dal niente

Month: May, 2014

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein

Totally Inspired Mind

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

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May 20th, 2014
10:52 p.m.

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Show me the Money

I am decidedly tired of being a student, especially when it comes to learning things that I really don’t need to know for future work or being a useful member of society. I find that doing any sort of studying, researching or writing for school is simply aggravating– moreso because I’ve worked before undergoing this postgrad course.  And now that I work pretty consistently in legal practice, I’m way more challenged at work anyhow.  I’m doing essentially all the work of a lawyer– but I have to tough out the “education” because I need a practicing certificate before I can actually be paid the salary of a lawyer.  So that means that while I’m actually learning the useful stuff on the job, I continue to learn and research mostly useless stuff at school, and I have to keep on paying them to force me to complete the most irrelevant sorts of busywork.

You can just tell when you’re writing papers for school that the professor is just crowdsourcing their own research goals onto a class full of students.

Tertiary education is just one big mafia-style protection racket.

Frozen

Time: 8:00 AM

Music: whatever the hell is playing while I’m on hold with Bank of Montreal, so far for 30 minutes, interspersed with some bullshit about how my call is important to them.

 

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 A few days ago, our freezer’s door on the refrigerator wasn’t closed properly, so most of the upper compartment defrosted over the span of several hours.  When [CM] came home after a long day at the hospital looking for food, when she opened the freezer door and moved something, she was literally hit by a wave of icy cold water when she dislodged some food.

“This is the last straw,” she messaged me on my phone.

That fridge has been giving us headaches for some time now.  The hinges on the doors mainly– the doors don’t close automatically with as much force as they used to, so we’ve had a few instances of surprises where things were just no longer cold on account of the door being ajar.  It’s a second hand fridge to begin with– or third hand, if you really think about it– so I used a quick workaround to help the doors close: boosting the front of the fridge by putting about an inch of paper under the front legs of it, so that it tilts backwards.  Worked for a while, but it turns out that the fridge doors are actually off alignment, so although the shut automatically, the seal isn’t always flush.

Aside from being on the phone (calling over the internet from Sydney to Montreal) to cancel my Mastercard back home, I am thus waiting for our new fridge to be delivered.  Because the old one, well, he’s just not worth the headache anymore.

It’s not cheap to get a new fridge– the new one is costing us $600+.  It’s not the kind of money that we throw around easily, but if it saves us the headaches and wasted food, it’ll pay itself off eventually.  The old fridge also has a shameful one-star energy rating.  I’m not sure what the actual numbers translate to, but the new one is 3.5 stars.  (The 4 or 5 star fridges cost over $1000 and we simply can’t justify that cost at this point in our lives).  So I’ll feel a little bit better knowing the new one is a lot more environmentally friendly, even though I’m suspicious that energy stars are actually just some airy fairy green sticker meant to be clever marketing.

 

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Once the fridge gets in, it’s off to School– need to study for an exam tonight.  Well, maybe not “study.” More like “learn,” since I haven’t read the materials for this exam at all yet.

Working full time hours and doing an online course that is meant to be full time, with a thesis– it’s kind of a difficult juggle.  I get away with the online courses because it’s a pass/fail certification (your actual grades don’t matter too much).  It kind of pains me to do the bare minimum, but I’m being very mercenary about my time lately– I just want my certification so that I can apply for my lawyer’s practicing certificate, so I can move up to a solicitor’s salary.

This means that I’m making the tough decisions in life. Deciding what’s important, and what’s not important.  Turns out that right now, education isn’t very important– but certification is.  So I’m doing the bare minimum to hand in assignments and pass exams, even though as a former educator, that kind of attitude from students used to drive me fucking nuts.  I feel bad for my teachers haven’t to correct my work.

But it’s what I need to do.

 

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

 

I hear a lot of people talk about entitlement to education, and how education is important.  I agree and disagree with the concept, but the distinction stems from a lot of assumptions we make about the definition of “education.”  More on that in a later post– I need to try and figure out this exam first.

 

Daily Reduction

Actually, it turns out that this week was my first time back at judo in not two weeks, but three weeks.  That’s what [Cobain] pointed out, anyways.  That’s a pretty long time.  I was certainly rusty– it took a while to get back into things.

I noticed something strange– I wasn’t really thinking very much about what I was doing anymore.  Maybe it’s because three weeks of not thinking about judo meant that I couldn’t remember what I should be working on.  But when I was sparring with my classmates, I just made things happen. 

