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Tag: experience

Grab Bag


Substance as Metalife

Biochemically, there is a definition of living– it’s usually a binary status that people can agree on in a textbook sense.  It doesn’t have to do with brain activity, it just means that your body is alive.

On the other hand, there is “living” in colloquial sense– doing all the things that every commercial on television is about: buying  a car to take your kids to soccer practice; buying life insurance so that you know your love ones are protected after you kick the bucket; going to the movies; making tacos; cleaning grass stains out of your kids’ white clothes with the new formula of laundry detergent.  You get the idea.  Almost everything on television (with the exception of the payouts you get from life insurance) are all about you being alive, and being alive beyond simply just existing– they have to do with you taking action.

We’re already familiar with metadata, whether or not we know that we’re actually using it.  Some of the earliest examples of metadata are the index cards you used to find at libraries–there is information in books, but those cards are information about where to find those books.  Metadata is information about information.

The relationship here is between data and the data that is only possible after the original data exists.  That is to say, there couldn’t be any metadata unless there was data to begin with.  

What I’d like to toy with is the idea of metalife–  that is to say, a kind of life that can only exist based on living.

The first thing I should point out is that this theory is a social one.  It assumes connections that go beyond the individual.  Thus, person’s metalife may be affected by their own life, but in larger part, it is determined by the collective of lives that the individual associates with (in which their individual life is one out of an infinite denominator).

Okay, lets get out of the technical bits and straight to an example.

What’s the point of an analysis of metalife?

I think the importance of metalife is that the richer your metalife, the more fulfilled you are with life.  In a sense, building a metalife is the “point” of or existences.

That leads us to the question then, “what is my metalife composed of?”

While metalife  is a spiritual, mental and intellectual category of non-physical units, life itself is quantifyable in physical units.  Your metalife is the sense of “being alive” that you derive from living in action.  Being alive, on the other hand, is most easily described like the bottom of Maslow’s heiarchy of needs pyramid– you can quantifyably compare “how alive” a rich person is by counting how he has more health care at his disposal, more security, better clothing (armor), and good food.  (I’m assuming a hypothetical rich person who doesn’t spend all their money on trying to OD them selves on drugs).
  Compare this to someone who is the polar opposite, stricken by poverty: eating badly (if at all); no shelter; no clothes; no security; and a much higer likeliness of disease and illness.

So, if you had a sliding scale, you could somehow get the sense that actually being alive was a variable proposition– some people are clearly in a better position to be alive than others.

Modern capitalism makes at least two false propositions.

The first is that it takes X more units of Y to be alive.

The second is that metalife and life are one and the same.

First, lets look at the first proposition.  The fact that you’re reading this blog means that you have access to a computer. That probably means you’re at least in a certain socio-economic class– and that you probably won’t die easily.  You likely have enough food, shelter, and health to be alive.  

And that’s my point.  You’re already fine.

You’re not someone in a developping nation who is starving, and has a life expectancy of 20 years.  You’re not at significant risk of being shot, imprisoned without trial, raped, or mutiliated– your basic life functions and the security of yoru person are a given.

But capitalist society would have you think that you need something more, because you need to somehow guarantee your aliveness.  Thus, instead of just eating a balanced portions of food, the need for sustenence is extended into the luxury of higher forms of eating.  Cola.  Beer.  Fine dining.

Lets get on to the second point.  Does having a beer improve how alive you feel?

It might, actually.

And this is what metalife is about.  Metalife is about the sense of being alive that you get from activities which normally just maintan your existence.  So maybe beer isn’t the greatest fuel for your body– but, the social interaction that comes from you being drunk, the experiences that you get from interacting with other drunk people (good and bad) may give you a definite sense that you are alive.


I had my interview with the big law firm on Wednesday.  I got some pretty good tips all around, both before the interview and after the interview, from [Visual Noise], [RW], [Secondee], and even some people I met at RW’s party last night.  The most interesting one was one that I picked up at the party yesterday.

“Everyone has a tick,” he explained.  “Some people scratch, some people slouch back and forth… my trick? I wear a ring.  And whenever I feel edgy, I just rotate the ring around my finger– it sounds dumb, but doing that looks a lot less stupid than a lot of other kinds of ticks.”


