dal niente

Month: June, 2012

Mr. Scott?

Time: 18:00 (this post was originally written several days ago)

Location: somewhere about a quarter of the way between Sydney and Los Angeles


Whenever I’m doing another halfway trip around the globe, there’s a few things that repeat. It’s essentially the same themes, but there are the slight changes between trips.


The first thing is that the technology changes. I guess that’s perhaps the most obvious one, because that’s the source of the most social change nowadays. Our interaction with technology has changed the way we look at reading and writing; it has permeated the way that we interact with eachother, and redefined what it means to work or play “together.” It has changed the way we listen to music– its not just a social event where concerts and cigarette lighters anymore. Its about viral sounds that we share and distribute, underlined by collections of metadata and somewhere in the back of all that is reverb of copyright law problems that were unfathomable a century ago.


Transportation, though, has remained relatively simple. Getting from the proverbial point “A” to point “B” has always essentially been a question of time and space. And even when considering those dimensions, the last few centuries of transportation advancement have really been dealing with “the space” factor– that is to say, the physical challenge of moving us faster from one place to the next.


The difference that I’m noticing over the last decade of my short life though is that this is getting to the point where this isn’t advancing anymore. The obvious example is traffic. If you’ve lived at the same place for the last decade, and worked at the same place for the last decade, that’s the easiest example. They might be building new and wider highways, but you’re not getting there any faster. If anything, however it is that you’re getting there, you’re getting there slower than you did or would have 10 years ago, because of the simple fact of traffic.


Planes and boats might have gotten faster, but at the same time– you’re spending more time doing security checks.


And my point isn’t that the mode of transportation has tottalled more or less time. Actually, that’s rather unimportnat. Your car ride is probably taking longer than it used to. Maybe the metros feel like they’re more crowded with annoying people than they used to. But when you get on a plane? Really, there’s not that much difference between spending 10 hours on it or 12 hours. The advancements in the dimension of space travel have really not been all that impressive.


But what about time?


I don’t have a term for what I’m trying to talk about, but I’ll give you an idea of what has altered and advanced in the transportation area over the years through technology. It all has to do with time. Smartphones, tablets, portably gaming cosoles, portable video… even the in flight movies that I’ve been watching, and the 13 hours of battery life remaining on this netbook. This is all about time.


Or rather, about /spending time/ as are in transit.


My point is this: technology seems to have gotten a bit stumped as to figuring out how to improve on the spatial dimensions of travel. But it has come up with nothing but open doors as to the temporal issue, to change the way we perceive that passing of time.


Whether it’s thorugh entertainment or piping the lost time productivity, technology has cleverly pulled a misdirection on our innate impatience with transportation.


It’s clever, to be sure.


Yes, thanks for inventing 6 cell batteries so that my netbook runs about 25 times longer than my old laptop. But no matter how much I have to do, no matter how much fun I can have or how much work I can get done, only the spatial element has a direct influence on how sore my ass gets and how cramped I feel.


So I wish someone would get back to work on personal teleportation, because , at the end of the day, all the entertainment and productivity options are just illusions to mask the theft of time, precious time, that we would rather be spending elsewhere.


There is some truth to the addage “time well wasted” I suppose, but waste is waste…

Hoist the Colors

3 exams down– 1 more to go. 

It’s 14:05 Sydney time, and I’m in a computer lab at school waiting on a classmate to finish some flowcharts. After that? We begin an attack on a  set of practice exams for Contracts 2, the only thing that stands between us and freedom!


The reality of exam situations is that you probably learn more in the days coming up to an exam than you do in the entire semester.  I’m not sure if the whole “exam period” model works… and I’d probably get into that, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m so braindead right now.  This morning, I made some finishing touches on a set of notes for the class, which I compiled through the combined works of [DilligentB], [CaptainK] and myself.  The notes come down to 80 pages total– the indexes alone are a handful of pages.

These are a few of my favourite things

It’s 3:15 AM in Sydney, and I’m almost wide awake.

I think my subconscious is more vulnerable to life than I think.  I underestimate it, because I’m usually occupied with what’s in front of me.  Sheer will makes me into someone completely different from who I am when I sleep– which is someone vulnerable.



