dal niente

Month: May, 2012

Our Little Joke


(from http://xkcd.com/144/ )

I saved the life of a friend

About a month ago, our Sunbeam rice-cooker started acting up.  At first, it just made funny noises, but then eventually, whenever you put the switch in the cook position, the lights would flicker between “warm” and “cook.”  It would still cook the rice, but it would take a bit longer, and it made rather ominous crackling noises, like the kind you hear before starting a domestic fire.  It’s not a big deal in a rice-cooker scenario, since the whole thing is made of metal and sits on a marble counter (not flamable).  But basically, it didn’t work as good as brand new.

Eventually, you could flip the switch to the cook position and the light just wouldn’t change– and half an hour later, when you were done cooking your meal, you’d realize that you still had a cooker full of lukewarm, uncooked rice.

The rice cooker costs a bit less than 30 bucks Australian (about 30 bucks American or Canadian at current rates) so it’s not super expensive to replace.  The obvious option was just to throw this one out and buy a replacement– in fact, the local K-Mart sold an even better one, with almost twice the rice-cooking capacity, and a steamer attachment, for about 20 bucks!




Last week, [Tipster] asked me if I had cut the fingertips off of my cycling gloves, which are missing the top parts of the index and middle finger on each hand.  I didn’t– they just wore down like that.  Convenient, because it’s handy with gloves on to have some flesh out in the open to get some tactile feeling at times.  [CaptainK] commented: “Isn’t that the best feeling, to know that you’ve used something to the point where it’s breaking down, and you can still just use it some more?”


It is.  [Vittek], in our badminton days, used to say that while a badminton racket was like a samurai sword, having little chips and nicks on it were like battle scars– brand new things may be shiny, but they don’t carry the history and emotional significance of something that has shared experiences with us.  If you believe in things like psychometry ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychometry_%28paranormal%29 ) , things are pretty awesome– but if you believe simply in the importance of experience, then all you need is awareness of the connections that you inevitably forge with your surroundings.


It is true that I travel light.  I don’t tend to bring very much with me– but the things I do bring?  They have tons of history.  They are like friends– they serve a function, they have a sense of purpose, and as such, like my own purpose in life, and the lives of my friends, I wish only that they’ll continue to be given the opportunity to pursue



 I didn’t buy the new rice cooker.

Instead, I got a screwdriver, opened up Mr. Rice Cooker,  (after unplugging it) and checked it out.  As I suspected, it was just that the contact point for the switch had built up corrosion, probably just from moisture.  That accounted for the flickering of the lights. I took out my Geber pliers, unfloded various sharp things and just scrapped the brass connection points a bit.  Closed it up.  The whole process didn’t take more than about 5 minutes.

Yes, 5 minutes.  Even throwing out and buying a new one couldn’t have been done that fast.  It’s now been weeks of rice cooking– and it works like brand new.



I’m not saying that everyone should start cracking open their old TVs and whatnot– there’s a lot of dangerous stuff that you shouldn’t mess with.


However, I think that the idea of “recycling,” though extremely important, is rather a bandaid– one of the main problems with consumer culture is the throw-away culture.  Not only do we throw things out once they don’t work, usually because 1% of the thing isn’t doing it’s job anymore, but we also buy new things on whims because we feel that a new thing will make us feel better, or somehow more connected.

And I’m telling you, without a doubt– this mentality also affects the way you treat people.




On one hand, I guess I’m saying this from a green prespective– don’t replace things you don’t need to.  Just because the landfill isn’t in your backyard doesn’t mean that what you declare junk is going to magically disappear.


On the other hand, I’m saying that you ought to treat the objects you own like friends– with respect.  Try and help them grow in their relationship with you– learn the ins and outs and get the most of that relationship, so that you’re better for having that relationship.  Like with friends, endeavour to make relationships that are more than superficial, that are meant to last and to make you a better person.




That said, everyone should go and watch Wall-E.


When I was in South Korea, it was a huge source of excitement for me whenever I was awarded a new belt in taekwondo.


If you read posts from me more than a decade ago, when I was just starting jeet kune do, you might find that I had a high disdain for such rituals– Bruce Lee was a real ‘classical’ hater, and since it was my first martial art, I fell in with the local doctrine pretty easily.  The thing is, in my age I’ve come to understand that unless you’re learning martial arts with the sole purpose of learning to beat the shit out of people, it doesn’t matter what kind of martial art or, for that matter, what technique you do.  It’s true that I still have strong leanings towards mixed martial arts rulesets, but it’s important to remember that even mixed martial arts training isn’t a street-perfect fighting system for several reasons.

