dal niente

Month: April, 2012

“Fight the damage with your guts!”

Ah, Takamura, you always make it sound so easy.


I’ve realized that I haven’t been myself since I got that bad contracts grade.  I can’t bring myself to concentrate on my work– I procrastinating.  I guess it seems logical– my subconscious is upset.  Logically, working hard on that assignment and getting a shitty grade sets a precedent on my mind, which goes something along the lines of “well, if you worked hard and got a crap mark, why work hard at all?”


I can’t abide by that, so I’m going to force myself to study (right after this post).


I’ve scheduled a meeting with the teacher to discuss that grade.  There are a few things going on in my head.

  • There’s a slim chance she’ll change my grade.
  • She didn’t seem all that pleased that I wanted to book a meeting with her, and in fact, her exact words were “I don’t know what else to tell you aside from what I’ve already told you in class.”
  • I’m dealing with this one bad grade so badly (mentally) that I need some advice on how to let things like this go.
  • Which, really, is kinda ironic, since I was so casual about my grades during my undergrad.
  • Even if she doesn’t change my grade… I have to someone steer this so that she has a better opinion of me.  20% of the total course’s grade is based on class participation, which is another way of saying, it will swing at the teacher’s discretion.
  • That said, when I’m discussing with her, I need to be really careful not to piss her off.
  • Can a heart to heart with a professor who doesn’t seem interested in talking to me change that in my favour? Only one way to point out.

The truth of the matter is, I hardly ever go to see teachers.  But usually, when I do, I get a lot out of it.  I remember being in college and getting a bad grade on a paper for this one class… and oddly enough, it wasn’t the content of my ideas so much as the writing style that the teacher really didn’t like.  He really set me straight.  He took the time to tell me how lacking my writing technique was, even though I managed to use it schmooze dozens of teachers over the years to get over-average marks for my writing.  But he saw through it.  And after that meeting, which lasted about an hour, I left shaken– but at the same time, impressed.  And a more learned person because of it.


Is this the same sort of thing?  Is this one of those instances where the only reason I’m low on morale is on pride?  As hard as I worked on that paper– the truth is, perhaps I just did it wrong.  But I need to understand– and that’s why I’m going to that office.  Maybe it’ll bite my head off, but at least the truth will be out, and sooner is better than later.


Okay, time to get to work now.

Damn you John Connor

I went for a long run with some classmates today. Covered a bit short of 15 km. I was surprised, but my cardio held out the whole way. I did get cramps and stitches, but that kInd of stuff is pretty easy for me to work through.

The problem is with my joints. My right knee started to ache, and as a result of compensating for it, an ache showed up in my right hip joint as well.

All in all it was quite fun though.


**Edit: The Morning After:

Knee is fine, and surprisingly, muscles are fine too, but my hip joints are both feeling really tired.  Never really had any hip problems before, so I’m not sure what to make of it.  Unfortunately, I guess the saying goes “there’s a first for everything.”

Reality Tunnel

Taken from a clip of Wikipedia, for the article “Reality Tunnel.”


Every kind of ignorance in the world all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see and then we believe our interpretation of it, we don’t even know we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this is reality. – Robert Anton Wilson

The idea does not necessarily imply that there is no objective truth; rather that our access to it is mediated through our senses, experience, conditioning, prior beliefs, and other non-objective factors. The implied individual world each person occupies is said to be their reality tunnel. The term can also apply to groups of people united by beliefs: we can speak of the fundamentalist Christian reality tunnel or the ontological naturalism reality tunnel.

A parallel can be seen in the psychological concept of confirmation bias — the human tendency to notice and assign significance to observations that confirm existing beliefs, while filtering out or rationalizing away observations that do not fit with prior beliefs and expectations. This helps to explain why reality tunnels are usually transparent to their inhabitants. While it seems most people take their beliefs to correspond to the “one true objective reality”, Robert Anton Wilson emphasizes that each person’s reality tunnel is their own artistic creation, whether they realize it or not.

