dal niente

Month: October, 2010

Hong Kong Revisited

This is actually the second time I come to HK.  The first time was several years ago with [Zanshin], and the experience was quite different.  Back then, I was so impressed by double decker electric buses (one of which almost smeared Zanshin, since we weren’t used to checking traffic coming from the opposite direction).  That time around, we were in HK for a couple of weeks and spent most of the time shopping and eating in restaurants in the central commercial district around Central, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui, etc.

 

This time around with [CM], who is a bit more of a local, the experience is quite different.  She explains to me little things that I might not have noticed if I were just a tourist.  Like how there are little lights on top of stalls in car parks that indicate whether the space is taken or not, so you can see it from a distance.  Or like how you need to ask for the 1cmx4cmx4cm piece of butter to stuff into the specially made slit of the ‘bolo bun.’

If I ever thought that riding in a double decker bus up a mountainside was terrifying, it’s even worse when you’re in a car in Sai Kung– the place is all mountains, and every day heading out to the city feels like an episode of Initial D.  At least in a bus I felt some comfort in the 30 other people who didn’t seem to mind that we were doing over 70 with sharp turns and no barriers separating the opposite lane (lets see… 70 plus 70 equals a head on collision of 140….) but in a car, you just feel like that much more of a squishy than on a bus.

 

The food here is fantastic.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  If I thought the food was great here when I came with Zanshin, it’s a factor or two even better this time around because now I’ve got someone taking me to only the best places for the particular plate I’m looking for. Nom nom nom….

 

Anyway, I’d write more but frankly, it’s time to look for food!

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Marvelous

Time: 9:21AMLocation: Sai Kung, Hong Kong 

I’m in the kitchen of [CM]’s place.  Everyone’s asleep except for her dad and I.  I’m on my laptop catching up on updates and correspondence, while he’s working at the stove working up some oats for breakfast. He’s a pretty nice guy, all things considered– like anyone else, he has his quirks, but who doesn’t?

He gets up really early.  I mean, really early. I guess that’s part of what living in HK is like– you need to get up in time to beat that crazy morning traffic.  But then again, I guess hospital work for me with a 10AM start time is pretty uncommmon, so maybe it’s my perspective that’s off.

They lifted the typhoon warning yesterday.  Yesterday it was still rated as Class-3, and apparently the Philipines were taking quite a beating, but Hong Kong just got some rain and a pleasant seabreeze.  Can’t complain!
Got a haircut finally.  I was pretty pleased with the results when it was first done!  But as per usual with my hair, it returns to looking impossible the next day when I get out of bed.  CM got her haircut at the same time, she’s gotten much better results from it I find.  Sometimes I wonder if I should just shave myself bald, but I don’t think that’d look too nice considering how every now and then I tend to get these pimples up there.  And who knows, years of taking kicks in the head might reveal some unsightly deformations.

Not sure what the plan for today is… CM’s friend [GuileGuy] is probably not working on weekends, so chances are we might get a few rounds of MvsC2 or SFIV in.
She was getting into a discussion with him the other day about which characteres are ‘top tier’ and which characters ‘just suck.’  I thought it was interesting because I guess, though I’m aware of characters in games who certainly seem more powerful than others, I never really thought about it.  I just naturally gravitate towards the unorthodox or special characters in fighting games.  Ironically, my best pound-for-pound character is still Ryu, but I spend much more time learning the characters who would normally be  benchwarmers.

I thought the discussion was interesting beacuse I’ve recently been getting back into Neitszche in my grad studies.  The last time I studied it was a philosophy course during my undergrad, which was a Neitszche-Derrida course, so it’s been a while– but every now and then, when I come back to something I’ve already studied and enjoyed, I realize how much of the theory I’d forgotten, and how much of my life was influenced by the theory.
It’s sorta like how when I was still teaching, I realized one day when in a bookstore that so much of my teaching style was based on Great Teacher Onizuka mangas; I wasn’t consciously drawing upon those fictitious stories, but I’d somehow internalized the ideas, made them a part of my being, and then applied it to meatspace.