That said, the important thing, with martial arts or anything, is to just enjoy what you’re doing, to go through the pains of improvement, and to take not just pride, but responsibility, in your advancement.

It’s been a long time since I earned a new belt grade.  But every time I did, it was something special– because I knew that my gwanjangnim had harsh standards, and that I had worked my ass off for each one of them.




About a month ago, in baduk, I reached the rank of 7 kyu for the first time.  It only lasted for about 24 hours though.  This is based on the KGS Online system of ranking, so it’s constantly updated.  The algorithms used to calculate these kinds of things things is actually pretty cool in themselves (for details of one of the more popular systems, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elo_rating_system#Theory ).  But to simplify, your ranking is mathematically extrapolated from your wins and losses.  Unlike in modern sports, where each season or year there is one team that wins the finals and is simply considered “the best” team of the year, ranking systems used in chess and baduk (and many competitive online game servers, actually) don’t just require you to beat all comers in elimination.  The thing is, you can’t eliminate everyone you’d ever play against in the world in a game of chess / baduk– so how would you know how strong you were compared to someone you’d never even played?


Well, you start with the idea that if A beats B, and B beats C, then we can probably guess that A would probably beat C.  But that’s not always the case– sometimes it’s more of a rock paper scissors scenario (nonwithstanding lizards and Spock) where playing style influences the outcome of a match.

In reality, the ranking system doesn’t actually take styles into account– but my point is that figuring out an emperical, quantiative score for someone, which is meant to universally give you a placeholder ranking against other people who are using the same system is actually not easy.  To simplify, it takes into accounts wins and losses, and also, who you win and lose against.  At least, on KGS, that’s the case. (If you want to see the math behind it, check this out: http://www.gokgs.com/help/rmath.html) .  Basically, if I lose to someone, but he’s really damn strong, I don’t lose as much score as if I lose to someone who is supposed to be weak.  And contra, if I beat someone who is weak, it doesn’t count for as much as if I beat someone who is insanely strong.  And in almost real time, even if I’m not playing, the system could upgrade or downgrade my rank depending on the activity of the people I’ve played against… so for example, say I went on a 20 game winning streak, but all 20 of the people I beat continue to loes games for a week straight, then their scores (and the credit I get for having beaten them) will go down.  Conversely, if the 20 people I beat all went on to beat a bunch of grandmasters, my score will piggyback off of their exploits.

Which kinda plays into that idea from Hajime no Ippo, where every opponent who Ippo defeats basically demands, for their honour, that he become the champion: because they’d only accept losing to someone really strong.




This morning, I got to 7kyu again.  The thing is, the jump from a rank of 8kyu to 7kyu in a game of baduk is one whole stone.  One extra move’s worth of handicap.  I tend to get to 7kyu, but then games get stastically taht much more difficult on account of the handicapping system.  I usually don’t last long, so I suffer defeats until I go back to 8kyu.


Well, this time around, I’m sticking around 7kyu for longer and longer.  I hit it abotu a week ago, lost it, and in the last few days, I’ve been in and out of that borderline between 7 and 8kyu.


That means I’m getting stronger.


I like knowing that I’m getting stronger.



There’s a few people in the baduk club who have made me their target– it’s their goal to beat me by the end of the year.  It’s flattering.

It’s also daunting– because beginners tend to have a lot of momentum.  One of the players, [Ginglang], progressed from 20kyu to 11kyu since January.  That’s 9kyu gain in less than half a year!  That’s pretty amazing.

It is true that it gets progressively more and more difficult to gain ranks the higher you go, but still…


It’s nice to get to 7kyu and to be holding my position a bit more firmly now.  I like being in a position to have challengers come at me, and I get to say “Feh! Come back when you’re stronger!”


… conversely, I have yet to beat [SiB] in an even match…



Which is some consolation, because phsyically, I’m sick.  Quick sick.  Caught something from [CM], who has been sick for several days.  I guess this is a good thing, because this means that I’ll be out of commission for a bit but I should be recovered by the time I hit exams.  Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll infect all my peers with perfect timing, and it’ll drive the average down (evil laughter)



I think I’ve been overdoing things lately, which is why I’ve gotten sick.  So, taking a day off work today just to rest, I’m basically lying in bed and working on exam preparation.  I just finished working on my part of a collaboration for Criminal Law, and I’ll be moving on to Property, Equity and Trusts later this evening.

