dal niente

Month: December, 2012

vacation

I’m on a much needed week long getaway with CM, in Gold Coast, Australia. Updates upon my return.

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Workplace Decorum

Last week there was a Christmas party for the law firm I work for.  It was a really good dinner, complete with a myster Kris Kringle gift exchange.  I got a snazzy pair of Logitech noise-cancelling earbuds, which is pretty good considering that the max for gifts was $20 AUS.  It was a two stage event– we started off at a Bavarian pub, and then worked our way to a fancy restaurant.

 

I think that one of my colleagues may have had too much to drink.  We were both sitting at the same table as one of the senior partners (and his wife, who is the office manager) and one of the junior partners.  My colleague basically has a “junior” position in the firm, more or less the same as me.  Anyway, the problem was that at some point she started getting a bit confrontational with the junior partner in charge of our work– and proceeded to call her assignment a lousy, boring assignment.  Then she said, “jokingly,” that she hated the junior partner.

 

Umm.

The junior partner tried to deflect it with a joke by saying that usually people figure that out within 3 hours, let alone 3 weeks (which is how long we’ve been working for him).  But she didn’t let it go, and for the rest of the evening just kept taking stabs at him for how much she thought her work was unfairly boring.

“[Jinryu]’s project is so more interesting!  Why can’t I do something like that?”

Err… WHAT.  Why are you dragging me into this??

 

Word of advice to everyone: drink responsibly at your company party.

 

Otherwise, you might end up like that Japanese guy in Heroes who is trying to kill jump off a building because of what he did last year.

Unwell

“I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.”

 

[CM] sent me this link, which was a very interesting read in the context of the recent shooting.

 

http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html

Iron Curtain

I’m in a summer class (summer in Australia now) called Global Issues in Competition Law & Policy.  I have to present a different 30 minute presentation every week for three weeks as part of the class requirements.  However, getting the work done is proving a bit troublesome, because my two groupmates can’t seem to get their act  together.

I don’t know if I unequivocably hate group work.  I just hate working with groups who don’t know how to work as teams.  For example, my two group mates often take days to respond to emails, and not only don’t pick up their phones, but don’t follow up on voicemails.

 

I’m not sure where one aquires those kinds of skills though.  I rather suspect that you simply have to spend time in the workforce, and work under a serious manager who kicks the shit out of you if you ignore his communications.  I think I’ve been lucky in that sense– most of my past employment has always been in very tightly knit environments with people who either have a personal stake in the business, or who have been working those positions long enough that they really have a standard operating procedure for everything.  As a result of working in those situations, I think I have pretty good “communications etiquette.”

I think that communications etiquette is essential to teamwork.  Yet somehow, people overlook it.

 

This year, I’m the IT Director for the university’s Law Society.  It’s actually a pretty cutting edge position because I have to basically build several projects from the ground up– there’s no precedent for a  lot of the things I have to do.  The previous person who did the job though, it’s part of his job to explain just how procedures worked last year.  So, I’ve been trying to chase him down on skype and by emails to get a sitrep from him about server maintenance and all that.  But the guy just keeps dodging!  What. The. Fuck.

 

So, let me tell you a basic principle of communication etiquette.  The first thing is: communicate.

 

That sounds like a no brainer, but I know you know plenty of people who break this cardinal rule: they just don’t get back to you.

 

When  you get a message addressed to you in your official capacity as a holder of a certain position within a company, your can decide to:

  • Take care of it right now;
  • Take care of it later;
  • Delegate it / Refer it to someone else; or
  • Refuse it.

No  matter which one of these options you chose, you must RESPOND to the sender within a reasonable amount of time to let them know what you’re going to do.

 

Is the person making a request that you have to make a decision on?  If there is a question mark ANYWHERE in the email, that’s usually a pretty strong hint that you probably need to respond.

 

 

That said, when you write a message requesting something, make it concise and precise.  Give the important details, and then clearly state your request / question.  Don’t ask ambiguous rhetorical questions– this isn’t you sheepishly trying to hint that you want to be more than friends, this is you trying to get shit done. Get to the freaking point.  It helps to separate each item of your request into background information and the request itself.

 

If someone outlines what they want very clearly to you, and you receive requests, it’s decision time.  Address every part of the request one at a time.  Do not simply respond to some of them, or respond to questions that the person did not ask.  If you do,  you should be dragged out into the street and shot.

