dal niente

Month: March, 2011

Tomes

I find myself at the Atwater Library.  It’s one of the oldest library’s in Montreal, but one of my favorites for exactly that reason.  It’s one of those offside, little known community libraries.  You don’t often see college or university students here– the majority of the clientele are retired locals.

 

I went the Octagone Library, which is the public LaSalle library that I used to work at, a few days ago.

 

I have this thing for libraries.  They tend to have a lot of history to them– and not even just with regards to the books inside of them.  The buildings themselves, the people who work there– you don’t get many drifters going through libraries of this sort.  You get the locals who live in the area.

There’s a huge contrast between this type of local library and the typical college/university library, or the BNQ (the Quebec National Library) further downtown– it’s really the small time local feel.  And bookstores?  Completely different.

It’s interesting that there is a different feeling between a bookstore and a library though– I mean, aren’t the words the same?

 

They are.  What’s different though is the way that the words are read– who we offer the books, and who gets to read.

 


 

When I first started working at a public library back in highschool, it was the best job I’d ever had.  Before that, I’d worked two different jobs on assembly lines, and one job for a pet store.  I can’t exactly remember, but I was probably about 19 when I started working at the library.  Those were extremely formative years for me– they gave me some of my first real-world experience.

It’s one thing to grow up not-rich.  You live your circumstances, and they’re all you know– so they don’t seem out of place to you. It’s only when you get to see the basics of other peoples’ lives that you can really see where it is that you stand in society.  When I started working at the library, I started off as a librarian’s helper, just doing some basic researching to help clients find what they needed.  Eventually I ended up workin in the budding IT department.

I was lucky that as a kid, my parents got a computer at a pretty early age.  I started programming on a Commodore 64, but as early as the 486DX generation of computers were out, we had one.  I think that was pretty important because it got me comfortable with computing.  Before the world wide web as we know it (who the hell even says world wide web nowadays anyhow?) it was all about dial-up Bulletin Board Systems, and Usenet mailing lists.

When I was leaving highschool, Netscape was the big browser on the block and I was just then getting curious about how to use Geocites.  Internet access was far from accessible to all.  Somewhere along the way, I carved a niche for myself and started working more in the library’s computer department.  It was a delicious cycle for me– back then, if you hit F1, you actually got relevant help menus, because software was simpler back then.  And plus– if that wasn’t enough, the library had books on Office ’97.

 

It was easy enough for me to learn how to use office, since I was a student.  You just naturally get the hang of these things if the trend is that all your papers need to be typed up and printed.  But what the library taught me was that these were changing times.

When you consider it, a lot of the people who were our clients were people who couldn’t afford computers.  That, and they probably weren’t in school anymore– so where would they jump onto the internet wagon?  How could they possibly get exposure?

 

It engraved in me a lasting lesson that makes me look at people sideways whenever they tote that technology and the internet are going to solve so many problems.  It can, but it is a tool– and like all tools and all their usefulness, there’s a question of accessibility.

When Chapters, a huge bookselling chain in Canada, first bought out a bookstore in Downtown montreal, what they changed about the bookstore model was that they invited you to read.  They put chairs in, so you could get comfortable with a book.  Their business model was revolutionary because it sold not just the books like any other book store, it sold the sense of comfort and of entertainment, which you could experience in their store.  In my opinion, in increased accessibility by making it easy to find things you like, and encouraging you to find it in their store– they’d even pull a chair up for you.  I remember that in an early Montrel Gazette article, a photograph was taken of a client who had actually gotten so comfortable that they’d fallen asleep in one of the store’s armchairs.

 

Where does a bookstore get that idea?  It comes from libraries.  The move towards friendlier customer service and feeling at home– that might be difficult in the business world, but in libraries, that’s always been the prime directive.

 

The local libraries have always been about being there for a town.  I remember that my tasks at the library started off as just someone taking computer reservations.  By the time I resigned from that job to work in healthcare though, my job had developed into much more odds and ends, characteristic of a true institution of public service.  Things like compiling recommended reading lists for young adults; teaching Microsoft Office workshops; helping people twice my age type up CVs; showing people how to access Revenue Canada sites for help on filing their income taxes.