Neitszche, this second time around, is providing me a similar experience.  In rereading it I’m finding a lot of parallels in the way I think and do things, despite that it’s been over five years since I last studied his writing formally, and despite that I can’t remember most of my way  of thinking as being a direct result of studying him.  Maybe it’s just coincidence?

The other day though I was applying from Neitszcheian ideas to the topic of character selection in MvsC2.

For those of you in the dark. MvsC2 is “Marvel Versus Capcom 2,” originally a coin-operated arcade game from over 10 years ago.  The game has over 50 playable characters, from which you choose 3 champions to pit against an AI or human controlled opponent’s 3. When you hit the start button, the first thing that comes up is the annoucer’s voice, loud and challenging: “Select your hero!” How does one do that?

Playable characters vary in a number of ranges: short, tall; fast, slow; high damage output, weak damage output; versatility of special moves and super moves; ability to chain specials and supers; ease of use; necessity of manual inputs, verus more automatic ‘easy to handle’ playing; etc.  So how does one choose?

Well, if you ask the pros, there are a lot of characters who are considered “Top-Tier” characters.  That is to say, these are the players that professionals use to win their games.  The question is: are these players better?

Well, we first need to ask how we define “better”. This definition relies on a number of things.  Most obviously there’s the ease of use, which we might be able to derive some objective sense of better or worse.  A revolver for instance could almost inarguably bet better than an arquebus, which was just as likely to kill the user as it was the target.  So, that means that a character needs to be not ‘broken’ in any essential way.  What makes one character better than others by one critereon is that he/she, overal, has fewer flaws and more strengths.

However, this is where I hesitate to put too much stock in the idea of chosing top-tier characters.  Neitszche suggests to us that there are no universal truths that we can obtain– what’s more important is the artistry that we can produce through the knowing assertion of our own fictions, because it is through this exercise that we affirm life.

In one sense, the basic question I ask is: is it fun to play with this character?

Because even if the character is ‘good’ or ‘top-tier,’ that doesn’t mean that you’re good at using them, nor that using them is in any way interesting to you.  Is it better to win by means that you don’t enjoy, or to lose while doing things in a way that you find fun?

Further, even if you define fun in terms of winning– is there only one way to do it? Or are we relying on statistically prooven methods as a crutch for success, when perhaps there are methods out there more effective, but as yet undiscovered?
The truth is that when MvsC2 came out, many of the characters today considered top-tier weren’t considered top-tier.  It’s because a few innovators chose characters that initiually suited their personal stlyes, then learned them inside out, creating a synconization level that allowed the player to express their intentions through their characters.   And then massive, ass-kicking combos were made.

Then some other people saw that this could be done with the unlikeliest of characters, and they studied these innovators’ techniques and fighting philosophies, and mimiced them.

What I’m saying is that Top Tier isn’t a definition  built by the game designers; like ‘truth’, it exists only because of the convenience of consensus for mass application.  Suppose you were the first person to use a character that everyone else thought was a joke– but then you found some way to use him to kick the asses of all comers.  Does the fact that more people aspire to your newfound popupularity affect the objective effectiveness of your selection and usage before your popularity?

 Simplified: does popularity on consensus affect your effectivness, or the truth of what you do?

Innovation

So much eating going on.. it’s crazy.  Hong Kong has a lot of practical things that you just don’t find in North America… for example, in some car parks, each stall has a little indicator light above it that’s either red or green, depending on whether or not there’s someone parked there (there’s a detector) so that when you’re coming up on a floor, you can tell from a distance if there’s any spaces.

And of course, there’s the Octopus card– the equivalent of South Korea’s T-Money, it’s a rechargeable cash card that works anywhere from public transit to local restaurants.  Forget coins!