The interview, I think, I went pretty well, but it’s hard to say from these sorts of situations.  I was interviewed by a senior partner and a solicitor, which is to say, someone really important and someone who is a normal lawyer.  I had a good chat I think– it was a lot more informal than I thought.  The fact that my CV had so much experience on it was probably a good thing, because it meant that we could keep the talk focused on what I’d done and what I was good at, rather than things like philosophy or anything related to Australian politics, which are more fluffy in an unpredictable kind of way.

I think that the partner was pretty interested in me, but the junior, a bit less so.  Some people suggested that maybe it’s just because the junior was new to the interviewing process, and didn’t want to butt in since the partner was doing most of the interviewing– fair enough.

I’ve found though that it’s really hard to not look at things that are important to me and to critisize myself in retrospect. That’s the thing– I usually move look forward at all times.  It’s one of my strengths, to see that things are always going to get better.  But this clerkship?  This is important to me.  And that interview? It was important– but it’s in the past, so naturally, I keep looking at it, and second guessing my performance.

Not that it changes anything.

It’ll be 2 weeks before the list of 2nd stage interview candidates comes out.  There were something like 150 people who were interviewed for first stage interviews, which will be culled to probably about half for the 2nd stage– and ultimately, they usually take between 30-40 people. 30 or 40 people… out of 150.  Those are some odds, huh?

It’s true, I don’t have to be number one to get in there… but the truth of the matter is, I’m up against some pretty talented competition.  Not only that, but they have the home team advantage– I find myself constantly struggling to keep up to date with Australian politics and economic stuff.  I dred the possibility of that kind of thing coming up in an interview, so I tend to steer conversations in the direction of skills and experience instead.

There’s not much to do at this point except carry on with my usual work and just hope for the best.  It’s out of my hands at this point– it just depends on how strong the competition was.


I started watching a new anime, Sword Art Online.  I’m really enjoying it– it’s clever in a way that might only make sense to gamers.  I’ve never been really into MMORPGs, but I’ve played enough of them to really appreciate the attention to details and the cleverness of the stories.  I liked, for example, that when everyone started the virtual game, everyone was equipped with the same, cheap ass leather-armour, just like in typical MMORPGs.  [CM] and [SiB] are both enjoying the anime very much.

A special mention is Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, which you can watch on Youtube.  This show is hilarious, but you have to be in the mood for it.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9gN5Gtabq8

On the other hand: Fuck you Naruto!!!  I could probably compress every 5 Naruto episodes into 1 episode.  The pace of each episode is so long and drawn out, you can really tell they’re milking it and stalling.  Which is a god damned shame– the latest episodes have Shikamaru, Ino, and Choji taking on their back-from-the-dead master, Asuma.  Shikamaru is one of my favourite characters of all time, and Choji had some potential for a good backstory– but they just presented the ideas so poorly.  For such an important, epic matchup, they delivered it with lousy animation direction and terrible scripting.


If you haven’t seen the Dark Knight Rises (Batman) movie yet, you should.  Interesting stuff, quite fun overall, even though Batman is actually not-as-important as everyone else in the movie.


I saved the life of a friend

About a month ago, our Sunbeam rice-cooker started acting up.  At first, it just made funny noises, but then eventually, whenever you put the switch in the cook position, the lights would flicker between “warm” and “cook.”  It would still cook the rice, but it would take a bit longer, and it made rather ominous crackling noises, like the kind you hear before starting a domestic fire.  It’s not a big deal in a rice-cooker scenario, since the whole thing is made of metal and sits on a marble counter (not flamable).  But basically, it didn’t work as good as brand new.

Eventually, you could flip the switch to the cook position and the light just wouldn’t change– and half an hour later, when you were done cooking your meal, you’d realize that you still had a cooker full of lukewarm, uncooked rice.

The rice cooker costs a bit less than 30 bucks Australian (about 30 bucks American or Canadian at current rates) so it’s not super expensive to replace.  The obvious option was just to throw this one out and buy a replacement– in fact, the local K-Mart sold an even better one, with almost twice the rice-cooking capacity, and a steamer attachment, for about 20 bucks!