I got out of the Administrative Law exam the other day wondering what had happened: I went in there feeling confident and calm.  I left feeling cheated.  But what did I do? What I always do– pushed it down.  Have to stay focused right?  There’s still a lot going on.  I need to keep moving.

[CM] and I have this recurring discussion every now and then whenever we have breakdowns or just feel tired, in the “life” way.  What I mean by this is that, frankly, life is tough.  You all know this instinctively because everyone has their ups and downs.  But what I mean by “life is tough” isn’t so much relevant by the things that make it tough– it’s the mere fact of mentioning it, with increasing frequency, that connotes some significance.

So it’s time to do a bit of mental housecleaning.


When I start having trouble sleeping, that’s when I know I’ve been neglecting to pay attention to the needs of my soul.

Willpower works well most of the time, but damage accumulates, and willpower is solar-powered.




There’s an anime I’ve been watching for the past little while called “Kids on the Slope.”  It’s one of the best shows I’ve watched in a long time– a very long time.  How do I describe it? It’s just about growing up, I guess.  It centres around a couple of schoolboys in post-war japan, coming upon jazz music.  I just watched Episode 7, and it was beautiful.  The music in that show is great.


There is a source of restlessness in me all the time that I’ve learned to harness.  It’s a conversation which is on one hand fueled by a bittersweet nostalgia of my “has-been”-ness.  This has to do with all the great and incredible lives I’ve had the fortune of living before this one.  I’m not just thinking of SK 1.0 or Montreal 2.0– I’m also thinking of the things from Montreal 1.0.  The little bits of features and dramas of those times.

“Kids on the Slope” in particular reminds me that I haven’t picked up a pair of drumsticks with significant purpose in now over 10 years.


There was a time when I might have gone that direction professionally.  I loved music.  So how did I ever stray from that path?




Well, life happened.  And so all that I was became just that– was-ness.  Has-been.  Glory days in the bands are nothing but stories to exagerate about in reminiscence.




Well, that’s the first part of the formula.  On the flispide of the ‘has-been’ force is the ‘will-be’ force.  I know that sounds kind of funny– but let me explain a simple concept: only the past is finite.  The fact that I’m a has-been of first degree suggests to me that I was capable of great things, and it also suggests to me that there’s nothing stopping me from continuing to do so.  In a strange way, all the things that I’ve left behind over the years, all those passions, I’ve only stopped “doing them” but they’ve continued to fuel my thoughts at all times.  I am not so old and incapable that looking backwards makes me sad and to wish for “better times.”  On the contrary– looking backwards makes me wonder, what will I do to top that?

It’s a tall order, I think.  But I think I’ve managed to live by this mantra.




One of the reasons why I love CM is because she’s like that too, although she doesn’t always understand that part about herself.  She’s come a long way from where she started, and by this, I mean way before I ever met her.  She’s always sought new stories for herself.  She’s always bitten off slightly more than she could chew.  So yeah, I guess you can say that it’s inevitable with such trouble-seeking personalities, every now and then we lie down and look at eachother and sigh: “I wish life was easier.”


The truth is though, we make it hard on ourselves.  We try new things.  I don’t particularly think I’m talented at Law School.  She doesn’t particularly think she’s going to excel at Med School.  But when you really look at the mechanics of it?  When you look at all the things we’ve been through to get where we are?  All the things we do to satisfy ourselves day to day– just to get out of bed?  They’re incredible stories.  We ought to be proud, more often.



The other day, I was at the riverside doing some training with one of my flatmates, [Curb].  He had 12 ounce gloves on, I was wearing 8s, a helmet, and a mouth guard.  The exercise?  He was allowed to throw a right, then a left.  Or a left, and a right.  And I wasn’t allowed to hit back.  I just had to block, parry, or dodge.

Curb doesn’t at all come from a competitive fighting background– he comes from a background of traditional martial arts that tend to focus more on forms than on sparring.  As a result, training with him yields an experience markedly different from training with people who fight competitively.  The main difference has to do with the ‘teaching mentality’ of doing exercises– or the lack thereof.  Normally when you train with someone, if you’re doing an exercise, you don’t go at full force at the beginning because you want to give the other person a chance to learn how to do it properly.  You start slow, then build up power and speed.

