dal niente

Month: September, 2013

Applying myself

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It just struck me how, word for word, rejection letters in a fictional comic, from a different culture, translated from a Japanese, are almost identical to what I actually get in Australia.

The world is becoming a smaller place in unexpected ways.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I am switching strategies lately. [DilligentB], who I will henceforth refer to as [Matlock], pointed out that I probably don’t have that many classes left before I complete my degree. You’d be surprised–I know I constantly am– but I easily lose track of things like that. Details, details, right? I’m always so focused on just finishing papers that are in front of me that I don’t really plan anything more than a week in advance.

Usually, mid-semester breaks totally sneak up on me. So do final exams. Anyways, I checked with student services and it turns out that I am quite close to finishing after all– after I complete this semester, all I need are two more 6 credit elective classes, and one more 4 unit elective class. That basically means two normal classes and one thesis paper.

What this means is that I can now initiate a new plan for getting a job– which is to finish my degree during December/January (the summer school semester here, in between the normal semesters) instead of in June 2014. That skips me ahead by several months and makes me eligible to apply for Graduate positions right now.

I’ve already handed in one application, but it’s a tough system. Unlike the clerkship programs that firms normally offer, graduate positions aren’t nearly as well advertised. You basically have to trawl through the websites of the firms one by one and see if you can find some openings. Most firms perfer clerkships for getting their next generation of employees, so not all firms offer graduate positions. Also, graduate intakes aren’t in any way regulated the way clerkships are, so applications can open up at any time, without any warning, and close at any time, at the discretion of the firm.

I’m finishing another application tonight, and then will start trawling for the next possibility.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I’m not gonna lie– I’m feeling pretty burnt out. I spent all my energy with the clerkship process thining that it was going to be the final push, and that it would all pay off. The actual result is much like being in a boxing match, feeling you’ve got the opponent on the ropes, and going for the finisher– only to find that you hit nothing but air, and eat the biggest cross counter you’ve ever tasted. In what might have been a bit of arrogance at getting so many first round interviews, I built up expectations that I would probably be home free. Emotionally, without even really saying it out loud, I think that’s what I expected. So when I didn’t make it, I didn’t make it.

It’s been trying because it took me about a week to recover mentally from that, and then I managed to tell myself– it’s okay. There’s always next year. I know I said that also last year, but that’s what life is: playing the hands you’re dealt.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

So it came a bit as a surprise to find out that I can actually apply for grad positions right now. It caught me off guard, and I know this sounds kind of lame, but I’m not mentally prepared for another opportunity yet.

But well– I’m still kicking and punching. I finished one application last week– that took me about four days. Today, I hope to finish one more– which will have totally four days as well. There’s a fellowship position at the school that I want to apply for as well, and I need to get in gear looking for more grad positions.

I feel that the whole mental strain of it all has made me lose a lot of agility– I just can’t mobilise as much fighting spirit as I did about three months ago. I’m still tough and determined, but I’m finding it hard to go on the offensive, and I fear that at the moment, I’m being too passive about this recent opportunity that has sprung up.

I just need to keep fighting.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

[CM] is in pretty bad shape sometimes as well. She’s always pretty burnt out around exams, but the thing this semester is that most Med students have already finished– because she’s opted to take the optional USMLE (an American standardized medical school test), she’s going into overtime. She has about one week to study for what most American schools give students 8 weeks to do– and she’s behind schedule, and has about 3 days of full studying potential remaining.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=–=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Yesterday while we were in bed and having trouble sleeping, CM and I had a good talk. Latey, we’ve been going through the full range of emotions in a day. I don’t think it’s exactly healthy, but this is just what happens when so much is on the line in such a short period of time. There’s a hella lot of micromanagement involved, which is why things are so tiresome. Nothing is automatically easy. Every litte thing must be won though a push.

She told me yesterday that I’m a very “normal” person, in that sometimes, she simply feels that she’s “crazy.” I can’t deny that– her range of moods and their intensity are certainly a force to be reckoned with! But I love her, and I’m going to stick by her. She’s more emotional than I am, but that’s probably why we’re in this together– because she brings the feelings into my life that make me more human than I was before I met her.