 

On paper, a library’s purpose is to lend books.  But any good local library finds itself using all of it’s workers at maximum capacity in any which way– to help the locals.

 

 


 

Going back to the LaSalle library is always a heartwarming experience.  I haven’t had much chance to go there over the past few years since I moved to NDG, and since my working hours didn’t coincide with their open hours.  I went last week since i’m on part-time employment from now until I start law school.

The place, frankly, used to be super ghetto, in the bad way.  It’s done a lot to modernize though, and you can see that not only is there an improvement in the facilities, but that the cilentele has learned new tricks as well.  One of the big things is that people come in with laptops and use the free WiFi (when I resigned, the WiFi project was too expensive to implement). 

 


 

 

The library has undergone a bit of a face lift, but there are some things that are really nice to see as improovements of old things.  The comics section, “bandes dessines,” has been expanded.  Back in my youth, it was at the library where I first got into mangas– could never afford to buy any for myself of course.  It’s there where I started out with mangas like Ranma 1/2, City Hunter, Dragon Ball, Noritaka, Gon, and yes, even Sailor Moon.   The offerings were pretty limited  back then.  You could fill out a ‘request for purchase’ form at the library and if they bought the book you wanted, you’d have to pay 1$ to be the first one to borrow it. I thought it was a fair trade– I think that I probably built half of the early collections with my requests!

I also got to catch up on some old friends like Batman and Green Lantern, which I grew up reading from my uncles’ collections.  One of my uncles collected Marvel and DC comics religiously for years, and I think that a lot of my sense of ethics and morals actually comes from those comics.  The library didn’t have much Spider-man, or Punisher, but they did have a sizable collection of X-Men and Superman.  I was one of the first in line whenever one of them was made into a movie, even though I always thought Supes was lame.

 

Anyway, the collection is much larger now.  There are the new kids on the block, like One Piece and Bleach.  I was surprised to find even more obscure (but great) titles like Hajime no Ippo.  

What’s most important though is that there were kids everywhere.  I mean… a saturday afternoon? Don’t kids have places to go play?  But there were kids, sitting all over the place, reading comics.

Someday, they might all be heroes.

 


 

 

I think a lot of book-reading fanatics often shit on comic books because they consider them to be not as intellectually relevant as written work– sure, that’s one way of looking on it.  Another way of looking at it is that if you want to specialize on the things you read in the way you want to read them, perhaps you should let other people get their entertainment the way they want– there are valuable things that are often overlooked if you just stick to a few genres.  Mangas, for example, played a key role in making me into the man I am today.

 

Underlying all of it is this library sense that other people like reading what you like reading too.  It’s a shared thought.  Perhaps that’s where the sense of community comes from that you can’t find in a bookstore– in a bookstore, a kid goes in and gets to take home a book, but only if it can be afforded.  At a library?  There’s no such prerequisite– the books are for everyone.

 

 


 

A few years ago, the Atwater library was going to be shut down.  It was around the time that the BNQ was on blueprints.  The Atwater library was no longer going to receive significant funding from the City of Montreal, so it risked the possibility of being shut down.  The local community saved it though.  The local community saved it though– through fund raising campaigns, it managed to secure a number of private grants that would make the library self sufficient.  It is now one of the few independant libraries operating in Montreal.  You’d probably have a hard time finding any news about it, because Montreal wouldn’t like to be associated with letting a historic library shut down– but the truth is, when push came to shove, it was the local community that saved this place.

 

When I think about the reasons why, it reminds me of how there may yet be hope for us humans after all, despite the impersonalness of modern life.

Lady Luck

Every now and them I’m reminded of how lucky I am.  Actually– more accurately– I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am, but every now and the, I notice the reminders.  Today was one of those such days.

I got an email from [Les], a cousin of mine who is an elementary school teacher in Taiwan.  She’s planning on moving to Canada for a bit to do a working holiday.  It sounds like restlessness– she’s burning out from spending too much time working with kids and their parents, and is finding that too much concentration on working on that is just ruining it for her, as much as she loves her work.  There’s not much I can do to help her, but I will be doing what I can to get her feet on the ground in Canada.

