dal niente

Month: May, 2013

Bowtie Muscles

Bow ties

Somehow over the years, despite being right handed, my left shoulder has caught up in terms of injuries and is now worse than my right.  Which, I suppose is mostly irrelevant for badminton, but less good for judo.  So when [CM] and I were set to go to the annual Med Ball gala event, and I was trying to learn how to do a bow tie, it took me about 40 minutes of experimenting and my shoulder was hella sore afterwards.
It’s getting colder in Sydney now, so I actually feel an ache in my shoulder sometimes when I wake up in the mornings.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be taking time off of judo to concentrate on finals.  Not only that, but there’s one firm that is now accepting applications– but their process doesn’t accept CVs or traditional statements.  I basically have to come up with some random but awesome thing that will make them want to hire me.  (I’m considering making a video game, to set myself above all the others).
Hopefully during the time doing intensive desk monkey stuff, my shoulder heals up to full working order, but well, that’s rather wishful thinking since I know rotator cuff damage when I feel it.
Ah, to be young again!

Pink Slip

Hi [ItGuy],

Sorry for the late reply– like you, lots of stuff on the plate!  As a general note of professionalism, and this has to do with all your life endeavors and not just Go club, don’t wait for people to chase after you before telling them you can’t do something.  It’s just good “office etiqutte” that if you’re not going to be able to do something, you let others know.  If you had told us sooner, we could have moved ahead with quite a few things, instead of always waiting for you to show up on the assumption that you’d be able to catch up– which is an assumption we’re entitled to have, considering that you took up the executive position.  Bottom line– you need to communicate better with the team.  There’s nothing wrong with not being able to do something, but there is something wrong with not telling a team that you can’t do something, and just dissapearing without a word while work piles up.  As I said– this isn’t just about Go club, I hope that you think of the other teams who rely on you in the same way.  You’ve been removed from the exec roster for this semester. 

I completely understand that things out of our control lead to being less free to deal with extracirricular activities– I have a pretty heavy plate myself so I feel ya. You are more than welcome to come by as a regular member or, if you have time to commit, as an exec next semester, pending re-election.  Thank you for all your work so far, and good luck with everything!


Scalar verus Vector Inspiration

I’ve been getting back into TED talks lately.  I like them and I dislike them– depends on my mood.

Fundamentally, TED talks are a really cool idea.  However in practice, sometimes I think it amounts to fashionable subscription without action.  It’s a lot like other events, talks, and lectures about things that would be good for society that people go to– it gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling to hear an inspirational story, because it makes them feel like a part of this abstract sense of love and togetherness that is the human race.  Yet, applied in every day life, where is the reflection of that practice?

This is probably one of my biggest problems with media in general– the way that it allows us to externalise involvement in human life.

There are two sides to this coin.

Something bad int he world happens, and the media reports it.  You feel bad about it.  You think its tragic.

Alternatively, something good happens.  This could be some inspirational story, or something like a TED talk. You think it’s great.

This is what the media can give us– the idea of media may be that it’s the intermediary between events in the human race and us.  Media is meant to connect a distant event or person to us– to bridge the gap so that we can be affected.

I do believe that we are affected by many things– but I think that the convenience of media has diminished the effect of the affectation.  By that, I mean that emotional responses are incredibly cheap.  There’s little difference, biochemically speaking, between your brain’s response to a news event and a completely fictitious movie– one might just have a more sustained effect because you attribute permanence to the real world, whereas movies end.

The problem as I see it is that, while sometimes a TED talk does inspire, talk is still cheap.  And to hear that someone else is doing great things for the world might actually absolve us of a deeper sense of need for us, ourselves, to take responsibility for our society and do it ourself.

This comes down to the question of what we mean by “feeling inspired.”  To some, it’s a vector quantity of warm fuzzy feelings (or alternatively, fiery, burning emotion), with the importance being a direction that comes with it. For others, it’s a scalar quantity of the same feelings, but without direction.

I don’t believe that social change occurs simply because of scalar quantities without direction.

And what TED talks do, in one way, is to give us ready access to scalar quantities of inspiration, which fulfills our need to feel connected– but does nothing for the need for actual action.  Somehow, by attending these sorts of lectures, we might feel that we’re better people and it might assuage our guilt at not participating actively for actual change.

Of course– is the world better off with less scalar inspiration?  Is vector quanity inspiration the only way to go?



I suppose what I’m getting at is that at the end of the day, if we are considering our place in pushing society forward, we should be guaging ourselves in terms of what we do, not just what we think or say.  Joining a bunch of mailing lists or reading a bunch of blogs is just fooling yourself if you purport to subscribe to a belief but don’t do anything to act on it.


[Jinryu]: Man these firms

[Jinryu]: Give ma a job! That’s all I ask

[Jinryu]: I will even WORK

[Zanshin]: Don’t wait to get hired, just show up and start working.

