dal niente

Month: March, 2014

Weekend Jobs

It is amazing how when one little thing breaks down, and suddenly nobody knows how to think anymore.  You’d think that Pandemonium had just sprung out in the courtyard outside or something.

Phone lines in the office don’t seem to be working today. Which is unfortunate– since 80% of what I am paid to do at this casual job is done over the phone.  Instead, I’m spending the day texting messages to clients instead.  This is pretty much the same situation for my 13 other coworkers handling data this weekend.

 

I can’t help but feel like it is like communicating by

Mo o o o orse

to that

Ho o o o orse

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Freedom to be Structured

Lately, I’ve had a lot more “home time” than ever before.  I’m in my final semester of law school, with a 4-credit (4000-5000 word) thesis paper to write.  I’m also doing College of Law PLT, which is a 15 week online course with 2 more weeks of onsite work.  Right now, I’m working on a final paper for a summer class that I finished back in January.

 

I am living in a pretty good apartment.  Although I’m in massive debt, I’m not hurting for cash any time soon and my quality of life is generally pretty good.

 

The irony is that, now that I have a largely self-directed day to work on whatever I want, I find that I don’t have the discipline to do so very often.  There are definitely things that I need to do– I need to keep writing papers and job applications– but I have such a hard time doing these things, even though they’re not inherently difficult.

The problem, quite frankly, is sloth.  I don’t think I can really describe it any other way.  Or maybe I’m a bit burnt out.

The highest work output I generate lately is at judo– and that’s because when I’m at a class, the structure and the agenda is right there. I don’t get to decide what I have to do– someone tells me what we’re working on.  That, or someone starts trying to strangle me and, well, I kind of naturally decide that I don’t want that to happen, so I fight back.

 

But being at home? Staring at a word processor and PDF files day after day?  It is much easier being strangled.

I’m definitely in a better state of mind now that [CM] is back from Canada– but I am just kind of surprised at my own motivation levels when I’m taken outside of the structure of the workplace and academia.  Everyone wants to be free– but without a social environment, I find that my motivation is lower.  That’s not to say I’m not working on it– I’m a lot more diciplined now than I was a couple of months ago, and this is only because I’ve been forcing myself to get shit done.  I just think it’s a rather nuanced irony that, given freedom, I would opt for structure.

50 Shades of Grey

I ran two of my favourite bags through the washing machine the other day.  One of them is a North Face hiking hip-bag, which is big enough for me to wear as a sling bag.  I’ve been using this thing since college– meaning that this bag has been faithfully in service for about 14 years now.  The bag now look brand new– it’s the original colour again. I don’t know why I never washed it.  The only thing that’s worn out are the little elastic string ties used to hold a bottle into the holsters.  Other than that though, it looks like I just bought it.  I’ve often been dissapointed by the North Face “urban” lines of bags– that is to say, North Face branding on what are essentially schoolbags or day packs. I just find that somewhere in the late 90s, that class of bags was just all about branding without all the real durability that you’d expect from such an expensive bunch of bags.  But this hip bag has really been one of the toughest bags I’ve ever used.  After years of service with all sorts of things strapped to it, including poster tubes, gis, shoes, and badminton rackets; this same bag has circumnavigated the globe with me more than three times.   A wash has it looking like it’s a current model.  There are several pictures of me from younger days wearing this bag on various badminton courts, in school, at airports, and in foreign countries.

Similarly, there’s a Da-Kine messenger bag which I bought my sister from South Korea, which a few years later, I took back since she wasn’t using it.  Looks brand new.

 

Like I said– not sure why I never got around to washing these things sooner than this.  They just look way better like this.

 

Now, if only I could get these permanent taints out of my white gi– there’s patches from dried blood, dead skin, and dye from various coloured boxing gloves that just don’t come out no matter how much soap or javel I use.

 

I guess it doesn’t totally matter what they look like– having something look ragged probably potentially invokes old war stories and nostalgia.  But looking dirty probably never helped anyone, and perhaps these things deserve a bit more respect for their long service?