I certainly understand what it’s like to feel restless in one’s home country and to wonder if there’s more out there.  Before I left to work in South Korea, I think I was very much in the same situation as her.  I didn’t know that SK would change me that as much as it did– I don’t think I even expected that it would change me, to be honest– but I knew at least that the routine I was stuck in was worse than a routine– it was a rut.

I didn’t expect SK to solve all my problems.  In fact, it introduced as many as it did.  The real payoff of the whole SK experience though was that it opened my mind up– instead of banging my head on the same issues of Montreal 1.0 life, it showed me that there was more than one way of looking at things.  The inspiration for change wasn’t before I left Montreal– it was while I was in SK.  It took a spin of the globe to find the inspiration.   

When I say that Montreal 1.0, I’m not just referring to hardware in Montreal’s geographic capacity as an urban city, although that plays a part.  I’m referring to the software side: also to it’s strong localized influence on my sense of family, friends, career, philosophy, and future.  The problem with Montreal 1.0 was simply that I was outgrowing it, and didn’t know how to upgrade it.

I think that the common misconception is that to fix one’s problems, one needs to know where to go.  That’s not true.  I think that oftentimes in life, when a glowing sense of clutter or stagnation occurs, or worse, claustrophobia, what’s important isn’t finding the right way to do things– it’s about doing anything to do something different.

That is to say, let go of the perfectionism of planning the perfect escape route– just keep a sledgehammer ready.

And in the process, expect louds of loud noises, expect what will perhaps be a bigger mess than where you started.  However, the walls will look every different afterwards.

It’s easy to regret things in the past, or to resent oneself for it.  I don’t think anyone can really resent themselves for something they’re going to do– if that’s the case, either they’re not thinking the situation through enough to justify what they must be doing, or they’re a coward.  I like to think of the world as devoid of “right” and “wrong” in many ways– just that we make agreements, and that on our honour, we ought to keep them for the better of humanity.

Thus, when a corporation exploits the poor– I don’t see it as a blatant offence against the law.  I am disgusted that the people behind corporations will detach themselves from their honour in order to do business.

If every individual simply acted more on what they agreed to, and didn’t compartmentalize what’s “personal” and what’s “business,” things would be very different today.

That said– because of the inequity in the world, there arises the concept of “luck.”  Some people will just be fucked really bad, and some people will come out on top.  What we call luck is a random intersection of very deliberate actions– and because we’re trying not to make things personal, the detachment from our initial action to the people affected is widended.  This gap, the buffer of personallessness between a cause and effect, is what we call luck.

For example… if I swing my arm backwards suddenly and elbow you in the face, it’s just good or bad luck that I hit you or the guy next to you.  However, if I was looking at you as I did it, it wouldn’t be considered luck, now would it?  The only difference in these two situations is how personal the action is.

A few cases of bad luck have been popping up for me lately.  My hard drive was returned to me from Zazeen, a seedbox company that sends loads my hard disk full of data and then mails it back to me since internet is so expensive in my area.  My hard disk was dead on arrival– and neither Zazeen nor Fedex can be held responsible. So basically, one of those two groups killed my hard disk, and I can’t get it back.

And there are other things that I consider bad luck– like, delays in the processing of my student loans applications.  Missing out on some vacation bookings for family because of family politics, which is going to result in us paying significantly more per person.  None of these things are “personally” directed against me– but what does one do when the world is just being a douchebag? Can you really flip your middle finger at the world and get any satisfaction out of it?


Actually, this whole post is about how I am lucky.

I was having a discussion with [CM] a few hours ago about the rent for the place we’ll be staying at in Sydney when I arrive there.  I kind of freaked when she said things were going to be more expensive than I thought, and we had a bit of a misunderstanding.  It was my fault, I just misread and I was on a row because of other things that were going on that had nothing to do with her. But… we’re going to get through it, as we do with all things.

So today, I recognize: I am very lucky to have CM.  She puts up with my stupid shit.  She takes the time to fight with me.  She makes sure that luck is for the rest of the world, whereas everything between us is personal, the way it ought to be: because while luck give you unreal results, the best thing about CM is that she simply is.

