dal niente

Month: May, 2011

Playstation Network

Sony, you’re saying PSN will be back online by the end of this week? Please, don’t lie to me. My fragile heart can’t take it.

If I can’t download Patapon 2 before I get on that 2 day flight to Australia, I might just do something very violent.

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I need a secretary

Aside from the year that I spent teaching, you could more or less sum up the last 10 years of my professional life as doing clerical or mecretarial work. Yes, I did write mecretarial– it’s kinda like secretarial work, but with less hissing and more ass kicking, in case you didn’t know. I’ve worked at one library and at two hospitals, and to a large degree, my job has been to facilitate things and make sure they run smoothly. Sometimes that means the typical stuff that people think secretaries do from what they see in movies, such as answering phones and writing memos. A lot of the other times, it troubleshooting bureaucracy so that stuff doesn’t just grind to a halt every 5 minutes. And by troubleshooting, I mean finding problems and figuring solutions.

By problems, I mean coworkers. By figuring solutions, I mean shooting them.

I think I’m pretty good at mecretarial jobs, and in fact, I got more letters of recommendation about my aswesomeness than I could use for my law applications. But that’s at the workplace.

When it comes to doing mecretarial stuff for my own personal life or for family, I don’t always function as well, because it’s personal. It’s not good enough at home to get things as good as possible– they ought to be done right. A big company can smooth out the details itself, the damage of bad work has less effect. When I’m filling out income taxes? When I’m booking my own blood tests? Applying for loans? Nobody is going to help me, and I’m dealing with offices that have nothing to do with me.

Basically, while I enjoy the ‘structure’ of working in a workplace environment– and by structure, I mostly mean a confined outbreak of chaos– the real world that has me doing my own mecretarial work for my own life is a super hassle. Filling out forms for this or that, calling back this or that person– I hate this shit. It’s not so different from work, except that while at work I’m professional, at home, this is all personal. Every time someone tells me to resubmit a form X8491-Fb.2 one more time, every time someone doesn’t call me back when they say they will, every time someone someone, forgets/lies, I take it very personally, because it’s my life on the line here.

For the past little while, I’ve been helping my cousin from Taiwan, [Ls], to try and figure out how she’s going to move to canada for a 1 year working holiday stint. And lately, I’ve been helping my younger cousin, [Akatsuki], to try and find a job. Trying to teach people to write CVs is one thing… but I find that my attitude automatically is different when I’m dealing with family. I just find that I expect a lot more, both in terms of effort and results from everyone involved. It’s tiresome, because the rewards aren’t just the CV or the job interview– my involvement or association doesn’t stop with the finishing of a piece of work. With family, our lives will be connected for a long time, and everything is ongoing– so sometimes, it’s harder to quantify the progress and the achievements. It’s also easier, I think, to regret not having done something differently or better in hindsight.

I need a secretary. I need someone to rely on. I need someone to just make it all magically happen in such a way that I don’t see it. I want to take smooth sailing for granted.

Victory by Inches

In order to succeed, one must be able to quantify progress. If you’re just hacking away at a goal without knowing if you’re getting any closer, unless you’re a machine, you’re going to lose morale, and you’re going to burn out. Without the spirit to back you up, your ability to continue fighting will always eventually falter, unless you have some mental disorder which can fuel you with infinite stubbornness.

While it’s not important to always win, it is important to be able to (or to set up the mechanisms by which) we can recognize that overall, we are gaining ground.

So: how, many inches did we gain today? This week? This month? Ask yourself, not just how many battles have been won or lost, but how goes the war?

I’m not saying to just pat yourself on the back– I’m saying, alter the mechanics of your struggle such that you can begin to observe the efficiency of your actions quantitatively.

How’s the Weather

It’s nice to hang out and be sociable and all that, but I miss really connecting with people. Especially now that I’m going to be leaving Montreal for a long time, people keep calling me up for one last shindig– but in my head, sometimes, I wonder, what’s the point? These calls are coming from people who essentially never made the time for me when I was simply here.

I’m the kind of person who you might call an instigator– I’m the dude who decides, yeah, it’s be kinda fun to do something, and I’ll call up 10 people, and we’ll end up with a nice party of 6-8 people to do something together. We’ll have a good time, but I think that I’ll always prefer the one-on-ones or the smaller 3 person groups, because those are the situations where people talk about really important things. The sorts of things that people share with you because they’re friends.

It’s true that among the old circles, there are many that no longer exist, and that those that do don’t keep very well up to date. And, when I meet with people, I do want to hear updates. How’s the job? How was that last vacation? What do you think of Harper’s re-election? And how’s the weather?

