s my opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.  I’m always talking about sustainability and responsible practices– but now I’m actually betting (some) of my hard earned dollars on it.  Previously these sorts of funds weren’t  available to me because I had closed my TD Waterhouse account, which was the only one that allowed me to purchase funds from financial organizations outside of it’s own family.  But now, it seems to have caught on with other banks as well.  My current bank, Bank of Montreal, has as of a little while ago introduced the Sustainable Class Fund and the Climate Class Fund.

After doing some research, both into the numbers and just in general catching up on current events, I’m now invested with the remainder of my uninvested Korean earnings.


Just to give an idea of what “Green Investing” is all about:

Forbes.com: How did you first get interested in green investing?

Robinson: From 1979 to 1983, I was working with a company in Vermont called Garden Way, which sold everything you needed to be a gardener and to be self-sufficient. I worked as the CFO. I learned that you could be socially and environmentally responsible, and it didn’t have to impact the bottom line. The largest product line we had was a garden tiller. We took used tillers and re-manufactured them. One lesson learned: It doesn’t have to be new to be profitable. You can reuse pieces of equipment and resell them at margins that are attractive.

As a money manager, what did you take away from that experience?

I wanted to integrate environmental thinking into the investment process. For the first seven years, it meant screening things out, screening out weapons and tobacco, any company that had a product that was detrimental to people’s health. Then I made the decision in the early 1990s to focus Winslow just on green investing. Companies were going public that had a real green product or service. There weren’t many of them, but we switched from screening out to screening in.

We broke the universe into three categories: the “dirties” we avoided, and the “greens” we wanted to own. And then we filled out the portfolio with “cleans,” meaning they weren’t part of the solution but they weren’t part of the problem either.

Does green investing still make sense in today’s choppy, uncertain market?

Absolutely, and here is why: Let’s face it, we are in a no-growth environment. But the fact of the matter is that when you identify green investment areas, clean energy and healthy living, these are all still growing. Their growth may be less, but if you are in the water filtration business, as an example, or solar, wind or energy efficiency businesses, you are growing. If you are selling organic foods and promoting healthy living, you are in a growth area. For every green problem, there is a solution, and they are growing.


Resolutions (Continued)

I’m also going to try and get more sleep.

In the last year, I’ve really come to recognize just how important sleep is.  Sometimes, I look at the world in all the wrong ways.  I’m extra cynical, I get pissed off at things that aren’t right and I just get snappy.  Or, the opposite– instead of increased agressiveness, I could get more depressed.  In Korea, while training for the black belt exam, I really wasn’t sleeping enough because aside from working and training at least for a couple of hours each day, I was also entertaining guests in my apartment from out of town.  I don’t blame them, mind you– I willingly gave up sleep so I could spend more time with them– however that period especially (along with Intensives) really showed me one of the limits of my body.  Without sleep, things just start going wrong.  If I’m to start working night shifts at the new job, I’ll have to manage my sleeping time especially carefully.

Which sorta trails into another idea that I’m going to work on this coming year, and that’s to just be in better shape.  Not that I’m in particularly bad shape right now, but I want to be in decent shape and injury free.   The latest injury was just a bit over a month ago, and that was my neck due to that idiot at the taekwondo gym who slapped me in the back while I was stretching.  It’s mostly gone now, but sometimes when I hit a clear in badminton, I feel a twitch in my neck muscles and upper back as if it’s going to seize up.  It’s really unpleasant.

So, to answer Levanna’s earlier question– I’m likely going to focus more on badmintno since TKD will be shelved.  When the snow lets up, I’ll also buy myself a bicycle since I need something to get around town with.  I had forgotten that pre-Korea, I owned about 5 bicycles– now I only have one, and that one bike is too expensive to park just anywhere. I’ll need to find a cheap bike that I won’t be too sad to see stolen, which is a pretty common occurence in Montreal.

I’d like to start training to do the Metropolitain Challenge (the 150km bike ride) that I did a couple of years ago, but I’d like to assemble a team to do it.  Anyone who’s in montreal and wants to try it out should let me know!