Zwischenzug

A lot of people don’t  give much stock to psychology– I’ve never studied it for more than a semester, but its one of my habits to try and profile everyone I meet– I try to figure out their ‘style’ of thinking.  People, in many ways, are like chessboards– some people sacrifice some pieces to gain territory, others prefer to play cluttered deffensive games where every piece is held on to for dear life; still others blaze forward to try and keep initiative, while others are more patient and use fancy masonry to prepare for strong counter attacks.

Personalities are much the same way– they’re determind by a balance of power and weakness, as well as preferences and discomforts in terms of ways to play.  The thing about people is that they’re creatures of habit too– with few exceptions, most people operate like chessboards full of pieces.  That is to say– sure, there are a number of things that they can do, but ultimately, some moves are more likely than others given the way things are arranged on the board.

Take the example of parents, the earliest foundations of our personalities probably come from the way we were parented.  Looking around at myself, friends, and family, it shows how one ‘reading’ of an individual personality traits or habits can be fairly contextualized if you know what their parents are like, and how they treat their kids.

There are no strict rules though.  For instance: A person’s independence might be related to survival habits formed out of absentee parents.  However, in another case, a person’s independence might be related to overprotective or clingy parents, and deliberate efforts to distance oneself from communal life.

So– what is the point of psychology if different people react differently to the same situations?  What empirical relationships can it establish?

Like most sciences, I think what psychology does best is attempt to give us not the reasons, but the vocabulary to discuss.  Sometimes, having the vocabulary to describe the situation actually affects the outcome of the thing being observed.

It brings to mind Shroedinger’s Cat– more specifically, Quantum Entanglement ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement#Concept ).

My point is, sometimes, we don’t care about what’s going on until we can define it.  We don’t use words like “independence” until we get some sense of difference contrasted against “dependence.”

Which leads to the reason why I’m so fascinated by the psychology of people– because it is in them that lies all the complexity of the world.  The more of people we experience, the more of people we observe, the more we seek to understand and define them– the more complex the world gets.

That’s my perrogative of course.

I think that people would be better at changing if they would take the time to judge themselves.

 

There’s so much talk about change, and the ability to evolve– mostly hold in relation to people who complain that they feel they’re getting nowhere with their lives.  So, how do we pinpoint the difference between those who can evolve and those who can’t?

It has something to do with the vocabulary of people, and how much effort they put into building that vocabulary.  By that– I guess it means a critical eye of the life experiences around us.

One of the big mistakes people make is in thinking that emotions and logic are separate– they’re not.  They’re just different methods of representing energy– sorta like how you have analogue and digital recordings of an original symphony orchestra playing in concert.  So some people distance themselves too much from emotions, preferring to fall back on methods and rules, being too “Vulcan” about everything.  Some people are too emotional, and make bad practical decisions.  There needs to be a balance between these two methods– we need to make deliberate efforts to experiment with both methods of thinking, because discord between the two leads to a denial of self–

–which prevents change.

 

The simple reason is that escaping into emotions is one way of escaping reality, while being too logical is a way of dismissing responsibility for one’s internal drives.  If we want to live like whole people: we need to look at the two (or more) ways of looking at ourselves, maybe with some understanding derrived by exaggerations we might see in more extreme people around us.  And then: we need to figure out how to get along with ourselves.

If we figure out who we are and what we want, then– all that’s left to do is experiment on ways to carry ourselves to do it.

 

Maybe then, we can make a surprising move, outside of ourselves, that allows us to change everything.

Windows 7: The Sequel

Oh, what’s that scanner driver? You’d like me to reboot… again?

 

Sure, why the hell not.

 

(grumble… I don’t have to do this crap when I install a Debian package…)

Windows 7

People say Linux is hard to use.  This is true, if you’re trying to get the odd piece of software or hardware to work that just doesn’t have a Linux version.  Take my current situation: I’ve got a BenQ S2W 4300U flatbed scanner.  It’s about probably a bit over 6 years old, and it’s prooving to be a pain to get working in the distro of Linux I use.

Just to use this scanner, I’ve installed Windows 7 on my laptop (on a separate partition).