Motivational Tampons: NO

alwayscoffee

            Now, anyone who has known me for five minutes can tell you: I am not a violent person. I’m not prone to throwing things, punching people, or flipping out for no reason. But you know how there are certain situations that add insult to injury? Your hackles raise, and you might fly off the handle a bit? Well, this morning, I find myself in just such a situation.

            First, they arrived with a smiley face, and I did not say a word. Now, they’re come with inspirational sayings, and I can’t keep quiet any longer. TMI: I have my period. As such, I grabbed a handful of tampons this morning. Maybe I’ve been living under a blissful, chocolate-laden rock – but when in the holy hell of Ohio’s hellmouth did tampon companies start writing motivational saying on tampon wrappers? I mean, they are aware…

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My life as a role playing game

Went to the physiotherapist today.  First time back in that place since November.  December was in Hong Kong working, January was me doing intensive summer classes, February was more summer classes, March was my practical legal training (licensing) course, and … wait. It’s still march.  Wow where did those last 4 months just go?

 

For those of you who have problems with joints, I highly recommend spending the time to find a good physiotherapist.  It’s actually quite difficult, because they’re really hit or miss.  Some of them baby you too much and don’t explain to you what’s going on with your body or why you’re doing whatever exercises you’re doing.  Some of them are too technical.  Some of them just want to make money.  But if you find one that’s just right? Stick with them.

I know a lot of you people out there like to go to chiropractors and take herbal medicine and all that, but I’m very much wary of those sorts of things– I’m sure there are a few good people out there, but the idea of having someone crank parts of my body or taking chemicals (natural or not) without any recognised clinical evidence is a really not a good idea.

 

Physiotherapy is a lot like going to the gym, or signing up for a yoga class– except that there’s a focus on understanding specific muscles and ligaments, and how small things can really throw a wrench / spanner in the works.  I’ve had personal trainers in gyms before, and sure– they’ll give you a program to make your body look good.  But will they give you an actually functionally balanced body?

I’ve only been doing physiotherapy for the past year or so, but the results have been great.  About half a year ago, I severely damaged my surpraspinatus (part of the rotator cuff) to the point where opening doors that had those hyradulic auto-close-behind-you things on them was actually difficult.  Even brushing my teeth with an electric toothbrush was painful.  And while sure, time heals everything, one of the major themes that goes through physio is that your body doesn’t always heal things in the right way.

Since my rotator cuff injury, I’ve rebalanced my shoulders.  Plural.  Not only does my dominant right arm (the injured one) work almost as good as before the injury, but I’m confident that I’ve rebalanced the muscles throughout the shoulder so that the liklihood of that injury reoccuring has substnatially diminished.  As good measure, I’ve also been working the left shoulder so that it can enjoy the wisdom obtained by his brother.

My most recent injury was to my knee.  I’ve always had problematic knees, ever since high school– volleball and Jeet Kune Do was terrible for them.  But about three weeks ago, while doing some groundwork at an Orientation Week club demonstration, my overzealous partner did something weird. I heard some rice crispies noises (snap, crackle, pop) and next day, I couldn’t walk without a cane.

I thought it was a lateral collateral ligament from self-diagonising myself with youtube, but the physio did some tests and set the record straight– wasn’t too far off the mark, but he says it’s an illiotibiial band sprain.  The good news is that since I’ve been working my ITB since about a half year ago, I’m already mostly doing what I need to do to rehabilitate this knee. In fact, even though the injury was 3 weeks ago and I haven’t had the time to see him until now, the fact that I’ve been doing knee related exercises and streches consistently during the injured time is probably why today I can already run and do judo.  Otherwise put, my usual physio routine has made my recovery time signifiacantly shorter.

 

My knee still isn’t perfect, but my point is that the physiothearpy solution to knee problems makes a hella lot more sense than some of the things that chiropractors and herabalists claim.  Yank my knee this way or that way? Make me eat glucossamine?

 

Knee pain is usually due to ligaments or tendons getting inflammed, caught or rubbing in places that they shouldn’t due to lack of flexibility or a disbalanace of antagonistic muscles. So the solution to a knee problem isn’t to just hit it until it works they way you want it to, nor is it to take some pills to kill the pain or magically regenerate cartilege.  It has to do with fixing the machinery that stabilises the knee to begin with.