 

I’m finding it beyond great to be with [CM].  As I type this, she’s sleeping in bed… I should be working on my papers while she’s still asleep, but sometimes all I end up doing is watching over her or lying down beside her.  I wonder sometimes how it is that she sleeps so much– she often sleeps 2 or 3 hours or more than me per day.  I also wonder what life would be like sleeping with her everyday was … well, everyday.  The fact is, this is a vacation– this isn’t my normal world.

 

But it feels like this is normal.  It’s strange but for the past several months that she was away, that always felt out of the ordinary– working everyday, going home, studying… that slave routine, well– it always feels good to be productive, you know?  But what’s all that money and education for anyway?  Where does getting ahead in the world get me, what am I saving and climbing my way for anyhow?  And the answer is quite simple– it’s a life, like this, where I can kiss her good morning, even though she’s alseep and can’t hear me.

Welcome to Hong Kong

It’s 7:16PM according to my laptop, but that’s wrong, since I’m not in Montreal anymore– it’s Hong Kong, so it’s actually 7:17 AM.

 

It’s really good to be back with [CM].  We got home just in time for dinner and haven’t done much yet, and I can’t seem to think or sleep straight because of the jetlag, but I should be fine soon.  Let the vacation begin!

On Liberty

it’s a classic I think: “Where does state jurisdiction stop, and where does liberty begin?”

As a general rule though, I would say that religious freedom of expression gives one “the right to swing one’s arms around any way they want, but that right stops when you’re about to hit me in the face.”

I would argue however that government granted religious freedom isn’t freedom in the free to do anything sense– I think that it’s false advertising.  Maybe the downfall of the system begins with this glamour idea of providing freedom, romantically for all.   If we redefined it as what options we have left over after we’ve met our contractual obligations to the country, we could avoid a lot of fist-shaking on account of the difference between this, a  “remaining options” model of freedom, versus “carte blanche” freedom, which activists argue for but which isn’t the reality– nor should it be.

I don’t think the border between state intervervention and freedom will  figured out anytime soon– I find it more useful to argue for more or less government intervention on a case by case basis.  Like with our discussions of beaureaucracy, it’s not that the rules are there to prevent freedom– but, when something goes wrong, a law is made in retrospect to attempt at defining the conflict and dealing with it more efficiently (not necessarily more justly) in the future.
 
For example, at the children’s hospital I work at, it wasn’t until a child died during an operation due to blood loss in the late 90s that a special by-law was made.  The subject regards parents of the Jehova’s Witness faith who decided that they wanted their child to undergo surgery without the use of blood transfusions (which are against their religion).

So here, we have an interesting situation:  on one hand, the hospital and the laws governing it are saying that sure, you have the right to your religion.  

For operations where no transfusion is necessary for normal proceeding, we can still go ahead on the agreement that based on the low risk levels it’s not even an issue.  We will agree to your request to not employ transfusions.
  
So, we’ll totally respect your freedom.  Until something bad happens, at which point we can’t keep up the public relations spiel anymore– and only then, we have a second option that we legally didn’t even need to tell you about– it’s our trump card for repealing your right to religious practices.  

This by-law says that  a provincial judge (on call 24/7) could rule against the agreed-upon contract between surgeon and parents that says “no blood” and overrule it to “okay for tranfusion” if the child is under a certain age (an age deemed to be the point at which the child is capable of chosing their religion for themselves). It’s a hush hush trump card only played when the hand is forced, not because of the legal ramifications (our legal conscience is clear, thanks to the by-law) but because of public relations issues.  So, I think this parallels a lot of issues in society– the law exists, but we try our very best to be politically tolerant of everything in public until we actually need to play rough, and that’s when the law comes out. 

The problem is that some laws are designed with the idea of dealing with situations, and some are designed with the idea of ‘good ideas’– the freedom of religion, as a sub of freedom of speech, is one of those laws which I categorize as a “good idea” but which I feel is simply too broad and bold to be practical.