[Zanshin]: ONce you know how their system works, you’ll be able to forget the employment contract!

[Jinryu]: Genius!

First Casualties

I didn’t care too much about the first rejection letter, which was from a London based firm (because, well, it’s in London, and that’s a bit far).  However, I just got a “thanks, but no thanks” from a Sydney firm that had a winter clerkship.  I rather wanted that one.  It’s the one that [CaptainK] works at, and which he and [DilligentB] helped me so hard to prepare for.

It is true that it’s easier for me to deal with these disappointments better than last year, but still– they suck.  With every rejection letter, the future becomes more uncertain. And I hate to be a drag about it, but it’s always there at the back of my mind– nothing ever makes it any better.


There’s another application due at the end of this month, and then the main bulk of all the other firms opens up applications in the middle of June.  Just need to keep my energy up.


I went to the Baduk Club this afternon and played a game against [Clockless2].  I call him Clockless2 because he has a style of play that takes so BLOODY LONG.  Can you imagine playing a single game of chess or baduk or… well… I don’t know what– for over two hours?


I’m used to playing online games, where the way that game clock works, a game very seldom goes over 30 or 40 minutes.   As a result, I’m weaker against players who take their time– an example of another player was the club’s VP last year, [Clockless1].


Anyway, Clockless 2 beat me at a game a few weeks ago and I was pretty surprised– just a few months ago when the semester started, I was able to beat him with a handicap.  For him to beat me in an even game?  Totally shocking– it was bad for my morale, because it just demonstrated how little time I’d been dedicating to baduk because of all these school and work commitments.



But well– I played him today again, and beat him by komi (less than 6.5 points of difference). 


Sweet, sweet revengeance!!



Work Hard, Play Harder

Since I finished my Business Associations essay Monday afternoon, about 10 minutes before the due time, things have gotten a bit easier academically.  Not easier in other ways though.  All the other things in life were put on hold while I was getting the major school and some clerkship deadlines taken care of.


I went to the baduk club and played a game against [Chairman] (a reference to Mao)– when I’m playing properly, he shouldn’t be able to beat me.  But I was rather upset– during that game, I commited about 5 unforced errors, whereas he made about 2.  By unforced errors, I mean mistakes that you make not because of strategy or reading ahead– I mean something obvious that you should have been normally been able to do.  It’d be getting a free shot in basketball and not being able to shoot– it’s a complete loss of an opportunity that, by all means, shouldn’t even be conceptualised as a bonus, but should rather be framed as a basic prerequisite type duty. 


Anyway, it just goes to show that aside from the fact that most people at the baduk club are getting stronger, I’m getting rusty and weaker.  When I first joined the club a couple of years ago, I wasn’t one of the stronger players– in fact, I was one of the weakest.  I climbed to the top because I would play about a game every two days online, if not in person.  Nowadays, I play aboug a game per week, which is barely enough to keep rust from accumulating.  In contrast, the other members are playing 3-4 games per week.


I guess I should be happy– that means that they’re getting something out of this club!  But few things are as annoying to me as feeling others pulling ahead.


Judo feels the same.  I haven’t been to judo in about 2 weeks, but went to the advanced class again on Tuesday.  I found out that 11 of the whitebelts from the beginners’ class have now been promoted to my ranking as well.  Man, I miss the undergrad days when I had so much free time.  Or college– when I skipped 75% of my classes to go training at Senshido gym with [Terminator].




It was good to go.


Midterms and, worse, finals, always get me into this certain mode.  It’s a lot like being under seige or something.  As soon as I handed in my last essay, it was as if the news had just come over the radio that war was over– the clouds parted and suddenly, I felt exhausted. 


And hungry.

Turns out that my weight dropped to 65kg because I’d basically been subsisting for the entire weekend on meal replacement shakes and rice crackers.

The Fundamental Question

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”

The Last Crusade

At that point, the nazi shoots Sean Connery in the stomach.

“So, Dr. Jones (Harrison Ford)… if you want to save your father, find the Holy Grail.”

…or something like that.

We had VHS, and my mom had friends at work, sometimes who had two VHSes video machines, so that meant that they could copy tapes for us.  It didn’t happen often, but for the movies that we did have, I cherished them.

Before my college days when my outlook on life came to be defined by shonen tales and bildungsromans, my life started off idolising adventure:  Swinging across chasms of snakes and fire with a bullship; dueling with lightsabres at the ends of the galaxy; flying to Neverland on nothing but faith.  Compounded with my uncles comic book collection, there was probably always the understanding that nothing in real life would ever be quite so fantastic– but there was nothing stopping me from trying.  ANy  little fantasy in life that I could play out would be an objectively small, but subjectively priceless.

