dal niente

Month: September, 2014

The Great Wall around the Middle Kingdom Mentality

For all the talk of a younger generation of Chinese that are advocating for a more Westernised perspective on key topics; such as human rights; censorship; economic issues; environmental practices; what have you– you have to realise that any victories in these areas that are being reported back in Western media are table scraps.

The “Umbrella Revolution” going on in Hong Kong is not a matter of winning or losing for Hong Kong democracy– Hong Kong has already lost.  It lost as soon as control went back to China as far as I’m concerned.  The only way to reverse this is to take it back, and there is no compromise about this– the two cultures are significantly different.  To use a Breaking Bad analogy, protesting against a loss of liberty in the choosing of electoral candidates is a half measure. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here.

It’s not a question of “if.” It’s a question of “when.”  Hong Kong has been grafted back into China, and everything about the Mainland System is Borg.  Its cells only know how to do things the same way the they have always done things.  And that is, essentially, practices like blocking Instagram photos of the Revolution, and supressing the news generally.  Did anyone really not see this coming?

Democracy does not win against these sorts of status-quo encroachments with rallies, especially not when the group in the position of power is a world superpower driving turnover for wordwide economies– for all its importance as a financial and serviecs hub, Hong Kong simply doesn’t matter as to the world as Mainland China does.

And even if anyone decided to sternly scold China about it’s anti-democratic practice– why would China care?  At the same time, everyone is lining up to do business with China because of the buying power and manufacturing expertise which has all been enabled thanks to those same anti-democratic processes.

If you want China to be more democratic?  Maybe first you should consider never buying anything made in China at sweatshop rates ever again.  That’s your vote, and what you want to say in petitions doesn’t change the fact that your economic vote through your purchases is of more relevance than cheap words.


The sentiment on the ground in 2013, when I was last in Hong Kong, was with relation to the high speed railway plans from the Mainland to Hong Kong.  If you read up on this, most of the ill sentiment were with regards to environmental impacts and the destruction of several villages along the proposed route.  Do you think that people in Hong Kong cared about that stuff? Sure, maybe.  But considering that HK regularly finishes its financial years with a surplus (to the point where it redistributes money back to some citizens, like, free money), my feeling is that most people don’t care about the environmental impacts.

What they did care about was how the high speed railway meant more mainland Chinese coming into Hong Kong.

It might be a bit tricky to define “they” but I suppose “they” would be middle class Hong Kong Cantonese speakers.

I’m not just imagining this either– the public “One People” campaign in the preceeding years was designed by Mainland to try and culturally shift HK Chinese into accepting increasing numbers of Mainland visitors.

The Umbrella Revolution is nothing new– and like so many others, it will just become part of history.  Or actually, come to think of it, in Mainland, that won’t even happen.


Am I saying that we should just give up on it?  No.

What I am saying is that the stage we’re at, intellectual discourse and small scale violence, is only a half-measure.  Umbrella Revolutions are necessary, but their importance is only as stepping stones, and too often we step back down from even these once we feel we’ve had our moment on the soapbox.  There will have to be a whole lot more grit teeth, blood and tears before anything will actually change.

And us being in Western democracies? Knowing this and discussing this stuff doesn’t change anything– none of that hurts a country that doesn’t care about your opinion.  Even an Umbrella Revolution– it’s the cost of China doing business as usual, same way once in a while you need to fork out for a taxi once in a while: yes it’s going to cost you, but ultimately, the cost of these infrequent little things is trivial compared to gained opportunity costs of keeping the longer term game on foot.  Business as usual, because China knows this is how the game must be played– they pay some lip service every now and then when it’s convenient, but China’s eyes rightly remain on the message your money is telling them, completely independently from what you say and where you wag your finger.

Start thinking about how you can vote with your consumer practices, your cultural tolerance, and your environmental practices.  How do your lifestyle and social practices make a statement of your endorsement of Chinese success, in spite of cheap, intellectually sugarcoated words?