So, what I’m saying is– what exactly do we mean by freedom?  Freedom most of the time?  Or maybe we should redefine freedom, or get rid of the word all together, because it’s simply not accurate in some contexts.  I don’t say this with disdain- I think though there’s a need for transparency that doesn’t exist and that’s why people get upset– because as a country we sometimes boast freedom irresponsibly beceause it’s a powerful word.

Welcome to Chicago

Location:Chicago O’Hare Airpor

tTime:October 13, 2010 / 12:05 Montreal time

I’m at Chicago O’Hare airport now, apparently the largest airport in America (maybe the world?).  That’s all good and well, but I think it’s ridiculous that anyone feels the need to charge for WiFi.  How cosmopolitain is that?

It’s been soem time now since I last got onto a plane– the last one was from Vancouver to Montreal.

Everytime I get in an airport, I’m excited. Perhaps this is even more the case for me because most of the miles I’ve flown, I’ve done so alone, and from that perspective, I like not really having to worry about slowing anyone down or pushing them to go faster.

Being at an airport highlights a few things.

One, I need to get out of the house more often– it’s been way too long that I’ve just been slaving away at writing papers or dealing with the madness of work.  I’m frankly not used to the company of so many people anymore, even if they’re all strangers.  I guess there’s no better way to remedy that then to going to Hong Kong, where it’s not even a question of popuilation density– it’s finding the best places to get some air.

It’s gonna be great, I think.  I miss the days of Korea where I could just get lost in a super crowded population, one similar but distinct from my own Canadian Chinese culture.  I like to watch the ebb and flow of those differences, and somehow feel special in how I can see them because I’m an outsider.
Hong Kong will be sometihng compeltely different in many ways.  The first time I went, it was with [Zanshin].  Those were fun times– basically, we were on an extended foodie quest.  Along the way, he almost got hit by a tram car.

This time around, I’ll bei n HK to spend a month with [CM].  It’s crazy, but even though I haven’t seen her in months, it feels as if it was just that she’s been gone for a week or so. There will be things that I’ll have to refresh my memory on, but to which I look forward to: how to watch movies tightly together, how to eat dinner for two, how to make love, and how to wake up to an expectant face.
I have, unfortunately, a fair amount of grad work to do that I’ve brought with me (two assignments due during my vacation) but I’m not worried about that… I’m looking forward to seeing CM and just enjoying my time off!

More to come.

Two Suitcases

The last few months have really been hell on my system, culminating with the last week or so.  I’m just burnt out, and one night I caught a cold, I think, because I’m just overdoing it.  Yesterday though, I had a moment of reprieve.

Grad work right now consists mostly of me crunching out writing on two things– the first of which is an analysis of the political motivations behind the temporary (it’s been rolled back now) integration of Sharia law tribunals for private rulings in Ontario.  The class on Interpreting Social Theory, will be dealing with the Sharia law debates for another week, and our objective is actually to produce and refine a wiki on the subject.

The second bit is a literary comparison of two books, one on adult education theory as applied to union education, and the other is a semi-autobiographical look at Canadian union culture over the last 30 years.  The material is really engaging; but a side effect of it all is that I go to bed most nights feeling as if my brain is full of lead.

Gotta stay positive though!

Grid Computing

In case you’ve never heard of the project or the technology:

Truth and Illusion

Can we distinguish between the two?

 

I think it is possible.  However, not through practical differentiation; only through theoretical reasoning.  That is to say, we should assume that everything we know of the world is illusion; we can test this, perhaps, by comparing our illusions of something with someone else’s to find that they’re slightly different, despite that the thing’s being simply is.  That at least verifies the illusion.  But we can’t verify the truth, we can only make ontological arguments that make bare assertion fallacies.