Boxing lessons are done for the season, so that’s that for now as well.

It’s okay– I do miss the physical activity, but to be honest, it’s the last thing on my mind, being sick.  I’m absolutely insufferable when I’m sick I think.  I think it’s time to pay attention to what my body is saying and just lie here and do nothing for a little while.

Brain Dead

Not much to write lately, I just feel kind of brain dead.  This tends to happen when I spend too much time regurgitating textbooks into exam notes– all the machinery of creativity or independent thought tends to get all gunked up.


My first bit of work for the Criminal Law collaborative notes is done.  That took a fair amount of time, probably somewhere near ten hours total… but I think it’s decent work.  There are about 3 weeks left until exams.  To be honest, i don’t know if going to class at this point is all that useful– I don’t want to learn more things, I just want to work on what I need to know and practice for the exams.




Yesterday, classmates of mine participated in the Sydney Half-Marathon.  They took on 21km.  [CM] volunteers with the St-John’s Ambulance group, so even though I wasn’t participating in the marathon, I was up at 4:30 AM so that we could bike out by about 5AM.  Sydney is definately warmer than Montreal, that goes without saying I think– but at 5am, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.  It was absolutely freezing out there.

I’m not part of St-John’s Ambulance, but I was basically going with CM because she doesn’t feel that confident about biking when it’s pitch black outside.


It’s been a while since I’ve worked in healthcare– I was thinking of maybe taking the St-John’s First Aid Certification.  I did one in Montreal a long, long time ago, but I mostly don’t remember it anymore, beyond what I had to do regularly at the hospital for simple things.  It might be nice to do the course– maybe I could save a life?  And working with St-John’s sounds like a lot of fun– although I don’t know where I could possibly fit something like that in my schedule as it is.



Scheduling is always such a chore.


I think one of those things I want out of life is immortality. Or at least, I want to decide when i want to kick-off for good.  There’s so much to do and see in the world, but there’s so little time to do it all that we inevitably rush– and that leads to missing a lot of the details that make it all worthwhile.

There was a “Pasta Cookoff” for the marathon team on Saturday, and someone at the gathering asked me why I wasn’t participating.  The basic reason was that I didn’t have enough time to train consistently.  Yeah, I did go on almost weekly runs with [DilligentB], and I’m sure that cycling doesn’t hurt, but my joints weren’t anywhere near the kind of condition they’d need to be to finish a half.

I think people find it rather surprising just how bad my joints really are.  Muscle pain is one thing– that kind of stuff goes away.  But joint pain? That has to do with a whole mess of cartilige and ligaments, and that stuff really doesn’t ‘train’ nearly as easily.

Several weeks ago, I went on a long run with the group, and covered something in the neighborhood of about 12-15km– can’t remember the exact number.  My cardio was okay through the event.  Got a few stitches here and there, but I was able to plow through those just fine.  Energy levels were fine too.  But my knee started giving out, and in compensating, it started to affect my hip.  By the end of the run, it was quite uncomfortable.


I find it annoying because I wish that I’d had someone to teach me about sports injuries and all that when I was younger.  I wish that someone would tell me “okay, you need to chill a bit” or that, though a certain amount of injuries are normal in the course of athletics, that some are way more permanent than others.  I try not to let it get me down that I’ve got the rhematological fitness of a 50 year old, and in most cases it’s not an issue– but every now and then, I get engage in an activity where I actually get to a physical limit– it’s a point where the amount of willpower I have exceeds my body’s ability to keep up with it.

I’m not talking about a situation of current fitness, where a limitation can be pushed (eg.: where I will get stronger if I just stick to a routine).  I’m talking about a situation where I am physically limited by the fact that working this particular movement will cause me serious injury if I continue.


It’s come up a few times so far– running was the latest exacmple.  Another one though came up from doing ‘overhead’ or ‘corkscrew’ punches on a heavy bag– either the motion hurts my shoulder (and yes, I’m using the correct technique) or the extra bracing sends feedback up to my head.  As [Terminator] hypothesizes, I probably have accumulated damage to my rotator cuff from playing badminton and doing jiu jitsu.  That probably makes sense, because I have difficulty doing my own weight in a bench press or military press– my left arm is actually stronger than my right, because my right shoulder is a weak link.