 

Normally I have to do a lot of thinking because I want to improve my technique.  I think about things like my footwork, my level, my grip, my opponent’s feet placement, their vector, etc.  This time, I think I just wanted to work–  and I found that, while my game plans were  abit ugly and my techniques a bit unrefined, for what I did use, I used it instinctively and appropriately.  The technical quality of my throws had gone down, but my throw selection and choice of tactics to either attack or counter were way better.

It was probably all just the product of having a clear head, not bogged down by any techniques.

It was a strange feeling.

 

I was working pretty much only with people larger than me– Cobain is technically superior as well as heavy, so I didn’t score much there.  But of the others, they were a mix of more experienced and less experienced people who were all physically stronger, and something about the break off made me resort to only the things I do well, and which had been built into my muscle memory with such depth that even three weeks away didn’t erase them.

It felt good to know that even if I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with training sometimes, the truth is, every day I learn a little something.

And I can’t lie– when someone bigger than you tries to take you down and instead finds themself going through the air and then staring at the ceiling lights? That’s a pretty good feeling too.

100

I have the afternoon off.  I just got out of a 45-minute thesis meeting where my professor kindly pointed out that my current draft is shit.  As I mentioned, I’m not totally worried– it’s a work in progress and it’s to be expected of a rough draft of something of that size.  But I have some time to sit down and just type for once, and it feels nice to get back to it.

For some reason, I always feel better typing at full sized keyboards and full sized screens.  I mean, real keyboards with button keys.  I can’t stand the feedback of the increasingly prevalent low-altitude “pannel” keys on new keyboards, it makes me feel like I’m typing on a calculator. 

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

It’s a modest number, but when logging into WordPress today, I was given a notification that apparently, I have 100 readers.

Really?

 

I’m kind of surprised, is all.  Not that I don’t have you readers in the back of my mind when I write, but this blog has always been more about me than anything else.  I didn’t expect that a hundred people would care.

I’m a bit surprised because I’ve only actually been on WordPress for a short while– I’m originally a refugee from Xanga, before that place went batshit insane.  And even when I had my Xanga, a lot of that was imported from a previous blog I had on Blogger.

-=-=-=-=-

 

Hmm… looking back, this WordPress site now has the largest collection of my thoughts in one space.  I didn’t even realise that I had iported all my bloggings from as far back as 2005… that’s almost a decade!  Time flies.

-=-=-=-=-=-

 

I will continue to write as if you (plural) are  not there though, just so that I can keep talking to myself the way I do when I think nobody is listening.

Nothing special to say here.  Thank you for reading.  I now re-establish the fourth wall.

While on the subject of technique,

the main thing that I appreciate about, well, things, is intricacy.

Techniques are what make an activity intricate.  Little things that are necessary for the macro-existence of the whole.  Customisation is what brings uniqueness and relevance.

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

I haven’t been to judo in about two weeks, but while on the cruise, I went to the gym daily.  Sometimes twice in a day.   Although I did put on quite a few pounds (due to the 24 free food services), I specifically intended to spend a lot of time working out.  It’s part of the whole plan to reconfigure my body.

This is the third day back from the cruise, and I can see that my body fat is starting to drop– I can see my abs again, and I’m back to using the worn notches on my belts rather than the next ones down.  Looking in the mirror, a week of gymming and eating like a tyranosaurus has actually helped me even out my upper body quite a bit.

I can see why a lot of people love gymming for this reason– with some willpower, there is a lot to be enjoyed fro the technical aspects of sculpting your own body to the way you want it to be.  Alas, gymming was just a temporary thing for me.  I’m not really into it, and all the time on the boat I spent in there was just a means to an end.

Mostly, the workouts were make me more rounded for grapling.  This meant a lot of work on all parts of my chronically injured rotator cuffs.

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

In looking at myself in the mirror in my apartment, I can see that there are some changes that have occured after a week of working out and eating.  My trapezius, deltoids and pecs are noticibly larger.  Well, that, and my gut– there’s a hella lot of fat stored there, but that’s going down.  I haven’t weighed myself, but compared to the 70kg when I left, I’m guessing I’m probably in the 75kg range right now.  When I lose all the fat I’ll probably settle down to about 72kg, and after another month I’ll probably settle in at about 71kg.

I specifically trained certain other muscles less, because while there are certainly areas that I want to increase stability in, there are other areas of my body that I want to reduce muscle stregth in order to get a better balance.  For example, I have been working to increase strength in my gluttes, while reducing reliance on my hamstrings, which is one of the ways that I’m addressing occasional pain and instability in my right knee.