The normalcy that she speaks of, she describes it as a calm that I have that makes it seem like am not affected by anything. While it’s true that I think I mentally tougher than most, I don’t think I’m invulnerable– I just have adverse situations down to a routine to the point where I don’t need to get emotionally involved in them anymore.

I think when I was younger, when bad things happened, I’d worry, I’d be afraid, I’d be unable to enjoy anything else in my life. Right now?

I’m not worried really, nor am I afraid. And hell, I enjoy reading mangas, playing video games, and doing judo. Hell, I even enjoy going to school and going to class! I enjoy plenty of things!

The only thing that changes is that the compartmentalisation of what would otherwise be mental bombshells is that I’m just tired. I don’t feel consciously stressed– I just know that I don’t have the fervor to take on the things that I might reasonably know that I want to take on.

Doing the things I like is, in part, procrastination. But on the other hand, I know myself enough to know that it serves a greater purpose too– and that is the mental recovery from stressful exertion. It might sound strange, but everytime I do something I enjoy, I enjoy it truly– it’s not an escapism from what I need to do. These leisure activities are irresponsible acts only superficially– and as childish as people often tell me they seem, they’re actually really important, and they’re what separate me from people who are less “normal” and more “crazy.” The only difference is that I admit that I need to take time to do mental maintenance from time to time, and I make no apologies about it. It is time that I owe myself.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The real challenges in life are when you ask more of yourself than what you can actually do.

Me complaining that I don’t feel up to it right now– it’s not that I’m totally depressed or unwilling to do it. It’s just that, after clerkships, I really feel that I earned myself so “me” time– and I was only able to push through the toughest parts t full steam during the interviews because I thought I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I put off my own needs to get the job done, promising mysef that I’d pay myself back.

And now I’m trying to shortchange myself, because graduate applications are open.

At one level, I guess I’m sort of asking myself another favour, another “this is the last time, I swear!” but the thing is, I know me. I don’t need to look around me and see how dysfunctional people get when they don’t take the time to relax and take things easy. I know me– and I know how much time I owe myself.

I also know that I’m a fighter, and that pushing through this too won’t kill me.

I just worry that I might not recognise how far past my limits I’ve pushed myself, and I fear that I might lose myself in the process.

SIgnpost

I don’t feel like implementing Soullfire’s idea for Xanga tags in all my posts, but I thought I should put at least one post that had Xanga tags in it so that people could find me. Here it is. Bump.

Thoughts on Facebook

I use facebook as a messenger platform nowadays, mostly because everyone I know is on Facebook.  Most usefully, this includes the people that I know but don’t know (or want to know) well enough to give them my email or phone number.  When you’re randomly looking up that one person who has a specific role to play in your life for that specific ability or thing that you want to borrow or whatever, Facebook is the easy way for me to find people.  It’s also convenient that my mobile phone carrier doesn’t charge bandwidth for any Facebook related data.

I also use it because it serves a pretty important hub function for certain activity groups… on one hand, there’s the work that I do for the Law Society that pretty much requires that I use Facebook.  The Baduk club also uses Facebook because it’s convenient.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I used to upload all my pictures on Facebook, and post pretty much everything online. Nowadays… hardly ever.  I’m not sure when I decided that I would do a full 180 and become a reclusive netizen.  I think it’s just that there are so many people linked in my network of friends and whatnots that I’ve given up trying to manage my public image.  It’s important, I think, because of employment concerns.

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There’s  irony when someone writes an article about how so many facebook relationships are empty and ultimately add nothing to our lives– and then that article gets linked on facebook.

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I think some people know how to “use” facebook really well.  Essentially, it’s a marketing tool.  You use it to build up a public perception of you, and in some degree to bump yourself periodically to the forground of others’ attention so that when they think of something that involves people, they will have that increased chance of thinking of you and how you might fit into their situation.