Regardless, like I said, it’s important not to get bogged down too much by what you can’t do, I guess.  There’s still plenty of things I can do, and that I don’t yet know how to do, right?  Focus on that.



Last week, I was finally starting to understand this whole business of slipping punches.  It’s quite cool once you get the hang of it– but of course, how good you are at it is always measured against how good your opponent is at punching you.  It’s something I really want to work on, because, lets be honest, it feels great when your opponent totally whiffs one and you just have big targetting signs all over the openings.




I’ve been hearing the stories, post-marathon, from people who were in it.  I really would have liked to be in it.  It’s been  a while since I’ve been in a team event.

In the Right Direction

what’s YOUR bacon number?

Mine, as [Zanshin] points out, is 3.

Since I was in a movie with Wesley Snipes, and Wesley Snipes knows Kevin Bacon.

All Hands on Deck

I’m trying a different strategy this semester for finals; hopefully it doesn’t blow up in my face.

Last semester, I made myself a thick stack of notes for every exam.  It reduced basically every class to a stack of about 50-60 pages, with headings and subheadings, all indexed in a more or less logical order.  The basic premise was that when I saw a problem question on an exam, I’d run through the index, see what issues were triggered, and then flip to those pages if necessary for some reference, and then start writing.


The thing is, having good notes is more of a confidence issue. I think probably making the notes is the study process, which is why a lot of people who went in with 10 study guides per subject just didn’t do as well.  It’s not that the information wasn’t there in those books– but most of the exams left people feeling like they didn’t have enough time to write what they wanted.  Basically, if you didn’t already know what was in your notes, you’d suffer for it because flipping through them would cost you valuable seconds.

The problem with this method is that it’s time consuming.  It takes a lot of time to make a comprehensive set of notes, because it involves going all over your notes, going through a lot of the readings– basically, taking a comb to everything and trying to relearn the whole course on your own.  And that takes a lot of time.


This semester, I’m trying to game the system a bit.  I’m trying to cut corners which, ultimately, will make my understanding of each individual subject a bit less– but hopefully, it will help me to focus my energies on things that will actually be graded.

I’m working with a few classmates, [CaptainK], [DilligentB], and [Alley], and we’re each in charge more or less of coordinating collaborations to create wiki-style final notes for each class.  In theory, each of these wikis should have enough information to tackle the exam, if we only studied the wikis.  In theory, this should cut down the amount of grunt work by at least two thirds.

Downsides?  I’ve never collaborated with these people to this extent before. We’ve worked together in the past in a supplementary, peripheral way– but this semester, the very primary set of notes that I rely on will be a collaborative effort.

I’m cautiously optimistic.

Lets hope I made the right decision to trust in others.


Ever since I finished the Administrative Law assignment, I’ve been feeling a lot healthier in general.  The sun is shining again, I can hear birds.  I’m even sleeping better, and  enjoying bike rides as bike rides.


I’ve lately started thinking that one of the real foundations of me surviving mentally strenuous times is because I invest the time to make sure my body works well.  Food goes in, boxing and cycling comes out.


[On a side note, and I’ve said this before, it pisses me off to no limit how cyclists will pass me on a downhill (I tend to go slower when going downhill, because with all my cargo and heavier bike, I need more space to slow down than the average roadie) and then totally fail at hill climbing.  What if you were driving a car, someone passed you, and then slowed down? Get the fuck out of my way, asshats!! Stay in the God damned slow lane!  I don’t mind if people pass me and keep on going, but it really, really irks me when people get in my way– even worse when they’re the terrible sorts of hill climbers who rock the bike left and right and take up huge amounts of space, making it dangerous to pass them uphill with traffic close by.]


I think I’ve found a good balance of work and play.  Lets see how well it carries me through finals.




I want to try kyaking, or some sort of rowing.  Given that [CM] and I live a block away from water, it’d be a shame not to take advantage of it, right?


according to Wikipedia,  is inhalation of solvent based products known as inhalant. Inhalants are a range of products (many of which are familiar household items) which, when vaporised and inhaled, may cause the user to feel intoxicated or ‘high’. Examples of inhalants include glue, gas, petrol and so on.

It is also known as inhaling, chuffing or sniffing.