Curb on the other hand doesn’t understand this– to him, there’s just this on/off switch that goes from “not fighting” to “kill,” which means that when I train nothing but defence, it really is defence.  I mean, he’s not holding back much.  I am getting rocked left and right with each hook.  He doesn’t hold back because in his world, martial arts is like breaking boards and bricks– and there’s no danger that those’ll ever hit back.

By the end of the night, I can actually see steam coming out of my shirt, and i’m hocking up phlegm around my mouthguard.  I’ve spent rounds just deffending, and it’s tough.




Blocking is one thing– but the real test is slipping punches.  There is no greater feeling when the relentless assault suddenly stops.  When your opponent, instead of feeling the resistence of a block, feels nothing but emptiness, because you’re gone.  And for a second?  There is time to breathe.  There is a moment when the punches stop coming, because all that incoming stuff has been thrown off balance– for a moment, it doesn’t know how to get at you.  For a moment, you’re invulnerable because you’ve found a break in time.  And you have put yourself in a position to do what you want with your oppressor.  For a moment (you’ll miss it if you’re too slow) you are invulnerable and in control– the situation is everything you want.




That’s what life is– it’s tough.  It’s hard.  It’s relentless and it comes at you nonstop.  But every now and then, you manage to really sidestep it, you manage to stop being deffensive and really put yourself in a perfect position to counter-the shit out of it– make it think twice before it comes at you again.  In that brief moment, you are not “blocking” or “deffending” against all that stuff coming at you– you’ve just gotten out of the way.  You’ve taken yourself out of that game, and you’ve elevated yourself momentarily to one of supremacy.  You give nothing to your oppressor, and by not giving the satisfaction, you not only rob him of any chance for victory but you suddenly find that both your hands are free to focus on what’s important– and that is, kicking ass.



From episode 1, Kids on the Slope tracks a protagonist brought up in excellence in classical piano.  It’s only when he makes an unlikely friend, who is into jazz, that he discovers a whole new way  of doing things.  A way of stepping out of reality, of elevation.  It’s not to rag on classical that I mention this– but I point out that jazz is a completely different ballgame.  It really is about playing with reality– it’s a call and response game of “the way things are” and “the way we’re going to do it.”  It’s about breaking rules, and stepping out of the game to cheat a little, just to make things interesting.



Of course, when you develop certain practices, you’re left with this heavy substance.  All that history, all that experience– it can be as much of an anchor as it is armour.




But man, isn’t it dramatic?  Isn’t that what it’s all about?




I wake up in the middle of the night every now and then and CM stirs next to me sometimes, somehow aware of my consciousness, but not herself awake.  It calms me to know that she’s here.  She’s become part of my substance.  She’s the one who keeps me from going crazy at times, trying to will myself beyond my limits.  She’s the one who is at my side, when I’m at the mercy of my subconscious, to comfort me (by doing nothing) when I awaken confused.


But when everything is quiet and the panic subsides, and all there is the call of her breathing: This too is a moment where I step out of the stream of time, and just think– yes, I can do anything right now.

Hand of the Subconscious

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

-R. Frost





I got out of the Administrative Law exam a few hours ago.  The overal feeling: shock.  I went into that exam feeling that I knew everything.  Okay, so about 90% of the course.  But when I saw the questions? I felt as if they were worded in a way that just didn’t make sense.  I had everything I needed to know in my head– but from the sound of it, it didn’t sound like they were interested in any of that.  Overal result? I feel like I got anywhere bteween 50% to 80%.  Yeah, I know, it’s a huge swing– but that’s what exam periods are for me.  It’s absolute madness.  The best I can ever do is to maximize my chances.

I’m not pleased with the fact that the exam felt so different from all the practice exams I’d done.  But, regardless, it’s time to move on to other theatres.  The Adminstrative law front is done with– all that’s left is Criminal Law, Property, Equity and Trusts, and Contracts 2.  I can’t let myself slow down now, just need to keep everything in rein, and focus.



There is a calm going through me, that I’ve been feeeling for the last seven days or so now.  I’m not sure if this equates with a state of mushin no shin, or if it’s just exhaustion and resignation to fate.  I’d like tot hink that it’s the former rather than the latter, but I’d imagine the reality is that it’s a bit of column A, and a bit of column B.