That’s all good and well… like professional marketing, there’s a time and place for it, and it is undoubtedly useful in the right contexts.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Some people really do just like sharing things about themselves.  So they’ll put up photos and little snippets of thoughts and links to things… but really, I think it’s actually just a newer form of blogging.

Blogging is really an act of self definition, more than it is one of self exposition.  At least, that’s what it is to me. I put my thoughts out there mostly because I like to read what I wrote and see if it makes sense to me, or gives me any sort of insight into how I think.

Facebook posting is much the same– except that it doesn’t require so much of the technique of writing.  There are other techniques, like uploading photos and linking things.  Then, in retrospect, the character of the photos and the things linked might congregate to give some impression of what the person is like.

I suppose that’s the main reason why I’ve been such a facebook luddite lately.  The thing about blogging is that, for the most part, people don’t know that I have this blog.  This allows me to discuss myself without too much of a limitation on what I want to say, and it allows me to paint a more accurate picture of myself that goes the full ranges: from confidence to despair; from sadness to happiness; from hate to love; and all those other things.

WIth something as public as facebook, it just seems impossible for me to completely publicise everything associated with my real name.   Not that I’d be reluctant to say anything about anything if you asked me– but the depths of my thoughts are either reserved for anonymous posting, or reserved for people who take the time to ask them to me to my face and care about my answer.

A Plan to Restore the “Xanga Style” Community on “Free” WordPress

Soullfire

(Note: This is a “Pinned Blog” – newer blogs below this one)

Soullfire is Bringing Sexy Community Back** Former Xangans – Like and Reblog if you support this idea ** It’s been close to a month OVER SIX MONTHSA YEAR TWO YEARS since Xanga has launched it’s “updated” “Xanga 2.0”, driven with the WordPress engine, and it’s still operating well below the “free” WordPress state. The “community” that was, disappeared with the end of Xanga 1.0 with the loss of free blogging, along with all of “1.0’s” community centric features like having a front page, ring groups, and general areas where users could find each other and congregate. Xanga has given no updates – so no one over there knows how long the “non community” condition will last. Many former Xangans like myself have moved their general blogging over to “free” WordPress but are also feeling a general…

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Trusty Steed

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This bike travels about 100 km per week. 2 or 3 times a week, it carries about 10 litres of groceries.

I just tuned the rear deraileur and changed the brakes. I would like to clean the chain a bit better because it’s totally caked with dirt and grease. I did re oil it, but I can’t do a good job out of it without a chain cleaning tool. (I used a stick and took a totally gross amount of road dirt out of the deraileur already, it’s been a long time since I had time to run maintenance. Shameful.)

Its been a long time since I did any maintenance on bike. Back in Montreal, I used to do maintenance every spring for my summer bikes before the snow would melt, and on a weekly basis for my winter bike. Here in Sydney though, it’s always warm enough to ride so there is no “time to take it out of the shed” sort of trigger to remind me to tune things.

With this bike though, it’s the first mid range priced bike that I bought, and frankly, its easy to forget about maintaining it because it just runs smoothly without complaints. It was a good choice to shell out some extra cash to get this bike over cheaper alternatives. In the past, I have only ever used older second hand bikes for commuting, for fear of having them stolen. (Even for second hand bikes, I’ve had 3 stolen in Montreal during my lifetime so far). Sydney is relatively safe for bikes. Probably because the nice weather has people with a lot more expensive bikes in general– my strategy is usually to park next to them. It’s a sort of urban camouflage.

I had forgotten how much I love getting my hands dirty and tinkering with bikes. I do miss the full set of tools that I had back in my Dad’s garage though.

Fortress of the Will

I don’t remember if I mentioned, but a couple of weeks ago at judo, I took a bad fall in judo.  My opponent was a good 40 pounds lighter than me (a bit under 20kg lighter) and at least a foot shorter than me.  He attempted a one-arm shoulder throw, ippon seoi nage.  This is one of the classic basic throws of judo– my opponent spins around in front of me with control of my right sleeve or lapel using his left arm, hooks his right arm under my right armpit, and does a forward twisting motion that should theoretically cast me over his right shoulder in a high arc, with me flipping forward and landing on my back.