Marketing Skills

Now having more jobs in the field of my choice than I actually have time to do, looking back, the past few years have really built on my ability to market myself.

It’s one thing to already be within a corporate structure and to be aware of office politics– as in, making friends, and watching your back– but it’s another game entirely to get your foot into the door to even get that initial interview.

I don’t think there’s any one person who ever say me down and taught me to write a proper CV, or how to answer application questions. It’s probably no wonder then that practical education in this area is lacking, and that a surprising amount of people are simply bad at it.


Grab bag of small quick updates.

Working two separate jobs in executive positions is a real energy drain. I feel like by the time I finish my day at either one , I have no creativity or initiative left. It is normal, I think , to take a certain amount of thoughts from the workplace home with you and think about what the next steps are for the next morning. But doing this at two places? Its kind of killing me slowly.

That being said, [the Institute] has been a great learning experience in corporate work. It has been very similar public hospital work, but the differences have been illuminating. They’ve also changed the way I handle business at [the Firm].

Regardless, I will be relieved when end of October comes and my contract with the Institute comes to an end. I just don’t have enough energy to push two organisations at once.

I think I is apt that I started playing Dark Souls II on PS3, which [CM] bought me as a birthday gift.  It is the perfect game to play after a day of work .

I haven’t been to judo in over a month on account of a knee injury. It is probably fine to judo with now, but I’m hesitant. My confidence in my body is starting to diminish a bit, and it is aggravating to day the least. I need to find some other form of burning calories until I decide to get back into it.

On the plus side, I was granted a Bridging Visa yesterday, which means that I’m more or less on my way to a Graduate Visa . this is a good thing: it means I don’t get deported from Australia ! The next step is to apply for permanent residency.

I gave my Nexus 4 away to my parents, and got myself a Nexus 5. Also, an LG G Android Wear watch. Just for the fun of it. Its not an iPhone 6, and that’s fine– all the recent media about ridiculous lineups and the discovery that the new iPhone bends is just … Well, they’re just kind of amazing when you consider the price ticket on it. Read the rest of this entry »

Transport en commun

I extrapolate from what I see around me all the time.  It doesn’t mean that my extrapolations are correct, but I make up theories about people and I test their behavior against these algorithms, trying to guess their next move– profiling them I guess.  I’ve been doing this for years, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it, without meaning to brag.

I was on the train this morning and was thinking to myself that there’s an increasing amount of university students from mainland China in Sydney.  Their profile: little or no first generation family in Australia, so likely sent to study and fend for themselves.  Used to the idea of a billion people per square mile, and not having been given any orientation in the way that Sydney life and culture differs, there are a few behavioral patters that manifest.  To a “Western-raised Chinese Canadian” like me, the best way of summing this up is in varying degrees of sociopathy.

I’m not just talking about old people– what’s more annoying to me are the younger generations of migrants who make little or no efforts to adapt, when really, they can.

My beef with “them”?

  • Generally ignoring situations that most people would line up– such as for getting on buses.  This is my big peeve.
  • Making a beeline for the reserved seating, if there is any, and just being oblivious as elderly people struggle to get to the seats deeper in the buses (instead of volunteering their seats as they’re supposed to: that’s what the sign for reserved seating says, doesn’t it?)
  • Pushing to get onto trains,  before passengers get off.  For bonus points, if waiting for people to get off first, pushing to get ahead of other people trying to get on.  It’s gotten to the point where I note that Sydney trains now have increasing numbers of employees specifically there to tell people, essentially, to stop blocking efficient flow of traffic.
  • Probably because they’re used to trains that are so crowded that you could never possibly fall down, these people tend to lean on handhold poles, thus blocking everyone else on the train from using them. This morning, I saw a girl leaning on two at once.
  • Generally incapable of washing their hands in public restrooms.
  • If they’re really oldschool, they tend to leave shoeprints on public toilet seats.