Wilson—like John C. Lilly and many others—relates that through various techniques one can break down old reality tunnels and impose new reality tunnels by removing old filters and replacing them with new ones, with new perspectives on reality — at will. This is attempted through various processes of deprogramming using neuro-linguistic programming, cybernetics, hypnosis, biofeedback devices, meditation, controlled use of hallucinogens, and forcibly acting out other reality tunnels. Thus, it is believed one’s reality tunnel can be widened to take full advantage of human potential and experience reality on more positive levels.

Anarchy ?

My twitter reader is being completely bombarded lately with Montreal Police tweets about the protests. It’s an interesting tool to quickly spread the word about trouble, but man… Seems like there is a LOT of trouble out there. Stay safe, friends.


Some days, I’m leaning forward.

Some days, I’m reeling backwards.



On the best of days, I feel balanced.  I don’t feel that I need to advance or step back– I’m fine where I am.  Let the world second guess itself, and come to me.


I got a Contracts 2 mid-semester assignment back yesterday… 60%.


I was shocked.  It’s the lowest grade I’ve gotten since I started Law School.  It was a huge shock for a number of reasons, not the least of which was because I thought I actually did pretty well on it.


I’ve had a whole afternoon, an evening, a night, and even part of this morning to mull over that result, and I’m in a difficult position because of it.  Not really because it hurts my grade so much– but I am trying to finish with Honours, and that just makes the whole thing a bit more work because I have to compensate for this.


I like my contracts teacher quite a bit, but I found it no consolation that she kept on saying to the class “if you got a bad grade, don’t worry, it’s just a question of technique.”  Well, sure– but technique doesn’t change this grade.  It’s an irremovable stain.


I guess I’m annoyed for two reasons primarily.


The first is that when it comes to technique, I thought I was using the correct technique.  I was using techniques used in Contracts 1 and Torts 1 last semester, which got me great marks in both those classes.  Technical advice that she gave me on my paper– “Don’t present the counter arguments,” are in reality completely opposite of what I was taught and marked well for doing last semester.  “Don’t bother covering these elements which are obvious.”  Well, how obvious are these elements? In first semester, we were told to at least checklist our way through things with a sentence each to cover our bases.


I guess secondly, I’m annoyed because I heard that some of my classmates got good grades and “hardly worked at all on it.”  I suppose that part is just frustrating, because I can’t do anything about it– it means that for all the hard work I put into this class (which, I might add, is a lot) somehow someone just has a better technique than what I’m using that lets them get better grades in less time.  I mean… the teachers say to take copious notes, make sure you do your readings… I do all that. 


I guess the second issue annoys me more than others.  Somewhere in the back of my head I sometimes wonder if my brain isn’t as flexible as this younger generation, but then I stop myself and say that’s just an excuse.  I need to just keep thinking forward.  I need to think of solutions instead of scapegoats.


I’ll be honest– it’s hard.  I’ve always prided myself on being a hard worker, but a useless qualification if I don’t get results.




I went out for a couple of beers and dinner with some people after class on Friday.  [CM] is out of town, so cooking dinner for just myself just feels like a bit of a hassle.  I had a good dinner with [CaptainK] and [DilligentB].  They’re the two law students who I work with the most this semester.  Last semester I worked with a much larger range of people, but then by the end I figured out which ones of them were on the ball and which were just moochers.  CaptainK and DiligentB are pretty reliable people, and on a personal level, they’re also trustworthy.

The truth is, nobody at law school is a bad person.  They’re all nice people.  I’m sure nobody harms animals or is otherwise terribly sociopathic.


So I wonder sometimes– how do we get from here, to there?  The last few weeks have featured presentations by a lot of the big Sydney Law firms.  Yeah, a fair number of them made the point of saying that they do pro bono work.  But all of them were really about corporate law.

So where are the firms that defend human rights? Public services? Bioethics? Etc etc?

I wonder, really, if they even exist.