Last week, [Tipster] asked me if I had cut the fingertips off of my cycling gloves, which are missing the top parts of the index and middle finger on each hand.  I didn’t– they just wore down like that.  Convenient, because it’s handy with gloves on to have some flesh out in the open to get some tactile feeling at times.  [CaptainK] commented: “Isn’t that the best feeling, to know that you’ve used something to the point where it’s breaking down, and you can still just use it some more?”


It is.  [Vittek], in our badminton days, used to say that while a badminton racket was like a samurai sword, having little chips and nicks on it were like battle scars– brand new things may be shiny, but they don’t carry the history and emotional significance of something that has shared experiences with us.  If you believe in things like psychometry ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychometry_%28paranormal%29 ) , things are pretty awesome– but if you believe simply in the importance of experience, then all you need is awareness of the connections that you inevitably forge with your surroundings.


It is true that I travel light.  I don’t tend to bring very much with me– but the things I do bring?  They have tons of history.  They are like friends– they serve a function, they have a sense of purpose, and as such, like my own purpose in life, and the lives of my friends, I wish only that they’ll continue to be given the opportunity to pursue



 I didn’t buy the new rice cooker.

Instead, I got a screwdriver, opened up Mr. Rice Cooker,  (after unplugging it) and checked it out.  As I suspected, it was just that the contact point for the switch had built up corrosion, probably just from moisture.  That accounted for the flickering of the lights. I took out my Geber pliers, unfloded various sharp things and just scrapped the brass connection points a bit.  Closed it up.  The whole process didn’t take more than about 5 minutes.

Yes, 5 minutes.  Even throwing out and buying a new one couldn’t have been done that fast.  It’s now been weeks of rice cooking– and it works like brand new.



I’m not saying that everyone should start cracking open their old TVs and whatnot– there’s a lot of dangerous stuff that you shouldn’t mess with.


However, I think that the idea of “recycling,” though extremely important, is rather a bandaid– one of the main problems with consumer culture is the throw-away culture.  Not only do we throw things out once they don’t work, usually because 1% of the thing isn’t doing it’s job anymore, but we also buy new things on whims because we feel that a new thing will make us feel better, or somehow more connected.

And I’m telling you, without a doubt– this mentality also affects the way you treat people.




On one hand, I guess I’m saying this from a green prespective– don’t replace things you don’t need to.  Just because the landfill isn’t in your backyard doesn’t mean that what you declare junk is going to magically disappear.


On the other hand, I’m saying that you ought to treat the objects you own like friends– with respect.  Try and help them grow in their relationship with you– learn the ins and outs and get the most of that relationship, so that you’re better for having that relationship.  Like with friends, endeavour to make relationships that are more than superficial, that are meant to last and to make you a better person.




That said, everyone should go and watch Wall-E.

Life isn’t for Everyone

The expression “First World Problem” didn’t really exist when I was growing up, but now it’s something more and more prevalent.  Like all cliches, there’s actually a fair amount of depth to the subject.  Someone says “first world problems” when they can’t decide what to have for lunch.  But someone also says it when they don’t know what kind of job they want, what kind of future they’re aiming for, or even if they want to get out of bed.


And then we laugh– in the slightly excessive, deffensive way, that says, maybe we should just change the subject.  Maybe if we put it under the rug, the dust mites will take care of it for us and it’ll be gone the next time we check.




The more people I meet, the more iterations of a common theme: people aren’t happy.  That’s got it’s two sides, of course– not being happy could mean depression, apathy, and a ticket to be selected out.  On the other hand, not being happy could also be the little nudge we need for change.

Happiness, really, is kind of a non-issue once you understand it.  It’s not necessarily about more– more and less are actually just two pathways to the same destination.  The destination is a state of being where you are perfectly yourself, and in tune with your environment.  For some, that means more, and for some that means less– but once you get to that point, even if for just a while, you realise that there’s more to happiness than just pleasure and entertainment.  There’s more to it than owning more.  There’s more to it than reductionism, or moral highground– there is just a state of being, to quoth the narrator of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, that is just right.



That said, if we are unhappy, there’s no way around it: we need to do something about it.