…more later.

New Year Resolutions

I don’t usually put much stock in New Year resolutions, but this year might be a bit different, since January will set me in a new job that I hope to advance in (or from).  I haven’t really started anything major in wait of this because I don’t want to get signed up on any new hobbies or social routines until I have a firm grasp on what my work schedule will be like, and what I’ll have to do to adapt to the requirements of the new job.

Off the bat, one change I’ve made is that I’m no longer attending taekwondo.  The school I was going to may very well have been reputed to be the first in Canada and all that, but frankly, it’s not for me.  On one hand, I completely disagree with the mentality trained there– people need to learn, I think, to have disciplined.

Like any experiment, it’s just looking a situation and trying to figure out how things can be improved through the testing of a hypothesis.


That means we begin with the things I don’t like or the things that I think can be done better in my life.


Before going to Korea I was a full time student, working a part-time job (with full time hours) and spending my Saturdays either at the club or with family.  That left me with little or no free time.

Now that I’ve come back, I’ve learned to pace myself– one of the major things out of the way is school, so that gives me a significant amount of free time.  And since my current job status is part-time employment only, that also means a significant amount of free time at least for the near future (although I’d imagine training for the job will get me full time hours for at least a couple of weeks).


First:
People.  And tonight is a perfect example.

In the past, I’ve always had a lot of faith in people– I mean, I gripe about them all the time, and you’d think that I was a real hater but in reality I have a lot of faith in human goodness.  I just think people are careless.  However, because I expect so much of people I’m often let down or plain pissed off at people.  If there’s a few things that piss me off about people (or at least are in the forefront of my perception right now) it’s when people don’t know how to communicate– I contacted some people a few hours ago with some questions and they just never responded to them.  I’m not talking about situations where I’m asking for favors or anything, and I don’t even care if the answer is yes or no– but as David Duchovny said once, “I’m just trying to plan my day.”  When people don’t have the courtesy to answer my questions, it really pisses me the fuck off.  When people make changes in the plans and don’t tell me and just apologize after being late, that really pisses me the fuck off.  When people say “some other time” and tell me in some vague way that suggests perhaps next week, and then you find yourself a month later, that doesn’t bother me so much– what does piss me off is the “sorry” that comes with it.

I understand that it’s natural for people to be busy– but why all the mendacity about it?  Why all this cloak and dagger bullshit about not returning calls, playing telephone and text message tag?

And this is a humbling experience, but so we arrive at an analysis of this situation and need to propose how we’ll fix it.

Analysis:
And here’s the humbling part.  At first I thought it was always simply that people were inconsiderate.  I’m very careful about promises that I make, which is why I very, very seldom make them nowadays.  And isn’t expressly because of a lack of commitment– I will promise to do my best to help you if it comes to that.  However, the reason why I don’t promise is usually because I’m shaky abotu how my involvement stands in an issue.  And I will communicate this honestly.

But when it comes to not getting the replies, that’s not about inconsideration in itself.  I really thought that with enough bitching I could change people and make them realize what tools they were.  Now, I’m just going to take the Neitzschian hint– things like this happen because I’m not that important to these people who I’m playing tag with.

Subjectively, that’s what hurts about wasting time on things like this, because it makes me feel needy and weak, at the mercy of people from whom I’m waiting for replies from.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a favor, or if it’s just to do something together, or just a simple question– I need that reply, and I realize through introspection that the source of my anger is my own weakness, that bad kind of dependence on people to meet my expectations.  I’d like to think that I’m all that. But if I was, then these brush-offs wouldn’t happen, would they?

Well, it’s natural that people don’t always see eye to eye or aren’t interested in the same things, and that’s usually why these sorts of situations happen.  Whenever someone acts ‘inconsiderately’ it’s partly just because of obliviousness, but it’s also partly because the person honestly doesn’t take the time to think about your situation.

