dal niente

Month: August, 2014


I’m going to say something crazy.
Sometimes I miss the pure freedom of being a mid twenties loser with nothing in my pocket but my passport and a sense of nihilistic desperation.
That’s crazy, right?
This is better.

I totally enjoy spending hours filling out forms about my last 10 years of globetrotting
And all my odd jobs since the beginning of time
From my cubicle
My warm, cozy cubicle


I’ve been filling out applications for my Australian Graduate Visa for the past two weeks.  I don’t think it’s normally that complicated a thing; it’s just that I have a particular work and travel history that makes things rather troublesome.

The main difficult parts are that you have to provide specific dates for addresses that you have lived at, all travel you’ve done in the last decade, all jobs you’ve held since you were born, and all schools you’ve attended since the beginning of time. Curiously enough, trolling through my digital records, it seems that I really only came online and had a real online presence in the mid 200s.  Much of my digital history, especially all those MSN conversations and emails, were lost with two email accounts that are now defunct.

[CM] doesn’t have as long a work history as I do, with a handful combined of paid and unpaid jobs.  But for me, I’ve held over two dozen jobs in the last thirty years somehow.  And while my travel list for the last decade includes something like 30 entries, CM’s is about double that.  It gets even more complicated because although I’ve vacationed internationally, in which case the form doesn’t require specific addresses, CM has actually lived internationally on a semi-permanent basis.  Keeping track of all those postal codes becomes very much impossible– even nowadays, she has trouble remembering the postal code of the place we currently live at.


The next step in our lives is some sense of permanence.  We want to start settling down.  We want to stop moving from city to city, not knowing what comes next.  This will all be possible


We’re going to make it official in January by buying a cat.

I can speak English, or so they tell me

… but apparently, for the purposes of IELTS exam, I still achieve only an 8.5 (out of a possible 9) for writing and listening comprehension.


Well anyway, my overal score was still 9 (highest band) so whatever.  That gets me a few bonus points on my visa application!




While I was waiting for my turn at the IELTS testing facility, there was somewhere sitting next to me who had written out an entire script of what he wanted to talk about during the “conversational English test.”  By written out, I mean, his notebook had on it: “Hello!  Good afternoon!  How are you?  My name is ASSDF… *SHAKE HAND** Thank you for talking with me today!” and so on, so forth.

Truth of the matter is, IELTS doesn’t mean a whole lot to me because I’m a native French/English Canadian.  But for some other people?  Nevermind a band 9 score– some of them will be lucky to get 3 or 4, from what I saw.



The worst part was when we were being digitally fingerprint scanned.

Administrator: “Left thumb hand please.”

Candidate:”Thank you!”


Administrator: “Left thumb please.”


Candidate (same one): “Thank you!”

Administrator: “Errrm… your OTHER LEFT hand please.”

Candidate: “Oh okay!”





After living in South Korea, I realise that my impression of the importance of English doesn’t really match that of those around me.

Capsules in Time

As part of the requirements for a Temporary Graduate Visa (Subclass 485), I have to prove that [CM] and I have been in a relationship for at least a year in order to include her as my de facto.  It’s all really about evidence.  It also asks me about every job I’ve ever worked, every country I’ve ever been to, and every home I’ve had for the past decade. So for a few hours every day, I’ve been trawling through old digital records of my life, and making copies for the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship to scrutinise.


It’s a strange feeling, going through my life. Eerily enough, it seems that my blog, combined with my email account, is the master index of all evidence that I ever walked this planet.

And it’s all been memorialised, digitally.  Plane tickets.  Photographs.  Instant messaging backups.  Electricity bills.  eBay receipts.  Even the dead silences between datestamps before replies with certain people– it’s all there, if you look at it.


I just got back from the mid-August kyu grades New South Wales judo competition– I lost all my fights in the open Masters’ division (open weight class for anyone over 30 years of age), but won all of my fights in the normal kyus– getting me a gold medal for the sub-73 kilograms division.


When I weighed myself about a month ago I was well over 75 kilograms, and when I weighed in on a digital scale at the Red Cross about a week ago I was still at over 74 kilos– that meant I had about a week to lose a kilo.

In the end the weight control wasn’t too bad– I managed to weigh in at 72 kilos feeling a bit dehydrated and hunry, but with the amount of time they give you to warm up after weigh in, I had enough time to rehuydrate and digest comfortably.




Fighting in an official external (as opposed to an in-club tournament) is a very different sort of beast.  I haven’t done this sort of competition for a decade– and a decade ago, I wasn’t even doing judo.

I found that due to paranoia and overthinking, I was seizing up a lot.  I wasn’t taking my normal grips or using my normal footwork and such at first, and it took a lot of loosening up before I started to play my own game– and things turned out well like that.  My movements became more natural as I got used to my opponent.

Truth be told, I beat two orange belts and a green belt in the normal kyu sub-73kg division– and lost to two green belts in masters.  I don’t even remember most of it, because at that point, it was mostly auto-pilot.


It was a lot of fun to do this sort of thing.  I don’t know if this is a one-off sorta deal and if I’d do it again, but it was definitely worth the time and money.


Going up against random strangers gives you a great sense of accomplishment when you check to see if your fighting is actually any good and things work.  I mean, you’re always training with the same guys and you wonder if that isolation is good for you– if what you’re learning within the same dojo will work somewehre else.  The sense of validation from taking my dojo’s judo out there into the public, and using it effectively, is a great feeling.