The whole point of the gymming was to take an intensive kickstart to reconstructing my shoulders.  Normally, during judo, there’s only so much work I can do on my shoulders because fatigue is what invites injury during training.  With my shoulders more rounded now, I’ll be able to maintain a wider and heavier range of operation in judo, which will raise my base output.

I guess you can think of it like defragging a hard disk.

-=-=-=-=-

Tonight is the first time I go back to judo in two weeks.  The white belts that I was working with so intensively for the past three months prior are now probably all yellow belts.

Thesis Writing

Just had a meeting with my thesis supervisor– the word count is getting there, but the structure of the whole thing needs major work.  With only about two weeks to go, this is going to be a consierable challenge I think.

 

The prof asked me: “Did you go to school in North America?”

Because apparently, Australian school systems do a lot more work throughout high school about how to write effectively.  I can probably agree with that– I don’t really remember doing classes teaching us how to write.  We probably had something back in grade 7 or something?

 

I do remember thinking that two of my best teachers were in CEGEP, and I thought they were the best teachers because they essentially told me that my paper writing styles were shit– whereas all other teachers gave me B+ or higher grades for everything.  It turns out that a lot of teachers don’t even write well or just had low standards, so I had developed a style of fluff before substance.

Actually, when I really think about it, a lot of the problems in my formal writing probably stem from the bad habits that I’ve gotten from blogging so much.

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

Just an observation– but this professor basically told me that my thesis, as it is now, is basically kinda of shitty because of really poor technique.  A teacher hasn’t told me that in years. And in fact, even at my current law firm, my boss has highest praises for me for my writing skills.

It’s not often that I get to butt heads with someone who is actually teaching me new writing techniques (as opposed to just teaching me the content of a subject). 

I’m somewhat looking forward to bleeding for this thesis now.

More or less

The reality of the real world is that there’s always more that we can do.  The hard part is in deciding when you’ve got that right amount– but the “right amount” in itself needs to be contextualised in terms of your goals, because right and wrong is just relative to what it is that you want to get to.

 

Which is a long winded way of saying that basically, everything is a bit easier if you know what you’re after, and in what order you want to get those things.  Once you know what you want, you just have to decide how much of a rush you are in to get there.

 

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Last week, [CM] and I got on a cruise ship to New Caledonia, which is to Australia what Hawaii or Cuba is to North Americans.

Now, on one hand, I feel a bit guilty about it because cruise ships are, frankly, beastly.  It’s like taking a Las Vegas hotel/casino, breaking it off at the foundations, and throwing it into the water, and somehow make it capable of not only floating, but sailing.  That takes an insane amount of fuel and supplies that get expended at a totally inefficient rate compared to any other form of sustainable living.

Not to mention that the crew’s wages are, well, not great, despite that they’re very well trained not give you the slightest hint that they’re in any way unhappy with their jobs.

The end result of all the externalisation is that I get to take a ridiculously enjoyably vacation for 8 days for less than 500$, which includes delicious foods all day around.

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I am conflicted, because I am someone who really wants to get somewhere without having to live on the shoulders of anyone else. I want to live a more sustainable lifestyle that wastes less and that makes it so that when I leave this planet, I’ve left it with a bit more than less.

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Let me put those thoughts to one side first though. 

 

Despite my hippie side, there are other things that I want to do in life– like get through law school in one piece, and eventually have a successful career, and start a family with CM.  But to do all this?

I need to survive first.

And that means knowing how to manage my mental state.  Deciding when enough is enough.

A day before we left on the vacation, I was so strained between thesis writing, working, and schooling that I had been sleeping 5-6 hours per night for 4 nights in a row.  I was going to school or working every weekday from 9-5, coming home, having dinner, and then writing papers until 11 or 12 at night.  It was, frankly, killing me.

But it wasn’t in the cards for me to give anything up– the way that things were scheduled, I just had to do all of it.

Quitting really wasn’t much of an option, because I had set a goal of finishing the licensing course and my postgrad degree by a certain time of the year (before my visa runs out).  I mean, sure, quitting is always an option– but it’s not a very good one.  I decided I could tough it out. And I did.

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Part of what enabled me to get through that hellish period, which was worse than any final exam preparation period, was that I decided to just cut back on the perfectionism.  I started calculating my time in terms of my ability to provide an efficient return on results.  If the efficiency started to drop, then it was time to say that was enough for now– move on to a new task and cover the field with some effort, rather than focus too much on any one area and just get a few good results here or there.