 

There’s a few components to a throw– the first is the off-balancing of the opponent; the second is the entry to get your body into position for the throw (usually placing yourself in a good fulcrum position); and finally, the execution of the throw.

 

My pretty good for the first two elements– but execution of the throw is where it went all wrong.  Instead of him sending me over his back and flipping over him, he lost his balance halfway through execution.  The result was that I half side-dodged to avoid his throw, but at the same time, was half sprawled over him as we fell, because he didn’t let go of my arm.  Normally in a competition situation, this would be a failed throw because I didn’t land on my back or on my side.  But regardless, the way we fell with him still hanging on to my arm, I wasn’t able to break my fall.

Imagine doing a one armed right handed pushup– now imagine both of your legs are pointing about 30 degrees upwards, instead of towards the floor.  And then imagine that the vector of your force is forward, as if you are about to plow the ground with your face.  Now imagine that your left hand can’t help you (it’s blocked by his body) and that you can’t really chose how to absorb your impact with your right arm (because he’s got it locked in with both of his) and there’s no angle for you to tuck your head and roll.  WHat happens in this situation?

 

Well, in my whole case, my whole body weight landed on my right arm, and the weakest link was somewhere in my shoulder.

 

From what I have manged to gather from my visit to the physio last week, and reading up on the subject, and having [CM] do various physical tests on me, my condition is more than likely known as a shoulder impingement due to some complaints of the supraspinatus tendon.  To give you an idea of what this entails practically, it’s difficult for me to find the strength to raise my right arm to scratch my left shoulder if my right elbow is shoulder height.  Anything where my right forearm is parallel to the ground and left to right in front of me is kind of difficult.

The interesting thing is that a lot of the motion is covered by other larger muscles– so if I move my arm quickly in one fluid motion, I can put my right arm in those positions I just mentioned.  However, if I do the motion slowly, I might find that I have a lot of difficulty doing it.  This is because the large muscles don’t engage for slow movements unless the brain feels they’re needed– and the brain usually only feels they’re needed for larger more quick motions.

 

 

Being the former hospital employee that I am with limited medical training, I’ve been doing what most people of my experience do when they think something is wrong– be a cyberchondriac about it, and spend a day self-diagnosing myself.  I’m really grateful for Youtube, actually– there’s a lot of information that’s so quickly available, and of a pretty high calibre quality, that is helping me understand my problem in ways that my physiotherapist just wasn’t all that good at explaining.  Getting the same information from several different perspectives makes it easier than just reading the one or two paragraphs of my flatmates’ highly technical medical textbooks.

 

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

I’m not sure how I feel about knowing what’s wrong with my shoulder though.  It will heal, no problem. It’ll take time.

 

But every time I get sick or injured, it’s just my habit: I feel mentally worn out.  I can say with a lot of confidence that I am a lot better at dealing with physical injuries and sickness than most people I know– I’m quite “tough” really.  But the fact of the matter is, I also go through a lot more injuries than the average person.  Which means that despite my higher level of physical activities, depending on how you evalutate “health” I may not be better off than the average person.

 

If we think of health in terms of biochemistry, body fat ratios and and cardiovascular endurance, then I suppose, yeah, I’m in great shape.

But if you were to think of health in terms of having a well-rounded body that is suited for all rounder use, I might actually score as unhealthy.  Acute injuries are one thing.  But I’ve got a pretty long list of in-between and downright chronic conditions, especially when it comes to joints.  This most recent supraspinatus injury is the most recent installment in a history of tears and strains to my right rotator cuff from all that badminton, especially when I was trying to improve my smash power.

 

I know that bumps and bruises are all part of growing up.  And it is true that a lot of my fellow orange belts in judo are mostly ten years younger than me.  But I have almost two decades of fighting experience at this point– and when this all started, I never would have suspected that it would all take so much of a toll on my body.