Yes, I did lose my Masters fights– but that’s okay.  By the time I got to that event, I had a calf muscle cramp, and I realised that I had accidentally signed up for open weight.    I’m not making excuses, but those guys who beat me are green belts– it means they put more time into it, so I can’t expect to take on heavier guys with more training without more sweat and hard work.  It’s just the natural result.


I look forward to going in to judo next week.  After having tested out my judo out there, there’s some experiments I want to run…


I’ve undergone siginificant professional changes in the last month.  Ever since I got my work at the educational institute, we’ve also moved to a new office at the employment law firm– which means that not only am I taking on new responsibilities as I learn the ropes at a new job, but at my “old job” I’m now in a position to change the way we do business because now there’s room and capacity for improvement.

It’s an exciting time really, but interestingly enough, most of these changes have very little to do with me being a law school graduate. I  mean, those were the inroads to get these jobs in the first place– but the kinds of skills that I’m developing are often not lawyerly related.

They’re corporate skills.


Things like public relations, business development, marketing.  I’ve been on educational faculty boards before, but it’s quite different to the feel of a corporate board room.  It’s good in some ways, annoying in others.

Watch “BBC Horizon The Secret Life of the Cat” on YouTube

Just because we are planning to get a cat in a few months, i thought this was interesting –BBC Horizon The Secret Life of the Cat: http://youtu.be/M2c5SE_wYp8

English speaker?

I’m sitting outside the university of Sydney office for IELTS, an international English exam, waiting to pick up my results. They will tell me whether or not I can speak English.


I’m at a point in my life where my work, all of it, is pretty interesting. It is a 6 day work week, but I enjoy all the work at both of my jobs because it’s challenging.  I feel like I’m getting things done that only I can do, and that sense of place in the world makes me feel good.


It’s a gradual process, but this good feeling is a conversion from the sheer terror and paranoia of being new at any job.  It’s not that I’ve mastered everything yet, but that initial revulsion and the growing pains have mostly passed, and now I can focus on the learning and skills building instead of my emotional gag reflex.




We’re moving into new workpalce for the employment law firm.  The new office space is literally 10 times larger than the old one.  Exciting times– I will have my own space, which will be my desk and not just a hot-seat at a desk!  I will even have my own drawers to put my shit in.

Truly, I am  moving up in the world.


Working at the educational institute has been very much like how I imagine running an election campaign might be.  And I suppose that’s to be expected, considering that my role here is to basically stir up the practical legal training market to a certain extent, and to gather up allies before we essentially take to the fields against national regulators.  Basically, there in terms of education reforms in market for pre-admissions education, there is war on the horizon—and we need to know which banners are on our side before actually declaring it.



Given that I’m on a pretty tight deadline to get admitted (licensed) for legal practice (because this is connected with my application for an extension of my VISA and things), I need to keep working to get in a certain amount of days of work per week to meet the work-experience pre-requisite of my license.

Work at the educational institute takes up my Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.    Work at my employment law job is Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays or Sundays.  That makes for a 6 day work week which is about 50+ hours per week.


Employment law is pretty straightforward—I often don’t know the answers to the tasks when they’re assigned to me, but the whole point of a lawyer’s work is to look into things you don’t know.  Otherwise, if the answer was obvious, a client wouldn’t pay you to do it.  And if your boss already knew the answer, they wouldn’t assign it to you.   So most of the time, my work as a lawyer is kind of like spelunking, and that’s kind of what makes it interesting.  At least, it gets interesting once you get over that initial crippling fear of being responsible for something going wrong.

I think right now that’s the issue with working at the educational institute—I’m still finding my feet here, even though I’m arranging meetings and liasing with other institutes to get ready for the coming regulatory reform.  Being a campaign coordinator is not something I’m used to, so I remind myself every day when I walk in that I just need to chill out and work at a pace that is comfortable.  I need to stop freaking myself out about what I can’t do or am not comfortable about doing, and just do my best to do it.

I wonder if a reason why true adulthood is so scary is because real maturity is about being able to stand your ground in various contexts—not losing your shit when complicated problems come up, or when you don’t even understand a problem.  Contexts are everything—we’re strong in some situations, weak in others.

Get enough training in an area, you get something, some sort of “substance” that makes you “substantial.”  If you have the right eye for it, you can recognise this thing in other people, and you learn to respect them for it and what they can teach you about theirs.



[Sensei-R] has been bugging me again to start doing judo competitions.  I think I might see if I can register for one this weekend.  The reasons why I’ve hesitated are multiple, but in looking it over, maybe it just comes down to fear.

The current judo class is one that I’ve gotten used to.  I mean, the dojo that I train at, it’s full of familiar faces and a familiar hierarchy.  I know who is who in the zoo, so to speak.  Outside of it’s walls? Out there, where the competition lies?  It’s an unknown.

Although I was training seriously in taekwondo in 2007-2008, did some kickboxing in 2012, and have been doing judo now for almost two years, I haven’t done competitive fighting in years—over a decade, actually.  There was a brief sting of kickboxing where I entered one tournament a few years ago, which I wrote about at the time—I lost that one by throwing in the towel due to much blood coming from my nose, although as things go, my opponent had probably broken part of his shinbone and I might have broken his nose.  I just quit while I was ahead.


And that was the takeaway lesson of that competition—quit while you’re ahead.  After that competition, I wrote about it and noted, relevantly, that I’m not as interested anymore in smashing bone on bone and seeing whose breaks more.  I am not willing to trade blood like I was in college—I threw in the towel, not because I was significantly hurt, but because I made a conscious decision that I was unwilling to get any more rough than I already was.  And in part, I made that decision because, unlike my college days, I was thinking of other goals in life now–  for instance, starting a family with [CM].