 

My initial thought: how many times do I have to boot up to a screen that says Windows 7 is setting something up, and how many times does the system need to restart, before I can actually do some frigging work?  Jeez, seriously!

Forums

Incidentally, regarding the UCLA post, here is my favorite video response so far:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zulEMWj3sVA

In case you're out of the loop regarding Usage Based Billing (UBB) controversy in Canada, check here:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/01/31/f-faq-usage-based-billing.html



So, back to the UCLA post. A few general thoughts:
  • I like that people can say whatever they want.
  • She’s right.  A lot of Asian people don’t have any goddamned manners.
  • Racism can be funny.

On the other hand,

  • The more you say, the more stupid you might sound.
  • You don’t have to be Asian to lack manners.
  • It’s not that what she’s saying might be incorrect– it’s that she considers herself better than Asians that bothers me.

Anyone who says “Everyone knows that I’m not a politically correct person” is, according to statistics I’ve gathered through my life, very likely to be a douchebag.  Just like how although most fairy tales start with “Once upon a time,” I’ve found that some begin with “If I am elected.” Saying that one isn’t PC doesn’t mean that one is necessarily smart– more often than not, it means they’re whiny bitches who like to backtalk instead of attempting to communicate ideas for change to the people who they think need changing.  There are politically correct ways to say just about anything you want to say, you just need to think about a proper way to say it. I’ve never been a poly sci major but my guess is that she doesn’t get very good grades for diplomacy, at least not if UCLA teachers have anything but shit for brains.

For everyone’s future reference: if someone is being what you consider rude in public, maybe you should discuss it with them?  Going online and complaining to the world at large is a very good way to just piss people off– and you won’t have raised any awareness about the things that you’re so concerned about, because non-involved people will be too busy crucifying you.

 

But hey– it’s a vlog.  People are supposed to say what comes to mind, right? So bravo, girl, bravo.

One of the big arguments against UBB aside from the fact that Canadian telecom companies are just being greedy is that we’re not just dealing with a commodity which some people can decide to ignore.  A comparable case might be in Quebec vs McGill university, http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/breakingnews/mcgill-fined-2-million-by-quebec-government-for-hiking-mba-tuition-900-per-cent-117951004.html , where the Quebec Government fined the University for hiking up prices for it’s MBA program.  It offers one of the only MBAs in Montreal (which wouldn’t be too big a deal, except that Montreal is considered one of the education Meccas of Canada).  McGill’s stance, like the Telecom side of things, is that they’re offering a service, for a price– take it or leave it.

The special circumstances come up because increasingly, we’re seeing that education and internet probably shouldn’t be considered just something to trade like any other commodity.  Nowadays, to realistically want to do well in North America without accessibility to education and internet is a pretty ridiculous idea– that’s why anyone who tries to play tollman on those services probably comes off as being pretty evil.

The fights against UBB are, as I see it, fights against caps against the basic infrastructure of our futures.  Things like the UCLA video might be inflamatory– but, at least it’s transparent and out int he open.  Multimedia internet capacity is important because it provides a forum for this kind of discussion.  Every social campaign, whether it’s been regarding against drugs, drunk driving, safe sex, gambling, etc has only enjoyed measures of success through the spread of education through media.  Back in the 90s, that meant a great deal of advertising dollars spent on after-school programming, to put the ideas in the minds of the youths.  Today?  We throw over despots in Egypt, and large part of the victory is attributed to social networking as a mass coordination tool.

The underlying infrastructure employed though was the internet.  Egypt couldn’t have done whatthey did the way they did had they been using 14.4 dial up modems– we were talking about mob syncronization through cell phones synched with social media.  How long ago did that technology come out?

I look at the kind of telecommunications infrastructure I had at my disposal when I was back in South Korea, and I’m talking– back about 4-5 years ago– and I still feel that the level of technology that’s accessible to me now is behind in Montreal.

 

And why?  Because some telecom giants feel that them and their copper wires are being taken advantage of?  So, because some fat cats want to make more money, we’re going to stunt the development of our entire nation’s telecommunications growth?  Maybe if you’re losing money, you should stop blaming your resellers and clients– maybe you should open up the coffers to innovate, and make a more efficient product infrastructure.