The Holy Grail in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade is one of the most fanstastic items that I have ever come across in all my years of childhood (which I extend to underlap even my adult life).

It represents the ability to keep things as they are.  Not that kind of situation where someone asks you “would you like to be 18 again?” because, really, I wouldn’t.  

“Would you like to be 18 again, if you could take with you what you have now?”

Hmm… maybe.  Maybe if I had the mind of my 18 year old self, who, at the time, was only concerned about getting better at Jeet Kune Do.

But on the whole?  Would I give up all the experiences I’ve had until now, just to be able to start again at a certain point?

Probably not.

There are many points in my life that have been good, and many times that have been bad, but on the whole– I would no more go back in time than I would commit suicide.  

And what is suicide, really?  To me– it’s putting an end to all experiences.  It’s a decision that the pain of seeking out more outweighs what I could get out of the process.  And I don’t feel that.  I don’t feel that at all.

It’s one thing to go back in time out of curiosity, or because you don’t remember.  It’s another thing entirely to go back because you feel regret– that you could have or should have done something different.

I don’t like story arcs with time travel– it gets too messy with time travel and those kinds of things.  But what I do like, from The Last Crusade, is the idea that I can live forever– because who I am now is who I am. I can’t change that.  I don’t have to be proud of it, because it’s not necessarily an acheivement.  But I shouldn’t feel guilty about it– because if that were the case, I’d constantly be living to the dictates of something in the past.

That might be why I’m constantly bothered by the fact that I’m about a hundred thousand dollars in debt.   Debt is a lot like guilt, except that it doesn’t go away just because you decide to feel confident about yourself.  It is, however, a representation in some way or another of something you must do because of something in the past.

I’m slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that debt should not be guilt.  You might think this should be pretty easy– but for someone who grew up under a pretty tight family, my conception of “owing” gives it quite a bit of weight.

Ironically, studying law has helped me sort that out a bit– borrowing money isn’t wrong, so long as it’s contractually agreed upon by both sides.  It’s a means to an end.

Getting over the guilt of being about a hundred thousand dollars in debt has not been easy, but it has been necessary for me to enjoy enough quality of life to keep myself sane.

I just finished an essay for one of my classes, Business Associations.  It was only 2000 words, but given that I had other midterms, and I was working pretty heavily on clerkship things, I really only managed to start working on   Sauturday, even though it was due Monday at 4pm.  No matter how you look at it, 2 days and something isn’t really a lot of time to get a research paper done.

But when it gets done, it’s done– I get this sense, not of relief, but more akin to triumph: here’s me, and here’s the world.  The world tried to kick me down, but I got through it.  I survived.

And while it might not be glamorous– slaving away in front of a laptop for two days straight without proper food or sleep never is– it is glorious, because that’s what life is: glorious, compared to the alternative.

My greatest fear is that some day, all my adventures will come to an end.  I wish there were such a thing as the Holy Grail– not because I want to be able to turn back time and fix whatever regrets I might have– but because I want to be able to keep going forward.

I often forget my age.  Someone at judo  a couple of weeks ago thought I was kidding when I said I was 30 years old– he thought I was early twenties.  Awwww, shucks.  (“Just because I can throw you around doesn’t mean I’m young!”)   But maybe that’s because I’m at a stage in my life where, despite all the shit that goes on, I keep finding reasons to justify going another day. 

There might be a difference here– when I was in my twenties, I had no purpose in life. I was trying to sort out who I wanted to be, but I had no idea of the mechanisms or the pathways to figure that out.  So I was just there idling, and being egocentric, and jumping on any interesting opportunities that fell into my lap.

At my current state, I feel like I have a very good idea of who I want to be, and a better idea of how to get there.  As a result, I’m pretty busy– but those few things that I make time for, I treat them as lifelines that keep me grounded as a person.


From an outside view, there’s probably no difference– because that just means that when I do things, I do them with energy and conviction.  If I am somewhere, it’s because I want to be there.


Largely, I think this is probably one of those things that I’ve become better at– managing how much trouble I get myself into. I mean, a lot of the times, we have the ability to make choices in our lives about what we want to get ourselves into.  Sometimes, we get into things that we don’t enjoy, and that’s okay for a bit.  But we must never forget that at the end of the day, time is limited and we should only do things that we can really attribute worthwhileness to. 

Even lacking the Grail, we still must go forward.

Get rid of seatbelt laws!

Needing to wear seatbelts makes people perceive driving as dangerous, which deters people from driving.

People don’t like seatbelts, and this deters people from driving.

Seatbelts, if used incorrectly, cause more harm than they prevent.



Get rid of seatbelts: and more people will buy cars!  Stimulate the economy!  At the same time, there will be so much traffic that you would never reach sufficient speeds to have a dangerous car accident anyway.  And the bikes will be safer!