An Asian Judeo-Christian upbringing has me rooted in a tradition of turning the other cheek.  Shit happens?  Endure it.  Good things happen to those who have patience.


Like all maxims though, it needs updating.  Who says endurance has to be static?  German forces in World War II were legendary for discipline and endurance– but they didn’t stay in one place.  In fact, Panzer (German “Panther” tanks) campaigns were the backbone of the blitzkreig movement.  Yes, we know we can take punishment– so if that’s the case, why not get out of the corner and advance?



It’s a simple fighting truth that the best defence is a good offence.  Put yourselves in the shoes of the bully for an instant– who is the more dangerous target?  The kid who just covers his head, and eats everything you throw at him/her (and I include her, because this applies equally to the ladies); or the kid who eats everything, and keeps coming at you?

There is something inherently frightening about someone who damage and comes back for more, as if they’re waiting for an opportunity to just hand your ass back to you at any moment.




I have this conversation with a lot of people, and I’m often met with dismissals.  That same “first world problem” sorta nervous laguther and “lets change the subject.”  I won’t lie– my life has been framed in part by the physical weakness of my youth.  I’m talking more and more about it nowadays because I’m coming to terms with it.  Working with patients of all ages, and working with colleagues of all ages– in both subordinate and leadership roles– just tells me how important community is, because of the inherent fragility of humans.

I don’t have a solution for everyone.  If I could make a suggestion, there are a few things that everyone in life should do.  If some day I have kids, I’ll make sure they have these experiences.




One of these experiences is that I think everyone should have a good yell, that comes from the soul.  And then have another.  And then over the course of an hour or so, allow yourself to be so swept away with the rawness of an emotion that it just quite frankly seems natural.  Scene from Final Fantasy X?  I guess that’s a start.  It’s not exactly what I mean, but it’s got the same idea at heart– and that is to express yourself.  Not necessarily in words– but when the feeling surges in you, you just put it outside of you.  Exhale.


Another one experiences is to put yourself in a situation at the verge of collapse, where others will be able to help you.  A group of my friends from law school are training for a half marathon– that’s a great idea.  Beautiful minds are one thing, but without a temple to safely enshrine it, even that is vulnerable.  Working with a team you can trust is great like that– if you’re with the right people, you learn that you’re not alone.  You learn that hardships are shared, and that people care about you making it through.

You are not alone.


Perhaps the biggest experience that I advocate though is the realization, to the contrary of what I just said, that you are alone.

Methods may vary.  Martial arts has been a source of that for me.  Beign humbled in martial arts is really an act of isolation– when you’re getting schooled, you feel very alone because nobody is going to block for you, nobody is going to punch for you, nobody is going to breathe for you.  You have to do it all on your own.

When you’re getting the shit kicked out of you, sometimes the odds are so far against you that there’s nothing you can do– except to decide to advance through your loss.  What I mean to say is, there are people who take a loss and go belly up right away.  They quit.  And there are those who lose, while fighting– I mean, knowing that they’re not going to win in any way most of the audience will care, but fighting as if they still had a chance.

I mean this rather metaphorically– I’m not saying you should go out there and get the tar beaten out of you.  That’s just unhealthy, and stupid.  But what I am saying is that often, we don’t take responsibility, and we sell ourselves short.  The truth is, we’re by nature undisciplined.  Maybe closer to the truth: we’re lazy as fuck.


The reason why I advocate fighting is because it is a real life metaphor that very simply analogises the solutions to first world problems.  The solution: do something.


When you’re cornered, covering your head, and someone is just pummeling you.  When you’re on the ground, you’re starting to black out, because you’re being choked out.  What do you suppose is the correct response?  Wait for something good to happen?


Or maybe, if you’re going to take a beating, you should go down swinging?  Instead of just prolonging the inevitable, if you would only just make a fist and attack your problem, you might be surprised to see the problem back down, even if just a bit.  You might realize that if, instead of vainly trying to see if your blood pressure is strong enough to keep you conscious through the choke, that maybe you should get those damn legs and arms off you altogether so that you can breathe.