But that stuff… while it is important, I’m more curious about what, through the ages, about how people feel. What dissapoints? What joys? What exciets and what scares?

And I find that while I can have fun being social and going out to do things with people… I find myself ultimately with a sense of wasted time and perhaps even a tinge of annoyance if the people I hang out with don’t talk about the personal part of their personal lives.

I don’t go out just to read a newspaper– and that’s what people are giving me, in a sense. What I want is drama, and the devils in those details.

Weigh in.

In one situation, it’s 3 inches forward, 2 inches backwards– that would be my belt size.

I’ve found that as I age I’m gaining weight more permanently. I was talking to [Terminator] about this a week ago. When we were in our MAC days back in College, about 5-6 years ago, and we were competing in kickboxing tournaments together, he weighed in at about 145 pounds and I weighed in at about 120 or so. And, back then, we in excellent conditioning– we would be training about 3 times a week in sparring and at least 3 times a week for resistence training. Pretty lean.

Nowadays, he weighs in at about 185 pounds, and I weigh about 165.

My weight has fluctuated quite a bit in the past few months. I think a large part of it is because after [CM] left Montreal, I kind of put my life on ‘pause’ or somethiing. I never consistently maintained any hobbies, much less exercise. I started working a lot more, something like 50 hours per week, and working on my masters. Eventually, also having recently moved back home to my parents’ place, I also cut out the daily biking because I lived much further from work.

Living at home has in general had a major effect on my caloric intake– not only am I eating more, but the constant availability of a car and the extra distance to bike anywhere (we live in the suburbs of Montreal) meant more food going in than I was burning through exercise.

Before the cruise, I was weighing close to 170 pounds. By the end of the cruise, I was a solid 173 pounds.

I’m getting back into things though– in the last two weeks I’ve managed to lose about 10 pounds. I didn’t go on any crazy diets. I just ate more within my needs and started exercising more consistently. I don’t think I’ll be able to drop much more than I have, because, frankly, being at home restricts my ability to decide what I want to eat, and it also affects my exercise habits– but it’s a decent start I think.

Right now, at 163-165 pounds, I still have a lot of work to do I think. I think that compared to my best conditions, my cardio gets a C+ score, flexibility gets an F, musclular endurance gets a C+, muscular strength gets about B-, impact/damage resistance gets an F, joint conditions get a C, body composition gets a D, and mental toughness is a C. Overal, they’re pretty bad scores. I think that if I brought all those grades to a solid B, I’d probably weigh between 150 and 160 pounds.

White Belt

I remember when I first got back to Montreal I was eager to see how the Montreal taekwondo scene was like. I was a relatively fresh 1st dan at the time, working towards 2nd dan (though that would be a long way off, I thought). I ended up checking out and joining Montreal’s “top tkd gym,” in the east end of Montreal. Apparently, this gym had churned out a fair share of Canadian tkd olympic fighters in the past.

I think I had a bad experience there from the start. I didn’t exactly want to wear my black belt while there, I should point out. There were a number of concerns I had in my head about doing so, one of them being a certain lack of confidence in my ability (especially the translation of rank between Korea and Montreal). While many of my worries turned out to be unfounded, many of them turned out to be right, and there were other issues that I hadn’t predicted.

The first was that I was greeted by a school that lacked discipline and toughness. There were a few people there who were training very, very seriously– but there were also a lot of people who were just dicking around and somehow were already on their 2nd dans. Maybe it’s because my gwanjangnim was a real hardass, but I just thought it was disgraceful.

When I say soft, I’m not sure if it’s because they were trying too hard to baby me or if it was because they were really training at the pace that was there. They were very concerned about image– and even worse, about merchandising. I couldn’t wear my Koreana gym uniform, which I suppose was reasonable, because you’re theoretically not supposed to wear another nation’s flag on your uniform (should be Canadian). But they pretty much insisted that I order one of their uniforms instead (I opted for a generic one) and a pair of shoes.

While we were training, I was the only one on the hardwood floors that was training without tkd shoes– I should add though that I was running, jumping and kicking at least at the median rate, despite it.

I suppose it’s fair to say though that it’s their house so it’s their rules, but in general… I just didn’t like the atmosphere. When I first got there everyone was always testing me– which is fine I guess if i was there to proove something, but I wasn’t. I just wanted to learn; I’m not of the personality who wants to go in and be the new kid on the street, I just want to blend in and do what I’m there to do.

