Rule #32

by Jinryu

I’ve just now had a pretty excellent weekend so far– been a good opportunity to get in touch with myself and all that.

Ironically, a lot of that just meant having some plain, simple free time.

There’s a number of things that I need to research. First of all, there’s the specifics of obtaining a working holiday visa in Australia, which I intend to use before a student visa (which I don’t have, or know anything about yet either). I’d like to work on a budget to figure out how much it would cost to live in Australia, which will determine with how much fervor and gnashing of teeth I drag myself to office.

But there’s also the lighter side of life. Remember Zombieland Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things.

That means getting phone calls from [CM] on her busride home from medcamp, where she goes on and on about the doctors of tomorrow who had a weekend of horror: one girl with a swollen face due to insect bites in her sleep; a dude who woke up with all his clothes missing; a dude who had to be taken by advisors to the hospital due to alcohol poisoning; etc etc etc.

To be honest, there was a time when [CM] and I weren’t very good on the phone. We started off as a pretty awkward couple I think– I did most of the talking because I wanted to seem interesting, and she did most of the listening because she wanted to be polite, or something. Neither of us was really good at phone calls– we don’t handle the silent lulls between thoughts I think. We’re much more casual, and less urgent in the way we interact. That might be part of being in a long distance relationship where we are at the mercy of slightly laggy video chats, or worse ‘instant’ messaging through cybersapce on our phones. But really, it’s not a bad thing– when we’re in person, we’re comfortable to just lie around together and be quiet at times, enjoying eachothers’ company and the pace of a relaxed serenity. (We’re would not fit on the cast of Gilmore Girls who just never shut up.)

So i guess it’s a little thing, but it’s still nice, when she goes on and on about med school. I like it when she geeks out about something, or gets really excited about something and wants to share it all with me, it makes me feel special to be the select audience.

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I took some time to pick up more Go/Baduk this week than usual to get my mind off of waiting for applications’ results. Just as a reminder, Go players are loosely ranked. I think the beginning player probably has a rank of 30kyu or something, and an awesome player has a rank of 1kyu. Once you get to 1kyu, the numbering system inverts and you go to 1st dan, 2nd dan, etc… in the way of blackbelt ranks.

[SiB] and CM are the ones who taught me the most about playing Go, and I’m really glad I gave this game a chance. SiB originally tried to teach me a long time ago, but it didn’t stick– it’s only when I met CM that I took more of an interest in itbecause it was something fun and cheap we could do together.

It’s tough though– because of the ranking system, I often get obsessed by how much progress I’m making. It’s not like an RPG where you can grind at random battles and eventually, you automatically gain enough experience points to gain a level promotion and stat bonuses. Go ranking depends on experience, sure, but it also requieres that you become smarter to gain ranks. I guess that sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But what might not be so obvious is the depressing feeling when it feels like you’ve gotten as smart as you can get.

Every now and then, I reach a level where I get ‘stuck’ and I just can’t get past it. So far I’ve always managed to eventually break past it. I had a lot of trouble getting past 14kyu, for example. And now? I’m finding it enormously difficult to get to maintain a 10kyu rank. I keep managing to get into the 10ks, and then a passing random player will destroy me and my rank will be readjusted for 11k.

SiB says there are two factors at work– one is that I’m not doing enough studying (which means, examining literature about various play patterns in the game) and the other is that I’m probably thinking too much of my rank while I play. He’s right on both accounts– and that’s not surprising, considering that his rank is somewhere between 3kyu and 1kyu.

For the longest time, I got stuck at low 11kyu.

The thing is, I’m not someone who learns by studying… I need to learn by doing. I’m not very book smart, but relative to myself, I’m good at acquiring practical habits and replicating them in practice, as well as adapting them and myself to situations. Studying Go? It just… doesn’t stick. Of course, the masters all tell you anways that it’s not about memorization but application, but…

I found that the way to break past my most recent barrier was to play against an AI. I’ve never really played against an AI controlled Go opponent before– but it’s been itneresting. The thing that’s nice about playing against an AI is that the opponent’s strategies and intelligence is consistent– so wheras there is a lot of variation between a rival 11k player online, playing a level 8 AI in the app I use is pretty similar each time I play. Either I’ll always lose because I’m making the same mistakes, or I’ll get start to win because I’ve learned how to permanently update my practice.

It’s kind of like how in martial arts, it’s good to spar. There is nothing that will teach you more about your limitations than a creative opponent who has a similar toolset to you who is using it in better ways than you. But at the same time– you can’t become a great fighter by just sparring (or street fighting, for that matter) all the time. There’s too many variables going on that you can’t isolate and improve without control over the situation.

So an AI is like… my training partner, who is helping me with drills. It’s about repetition. It’s about being severely punished the same way for certain mistakes, and being rewarded for other good plays. It’s a practical bridge between the theory of Go study and the excitement of playing against a real opponent.

And then, when you run into that one little situation on the board where you say: “Hey…. I know what to do here!” and you realize your opponent doesn’t see it– kaching! There’s the little thing that makes it all worth while.

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Life outside of games is similar when you think about it. I meet a lot of people in life who are basically unhappy with their lot, and more often than not, that comes out of a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is in itself a problem– people should simply be.

If you practice something, you aren’t entitled to good results. You simply are better at it, and good results are more likely to follow. Once you phrase something in terms of entitlement though, you introduce the concept of someong giving you something that you owe– when in reality, the nature of building substance of character is based a mode of interaction with your environment that means creating, manipulating, or taking what you can with your skills. It has nothing to do with the credentials you obtain through practice, or the handouts you expect because of those credentials– it ought to have everything to do with your actions.

That is to say, if the average person would focus less on what they’re worth in a social context and more on becoming more worthwhile to themselves, they might actually find they’re get more results.

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Part of becoming a better person, I think, is about finding ways to appreciate all that you have. Analytical ability isn’t just something that ought to be used to be critical. Sure, it’s indepensible to be able to recognize methods and to find weak links in your person that you can work on to make yourself more capable of leading a productive life.

But it’s also very important to develop the eye for things that make you feel fulfilled– because, otherwise, what’s the point of it all? Pay your dues in all the little areas: study, practice, reinvent, assert your person– but don’t lose sight of the little things that you’re righting for.

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