 

 

 

You might think it’s fine to just leave someone hanging because you might eventually run into that person in the hallway, and you can talk about it then.  But it really makes a huge difference if you just take 10 seconds to say “we’ll talk about this on Thursday” or whatever.  Know what the difference is?  The person who asked for your help won’t think you’re a douchebag.  If something is addressed to you and is making a request, you SHOULD respond to it.

Entertainment Digest

Sword Art Online (anime):

Season 1 was pretty good!  I really enjoyed the mechanics of the universe.  The stories were short, and a lot happened in each episode.  Almost every episode felt like it had ended too soon, and I always wanted more.  Season 2 is total shit.  It turned a marvelous gaming-life analogy into a story of quasi incest and irrelevance.

 

Total Eclipse (anime):

It started off pretty strong.  I liked the fact that the world was so desparate and bleak– within the first few episodes, so many characters had been brutally offed by aliens!  Quite graphically, might I add.  But then, the series started getting a whole lot less serious for some reason– to the point where it feels like it’s just another male mecha pilot protagonist with a harem vying for his affections.  Been there, done that. Yawn.

 

Naruto (anime):

The whole Shinobi Alliance filler season is garbage.  That’s all I can say.  The manga continues to be interesting and innovative here and there though.

 

Suits (American Television Series):

I just finished watching season 2, and it was better than season 1!  Honestly though, I can’t imagine working in such a hostile environment.  That, and Mike is, in my opinion, a total whiny indecisive douchebag.

 

Game of Thrones

I have, as of yet, never seen an episode or read a book of Game of Thrones.  [CM] and I will be starting on that this weekend, so we’ll see how that goes.

Major Outer Reap

The first technique that I learned when I joined the University of Sydney Judo Club is known as o soto gari, which, like many Asian martial arts techniques, has what I consider an almost rural simplicity to it: major outer reap.

 

I’m not sure if this is normally the first technique that one learns, but it was the first one that I learned.  I’ve been doing Judo for about 8 weeks now, but we only really worked on o soto gari for the for the first two weeks.

During the first few weeks, I was thrown relentlessly.  I suppose this might’ve been good, because I quickly learned how to fall properly (and how to try and not land on my head).  At about week 4, one of the brown belts took me aside and taught me the basics of preventing myself from getting thrown — things like using a hip thrust to block, or how to use footwork to circle quickly with the direction of the throw to negate my opponent’s leverage.  When I started getting the hang of the physics behind it, I really wondered why I never figured these things out sooner, because it seems so simple.

 

My love-hate relationship with o soto gari comes from the fact that although it’s simple, the initial offbalancing of my opponent is crucial to giving me a window of opportunity to use my leg to reap his.  The problem though is that, of the people who I do randori with, they are either significantly more experienced than I am (higher belt rankins) or heavier than me.  For people who are taking me seriously, more experienced opponents can see me attempting to offbalance them for the move to begin with.  For heavier opponents, it often means that their extra muscle allows them a bit of extra leeway to resist the technique and reverse it even if I start first.

I learned the basics of the technique during the first week, and for the weeks of randori (sparring) after that, I’m certain I tried it at least five or six times per evening, with no success.  Actually, to put things in perspective– I almost never have any success in throwing my opponents.

 

The problem is that up until a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been trying to do the throws mechanically without really working on offbalancing the opponent first, and then using a throw that take advantage of that disturbance in their equilibrium.  I guess, if you want to make it really simple, I was treating throws as if they were throws in Street Fighter games:  you basically get close enough, and then push certain buttons, and regardless of what the opponent is doing, you’ll be able to throw them.  That’s how throws work in street fighter– if you’ve closed the distance, if you gone from ranged to kicking to punching to elbows to clinch range, they’re close enough for you to grab them, that’s it.  Your character can throw, no matter what your opponent is doing.  It is very difficult to prevent a throw, and indeed, many characters have unblockable and uncounterable throws.  I treated throws as a carpenter’s hammer– a one size fits all sort of tool for all sorts of jobs.

Throwing a punch in real life is, in many ways, similar to throwing a punch in the game.  You train jabs, crosses, hooks and uppers on pads, and largely, when your opponent is in front of you, you perform those techniques the same way, regardless of who your opponent is.  That’s your basic toolkit.  Your opponent is either blocking, parrying, dodging, trapping, or eating the punch, but that doesn’t change the way you actually throw the punch in the first place.

In a way, punching and kicking is very “one-sided” in that you don’t adjust it too much based on your opponent.