I was asking the lawyers at the presentations yesterday questions about what I could do to make myself more appealing when I lodged a submission.  One of the lawyers gave me perahps one of the most honest answers I heard: “Well, make sure you get your commercial and corporate related courses done.  Litigation, administrative law, contracts, sure, that kind of stuff.  Intellectual property law is getting bigger, that kind of thing.  But don’t bother too much with all that human rights stuff– to be honest with you, sure, criminal law or human rights in global whatever and stuff sounds fun, but we’re not Legal Aid.  We don’t really care about that kind of stuff.”


He may have been the only one to say it, and his firm may be the only one to look at things that way, but it doesn’t change one fact:  that all of these firms have commercial focuses where a social benefit is secondary to capitalist agendas.  And because of that, no matter how many civil liberties classes we take and how informed we are about globalisation issues, it doesn’t change a simple fact: the odds say that we’re going to be doing work that doesn’t care about these things, except incidentally to avoid triggering regulatory reactions against our clients.




I haven’t been reading the Montreal news very closely, but I am constantly hearing about the student protests (and police actions) regarding the proposed tuition hikes.


In a certain way, I’m not very different from those students.  We might have different goals, but, we all want social change.  The difference is, a lot of these idiots are making the mistake of making it a student only issue– they’re rallying an army of students (soemwhat effectively might I add) and in the process, alienating the general public. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me like a select bunch of students that are making the rest of them look bad.  Stupid shit like occupying buildings and what not?  It’s completely retarded for people to be subverting the law in order to petition the government into changing the law.  The moment violence breaks out, you lose a dozen notches of respect– once the public loses respect for you, you can be sure that without all that voter weight the government will give even less of a hoot since there’s not much on the line.




At the same time, I keep telling myself that I’m doing the right thing.  There are days when I don’t know that for sure though, and those are the hard days.


I tell myself, I’m trying to do this the right way– I’m trying to get the tools to make a difference. I’m going to get the training, and yes, I’m going to get my hands dirty– I’m even willing to work corporate to learn the trade.  But in the end? I’m going to come back, and I’m going to save the world.  Why? Because, on more than one occasion, the world has saved me.


But I wonder if the process of getting all that power will corrupt me.


I know that I’ll survive no matter what road I take. I’ve come to understand that I’m quite resilliant, and robust, and adaptable.  But I don’t just want to survive– I want to pursue something.


The question is, what ultimately will come from want?

Immortal Friends

I grew up with people like Uzumaki Naruto and Kurosaki Ichigo.  It’s been a long time since I first started following their stories. It’s always great to see an underdog grow up.  They start off being terrible at things; really, the only things they usually have going for them are pride and stubbornness.  It’s typical shonen fare. But watching how, outcast as they are, they get to grow up to be heroes? That’s an amazing thing.

Even some video game serieses– Metal Gear Solids, Final Fantasies, Resident Evils… 


but what happens when they start making “too many?”


When a series that you’ve come to love and cherish takes advantage of the fact that they know you’re going to be looking at what they come up next, the can simply come up with shit because they know you’ll still be there.

Example: Filler episodes.  God, every time someone makes a filler episode about some stupid shit like “performing the ecological survey for animal ninja division,” I laugh for about 30 seconds and then think– okay.  Spend 3 minutes on this. Tops. And then get on with the fucking story.

And Final Fantasy XIII?  I tried. I tried so hard to love that game.  But it did not love me back.


The relationships that I build with fictional characters are as potent, if not more distructive, than the relationships I have with real people.  Fictional characters have the ability to transcend a lot of real people.  Not all real people, mind you– there are people out there who have such amazing stories that the very fact that they’re not fictional gives them incredible depth.  But if it’s a series you’re going to follow that you’re still enjoying?  They tend to be designed to be more interesting than the average human.  THey represent something, some sort of ideals or themes that the inconsistencies of real life make difficult or complicated to recognize in real people.

As a result, characters really are lovable.  But not in a healthy way– they’re lovable in that admiration from afar sort of way.


And in many ways, it’s unhealthy– because the relationship never grows.  There’s just an obsession.  The relationship is one sided in that every time someone does something that dissapoints you, they don’t listen to what you have to say and just keep on going.  Sure, some games you can make choices that affect the growth of the character… but the majority still keep the characters and their experiences on a certain rail.