The solution, simply, is to just take it bank style.  I know that we all use, on some level or another, an emotional bank model to guague how important our relationships with people are.  We gague how much fun we have with someone versus how much aggravation we have.  The quantification, though gets skewed sometimes by familiarity– sometimes, when it comes to people we’ve known for a long time, we put up with things because they’ve entered a certain zone of comfort.  Sort of like how with family members, you might be annoyed to shit with the things they do, but you still put up with it– just because they’re family.

Friends, co-workers, whatever, they’re much the same– sometimes, just because of the familiarity experienced by a person’s presence, we put up with a lot more aggravation that we’d normally tolerate given proper application of an emotional bank equation.

And that’s what Montreal is for me.  It’s a lot of that– a lot of people I have history with.

It is, however, time to move on.  All these letdowns and things, or, worse, people who just turn sour on you– I’m reminded of Visual_Noise’s posts who seems to be one of those dudes who’s got his head screwed on tight, the balls to know when to talk and the heart to know when to listen, but he just gets abused at times by people who just don’t know left from right– they’re just inconsiderate.

Anway, the solution: just not give so much stock to history anymore, and take things at face value.  I hate to make it utilitarian.

The reason for family though isn’t to put up with abuse.  In my head, “family theory” (as I like to call it) and emotional bank theories are different– in family, you should just give and give and give.  That’s all there is to it.  In emotional bank, it’s business.

I’ve always leaned towards family theory.  I’m not boasting when I say I give shitloads to make things work and often to people who you might judge don’t deserve it.  That’s the kind of guy I am.  I try to make everyone my family.  I don’t care what people do for me in return– so much as they’re just doing as much as they can in the right directions.  All I want is the communication.

And this “family theory” even superseeds the actual functioning of my ACTUAL family, which, truth be told, is quite dysfunctional.

So what am I going to do about it?

Simple.  Meet new people, or become better friends with people who I didn’t have the chance to before I left.  Fuck inconsideration.  I’ve had enough of it, and I will take the hint.  To say it’s nothing personal is totally wrong– it’s totally personal.  Objectively I shouldn’t feel any anger here– but subjectively, if I wander from the issues, I’m justified if only because if I were to stoop so low as to applying emotional bank theories, I should’ve dropped a lot of people out of my inner circle a long time ago.

It’s not that my procedure will change that much– I’ll still be applying ‘family theory’ to my relationships. However, I’ll just be directing it at different people now, and those who don’t qualify will simply naturally drop-out.

There’s only so much lovin’, tolerance, favors, random acts of kindness and all that stuff that I have energy for in a day– I’ll save it for people who will have the decency to at least communicate.  There are two issues: honesty, and reliability.  Both of them are virtues, in a sense– but the lack of them towards others equate to a lack of respect.


Next:
Languages.  Before Korea, I never bothered to put much effort into learning Chinese.  There was a time when I was a kid where I actually started learning to read and write on my own, and I even went as far as bugging my mom to get me a membership at the small Chinese library in Chinatown (I don’t even know if it’s still there) but that died out maybe a month or two later because I was too frustrated.  I think I was also too young, the Internet wasn’t easily accessible, and just in general, things were different.  Over the years I’d convinced myself that it was too hard.

And I’m not saying that Chinese is easy, but while living in Korea, I did manage to pick up a fair amount of Korean, and spending time in Hong Kong actually improoved my understanding of Chinese (the langauge) even if it wasn’t really long enough to improve it’s practice by very much.  It did help me separate the Toysan from the Cantonese in my talk, so now I’m mostly able to cut the two apart and speak almsot straight in either dialect, which is a big help.

In any case, I’m going to try and put in a real effort into learning Chinese (either Canto or Mandarin), at least for conversation.

It’s funny because when I came back from Asia, I started trying to speak cantonese with family members aside from my grandmother and grandfather and everyone was surprised– however, mostly, unsupportive.  I guess it’ll just take some getting used to, because now, they still respond to me in broken English.  I guess I’ll just keep forcing my way through it the way I picked up Korean– lots of botchiness, and lots of questions.

Learning a language, I’ve realized, is really all about humility and presistence.


There are a few other things I’ll add to the resolution, but I’m tired of typing at the moment.