It got to the point where one of the other black belts, a portly old man of about 50 years at least, would raise his arms up and say “okay, kick me as hard as you can.” Naturally– I declined, and even when I eventually grudgingly agreed, I didn’t do so at full force…

And, on another occasion, while I was on the ground stretching, someone slapped me on the back. That actually screwed up my back pretty bad, and I never went back to the gym after that.

-=-=-=-=-=-

I need to sort through lots of old stuff at my parents’ place, because my bedroom basically won’t have any occupants for at least 3 years, so a lot of it will be stored away in the basement. As I was going through stuff, I ran into a child’s judogi/yudobok (a training outfit for judo/yudo). I bought this by accident because I was ordering online on a Korean martial arts supply site, and I completely mistranslated the sizing– so instead of getting an adult’s training jacket, I got a kid’s jacket instead. It even came with the white belt. I’m going to be giving that to my twin cousins. I doubt either of them will start training in martial arts in time to fit it (neither of their parents is really too keen on the idea) but it is more useful to them than it is to me.

My own yudobok is coming with me to Australia. I’ve never formally been trained for a long time in either standup grappling, throwing or groundfighting, but over the years I’ve done enough mixed martial arts to really develop an appreciation of it. I bought the training jacket when I first got to Montreal 2.0 because I was opening up Numac (the non-profit mixed martial arts successor to the original MAC). Despite that it sometimes gets a bit rank, I love that thing– I like the heft of the jacket, or something, and I like that it’s strong enough to support my weight without even a groan when someone uses it to toss me. Most cheap clothing that I wear to train with tends to shred or tear eventually, but the oldschool durability of this training jacket just gets it all done. I like the discomfort of it as it traps heat inside, I like the way it cuts into me at the lapels when we’re grappling a certain way– I like the way that it doesn’t respond to fingernails or toenails, only to heels and knuckles.

I’m someone who, when it comes to martial arts, just loves learning. I love the toughness of it all, or rather, how much I can discover about nudging my limitations through training. Some people will criticize me because I don’t stick to any schools for more than a few years, or that I never push myself to compete– to which I say, if that’s your thing, you go for it. We all want different things, and we seek them out in different ways. Despite that I’ve never placed higher than semifinals in a competition, I’m pleased with my ‘martial arts career’ because it has taught me an incredible amount of life lessons that I’ve taken with me outside of training halls.

-=-=-=-

I’m leaving the taekwondo outfit at home. It’s doubtful that I’d want to do any more of that in Australia. I’m not saying my Montreal experience in TKD is the reason for it, but I want to do something that either doesn’t care about belts, or which I could start from scratch. I think I’d look into judo, jiu jitsu or maybe even aikido, if I can find an interesting enough school. I guess it depends on how much time I have too– chances are, law school will keep me pretty busy, so maybe I won’t even have time to do much except normal, non-martial exercise.

But we’ll see. In any case, almost all the belts I’ve earned are going into storage. The generic, still creased white belt is the only one coming to Australia.

Packing

As I’m going through things and figuring out what to pack, I liken it to the difficulty of converting a great video game or television series into a movie. Lots of movies of these types disappoint because they just don’t capture what are the ‘most important parts,’ or they try to shock and awe by being too distinct, and miss instead the subtleties that made the longer, original experiences more significant.

I’m allowed to bring two 50 pound pieces of checked luggage, and one 20something pound piece of carry on luggage. This isn’t a vacation– this is going to about building a temporary but important home away from home.

And somehow I have to weigh the things that are important to me according to… well, their physical weight and volume, versus their importance to me on functional or sentimental level.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Despite that it’s true that there will be stores in Australia, and that I can buy notebooks there, I think that a lot of my life has been characterized by writing. I don’t do nearly as much fiction writing as I did when I was younger; I think real life started turning a out to be stranger than fiction, and as it is, I have so little time to record this. Either way, there is still a fair amount of writing going on, so I’m bringing some blank Moleskines.

I’ve got a few incomplete notebooks as it stands, but they’re like rare ‘uncut’ editions of souvenirs from past eras of my life. My last moleskine has a hodgepodge of South Korean souvenirs: notes from guitar lessons; Korean writing homework; some lost writing for a piece of expatriate fiction I was working on with [Zanshin], called “Jal”; lesson plans from teaching at the Academy; and cheat sheets for the first 8 sets of taekwondo poomsae.

As I was going through things to pack, I decided actually not to bring my taekwondo uniform. I brings to foreground an issue that I’ve come to understand about myself and the way I look at my growth in the martial arts in tandem with my sense of physical, spiritual and mental growth. I used to think that people who got black belts in different styles were kind of silly.