In a fight situation, there is a simple reality: you’re responsible.  If you want to get head, you have to fight.  If you want to get out of a jam, you have to fight.  Nobody will do it for you.

Once you get a taste for it, that is to say, the knowledge that everyone can fight, then life becomes exponentially more interesting.  Not only do you find unfathomable depth in your own character which gives you NOX to go after anything, you also can appreciate others more– because their characters are also characterised primarily by the things they take responsible for.

Don’t like getting bullied?  Well then– fight back, for chrissakes.  I could potentially have plenty of respect for losers, as defined by not winning without regard for effort; but I have little if any tolerance for cowards, as defined by irresponsibility.




Okay, so some people are just too squeamish for martial arts.  And it’s true, one day I’ll be to old for this shit. But, there’s always something out there.  Something that makes you feel alive, something that wants to burst out of your chest. A something of soul that doesn’t want to be subverted or subordinate. 


Yeah, okay, fighting isn’t for everyone.  Neither is life I guess.  (Is that a first world problem?)




So, it’s finally summer break in Australia. Been working and volunteering. Not too much interesting.

I think of those sorta ‘life simulation’ or ‘dating sim games’ where you’re trying to maximize your stats by doing the most efficient activities in the time you have per day. That’s pretty much me right now– I’m trying to basically level up in a bunch of areas, with a sideline of making money to buy gifts. Kinda like what you do in the Persona games.

Thing is, in a game, you hit a button to “work at the theatre” or “spend time studying” and that’s it– it’s done. But in real life? You don’t get to just lapse the 6 hours you spend doing the actual deed. Makes you kinda wish sometimes that I had a remote control like in Click (The Adam Sandler movie) where I could fast-forward the boring parts and skip to all the interesting stuff!

Burn my Dread

I just beat Persona 3 Portable (P3P).  Wasn’t dissapointed at all with this game.

This is one of those games that really just gets you thinking… unfortunately I can’t say much about it without spoiling things.  It’s hard to really talk about the characters without the story– because the characters are built around their experiences.


It reflects a lot about real life though– it came at a good time in my life, I think.



So a question I ask every now and then: why are we here?

Yes, it’s difficult to be specific.  And maybe it’s a limitation of language or our ability to communicate– but don’t you know it when you feel it?  I mean, don’t you know when you know it?


And if you don’t– what are you waiting for? When will you start looking?

Shi Shi Hokoudan

Shi Shi Hokodan

Maybe five or six years ago, I used to talk to [SiB] about the concept of ki.  Wheras I’ve studied almost exclusively “hard” martial arts mainly kickboxing and taekwondo, since we were in college he went the path of “soft” styles such as Tai Chi.  He doesn’t do that kind of stuff frequently anymore, but I think that in a lot of ways, the way that we studied martial arts is reflected in the personalities we have.

There were numerous conversations where we discussed the idea that unseen force. Depends on who you ask.  You can call it ki, hado, qi, chi, lifestream, MP, the shining… you can call it the Force for all I care.  It is something that is unseen, and it has a distinct effect on your daily activities.

In part, it has to do with ‘substance,’ that kind of stuff that I talk about that comes from experience.  Get enough experience in life, and simply, you don’t sweat the little things as much as someone who is more of a noob.  But there’s more than one way of dealing with an incoming negative energy.

Notes on ki:
Suppose your environment is directing negative energy at you.

One way involves absorbing it.

  • This school of techniques is normally found in people who you might characterize as compassionate, empathetic or sympathetic. Alternatively, it can be defaulted to by people who are passive, “pushovers” or meek.  From here you can:
    • disperse it internally (basically breaking it down internally).
      • You can dissipate the negative energy properly, sorta like breaking down food you eat and then using it as fuel.
      • You can experience energy indigestion, where the density or flavor of the energy doesn’t agree with you.  This leads to ki poisoning.
    • let is pass through you
      • you can filter it through you, using your own ki as a means of reshaping incoming ki, so that when you release it, it comes out a different type.  An example of this is being given lemons, and making lemonade.
      • you can simply be a ground wire, allowing ki to enter you and leave you without any resisitence.  This is the method of emptying one’s sensibility such that you detach your being from your conductivity, so that you don’t get fried, and letting the ki come and go with zero resistence.  A lot of people call tihs “being Zen” about things, but what it is not is being numb.