The experiences have been invaluable.  Both in terms of badminton and martial arts.  But having been able to train myself so hard in the past, I suppose it’s ridiculous that I’m only 31 years old and I feel like I’m reaching certain peaks in terms of physical condition.  Yes, I can improve on my mental game, on techniques and strategies– and I think, largely, this is what differentiates my style of judo from the other orange belts.  But I do not feel that my body is getting any stronger.  I mean, I’m certain I am getting stronger overal– but the weakest links in my physical strength are gradually getting worse.  I take an injury that shaves off 10 hit points from some part of me. I heal up and recover, but it only ever restores 9.9999 points.  Rinse and repeat.

 

I suppose my big gripe is that I have always believed in an interrelatedness between mind, body and spirit– but if the body starts to grow weak, where will I house my mind and spirit?

 

I’m probably getting ahead of myself though. I’ve still got a few more decades of ability left before I’m reduced to the  “average” person’s standards of physical wellness.  I don’t have to figure out how to deal with aging in just a day.

Civilization 5

I recently have been playing Civilization 5, since I’ve run out of PS3 games to play.  Civ games in generally are pretty fun.  I used to play the older Civs on PC years ago, but the most time I spent was playing FreeCiv (a Linux version of the game).  I love hex-based strategy games– from my start back ages ago with Panzer General and Allied General, I think these games are what got me into military history.

I was looking into a mobile version of the game, and came accross some interesting reviews.

I loved this game but After the last few upgrades there has been a serious bug in the system…
I noticed that my opponents was advancing at a incredibly fast rate making it impossible to win.
A challenge is nice but sudden Matrix abilities is ridiculous.
I played one game and suddenly they had a galleon at 3400 BC??!?
Cruisers at 2000 bc???
Huh?
My opponents are on the moon before Christ was born!
This game is now screwed up.
At first I thought I needed to purchase the extra features… So I reluctantly did it..
Now it’s even worse!
If my opponent has Matrix abilities, so should I….
The game is currently NOT playable!

 

That said… the PC version of Civilisation 5 is one of the buggiest PC games I’ve ever played.  It’s got a lot of great concepts, but the gameplay experience is really lacking in a number of ways.  It’d be akin to having all awesome stuff of a high performance car under the hood, but then the car’s actual look is terrible, like all rusted, and the steering wheel and seat are super uncomfortable.  Seriously– fixing bugs and smoothing out gameplay through beta testing is the easy part.  You’ve already got the difficult conceptual parts done– all you had to do was take the extra little while to really polish it!  Instead, Civ 5, despite being one of the more fun strategy games out there, gets a downgraded score in my book because the gameplay experience is simply illogical or infuriating at times.

 

Among some of my gripes:

  • There is absolutely no reason why a turn based strategy game of graphics like Civ 5 should be more of a system strain than a beautiful RTS like Starcraft II.  That’s just nuts.  I’m not a programmer, but it smells like lazy coding or something.
  • The shortcut keys are so arbitrary– some units have single letter commands, others have ALT or CTRL commands.
  • If you click something while it’s not your turn and are unlucky enough that it becomes your turn while you were checking something out, the screen might scroll with you in “move mode” or “attack mode” and the next thing you know, you’ll me marching someone off to their death.
  • The “Next Turn” button doesn’t always actually mean the end of your turn.
  • Clicking the “Next Event” button doesn’t always immediately work– sometimes it lags so much that you can do entire other actions, then suddenly you’re getting spammed to death by Stockholm saying that they want you to build a road to their city or something. And you’ll get that message X amount of times, where X is the amount of times you clicked the button just hoping to get the next turn button.
  • What’s up with workers building road mazes?  Are they drinking on the job or something? Can’t trust auto-workers.
  • AI is a huge pain in the ass– higher difficulties doesn’t atually make the opponents smarter or more strategic.  It just gives them mathematical advantages that are, at some points, absolutely game breaking (see the above review of the mobile version).
  • Diplomacy with AI opponents could have been seriously improved.  As it stands, dimplomacy is mostly a waste of time because all the AI players are complete egomaniacs.
  • In game hints (the mouseover descriptions) are often pretty badly or ambiguously worded, so you’re not quite sure what the actual effect of something is.
  • There needs to be some method of understanding ranged combat terrain modifiers.  Nothing worse than positioning things around a mountain or forest and then figuring out that you can’t actually use artilery on a city below, but they can fire at you.
  • Oh GOD if you’re going to make a game this addictive, at least put in more music!