It is true that cultural expectations are different in Sydney compared to Asian countries– but if you’re going to go abroad, learn how to do as the Romans for crying out loud.

Why is Metadata Important?

Otherwise, you start relying on files named like this:

“Law Council of Australia speech by Glenn Furguson at American Bar Association Annual Meeting International Bar Leader Roundtable Bar.pdf”



I don’t believe in karma– I simply believe in probability and statistics.


Yesterday, [CM] and I were recruiting Australian-resident friends to sign statutory declarations that they know us to be an in a genuine de-facto relationship as partners.  We have about 5-6 friends who are going to go through the process for us, which is onerous to say the least– they need to fill out about two pages of forms and talk about some pretty personal things.  They have to get their forms witnessed by certain officials, and additionally, they need to include a certified copy of citizenship proof.  Just to basically say “CM and [Jinryu] are a genuine couple! I’ve seen evidence! Blah blah!”

This morning, people at [The Institute] I work with expedited the processing of my Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice, which was the final piece of paper that I need before applying to admission as a solicitor of New South Wales.  They don’t have to do it– I just asked nicely about a month ago and they said not to worry about it.

Just under an hour ago, I was at the office of the Legal Profession Admission Board, who reviewed my application for admission and are going to send me a separate, personal notice when specific papers I need for my graduate visa application have arrived.  Again, I just asked nicely.


Hard work is very important, but the concept of “entitlement” is a social construct that we, of first world countries, need to forget about.  Entitlement is toxic– it leads to envy, and makes it easy for us to talk and shake fists rather than to actually do anything about what we need.  There is a natural disconnect between “hard work” and “results” because of the socialised nature of the things we want– it’s impossible for us to get everything we want because there just isn’t always enough of “it”.  The result?  Either shut up, and stay in the game, or play something else.

Hard work only increases your chances of getting what you want– at the end of the day, the reason why you have to work hard at things is to build relationships and a connection with the world around you.  We can’t do it alone.  We are small and insignificant, being individually single digit numerators out of any number of arbitrary denominators.

My point is that we get nowhere if the world around us does not show kindness, generosity, or selflessness.  We have a statistical advantage only if we persist, and keep rolling, and keep rolling, and increase our availability for good things to happen to us.  But make no mistake: we are at the mercy of others, and the only way to stay connected with others is to stick out your neck and be good to people around you whenever you can.




I have said thank you to many people today.

I sacrificed friends

I do not mean that I had to cut the rope on anyone, or that I kicked anyone in the shin to escape from the bear– I mean all those 2000 other people on Facebook who you and I know that neither of us actually know.  Not giving a shit about people who don’t give a shit about me saves me an incredible amount of time.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m always willing to meet new people who are interesting. But I’m utilitarian about who I spend my time with.  Most of the new people I meet, I socialise with as a secondary function to the reason why I’m with them.

I believe that everyone’s got something interesting about them, but I’m not so charitable that I’ll spend energy on time on people who will do nothing for me or what I want to advance.


Am I judgmental? Damn right I am– and so should too should everyone be.

Being critical doesn’t mean you’re smarter than anyone else– you have to understand that being critical and judgmental isn’t about putting people down for the sake of being a mean bastard.  It’s about treating people as they demonstrate that they want to be treated.  It’s about treating people like responsible people.

as do Kangaroos and Emus

Fun bit of trivia– why are the kangaroo and emu featured on the Australian national coat of arms?  Well, aside from the fact that they’re both seen at the local zoos, the reason is because they’re apparently two animals who are only capable of going forward. (In reality, they actually can move backwards– they don’t actually spontaneously explode or something– it’s just that it’s very difficult for them to do so.)

It’s hard to figure out what you want.  You’ll read all this self help stuff about setting goals and stuff– sure, that kind of helps.  But setting a goal probably requires that you have some knowledge of the route to the destination, and, more importantly, that the destination is worth getting to, or appropriate to you.