 

 

In reality, this is what people do in the adult world all the time.  You do the best you can with the time you’ve got.  I think that university is really bad for students like that– it gives you this illusion that all you need is dedication.  In a  university situation, you laregely have huge amounts of time to prepare for a final exam or an essay– it is the procrastination that kills you with stress when you try to cram it all in.  It’s not so bad because a couple of week of exams and it’s all over right?  Then the problems dissapear.

In the adult world, there is always something else to do.  I’m not saying that this means that you don’t do your best– but I am saying that doing your best at work is only part of doing your best at life– and you need to manage your energy in that way.  You need to pick and chose your battles.  And not only that, you need to treat the situation like a marathon– not a sprint.  You can’t burn yourself out too early– getting to the finish line is more important than passing some people in the short term.

 

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Part of my strongest features, I think, is that I have a pretty good understanding of my limitations.  Yes, I bitch a lot– and you as readers get to read a hell a lot of my bitching.  But this all here is more me recording what I’m doing and how it taxes me than it is me really bitching about things totally out of my control.

I generally know how tell myself that enough is enough.  Which is why there is a lot of wisdom in me being passionate about non-academic and non-professional pursuits– because those alternate lives are what I use to escape to and allow my brain to exhale.

 

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Long story short– I am back from vacation.  But just as some people live from paycheque to paycheque, I am living from assignment to assignment.  I never really look at anything more than 2 days before it’s due (either at school or at work) because there is so much on my plate, and so many plates behind that one, that there’s nothing to be done except do what I can in the time I have.

Yes, I write a lot on this blog that is negative. This too is part of my self-medication.

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This post is all over the place because I’m really exhausted.

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The secret of living a balanced life is giving a fuck, and knowing when to stop giving a fuck, in order to balance your mental health in a way where you retain the ability to enjoy things and maintain connections with those around you.  If you lose the love of what you’re doing, or those around you, what’s left?

acknowledging the wreck

alwayscoffee

            You know that moment right before you’re about to fall asleep – when everything is faded and fuzzy? It’s a slow fade into nothing…except when your brain decides to dredge up that really embarrassing moment when you were 14. Or you find yourself suddenly questioning what you’re doing with your life – and oh my god, you’re suddenly convinced that you’re kind of failing at everything. Or why, precisely, it feels like your love life is a very bad sitcom. This in-between moment is when you realize a simple truth: your brain is an asshole.

            Of course, the reality is that the likely circumstance isn’t that these things appear out of nowhere. It’s more likely that you’ve just been studiously avoiding confronting these fears during the day. Finally, when you are no longer running and there’s nothing and no one to distract you…

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Scissors versus Rock

When you can’t win with the facts, win with the law

When you can’t win with power, win with strategy

When you can’t win with technique, win with tenacity

 

Of course, these aren’t rock-paper scissors scenarios– largely, these are saying that even scissors can beat a rock if you have a large enough pair of scissors!

There are a lot of these situations where you’re simply not good at something.  This applies to all facets of life.  There are always going to be methods of doing things that you’re not good at– but you can get better at things, or you can use your other strengths in the meantime.

Without meaning to brag, I’m generally a pretty good public speaker if I’m given license to manage the room how I want.  Speaking in legal contexts is a bit different– I’m not in control of the room, I’m directing the attention and understanding of a judge, which means that there’s a whole formalised system of how I do that. So I still have a lot to learn in this regard.

But where I fall short of confidence in standing up and speaking at hearings, I make up for it in what I do have as good, transferrable skills to the situation.  I’m great at research; nobody organises documentation like I do; and I can stare right back at anybody with a perfect poker face.

 

So that’s where I put my effort in, until the areas in which I am found wanting get better.

 

I just don’t understand the people who don’t try on any front.

 

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If one is going to engage in something, why not do it well?

Why shoot oneself in the foot by undertaking to do something that one doesn’t want to do well?

I’m not saying that you have to be an Olympian, a Valedictorian, or the Survivor.  What I am saying is that effort is an indicator of pride in one’s work.

All those feelings that people get related to low-self esteem? I can probably guess that that has something to do with not knowing what one wants.

I think that if you know what you want, then it’s a lot easier to put things in black and white and grey– it’s a lot easier to be focused to to know who you by categorising or qualifying the world around you in terms of your objectives.  That sense of place, a space where you exist in relation to everything else, is where we derive self-esteem from.