 

Despite all that, the game is still pretty fun I guess.

Connecting the Dots

What goes on in my head every now and then when I don’t want to bike to school.

 

 

Commuting by Car

  • Cons: Situational: Need to own a car first
  • Cons: Situational: Need to have a driving license (I don’t)
  • Cons: Economic: Car Insurance, bleagh!
  • Cons: Environmental concerns of using a fossil fuel
  • Cons: Environmental concerns of the car itself, and the fact that it’s simply very hard to get rid of a car once you’re done with it
  • Cons: Road rage
  • Cons: Economic: Car value depreciates really quickly
  • Cons: Psychological: I’d probably be too tempted to speed and try and drift, based on my experience in videogaming.  That, and due to cycling and gaming, I am unable, from experience, to have myself anywhere but centered in a vehicle (as opposed to right or left hand drive).
  • Cons: Economic: Parking
  • Pros: Convenience of deciding when and where I want to go and being able to act on it.

Commuting by Public Transport

  • Pros: Much better lifting capacity than a bike
  • Pros: Less sweat than a bike
  • Pros: Cheaper than a car overall
  • Cons: Still relatively expensive in Sydney compared to other public transportation jurisdictions.
  • Cons: Unreliability of service.
  • Pros: Environmental: Better efficiency than a car
  • Cons: Having to sit with humans shoulder to shoulder, or to stand with other humans armpit to armpit

Commuting by Bike

  • Cons: Rain. Snow.  Headwind.
  • Cons: Requires significant amounts of food.
  • Cons: Health: Safety is markedly reduced compared to public transport or a car.
  • Pros: Health: Keeps my weight down.
  • Pros: Economic: Saves me the price of a gym membership.
  • Pros: Significantly faster than public transport during most situations (usually half the time of public transport during rush hour, and at least as fast as public transport during off-peak hours)
  • Pros: Environmental: Almost no impact
  • Pros: Fun factor
  • Pros: Training carries over to other activities
  • Pros: Health: Low impact method of significantly reducing my risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Pros: Economic: Parking
  • Cons: Economic: Park anywhere you want and the bike might get stolen.
  • Pros: Beating other cyclists with better bikes up hills
  • Cons: Road rage
  • Cons: Getting “doored”
  • Cons: People jaywalk right into you without looking because they assume if they don’t hear a car that they’re safe.

A Quote by Me

Wise words

Xanga 2.0 Review: The Incredible Shrinking Xanga

Soulfire’s got a pretty comprehensive look at the whole Xanga drama, which many former Xangans can’t help but love to hate.

Soullfire

1957-TheIncredibleShrinkingManGreat1_Xanga_jpeg

Xanga has reached the two week mark of its return as “Xanga 2.0” and not much has changed in improving user functionality.  It continues to operate far below what “Free WordPress” offers.

Summary of Xanga 2.0 w/WordPress engine issues:

1) Not able to directly comment on replies. You can leave a comment on a blog, but not directly reply to a comment made. The exception to this is if the comment is made on your blog, you can reply using the WP dashboard feature, but it’s not intuitive, nor convenient.

2) Your username isn’t “linked” (clickable) to your website- which means someone has to formally type out your full Xanga address to get to your site if they wish to visit on seeing a comment made.  There’s a workaround for this, but again, it’s inconvenient and non intuitive, as well as a potential security risk.

3) Spotty notification of replies…

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