Distinguishing between a pursuit of truth and an embracing of illusion seems like a small difference at first,  but I believe that it means mostly that we need to break out from the institutionalization of  extro-centric (made that word up because I can’t think of one) thought; everything we’ve learned tells us that it aims towards ‘perfect forms’ or things in an ‘afterlife’ but what Neitszche wants is to give value to our current lives and our present.  We do this by turning the focus away from the environment  and back to ourselves, from which all things are sympthomatic.

The idea that “God is Dead” isn’t just with regards to the falling influence of religion– “If he isn’t, we must kill him” suggests also our responsibility to take control of our own directions by not accepting traditional opression of extro-centered truths.

Shi Shi Hokoudan

Shi Shi Hokodan

Maybe five or six years ago, I used to talk to [SiB] about the concept of ki.  Wheras I’ve studied almost exclusively “hard” martial arts mainly kickboxing and taekwondo, since we were in college he went the path of “soft” styles such as Tai Chi.  He doesn’t do that kind of stuff frequently anymore, but I think that in a lot of ways, the way that we studied martial arts is reflected in the personalities we have.

There were numerous conversations where we discussed the idea that unseen force. Depends on who you ask.  You can call it ki, hado, qi, chi, lifestream, MP, the shining… you can call it the Force for all I care.  It is something that is unseen, and it has a distinct effect on your daily activities.

In part, it has to do with ‘substance,’ that kind of stuff that I talk about that comes from experience.  Get enough experience in life, and simply, you don’t sweat the little things as much as someone who is more of a noob.  But there’s more than one way of dealing with an incoming negative energy.

Notes on ki:
Suppose your environment is directing negative energy at you.

One way involves absorbing it.

  • This school of techniques is normally found in people who you might characterize as compassionate, empathetic or sympathetic. Alternatively, it can be defaulted to by people who are passive, “pushovers” or meek.  From here you can:
    • disperse it internally (basically breaking it down internally).
      • You can dissipate the negative energy properly, sorta like breaking down food you eat and then using it as fuel.
      • You can experience energy indigestion, where the density or flavor of the energy doesn’t agree with you.  This leads to ki poisoning.
    • let is pass through you
      • you can filter it through you, using your own ki as a means of reshaping incoming ki, so that when you release it, it comes out a different type.  An example of this is being given lemons, and making lemonade.
      • you can simply be a ground wire, allowing ki to enter you and leave you without any resisitence.  This is the method of emptying one’s sensibility such that you detach your being from your conductivity, so that you don’t get fried, and letting the ki come and go with zero resistence.  A lot of people call tihs “being Zen” about things, but what it is not is being numb.

Another school involves opposing it.

  • This school of techniques is normally found in people who are confident, agressive, unpredictable, and confrontational.   Alternatively, it can just as easily be defaulted to by people who lack confidence and use it as a means of masking self-esteem issues through bravado. From here, you can:
    • Disperse external ki by crushing it.  This means that if a dog barks at you, you can metaphrically notice that your own fighting spirit is greater than the dog, and you can metaphorically kick the dog.
    • Deflect external ki.  This is when, compared to your fighting spirit, the incoming ki lacks focus on you in particular so you’re capable of deflecting it– usually onto someone else.
    • Be crushed by it.  This is akin to having all the fighting spirit in the world, but being the equivalent of a midget in a football game.

I have, I think, usually been the sort of person who tends to favor crushing external ki.  You can’t really destory ki– but you can externally reduce it to it’s component parts so that you can seal it’s components.  If enough of the key elements of the incoming ki can be separated from the foundation of the ki as a whole, then the threat dissipates.  Up until Korea, I think that that’s been my method of dealing with things.  I was the sort of person who could get into fights, psychological or physical, and was willing to trade damage because I knew that my damage output and my endurance in a battle of attrition would win me most situations.

What changed me though was working with children.

Teaching wasn’t a situation where it was enough to tell kids “that’s wrong.” I couldn’t force feed them information, I couldn’t just crush their resistence to education through military doctrine– I needed to make it fun.