 

In my case, my right knee is supported by a weak gluteus maxius, an overpowered hamstring, a really tight hip flexor, and a really tight ITB.  So what I need to do is basically stretch all of the above, and work that glute more.

It’s interesting how when the physio pointed it out, the muscle development on my right leg is significantly different from the development of my left leg– you can feel it just by touching.

 

 

In the past, I’ve thought of calling it quits— stopping martial arts altogether due to acumulated injuries and creaks and groans.  But physio?  Physio has unlcoked this entirely new gaming experience for me– in which I get to customise and balance a character who happens to be me.

It has somewhat changed my outlook on life completely.  The problem with any game is that once you beat it, you don’t pick it up again.  Things go obsolete and that’s that.  But suddenly?  Suddenly I’ve discovered that not only can I work on the world around me– but I can actually work on myself.  And that’s an interesting revelation.  

 

Although it was my shoulder that I injured about 6 months ago, at the time I did ask him about my knee pains as well.  Since then, I’ve been working on rehabilitating my knees.  I’ve cut down on biking to balance out the muscle mass of my quads and calves.  I’ve stretched more dilligently, I’ve worked on deeper rangers of motion.  And the results?  The results show, and I can feel them.  Even with the recent injury, my knees are more stable now than they’ve been in years.

Nowadays, I treat the physio exercises like grinding away at a JRPG.  I’m putting points into specific muscle groups, either in strength of flexibility.  And then I’m keeping in mind how putting points into those stats affects the balance of the localised area, and how that local capability translates to the whole body’s dynamics.  Essentially, I am building a machine out of my own body, experimenting on the best builds and trying to find a setup that best works for what I need it to do.

As with gaming, I’ve been being consistent and miticulous.  I’ve been paying attention to the ranges of motion available to me; how much effort it takes to squat the same weight people at judo; how much time it takes to warm up a muscle group; how much it takes to make that area sore; and the kinds of injuries I get.

 

Yesterday, I did randori against a white belt.  He was 18 kilos heavier than me (about 30 pounds).  Not only that, but he’s a highly fit guy.  It’s the first time I do sparring since the knee injury, but it’s also been three weeks of very specifically intended work on balancing my body.  Even though I did the sparring left handed, and had my right leg back at all times (which means that I really only have particular left handed throws available) I was highly successful and never felt like I was out of my element.  The confidence of knowing that my body was working the way I wanted to work really counted for a lot– it meant that I could operate less violently and take my time. I didn’t need to take any extreme measures to will my way through tight situations– I just needed to use my muscles the way I could, say balanced and low, and do my job.  It’s true that he was a white belt– but even so, I think I’m pretty proud of myself to say that with one knee on the rehab list and doing everything on my non-dominant side, it is not a small thing to throw an 86 kilogram person down to the ground..

On the ground, I was doing groundwork with some other people and similarly did really well.  In a strange way, really paying attention to my body over the past month has given me a very different and new sense of confidence in sparring.  It’s a bit hard to describe.

 

I guess the easiest way of putting it is that in the past, a lot of my “substance” as a fighter has been iron will, or fighting spirit.  A lot of the other orange belts who started at the same time as me recgnise that the difference between me and them is that I’m not scared of any of them– and that gives them a reason to be afraid of me when we spar or compete against eachother.  That fighting spirit comes from being willing to hurt people.  I’m not saying I’m going to gouge out your eyes or something like that– but I am willing to throw you down, which is actually something that beginners in judo have a hard time developing.  It’s a sort of focused agression or killing instinct.

 

But lately, that energy has been changing.  I think, because I’m becoming more attuned to my own body and capabilities, there’s a gradual philosophical shift in the way I conduct myself.  Now, I’m seeking technical superiority.  I have enough willpower to match even some of the most agressive opponents– but now, I’m relying more on technical and leveral advantages.  I have a better understanding nowadays of the angles that my body works at and doesn’t work at– and that has given me better options and allowed me to make better choices in situations, trading up a few moves ahead of my opponent.