Another school involves opposing it.

  • This school of techniques is normally found in people who are confident, agressive, unpredictable, and confrontational.   Alternatively, it can just as easily be defaulted to by people who lack confidence and use it as a means of masking self-esteem issues through bravado. From here, you can:
    • Disperse external ki by crushing it.  This means that if a dog barks at you, you can metaphrically notice that your own fighting spirit is greater than the dog, and you can metaphorically kick the dog.
    • Deflect external ki.  This is when, compared to your fighting spirit, the incoming ki lacks focus on you in particular so you’re capable of deflecting it– usually onto someone else.
    • Be crushed by it.  This is akin to having all the fighting spirit in the world, but being the equivalent of a midget in a football game.

I have, I think, usually been the sort of person who tends to favor crushing external ki.  You can’t really destory ki– but you can externally reduce it to it’s component parts so that you can seal it’s components.  If enough of the key elements of the incoming ki can be separated from the foundation of the ki as a whole, then the threat dissipates.  Up until Korea, I think that that’s been my method of dealing with things.  I was the sort of person who could get into fights, psychological or physical, and was willing to trade damage because I knew that my damage output and my endurance in a battle of attrition would win me most situations.

What changed me though was working with children.

Teaching wasn’t a situation where it was enough to tell kids “that’s wrong.” I couldn’t force feed them information, I couldn’t just crush their resistence to education through military doctrine– I needed to make it fun.

At first I ran my class like a corrupt government– it was characterized by bribery as incentive to get good marks.  Of course, the problem with this is that if you tell kids that they’ll get a free treat if they get 10 on 10, they learn to become dependent on it; they develop a want of the payoff, not of the education experience.

Eventually though, I came to understand that the most sustainable model was a mix of militarism with empathy.  I needed to understand how a kid looked at me.  I needed to get into his head.  And that meant not just exploiting weaknesses, and breaking down deffenses to allow the invasion– it meant being a conduit.  Putting a hand on a kid’s shoulder, after first earning his or her trust, and then becoming a polarized sum of our experiences.

At first that was really something that was novel to me and I think that’s why the middle of my teaching stint was so euphoric.

But then at some point, as I became more attuned to the kids, I started to get too close– and I started to experience ki poisoning.  It’s possible that you know exactly what you’re doing but the supersaturation of what’s around you is so much that, even if you know you can deal with this, you can’t deal with it fast enough to breathe.  It is akin to drowning. You know how to swim; but at a certain point, there’s too much water flopping at you, incessantly, and you get tired.

I mention all of this because I found it interesting how nowadays, I just kind of feel like a more complete person.  Now, my ki is more rounded, and my way of life doesn’t draw only from the hard camp of ki manageent… it now combines elements of the soft way as well.

Not always to beneficial effects mind you.  I never really used to experience ki poisoning of the soft sort.

But I am very familiar with being crushed by ki.  My response to that has always been to lash out with violent energy, like when a bully has you pinned on the ground and you try a burst of a twist here or that way to try and throw him off balance and turn the situation around.  It is a sweaty, painful struggle that leaves you cut and bruised, and leaves me all the more frustrated because my pride will not allow me to admit domination.  It is a ‘give me liberty or give me death attitude’ that is frightfully unreasonable.

The soft method of losing is ki poisoning which involves those moments where I, in the psychological sense, break down.  When I just have an anxiety attack, or I start crying, and lose all reason.

Both results, what’s the solution?  There is none, really– except to wait for the environment to change.  Both in ki poisoning and being crushed by ki, the incoming force by definition is stronger than your ability to manage– you will not be released until someone saves you or if the force relents.  In many cases, time is the only thing that will save you.

I should mention another thing– rust.  I get the impression that for every experience with bad ki on your person, you can manage it– but, if one isn’t careful, one experience corrosion from contact.    In the real world, this translates generally to a conditioning characterized by a loss of faith.  Faith in what depends on what was important to you– it could be religion, it could be a way of life, it could be love or it could be an individual.   With every bad experience, we naturally try to be more efficient about the way we go about our lives from that moment on.