Recent Gaming

I started playing a game a few weeks ago on Playstation 2, called Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 which [CM] owns. A few weeks into playing it, I decided it was a good enough game that I’d want it on the PSP, so I got the remake, P3P : Persona 3 Portabl. Turns out it was a pretty good buy.

If I think about some of the really good role-playing games that I’ve played over the past few years, there are a few– but there aren’t any that really felt great in terms of character development and such. Perhaps it’s because recent developments in 3D acceleration have made it such that we get a lot improovement (at least graphically) in games, and that’s more often showcased in FPS style games or something. I just find it hard nowadays to find a game with any story to it. Graphics are nice, of course, but what really helps induces the emotion to the game is the character development, dialogue, and music, which are some of the most overlooked aspects of modern games in my opinion.

Here are a few overlooked games from the past few years that I think do pretty well in terms of offering a great, comprehensive overal game that scores well in all areas.

Prince of Persia
Not much replay value to this game, as in, you play it once and that’s that. But the story to this one is great, and the character development is phenomenal. This is one game that’s at once serious and dark, while silly and playful at the same time. There are pretty much only two speaking roles, but you really see a progression of both characters growing– and it’s simply magic to watch the main characters navigating about the world. Plot builds really well too.

The World Ends with You
To be honest, this is the best game I’ve played on the whole on the Nintendo DS. Say what you want, but in general, my feeling is that quality RPGs on Nintendo DS are all crap. Don’t give me any bull about the rereleased ChronoTrigger or Final Fantasy games– a company wanting to make money by reselling old titles in a new box is not what I call enhancing the tradition, it’s clinging to a past (albeit an honorable one) that should be further honored by innovation. Much like the way I see religion.

On one hand, TWEWY is highly story driven, in the good way. But it also has a lot of other perks– amazing soundtrack, an electic art style and a battle engine is, quite frankly, in a class of it’s own. You can even play the game like a pokemon collector, and grow and collect a whole bunch of skills. The game is just an awesome amalgamation of the best of RPG memes, fused with a whole lot of originality. It doesn’t skimp on character development or plot either.

P3P: Persona 3 Portable

This one, this one is different in a good way. For one thing, despite that the game was pretty interesting on PS2 (before the port), I felt that the interface was kinda clunky. It had an ugly Final Fantasy VII feel to it, which shouldn’t happen from a game that came significantly after. The PSP remake though answered a lot of those problems– it made the navigation of maps a lot simpler (no more running around just to say hello to this or that person). They cut out FMVs unfortunately, but the music got better, the gameplay is much smoother, and even some parts of the battle system have been improoved. And that’s just the gameplay.

The story itself is as simple or as complicated as you want it to be– but this game has tons of sidequesting to do. The interesting part is that the sidequests aren’t just one time deals– most of them have to do with building relationships with other boys and girls at the school, and gradually getting to know their individual stories.

UCLA Promotional Video: Epiphany Time!

Something [CM] sent me, which reminded me of elementary school:

Persona

I started playing a game on PSP called Persona 3 Portable, which is a port of the Playstation 2 title, Persona 3.

More on this later, this post is a placemark reminder.

The Imperative Assumption

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
-Mark Twain (brought to my attention by [Visual Noise])
The world is harsh and lacks any force for fairness that actually works.  That’s why it’s often so much easier to just do what other people are doing, because, what support is there to go out there on your own? There is, on the other hand, a very established set of entitled goodies you can get if you act according to the existing models of personality.  Everyone to some extent, myself included, is wary of the social identity we portray, because we’re judged and interacted with along those lines.  As a result, we often act differently in public compared to who we envision ourselves in our own minds.  That’s because of the industriousness that’s been built into our subconscious.  Aware of what people are usually looking for, we dedcide what we want, and what’s the best exsting model of personality to adopt acheive that basic relationship.
 
That’s why reading is important– it allows us to read into the minds of that percentage of people who want to share something with you that they can’t always say in person.  And sometimes it’s not that they don’t want to say it– but when they do, the audience isn’t there at the right time.  And so, the book exists– to save a thought, something that would otherwise fade after the moment, and to put it in your hands so you can stare at it, wondering: ideas like this exist in my world, but do people like this exist in the world?