 

Where was I going with all this… physiotherapy is good for me.   If you have problems with your body, take an interest in it.  Go see your general practitioner, sure– but keep in mind that your health is an involved process.  You can’t just treat it like a car with bi-monthly checkups– you have to take an interest in it.  You have to do the maintenance.  You have to appreciate its limitations and the ways that it can be improved.

 

I suppose I don’t yet have a flying car, but some advances have been made, and I do appreciate them for the quality of life they’ve given back to me.

Scumbag

When I first started Law School a bit over two years ago, there was a skit that we did for one of our classes that was making light of something recent in the news.  For the skit, I was cross dressing as Craig Thompson’s favourite prostitute.  The fact that I was cross dressing doesn’t matter.

Craig Thompson was formerly a Labour Party member of parliament.  About 3 years ago, he was caught using union credit cards to pay for sex workers– and got caught. (I wonder if it was the paper trail.)

All throughout administrative law classes, you’re taught that if all else fails, you scream “Natural justice!” which is a  basic doctrine that says that, when a government regulatory body makes a decision you don’t like, you are entitled to say that something unfair has been done to you.  In theory, everyone in Australia is entitled to natural justice– it’s such a basic common denominator of justice a foundational level that nobody can be denied it.

What gets to me is that this is basically what Craig Thompson tried to use as get out of jail free card.  In the early days, he said he was set up and that he never went to those brothels (for those of you wondering, they’re legal here in New South Wales).  Later on, he would change his story to Yes I Did Go, But It’s Not What You Think.  Etc etc etc.

All the while screaming that the system was treating him unfairly.

This is the kind of thing that really annoys me– it’s when people use their education and money to try and game justice.  The clothing that Thompson was wearing during his sentancing trial is likely worth more than all the clothing in my apartment.  He’s an educated guy.

And he has the nerve to try and basically claim that he’s being treated unfairly?

The average person who goes to jail in Australia is between 18 and 25 years of age.  They spend on average about half a year in detention if they can’t afford bail, and their trials generally have them shoved off within a half year for the vast majority of criminal cases.  Murder trials sometimes go on for a much longer period of time.

Mr. Thompson was able to tie up the system for over 3 years, basically to get the conclusion that he was still guilty.  My understanding from the limited news coverage about the former MP is that at this point, nobody gives a fuck about this guy– they just hate him.  The Labour Party has been tossed on the street as of the last election anyhow, so he’s just another thief from a past political era.

Three years.

Yes, I think everyone is entitled to a fair trial.  But when you know you’ve done something wrong?

I’ve never heard of the concept until law, but we have this idea of “bad faith.”  You can have a situation where you’re entitled to X, but if you really exercise that entitlement just because you’re hoping to get away with something sneaky, that’s doing it on bad faith.  It wastes a lot of taxpayer dollars because the Department of Public Prosecutions has to keep on knocking over every decoy you throw in the water, and it is generally bad for society in genera because it brings systems meant to serve public benefits into disrepute.

Thompson’s case is a great example– sure, he’s entitled to claiming natural justice.  Maybe he’s even such a crazy self-entitled scumbag that he genuiney thinks he’s been wronged.  But to the rest of the world, when you steal union dollars to spend on sex, that’s just not the way you’re supposed to use those dollars: now shut the fuck up and take what’s coming to you.  Dragging the system through the mud not only cost Labour their last election, but it makes the public in general lean a bit more towards that idea of “this is what happens when you trust unions” or “this is what happens when you support governments with social platforms.”  They take your money and try to run.  And when you catch them, they spend more money to try and run some more.

While the money that Thomspon was spending isn’t exactly taxpyers’ dollars, it does cost taxpayers’ dollars to prosecute him for three years.

Now why is that relevant?

What people don’t realise is that the court system is extremely expensive to keep running.  In the last decade or two, Australia has been trying to encourage alternative dispute resolution methods for that very reason.  Not only because of the burdens on taxpayers, but because the average person, unlike Thomspon, cannot afford to engage a lawyer for a very long time, if at all.