When I was a kid, I used to watch tons of martial arts movies, you see– so someone who had multiple belts from different styles, it just felt like someone was showing off. Especially since there is so much pomp and circumstance about the way that belts are regarded. In the 70s you had Bruce Lee films and nunchuck mania– in the 90s you had Karate Kid and Jean Claude Van Damme making asskicking, well, kick-ass. They didn’t make too big a deal about their belts.

But what was it about collections of belts that I didn’t like? That someone being able to get belts from different schools felt like it suggested that it was too easy? I think one of the lessons I learned from my seniors while training at the Koreana training hall was that the black belt itself was important, but at the same time, it wasn’t: it meant simply that you had acheived a level of proficiency that meant that you could now begin to learn. But perhaps one of the first things I learned was that it didn’t matter too much what I wore– what was more important was how I acted, and how I carried myself.

Cruisin’ USA

I came back from a cruise about a week ago, and it was about that time that I had a blood test done. Just a periodic checkup thing. Big surprise– low HDL, high LDL (low ‘good cholesterol,’ high ‘bad cholesterol’). But you know, that’s what one expects to happen when one gains 6 points in one week. Yes, there was that much food.

I guess the first thing that I should mention is that on the cruise, there were crazy amounts of food. Not only was there a 24 hour buffet, there were also ‘special dining events’ at certain hours of the day. At certain times for example, you’d have the seafood counter open, at other times, it was the pizza parlour or the mongolian wok. There was also a formal, sit down restaurant with formal bow-tied waiters and waitresses, which was nice. They had some really classy food there.

All of the food was included, and, essentially unlimited.

Ironically, the ship had a gym– and I think that despite that its a cruise ship, I worked out harder and more consistently on that ship than I had in a long time. Maybe it was the guilt of eating so much– feeling all that gunk in my veins makes me antsy.

I’m pleased to report that in the week since I got back from the cruise, I’ve been getting back on track with exercise for the first time in months. My weight is back down to about 164, which is my pre-cruise weight, but the fat loss is significant and I’ve been putting on more upper body muscle again, for a more balanced physique. I’m also eating more normally.

It would, after all, suck to see [CM] for the first time in months, and the first thing out of her mouth would be: “Err… did you get fatter?”

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

The cruise had it’s plusses and minuses. The setup of it all itself was great– it was really organized, the activities were pretty fun. We were on the Carnival Glory– the staff were excellent, extremely energetic at all times. I think if you wanted to go and do something relaxing– cruise might be for you. It’s not expensive, and you can do things at your own pace.

That said… I was on the cruise with 11 other family members, and I think that kinda took away from the experience at times. It’s something that’s much better enjoyed in small groups I think?

It is going to be the last family vacation I have in a long time though– and considering that family is going to be funding my exhorbitant law school tuition until I become a lawyer, I think it’s fair that I should try and have a good time with everyone right? Sometimes it was really straining to do so– I don’t think our family does all that great in closed quarters without the ability to space out and do our own things. But overal… I think most of us needed a change of scenery from the dreary Montreal weather, so it was a good thing I think.

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

If you’ve never been on a cruise, the best way to visualize it is to take a 4-star hotel, throw in a mini shopping mall, quintuple the amount of lounges, multiply the amount of alcohol by about 100, and put in lots of free food and shows. And then, take that 4-star hotel, use C4 to blow out it’s foundations, then ask King Kong and Godzilla to pick up the building and put it on something that floats. Voila. A cruise ship is basically a floating megahotel.

One of the statistics we got while on the Glory was that the boat consumes 275,000 shrimp per day. PER DAY. Just for it’s restaurants.

It probably goes without saying that despite that it’s a lot of fun, and you can go and see some pretty cool places, a cruise ship is the single most environmentally damaging invention of man in the name of luxury transportation. I mean, you’re basically floating a building.

So… I dunno. It was an interesting experience! But I think I had a hard time loosening up because mentally… I just felt guilty on so many levels.

So… I have really mixed feelings about the whole thing.

Apartment Found!

[CM] and I got an apartment! Finally! Thanks to you dudes who suggested. I actually did end up trying gumtree and craigslist, but in the end, one of the places we applied for came though so it all works out even better.

Sorry I haven’t posted more as I said… been pretty busy.

Room Wanted in Sydney

Anyone have 1 bedroom to rent in the Sydney NSW area?

Willing to pay up to 400$ per week. Contact me?