That’s okay– at first.  Because at first, it’s a good rail.


But then when that track starts going in a direction that you don’t like?  Like any relationship, it’s hard to let go, because there’s so much invested history there.  You want to be the one there for your friend after they’ve been fucking around with alcohol and drugs and finally clean up their act and become cool again.  In the same way, I think, I wait around on serieses like Bleach and Naruto hoping that they’ll be the serieses that they were ten years ago.


Probably not going to happen though.  So at what point does one just decide that it’s best to freeze time, and say, I don’t want to grow with you in this direction anymore?


Given that these characters in anime and games are like gods– they die once you start believing in them– what are we to feel if we just stop believing?  They’re nothing without the relationships we give them.  But if they just give us dissapointment…

Free Ride

This weekend, [CM] and I went to check out the Katoomba area around the Blue Mountains. It’s quite the view, and the bushwalking there is extraordinary. There were a few setbacks at first: the trains stopped, and as a result, we got there a couple of hours late. But once we were there, we were there, and it was a good time.




CM and [Mayida] left on road trip to Melbourne today. The idea of “travel” is recently on my mind a lot because of Mayida. Maybe a bit of background information would help make things clearer.

Rewind to a couple of months ago.

Mayida, a friend of CM’s, plans to come to Sydney after finishing her teaching degree in British Columbia (Canada). Her plan: to find her own feet, and all that. She manages to secure a working holiday visa.

About a month and a half ago, she’s got the working holiday visa and a potential job in Melbourne.

However, she comes to Sydney because CM and I are here, and puts Melbourne as a backup plan. In an ideal scenario, she finds a good job in Sydney and stays around here.

So she comes to Sydney and moves in temporarily with CM and I (and our other 2 flatmates).

And then the problems start. I mentioned this in a previous post. Basically, while she’s staying at my apartment, she supposed to be looking for an apartment and a job.


However, for the majority of the time, she’s on her laptop watching television, or on skype calling family and friends back home.


What’s wrong with this picture?


The thing is, when you leave home, you also need to leave home behind. Not only that, but you need to be willing to work to build a new home.

And even if you don’t want to talk in terms of home, you need to think pragmatically in terms of where you are, what you have, and what needs to be done. Most likely, you are not in the middle of your support networks, you have nothing, and you have lots to do– because nobody can do it for you.

For some, it’s easier than for others. CM and I are global citizens– and perhaps that’s to the detriment of an opinion of Mayida, but we have high standards of what needs to be done when you land somewhere.

From the very outset, CM and I have endevaoured to assist, but not to spoonfeed.


Basically, if you’re going to travel, and by travel, I mean, go somewhere far away with the intention of being more than a tourist, you need to get your shit together.

CM in many ways feels more betrayed than I do that we spent so much time and effort on Mayida to get her set in Sydney. I’ve only known Mayida for a bit over a month– CM has a long history with her. It’s not so much that she chose Melbourne over Sydney that bothers us– it’s more simply that, for the time that we put into her to help her get started in Sydney, she took no advantage of it. We saw nothing but laziness and apathy from her.


She didn’t put any serious effort into working in Sydney at all. She barely even made efforts to look for her own apartment. Mayida comes from a generation of people that thinks that the convenience of the internet is a substitute for hard work and serious face time. She didn’t go places in person to hand out her resumes. I ended up going with her to check out apartments during my days off, and I even got her a really good job at the company I worked with. THe job she got wasn’t in education, but it’s still a pretty awesome job. The schedule was highly flexible, and it paid extremely well (much higher than north american standards).

After living with us for about a week, we eventually found an apartment that she liked. CM also went back with her the second time to give a second opinion and to pay the deposit. More or less handed an apartment and a job, it was not just up to Mayida to work on making her life better.

But instead of putting in efforts into findng a Sydney job, she spent her non-working time either calling home, watching television, or going clubbing.

Eventually, time came and went, and the window of opportunity for engaging the backup plan came up. So that’s what she did. Deciding that she didn’t like Sydney all that much, she went with the backup plan.