At first I ran my class like a corrupt government– it was characterized by bribery as incentive to get good marks.  Of course, the problem with this is that if you tell kids that they’ll get a free treat if they get 10 on 10, they learn to become dependent on it; they develop a want of the payoff, not of the education experience.

Eventually though, I came to understand that the most sustainable model was a mix of militarism with empathy.  I needed to understand how a kid looked at me.  I needed to get into his head.  And that meant not just exploiting weaknesses, and breaking down deffenses to allow the invasion– it meant being a conduit.  Putting a hand on a kid’s shoulder, after first earning his or her trust, and then becoming a polarized sum of our experiences.

At first that was really something that was novel to me and I think that’s why the middle of my teaching stint was so euphoric.

But then at some point, as I became more attuned to the kids, I started to get too close– and I started to experience ki poisoning.  It’s possible that you know exactly what you’re doing but the supersaturation of what’s around you is so much that, even if you know you can deal with this, you can’t deal with it fast enough to breathe.  It is akin to drowning. You know how to swim; but at a certain point, there’s too much water flopping at you, incessantly, and you get tired.

I mention all of this because I found it interesting how nowadays, I just kind of feel like a more complete person.  Now, my ki is more rounded, and my way of life doesn’t draw only from the hard camp of ki manageent… it now combines elements of the soft way as well.

Not always to beneficial effects mind you.  I never really used to experience ki poisoning of the soft sort.

But I am very familiar with being crushed by ki.  My response to that has always been to lash out with violent energy, like when a bully has you pinned on the ground and you try a burst of a twist here or that way to try and throw him off balance and turn the situation around.  It is a sweaty, painful struggle that leaves you cut and bruised, and leaves me all the more frustrated because my pride will not allow me to admit domination.  It is a ‘give me liberty or give me death attitude’ that is frightfully unreasonable.

The soft method of losing is ki poisoning which involves those moments where I, in the psychological sense, break down.  When I just have an anxiety attack, or I start crying, and lose all reason.

Both results, what’s the solution?  There is none, really– except to wait for the environment to change.  Both in ki poisoning and being crushed by ki, the incoming force by definition is stronger than your ability to manage– you will not be released until someone saves you or if the force relents.  In many cases, time is the only thing that will save you.

I should mention another thing– rust.  I get the impression that for every experience with bad ki on your person, you can manage it– but, if one isn’t careful, one experience corrosion from contact.    In the real world, this translates generally to a conditioning characterized by a loss of faith.  Faith in what depends on what was important to you– it could be religion, it could be a way of life, it could be love or it could be an individual.   With every bad experience, we naturally try to be more efficient about the way we go about our lives from that moment on.

But sometimes, we need to refurbish ourselves.  Sometimes, we accumulate corrosion due to bad conditions– but if we’re on the right track?  If we’re on the right track, which is determined solely by what we choose is the right track, then we have a responsiblity to keep our engine in good working condition.

Nothing says we have to be practical in what we dream for.

During the last little while, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I see the world.  The graduate studies I’ve started have had an enormous catalytic effect on the way I develop my thoughts and attitude towards things.  And as a result of a lot of refining, a lot of old machinery that I’ve managed to clear the rust off and polish, I feel that I’m better now at dealing with things.

I used to watch Ranma 1/2, and I always though that I was like Ranma, the main protagonist. I think that that’s the way one should look at the world– with confidence to deal with anything, to not worry that you don’t have the tools to go forward because you’ll pick them up along the way.

Nowadays though, I find that in a strange way, I’m becoming a different type of character– more like Ryoga.  I find myself constantly threatened by ki poisoning, because the challenges I’m facing in life are not the sorts that are best met with agression.

But, on the plus side, I have learned a new technique of dealing with ki poisoning… Shi Shi Hokodan, in a sense.  And it puts me back in the game.