This creates a very basic problem– while everyone is entitled to justice in theory, not everyone can afford a chance at it.  Considering that I am a student with over 100k of debt, that means that despite  being pretty well educated and being an overal “nice guy,” if I was charged wrongfully with murder tomorrow, I’d probably be up shit creek.

What about publicly available lawyers who work for “free”?  Well, they exist, but there probably would be more of them out there if they had more ressources and budget– say, for example, if the justice system was not being bogged down for X amount of hours per year trying to nail someone like Craig Thompson.

There is essentially a disparity between access to justice based on socio economic class.

It’s not surprise, considering that we’re subscribed to a free market economy.  Justice is essentially a lottery system– you just hope you only ever run into simple troubles that you can solve yourself.  But if anything big comes up?  You had better hope you have the money to handle it.

A system that runs thus is interesting in that there are no winners for the players of the lottery.  Yes, every now and then one person gets out and wins big– but for every one of those there are countless other stories of people who, yes, committed crimes, but have been socially and economically driven to it by a history before their birth of socio-economic oppression.

The only way to really win with the lottery  is to run the lottery.  You have to be one of those white male upper class fatcats who are running the game and just watch the people below toss and turn and rile themselves up over their local heroes and whatnot… but they are still within the shell of the system that they cannot escape.

Mr. Thompson– I’m glad you could get your day in court.  Everyone should, and I still believe that firmly.  But the way you did all this– looking down on us all as if you were untouchable– thinking that your problems were above ours. 

It looks like your fellow lottery owners have cast you down, and the masses have finally had their pound of flesh: 5 years, I’ll imagine, will be a lot of fun.

To the people who still sit up there from  safe distance:

Are you not entertained?

Homeless Marine Veteran Jailed For Trespassing ‘Baked To Death’ In His Cell

ThinkProgress: Homeless Marine Veteran Jailed For Trespassing ‘Baked To Death’ In His Cell. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIw9471jRo

The article takes place in U.S.A., although baking to death while being held in detention was also a subject of discussion a couple of years ago when I did classes in Criminal Laws (in Australia).

There are kind of two issues that I see here.  Okay, maybe three main ones, with several sub-issues.

The main one I wonder about is war veterans.

I’ve never actually had to fight for my country, or any country for that matter.  It’s ludicrous to think that Australia, South Korea or China would ever declare war on Canada, but nonetheless, I’d like to think that I’d never have to pick sides in a context where I’d have to kill or be killed.  Despite training in martial arts, and being very passionate about it, it is in a self-refinement process that occurs in the context of sport.  There are not necessarily any lofty ideals of this nature in actual armed conflict.  The fact that I have the privilege of doing sports is because every day, there are soldiers out there protecting my way of life.

I don’t feel I need to go into details about how important soldiers are, nor do I need to go into too much detail about the sacrifices that soldiers make: to do so would not only seem like a romanticisation, but more relevantly, it would be disengenous because frankly, I don’t know.  I have actually no idea what soldiers have to do or what they go through!

I am of the impression though that once you become a professional soldier, you need to figure out a reason to want to continue in that line of work.  A lot of it might come from the idea of protecting something or someone, or prehaps some place.

It seems rather ironic though how badly veterans are treated.  Yes, they’re difficult people to deal with in many cases– who wouldn’t be suffering from mental issues after being involved in an experience that the average person does not understand in the slightest.  The irony I’m talking about  is that if there is one thing the average person grows up hating, it is fear and death. Sickness is the stuff in between that, at a young age, we come to hate as well.

We hate our mortality. You would think, in turn, that we would have a significant amount of respect for people who spend their lives protecting it.

But while we generally look pretty positively upon active soldiers, veterans are an entirely different story. We don’t want to look at soldiers who are missing limbs, or older, or downright crazy– because rather than making us feel good with an idea of strength and ability to fight off (or deal) death, an ex-soldier is a reminder that even efforts to protect are rewarded with mortality. Nobody escapes.

So like all those things we don’t like, we sweep it under the rug and keep it out of sight, and just keep looking at pretty romantic things that we do like looking at. It is a very bad habit to think too positively without taking any responsibility for the externalised costs of that veil.