 

And that’s the kind of mentality that I took with me when I started judo.  I suppose what I expected was that I would learn a one-sided technique that I could just perform, regardless of my oponent– because, you know, in Street Fighter, the dififcult part is getting that close.  But once you’re that close, you can throw them, big or small, the same way!

 

I don’t know why I expected this to be true of the real world.  Two months after starting, I find that judo is, in my opinion, much more difficult to learn than kickboxing.  Kickboxing, you can hit pads, and you gradually increase power and technique.  But at the end of the day, you’re still getting the same result whether you hit a pad or a body– you’re just learning to channel more devastation, but at the base of it all, a pure technique doesn’t hit a pad much differently from how you would hit a body.

 

In contrast, a throw requires that you pay attention to all sorts of things, which ultimately come down to where his centre of gravity is, where his weight is supported, and his momentum.  To compound this, it’s also relevant how flexible, how powerful, and how agile the opponent is.  Then, there’s also their body composition, and how tall they are.  I guess I just feel that, after over a decade of striking martial arts, whether you kick a light person or a heavy person, it doesn’t change how I am delivering the kick.  With a throw however, I need to adapt the technique to the opponent.

 

Since I started doing judo, I’ve been trying o soto gari at least a handful of times per opponent whenever we go through randori, which usually lasts about a half hour.  Pretty much all the time, I get countered for some reason for another.  I consider the counter to be pretty spectacular– because the main counter for a shitty o sotto gari is basically to perform o soto gari!  That means that unlike rock paper scissors, you don’t have to use a more appropriate technique– this is one of those instances where, by a bit of  weight shifting, you can counter a rock by basiaclly smashing it to pieces with a sharper or bigger rock.  It usually ends with me looking up at the ceiling after taking a pretty heavy fall.

 

But that all ended yesterday, when, for the first time, I managed to pull off a clean o soto gari on an opponent.  I fell to my knees while doing the technique, but as long as he was on his back, that’s all that mattered.  To boot, it was one of the black belts, [Tack]!  It was a great feeling of acheivement.

 

The technique caught him off guard I think because it was my last randori of the night, and I was visibly breathing heavy and starting to slow down.  My fingers were exhausted, maknig my grips much easier to break, and I’d taken a hit on my shin that All of my right handed techniques were easy to predict, and I didn’t have enough surplus power to just muscle my way through the throws.  The technique that I used on him was a “left handed” technique because, frankly, my right handed throwing muscles were exhausted.  I heard the slap of the mat as he broke his fall and I knew that I’d finally done something right.  It only took two weeks.

 

Actually, it’s not true that I’ve never thrown anyone up until now– I’ve just never managed to throw a brown or black belt before with proper technique.  Orange belts and green belts, I can sometimes get away with wazari-class throws by  driving my weight and power completely behind a technique (as in, not using much technique, but using brute strength).  The concept of “guard crushing” in kickboxing in many ways applies to judo techniques as well, where, even lacking proper position or leverage, you can sometimes apply overwealming force to simply overwealm any possible countermeasures.

The throw that I pulled off against Tack was not one of these techniques.  It was important,not only because as a judoka, he’s more experienced than I am, but because he’s a bigger opponent, and for once, it felt like I wasn’t using brute strength.  From that moment on, I had some sort of epiphany about the off balancing taht leads up to the throw, and I was able to employ it more consistently.  Against Tack, who was being careful but who wasn’t going all out against me obviously, I managed to land two more throws.

The really amazing thing was that I had the feeling that he would only “give me” throws when I was using proper technique.  As in, he would resist with the same amount of force that I was putting in, to basically neutralise my force– but if I was using a throw with proper technique, he would concede the leverage advantage (and not take advantage of his superior size or strengh) and allow me to throw him.  Basically, he would always match my force, so that the only way I could ever throw him was by using proper technique. 

 

I got the distinct feeling that whenver I tried to use brute force, he would instantly notice, and simply counter the shit out of me.  In most cases, he didn’t even match my force, he just redirected it.

 

I have often told people that fighting with someone reveals a lot about a person in ways that often cannot be expressed in words.  Thanks to Tack, and the experience I had yesterday, I feel like I’ve learned a bit more about this new vocabulary.  I feel that now, I’m a little bit more empowered to expressing myself and understanding others.

 

Yes, I know, I shouldn’t expect real life to be as easy as video games.

Suits

I started watching Suits. 

Fun show.

 

It’s good to see more people from Firefly found work.

 

Lewis is my favourite character.