This was about a week ago. She left her luggage (something like 4 huge pieces of luggage, plus a few random bags of other things) at my apartment and took a plane to Melbourne, where she would check up on her backup plan job and try and find an apartment. She had a week of hosteling planned, and then she would come back to Sydney, pick up her luggage, and go on a road trip with CM and another friend to bring it all to Melbourne. (CM has two weeks off of med school for the midsemester break).


First few days in Melbourne? We got messages from Mayida, reporting from the beaches, catching some sun. She hadn’t yet started working on finding an apartment. Throughout the week, she’d spend time basically going through the same routine, with a bit more clubbing and beaching and shopping.




Now, I realize, it’s a new country– there are things to see. But you’re not in a set position, living out of hostels. CM was getting more and more stressed because Mayida would constnatly message us that she hadn’t yet found a place to stay.


Which compounds the amount of aggravation that CM feels towards Mayida. And, might I add, my own. Suppose Mayida doesn’t find an apartment by the time of the road trip– Mayida was scheduled to take a plane back to sydney to meet with CM and the friend. And CM is supposed to help drive everyone over.


Now, what’s in it for CM? She has 2 weeks off during the entire semester. 2 weeks where she has to balance out a bit of fun with a whole lot of reading to catch up for class. And she’s going to spend 1 of these weeks on a road trip to Melbourne? Where there might not even be an apartment to stay at on the other end, which would result in additional costs of hotels per night?


Somehow, by luck, Mayida manages to secure an apartment the day before her flight back to Sydney. Which sounds good, but there seem to be some issues with the size of the place… the way I look at this problem is that it’s what you get if you wait until the last minute. There are probably better places out there, but how would you know with such short time?

Anyways, on the whole, I guess I’m just annoyed that she ought to have been working harder.

CM actually exploded the other day on Mayida. I don’t know the details of exactly what was said, but in the end, they still headed out on the road trip today. CM and I toyed with the idea of her not going at all, but in the end– Mayida wouldn’t really be able to drive all the way to Melbourne safely on her own. A significant hole in the plan is that CM is the only of the two drivers that has experience with left-side driving (opposite to North America).

On the whole? I guess I’m a bit cross because. Partly because Mayida hasn’t learned anything while here, but mostly because she hasn’t just gotten her shit together. Over one month after first landing in Australia, she’s still trying to figure out the very very basics. Do I expect too much?


Despite it all, I hope that she some day proves that my judgement is too harsh. I do hope that some day, she’ll be an independant person. 

Pass for Ports

The whole process of getting my Canadian Passport renewed while in Sydney was nothing short of a headache and a half.  I had to make three separate trips to the embassy, because there were all sorts of problems with the application.  Short story: it’s done now, after taking up almost ten hours total (of running around getting documents, riding busses across the city, etc).  Thankfully I know a couple of lawyers at school who can certify my docs, otherwise, it’d be even more of a headache.




I was thinking of the concept of travelling.  Because when we say travelling, or at least, when we list it as a hobby, we usually mean something more than the physical act of displacing ourselves across space and time.  We don’t say “travelling” with the intent to refer to our daily hour long commute in traffic.


When we say travelling, there’s this distinct sense that we’re going somewhere new, somewhere different– someplace far.  In reality, the actual distance doesn’t matter– what’s different are the surroundings.  When we travel, we’re reduced to a denominator of ourselves– nothing else is granted anymore.  The bus stops won’t be in the same places, the cafes will be different.  The language might not be the same.  The music might be different.  We could be under a canopy of dense green jungle– or we can be a concrete jungle, where the heat seems to rise from the ground itself.  There is something about our usage of the word “travel” that doesn’t have much to do with “transportation,”– I think it has more to do with “displacement.”


Displacement– in the sense that we’re suddenly out of place.


And some of the best things we’ll ever learn, some of the best things that will temper our characters, come from being out of place.


The UNSW Blitz magazine recently interviewed me as representative of the Go (Baduk) Club.  Here’s the results:


-The word “Go” seems to have a different meaning for you guys… care to share?