Some things that have helped me keep my life moving forward:

  • I’m willing to admit that I don’t know exactly what the destination will be like.
  • I’m also willing to admit that as I get closer to the destination, I might decide that it is not be appropriate for me.  This admission also means, yes, I’ve spent (wasted?) all this time, and won’t finish.
  • And finally, I’m willing to admit that the destination might not have space for me.

There is certainly a lot of time for exploration in life, but one of the greatest journeys is really the one where you explore how you are going to live with yourself.  I know so many people who are in med school, for instance, who really, shouldn’t be.  Simply. I’m talking about people who are sociopathic, or even worse, sadistic.  Even if these traits aren’t present, I think that if the only thing getting someone through a degree is masochism, then it is likely the wrong choice.

I know I’m picking on med students, and that there are a lot of people out there who display similar traits– but I’m using it as an example because there’s a lot of similarities across cohorts, and the culture of low-self esteem and social cannibalism is virulently self-perpetuating.

More than likely, the typical Sydney med student  is an only child, or the child of a doctor.  Spent their primary and secondary education being told by their parents that they were special or clever– either in a positive complimentary way, or in an imperative tiger-mommy sort of way.  By the time they get to tertiary education, their whole life is structured by a psychotic need for booksmarts acheivement– and they don’t realise that they are socially handicapped.  The normal mechanisms for introspection into their own life, and to not only self-diagnose healthy and unhealthy habits, is ironically absent.  I should clarify– the diagnosis might be there, but there is no true willingness to correct their stunted social growth. There is only this strange mix of   and decide what is actually healthy– they are driven purely by structure of textbook tables of contents.  They may be clever, but they are usually not creative.  If they are creative, this is only going to be a problem– because creativity comes from having personality and substance, which a med school program comprehensively punishes you for having.

This kind of situation is virulent– it spreads in closed quarters among the med school population and is impossible to kill.  Yes, there are mutations in the medical school virus / culture, but the fundamental problem is that when you get too comfortable with structure, getting to the destination is more important than moving forward in life.  This is a root problem– because destinations are often difficult to decide upon, may be inappropriate, or may not be accepting visitors.

The average Australian med student that I’ve encountered probably shouldn’t be a doctor.

Signs that you shouldn’t be a doctor?

  • Nobody likes you.
  • You don’t like people / you are afraid to talk to people.
  • You are always failing med school exams.

But I know truckloads of med students who suffer from these symptoms and just stick it out.  They’re going to become the doctors that secretly, nobody likes, and nobody wants to go back to.  And you know why?


Because these are the sorts of doctors who don’t want to go back to their own jobs as doctors.


So what am I saying? Destinations aren’t super important.  What’s more important is that you’re constantly getting better at something that matters to you.  And by something , I don’t mean necessarily a particular thing.

Figuring out what that “thing” is, or what those “things” are (plural), is one of the great challenges of life, and it really is just a lot of luck.  The only way you have a chance of running into it is if you keep moving forward.  It is about understanding that your miserably life is because of the short diameter of your comfort zone, and that the likelihood of someone realising what a “nice person” you are and rewarding you just because you are you is not only highly unlikely, but probably laziness and some sense of entitlement on your part.

When I say “work ” at something, I mean, get things done, and get lots of things done.  It does not necessarily mean work harder.  There’s a very important difference– and you should probably think about that difference, for starters.

I know plenty of people who are technical geniuses but get passed over for promotions and better work– because they’re so busy perfecting hitting nails with hammers, and being upset that nobody notices that they’re so great at hitting nails with hammers, that they never get around to working with other people and getting appreciated and recognised rather than waiting for it.  There is just a scalar quantity, as opposed to a vector one– there is no direction to work that just sinks into a hole that nobody, even you, cares about.


If nobody cares? Be willing to change course, or to cut your losses.  You are never too old to start another life.  History is never in itself an adequate justification for the future.

Going Full Retard

… is very much akin to working full corporate.


More on this later.