Great Barrier Reef

Last week, [CM] and I went up to Cairns (Queensland, Australia) to check out the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Wow. For starters, as someone who used to work in the fish department of a pet store, it’s pretty amazing to see fish a few inches in front of your face without any glass to separate them from you.  It’s also pretty amazing to see fish as big as, if not bigger, than your head, in front of your face.

 

The corals were quite different from what I expected. I turns out that saltwater blocks certain colors of sunlight, so it gives a lot of the corals a dull grey/brown look– when pictures are taken with flash (the sorts you see in magazines) the full spectrum of light is right there at close range, which is why things appear a lot more vibrant.

Nonetheless, seeing the reef in person was pretty amazing for us.  At some places, the reef would drop off into an infinite darkness below us.  We were only snorkelling (not scuba diving) so we couldn’t go that low.  It wasn’t a huge deal though– at some points, the reef was about a meter from the surface of the water, which actually made it pretty difficult to swim (you don’t want to step or kneel or sit on these things, because some of them can be quite sharp).

 

Many of those fish looked pretty tasty.

Of note to anyone going to Cairns though: the cuisine in the area is pretty sad.  Go there to see the reef– but there’s not much fine dining to do around there.

Burnt Bridges and Beta Testing

WOW This is the most confusing, repetitive, and time intensive process I have ever done with FF. I have synch codes on both devices now and nowhere to put them. Does it work? Will this show up as a synch option on my droid phone? (home >setings > Accounts and Synch) -Forum User

 

Very apparently, I am not the only person who thinks that Firefox’s sync methodology is absolutely retarded.

 

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When you’re growing up, people, especially your parents, will tell you “Don’t pay attention to what people say about you.”

There’s a lot of useful good results that can come from that attitude– especially if, like I was when I was younger, I was often worried about where I fit into a crowd.

 

But on the other hand, you do need to pay attention to what people are saying in a lot of situations because you need feedback to get better.  Sure, haters are gonna hate– but once I get over the emotional reflex of being insulted or belittled, the next step is to disintegrate what was said to me: is there something useful in there?

 

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Some of the best companies out there are the ones who make use of focus groups and “beta testers” to see if what they want to sell to the world will really fly.  The more successful the feedback process pre-release, the better the public will receive and adopt the product.  It comes down to doing one’s homework.

 

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In this day and age, there is no reason why a widely available (and popular) web browser like Firefox should have a feature like “Sync” that is as ridiculously hard to set up as it is.

Anecdotally, it reminds me of when I’m correcting the essays of first semester students who I tutor.  Sometimes, they hand in essays to me that lack punctuation, that have obvious spelling mistakes (which a spellcheck would see instantly) and with incomplete sentences.  What does this make me feel?

It makes me feel that my time is being taken lightly.  It makes me feel like the person handing me this piece of shit thinks it’s my job to deal with it.  It makes me feel that the person doesn’t give a damn about giving me quality– they just want my favour to get them ahead.  Actually, sometimes even people in my stage of studies hand me shit to correct for them, and I think to myself: are you kidding me?  Write an essay first, and then I’ll correct it.  This is not an essay.

It feels like betrayal.  It feels like I’m being taken for a fool.

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This feeling is very similar to watching a recent episode of Naruto or Bleach.  It’s also similar to playing a video game which clearly isn’t polished, either because it has bugs, or because even without bugs, it just handles terribly in a way that you know if they’d only beta tested it and paid attention to the feedback, it wouldn’t be that way.

 

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Obviously, everyone wants to be popular, or they want their work to score well, or whatever– but do they want their work to be appraised truthfully?  If they do, they better put in their hard work and effort before sending it in for appraisal.

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Do you ever feel that there’s something that should so obviously be done better that you can’t understand why it is the way it is?  Where something is so bad that you just feel insulted that it’s there in front of you?

Repurposed

[CM] bought these anti sea sickness pills so that we could get on a boat to check out the great barrier reef. Turns out she only needed one or two and she was fine. What to do with the rest of the pack….?

Well, she never plays co-op first or third person shooters with me because she gets motion sickness, so maybe….