Haha, we’ve heard a few interesting slips. At O-Week, a lot of people thought “Go Club” was some sorta sorta outreach division of Red Cross, who we were sharing stalls with. I’ve also had inquiries thinking that we were the Cheer(leading) Club. They’re both great clubs mind you, but we’re about an ancient board game. It’s called “Go” in Japanese, but is also popularly known as “Weiqi” in Chinese and “Baduk” in Korean. Roughly translated, it means “Surrounding Chess.” In a nutshell, it’s a strategy game of world domination.


– What are the most important skills a member of the Go Club needs to have?

It’s a combination of things, really. Yeah, you can say all the typical stuff like patience, humility, a sense of harmony. Sure, get your Zen on and all that. From another angle, this is a game where you can really let your personality show in the way you play. That’s what makes the game fun. If you look at a Go board, it’s a 19×19 grid that you keep putting stones down on. That’s a huge amount of space. It’s your canvas, and whoever you are, you are spelling it out for the world right there. As a result, no matter how skilled or unskilled a match is, you can clearly see things like the individuals’ sense of humour, cockiness, tenacity, creativity, or sneakiness– and I mean, just by looking at the plays, without paying attention to what’s being said (if anything). You can even look at the way someone is playing and sense fighting spirit, or smell fear.


So really, the most important skill is to want to play. Everything else, including skill, comes as byproduct of the pursuit of that initial passion. I guess that sounds like life in general, but hey– I’ve always said that if life is game, you should play hard, and good things will come of it.


– How would you spot a Go Club member on campus?

Chances are, if you spot an Asian, that gal or guy knows how to play, or knows someone who plays. But there’s also a rising popularity for Go in non-Asians. We’re trying to encourage all of it. We’re not limited to a bunch of nerds and/or geeks, there are plenty of perfectly socially adjusted people who play go. We’re peripherally everywhere I think, but ideally you wouldn’t need to look further than yourself to find a Go Club member. Open invitation!


– what kind fo stuff to you guys get up to when you’re not on the board?

Last week we went out for some Korean BBQ, but if you mean what kind of people join this club? All sorts. A whole bunch of us are into anime. (I hate to stereotype, but it’s true.) We come from all backgrounds, so it’s really hard to list it out here. I just think that it’s a stereotype that this is just a game for old men– that’s how it’s presented on television. In reality, it’s gals and guys of all ages, and all sorts of interests– God only knows what kind of mischief or good they do when they’re not at the boards! You’d have to stop by the club to get the full details, we’re a sociable bunch.


– how does one join Go Club?

Drop in anytime at our twice-weekly meets, or join our facebook group. We’ve also got an official presence on some online servers like KGS. Everything’s free. It doesn’t matter if you have no clue how to play– we give lessons. It takes us literally less than 2 minutes to explain how the game is played. Playing well? That takes a bit more time, but it’s an insanely easy game to learn. The best way is to bring a friend with you: we teach you together, and you practice kicking eachother around the board. It’s great laughs because obviously, when people first join they make lots of mistakes– but there’s nothing quite like that moment when one of the two comes upon a glint of understanding that changes everything. Then you see that suddenly, the two friends start going at eachother with a marked bloodlust. Our approach to teaching is very “Hunger Games.”


But yeah, people get really good at this club just by showing up. That’s how you join: just show up.


– What’s with the board game revival we’ve seen recently?

I think what’s going on is that people are getting a little bored with the typical multiplayer video game experience. There was a while when simulated violence and all sorts of stunning graphics were amazingly new– but now, there are tough standards to top in the video game industry. It’s really hard to make something that’s truly new. As a result, people might be going back to more ‘classical’ approaches to gaming, whether it’s with dice, cards, pewter dogs, whatever. For me, part of the appeal of this game is that 10 years down the line, there will still be people for me to play this game with– wheras nobody really cares about Halo nowadays. There’s a much better return on investment, because there’s something enduring about a game that has survived thousands of years. It’s like a return to classic literature, after getting bored of the next vampire love triangle novel. Here’s something real that you can appreciate for the rest of your life, because you can continue to share in enjoying and analysing it with generations to come.