Do you ever get that feeling that you’re alone?  I don’t mean alone, as in, not loved, or without friends.  That’s another problem entirely.

It was while reading Martin D’Arcy’s “Thinking Union,” along with Michael Newman’s “The Third Contract” that I felt a little bit more at home. The two authors are both in the field of union education. I’ve never even been to a union meeting, yet I find comfort in their rhetoric of the union culture, challenging the established authority. It’s not usually that I set about at something because I’m out to get someone. That’s an important note. Given that there are so many people out there who want to start shit, I see no reason to look for fights with people.  There are more than enough who are going to come to me.  Why not enjoy the home front advantage?

Being confrontational isn’t just a personality trait; it is a live-in-philosophy of applying agression frequently. I’m not confrontational. I do, however, have ideals, passion, and agression as part of me– they are ressources, and almost boundless ones at that.  They’re also highly pollutant, and as a fuel, overuse will have a corrosive effect on your body and spirit.  The trick is to harness them for the right causes, surgically. I beleive that I should get what I’m asking for if it’s what I’m owed, and that nobody gets to step into my space and leave things there or take things out unless I let them.  If someone gets in my way– there will be conflict.  And I will draw on those ressources to get what I want.  However: one has to manage the big picture. 

We are to learn, not just to accumulate knowledge, but to culture a lifestyle of wisdom for whatever we chose as important in our lives. Who decides what to learn? You do. Who polices that? You do. Simply put: at some point, you just need to decide to believe in yourself, and accept responsibility for making your dreams for yourself come true. All growth comes out of that– all risks are weighed against that imperative.   

We can’t just be scholars, coming up with opinions in a vacuum– in the application of wisdom comes conflict, and thus, we need to also be prepared to fight for what we believe in. We need to bring what we imagine into the real world, and that doesn’t just mean the products we dream up– it also means the self-identity we dream of ourselves.

We need to keep a fed-back cycle of that which we produce– we cannot succeed simply by being extroverts unless we learn to exude our introvertedness as well– that is to say, to be social, while still being ourselves.

Warrior scholars are the class to be. Culture a personality of forwardness that is measuredly prepared, if necessary, not if provoked,  to fight back.

I think that one thing that people overlook though is that you don’t always have to fight other people to get what you want.  A lot of the times– most of the fighting is against ourselves.   And in an ideal situation– you acheive a state where you don’t resist yourself at all, and can simply be, and become, who you are.

When I was in high school, I remember getting in trouble because I would sneak into the music room at 7AM so I could play the drums. I got a lot of ridicule when it was discovered that I was practicing the first chair’s snare drum solo, while I was someone who had failed the band entrance test once, only made it in on the second try, and was now fifth chair out of five positions. When I started doing martial arts, I remember people telling me that I should wear running shoes instead of wearing chinese slipper-shoes (“kung fu shoes”), because I was always slipping.  When I was in college, and the MAC was first officiated, the athletics council and the Karate program were constantly trying to run us out of town. They told me they didn’t like our ideas, we should shut down. When I worked at the library in LaSalle, I got in trouble all the time for tinkering too much with the computer systems. They told me if I caused too much trouble, they’d find someone else to do the job. When I started RsM, other clubs understimated mine in the municipal championships, because of our strange membership base of rejects and vagrants. In fact, even people in my own club questioned my management philosophy when it came to pricing, the tournament, the involvement with the LBA. Other clubs started rumors about ours, and attempted to steal our membership base to bury us. When I worked at my first hospital, I got in trouble by someone who saw herself as my boss, who thought I was roaching in on her territory, and she got me in trouble with my actual boss on unrelated issues. When I worked in Korea, not only my Korean liason consellor (all 4 of them, since nobody wanted to work with me for too long) but also my branch manager were getting on my case all the time about what they thought were my unsound teaching practicies. And just a couple of weeks ago, someone in a department that I’ve never heard of (neither the person or the department) sent me an email demanding, basically, that I work harder.

That’s a lot of people telling me that I’m wrong. So, what is it that I read in those books that made me feel so better?