I keep reminding myself though that there’s a lot at stake here.  How much does the prospect of being hired in a foreign country depend on how much I can set myself above the average in terms of exam marks?  How much slack can I cut myself?  Probably not much– there’s no way to know for sure just how much I need until I need it, but certainly, if I can improve my chances, then that’s what I have to work on.  I just need to focus. I don’t have the luxury of time to feel sorry for myself and how nobody’s throwing me any easy pitches.



Bruce Lee said many things regarding the ‘mindlessness’ and ‘flow’ necessary for the decisiveness in battle.  However,  I like Takuan Soho’s words better:

“The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and this interruption is damaging to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man– it is the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.”




That said, it means it’s time to get back to work.  Preparation.  Practice.  Persistence.  And then when the exam comes? Let the bastard write itself.

T mch smplfctn n lw

I hate it when people write incomprehensibly.  It’s a huge problem in the law field.  It’s not just that people speak “legalese”– the problem is that people are just sloppy writers who don’t take the time to proof what they write.


For example, here’s something typical you’ll run into:


‘simple ground’ possession good title vs all but the true owner- plaintiff daughter’s heir entitled to succeed.


Jesus Christ!!  You could take the extra 30 seconds to write a PROPER sentence, couldn’t you? Where did all all the VERBS go, motherfucker!  What he meant to say is:


On the ‘simple ground’ that possession is good title against all but the true owner, the plaintiff (daughter’s heir) is entitled to succeed.


I know I’m guilty of my fair share of spelling mistakes, but using “simple English” is really important to me.  That means small words, short sentences, effective punctuation, and active verbs. Does it really, REALLY pain you so much to write in coherent English??


Oh great, here’s another one:

Mandamus action by executors of Clissold to compel Perry (Minister of Public Instruction in NSW) to make valuation of certain land compulsorily acquired by Crown for purpose of erecting school in order to pay executors compensation for acquisition (at time of possession owner was unknown and Clissold took possession without title)

 I mean, seriously– where’s the fucking PERIOD? 

Ko fight

Lately, I’ve been trying a new technique in baduk, known as the “ko fight.”


Here’s how it works.


You get into a situation where you need two moves to do something major– by major I mean: kill a huge amount of enemy stones, save a bunch of yours that would have died, or secure a large amount of territory.  Because of the rules of the game that are designed to prevent infinite repetition in a particular game anomoly where you can keep killing back and forth over the same single stone, you can basically do these two moves in a row– assuming there isn’t something bigger you have to take care of.

Okay, so that’s a bit hard to understand.  To put it in normal terms, imagine a scenario where you and someone else have to take turns doing something.

Of course, this all has to be done in turns… and time is extremely valuable. Also, not all property is equal.


So, imagine a scenario where X and Y are in the same business, and want to basically oust the other.  Things get a bit rough:

  1. X’s Turn: X sets a bomb on Y’s Porsche.  (Needs one more turn to detonate).
  2. Y’s Turn: Y love his Porsche, and decides to go and disarm it.
  3. X’s Turn: It’s X’s turn again, leaving him with the initiative for further mischief.

Compare that scenario with the following:

  1. X’s Turn: X sets a bomb on Y’s Porsche.  (Needs one more turn to detonate).
  2. Y’s Turn: Y love his Porsche, but decides maybe to gamble that battle to try and win the war.  Instead of saving his Porsche, he goes to X’s garage, where there are 10 Rolls Royce inside. He sets a bomb there.  (Needs one more turn to detonate.)
  3. X’s Turn: At this point, X has a choice– he can either destroy Y’s Porsche, or he can save his 10 Rolls Royce.

If X decides to blow up Y’s porsche, he clearly loses out– no matter how you weigh it, 10 RRs is a far heftier loss than 1 Porsche.  This is pretty much a bad decision.

But what if X decides to save his RRs?

  1. X’s Turn: X disarms the RR bomb.
  2. Y’s Turn: At this point, it’s Y’s turn.  Y has a choice– he can either save his Porsche by disarming the bomb on it, or he can “trade his way up.”  Say that he decides to gamble this battle to try and win the war: he places a bomb on X’s transport ship, which has a shipping container full of coke.
  3. X’s Turn: It’s now X’s turn

However, consider X’s options:

  • He can save the Porsche.
  • He can save the shipping contain full of drugs.
  • He can ignore deffense completely– and place a bomb on something of Y’s that’s completely bigger.  For example– he might place a bomb at Y’s secret facility where they’re developping a machine capable of cold fusion.