The simple fact is, when people tell you that you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, even if you’re determined to do it, even if you get it done, you start to get tired of not getting any encouragement. When you fight people for what you beleive in, and nobody else beleives in what you believe in enough to fight with you, but they just settle in the trenches that you’ve dug, you wonder– no, I wonder– why do I bother?

That’s where books come in.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Several months ago, I got an email email through the corporate intranet. For confidentiality reasons, I’ve removed the names of the involved parties and departments, but this is a copy-paste of the email.

Hi, […] data to send to the [X] clerks needs to be finished validation in the post-op register. Would it be possible to implement a system where email could be send at the end of the week – giving the dates where post-op data are all entered and validated? Example : I just sent an extract covering the dates of July 21st until August 4st; however I had to remove the incomplete dates of : July 23, 27, 29, and August 3rd. It would help [X], [Y], [Z], etc – by having a confirmation email stating which dates are complete at the end of the week.

The person who sent me this request is the person who is the interim in-charge person of the system upgrade that we had a little over two months ago. In case you didn’t hear me talk about that upgrade, here’s the summary: our systems were down for 4 working days, necessitating doing everything by hand, and resulting in over a week of papwerwork backlog; the new system added no features for us; the system includes extra fields of data to be filled out per patient (translation: more work); the new system introduced at least two crash-inducing bugs, messed up the functionality of data entry in two ways, and disabled two perfectly useful functions.

Basically, the establishment had introduced a new piece of technology that we were expected to use. We didn’t know that it wasn’t to make our lives easier. The main purpose was to modify the system by which we gather statistics about operations. On a practical level, that means more time spent on data entry per patient. On top of that, the system is so buggy, that we spend more time working per patient than we did before, due to crashes. And now, someone in management was wondering why we had a backlog of post-operative reports on patients, and wants me to compile for them weekly reports of a checklist of which reports are complete, and which aren’t. When you think about it, the reason why I’m delayed is because management introduced a system that, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t work. And now they want me to spend more time telling them just how far behind I am by compiling weekly reports.

In theory, all these things make work easier.  Practically? We know this not to be true.

When I first start work in a new department (happens pretty often in my line of business), it’s a lot like going into a new country. You you have to learn the local language, experience some of the culture, figure out who are the movers and the shakers and just, in general, get a feel for the place. You don’t rock the boat on your first day. So, while I learned the ropes, I did what I was told. I followed orders, got a feel for what it is I was supposed to be doing. People take advantage of that. You’d think that in a hospital, where we’re all here to help sick people, that everyone would cooperate. That’s simplistic though– a hospital is in the business of caregiving. It has a corporate structure that simply redifines patients as consumers, and there are people in all departements muscling for turf and advantage just like in any corportorate political environment.

That said– it’s not enough to preach healthcare in the abstract sense of helping people.  We need to be willing to step on some toes in order to do it practically, and do it right.

-=-=-=-=-

The basic premise of the union is to help the lowest common denominator of a functioning society– the worker. Thus, anything that that has to do with educating the worker with the tools to ear a fair day’s salary for a fair day’s work, that’s the union’s job. The books I’ve been reading center on this, and focus specifically on not only how to fight back, but also why society needs us to fight back against the establishment. So, rather than doing as she asked of me, I wrote her an email back. The technical aspects are boring, I think, but to paraphrase, here are the key points:

You guys field tested the prototype of the new system for months before intranet deployment. Either you found the bugs, and ignored them, or you found no bugs altogether. Either way, when the new system was implemented, I went out of my way to send you detailed bug reports of the new system, including how to reproduce each systematically. I pointed out that the bugs had a critical impact on the speed of postoperative paperwork. Nothing was done on your end to either address the bugs or compensate for the added workload on clerks to maintain the same amount of output. If you can tell me which dates are incomplete, you can obviously see this data, and you can compile your own reports and assume responsibility.

Key line: Assume responsibility.

-=-=-=-=-

 

So the question is: what’s the right way to do it?

 

Well, that’s the thing– people can tell you what’s right, but ultimately, it won’t be right until it feels right.

In order for that to even be a possibility– you must assume responsibility, and see where your beliefs take you.