Do you see what I’m getting at?  Because of the turn based nature of baduk, you can ignore an enemy threat, so as long as you can threaten your enemy in a bigger way.  In so doing, you can pull off some crazy stunts where the threats steadily get larger and larger.  This is known as a ko fight.  It gets really exciting because it’s high-stakes poker– at some point, what started off as a small threat might have escalated to assured destruction.


The winner of the ko fight is one who:

  • [has more threats to use against the opponent] / [has less vulnerabilities that can be targetted]
  • doesn’t get scared

The first one is just numbers and technique– you have to build situations wehre your opponent is vulnerable, and where you are resistent.  This is all about preparation and efficiency– you need to put your investments in before going to war.  The second issue is just fighting spirit.

Inside Out

রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর (Rabindranath Tagore):

Give me the strength never to disown the poor
Or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength
To raise my head high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength
To surrender my strength to Thy will with love.


7:45 AM, and uploading collaborative notes onto Google Drive for Administrative law.  It’s a 6 person team who are putting this project together.  I got some submissions this morning for the collaboration– it seems that more than a few people have been working through the night.  It’s a fearful thing, exams– but I like the fighting spirit that the group seems to have.

Working in a group is an interesting group dynamic– it’s very seldom that I get to work with people who are genuinely so dedicated to the cause.  I think that this is actually one of the first times where there are no freeloaders in a group!  It’s quite refreshing.  Of course, some people are still late with the substantive part of their contributions, but at least people are voicing guilt at being late.



This reminds me of a situation in South Korea, at the apartment building of my Korean teacher.  There was a notice in the elevator that I couldn’t read, so I asked her to explain what it meant.

“It’s a public shaming bulletin,” she explained.  “People who are late with rent or who do not put in towards the communal building maintenance, their names and apartment numbers show up on this list so that everyone in the building knows who is letting the building down.”



Guilt is an incredible thing, and I’m only recently starting to concretely realise connections between guilt and fear.  [Paladin] mentioned this a while back, when I was still having a lot of difficulty making the decision to come to Oz (henceforth, this shall be my abbreviation for “Australia”).


He basically reduced my inability to decide to two things– guilt at leaving family and friends behind, and fear of leaving family and friends behind.  And this is quite true– because in my big head, I always imagine that I’m someone important and irreplacable.

But perhaps, that’s all wrong.  The amazing thing about life as a human is our adaptability– our modularity.  We can unplug ourselves from one place and put ourselves somewhere else.  Sometimes that means we’re just another brick in the wall, sure, but it does mean that we can be parts of entirely different machineries and be part of entirely different movements.


When it comes to friends and family, I am irreplacable– nobody can do it exactly as I do it.  But am I necessary?  Do they need me as much as I need them?


A lot of life, and the pains of growing up, has to do with a tweaking of the perception of this power balance: who needs who.


I’m toying with this idea now that fear and guilt may be two sides of the same coin.  For example, on one hand, we fear being without that which makes us safe, or that which is familiar.  We fear being without people who will invest effort and love into us.  On the opposite end, we feel guilty for abandonning things and people that have accepted our investments of effort and love.


Fear and guilt don’t operate in a bi-polar sort of way, which I guess is what makes it particularly difficult to discern.  I mean, it even broke up Paladin’s and [Rawdy’s] initial attempts to get married– she’s a Muslim, he’s an atheist.  Enough said, perhaps?




Now that law school has finished as of yesterday, and all that’s left is about 6 days until exams, these emotions are starting to manifest all around me.


People are afraid that they’re going to do poorly.  People feel guilty for not working harder.  Or some derivative of this sort of thing.


I think I’m strange, in a way– because I don’t feel it.  I don’t feel this fear or this guilt, at least not as intensely as it seems that my peers are feeling it.

Instead, I take exams as an affront– perhaps it’s a way of channeling the traditional fear and guilt into agression, and treating it as a problem to be killed?  I dunno.  I’ve long stopped trying to figure out how hospital work has messed with my ability.

That said, the method I’m adopting has me in good spirits.  That doesn’t mean that I’ll ace the exams, but I’m going to go in there, ready to go tooth and nail.




But sometimes I wonder if having a bit more fear and guilt in everyday life might be good for me….?