But sometimes, we need to refurbish ourselves.  Sometimes, we accumulate corrosion due to bad conditions– but if we’re on the right track?  If we’re on the right track, which is determined solely by what we choose is the right track, then we have a responsiblity to keep our engine in good working condition.

Nothing says we have to be practical in what we dream for.

During the last little while, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I see the world.  The graduate studies I’ve started have had an enormous catalytic effect on the way I develop my thoughts and attitude towards things.  And as a result of a lot of refining, a lot of old machinery that I’ve managed to clear the rust off and polish, I feel that I’m better now at dealing with things.

I used to watch Ranma 1/2, and I always though that I was like Ranma, the main protagonist. I think that that’s the way one should look at the world– with confidence to deal with anything, to not worry that you don’t have the tools to go forward because you’ll pick them up along the way.

Nowadays though, I find that in a strange way, I’m becoming a different type of character– more like Ryoga.  I find myself constantly threatened by ki poisoning, because the challenges I’m facing in life are not the sorts that are best met with agression.

But, on the plus side, I have learned a new technique of dealing with ki poisoning… Shi Shi Hokodan, in a sense.  And it puts me back in the game.



I was wondering if like, the way that the internet has permeated the world has really changed the way that culture works.
Like, things like manners— somehow, whether it’s because of the anonymity or the distance, people just don’t care mucha bout manners.
In person, when one meets strangers in a social setting, the default mode is to be polite.  If you end up playing a game of Taboo or Scrabble, win or lose, most decent people will just take it as it is: a game that is won or lost.  There’s always something to take with you with an experience like that– on some level, at least you had a bit of fun, right?  The nature of the game is social.
But there are certain things that become more than games.    Other factors become important, perhaps more important than the social aspect.  Pride?  Self-appreciation?  A sense of place in a society?  When a game reaches certain levels of importance, then that’s when a game stops becoming a game in the childish sense of the word– then it becomes something scientific, with an almost martial obsession.
So, can we judge people by their actions towards strangers?  Or shall we accept this capitalist mentality towards relations, that we just get what we can out of anyone and that people who engage in this medium to begin with accept the rules?
Who has the commendable attitude– the ones who who treat strangers with politeness and fairness, no matter how naive the treatment, no matter how undeseving the recipient; or thoe ones who treat people shabily, with a utilitarian minimalism that relies on professional commitment rather than personal decency?
Does anyone care about anyone but themselves?
An ECMO is a procudure that’s rather uncommon.  It has a kinda cool sounding name to it.  Extracorporeal membranous oxygenation.  It’s what happens when you’re born, and there’s a defect in your heart or lungs, such that the blood going to your brain doesn’t have the right composition– there’s not enough oxygen in it, and there’s too much carbon dioxide.   What happens is, we basically run a bypass through your neck.  We hook up a machine to the upflowing blood coming from your jugular, then hook the output of this machine to your carotid vein that goes right to your brain.  The result, in theory, is that “stale blood” coming up gets de-crabonized and re-oxygenated before it goes to your brain.  That way, your brain doesn’t asphyxiate.
One of the main pros about working at Montreal Childrens’ Hospital in the departments that I do, as opposed to back when I worked at the Montreal Chest Institute, is that I have to deal a lot less with death.
Death is an incredible thing– it’s one of those things that is absolutely fascinating to observe, like a building on fire, yet the destructive nature of it is completely different from any other kind of deconstruction.  The extinction of a life is, for every ounce you of wisdom you gain from, a pound of poison of such metaphysical constituency that you wonder if you’d rather not learn those kinds of things about the world.
The trick is to put those ounces to good use, and collect more of them, without completely poisoning yourself.
As a clerk, I meet geometrically more people on paper than I do in person– but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know them, to a certain extent.  Last Christmas, while I was working in OR, there was a girl who came in after a skiing accident.  She hit a tree with so much force that she broke almost every bone from her neck down in at least once place.  Ribs.  Arms. Legs.  Her hands, feet, skull and spine were intact, but she had pretty much crushed her rib cage and had bone fragments floating around.  I see her name a couple of weeks ago in the OR followup logs.  The books say she’s doing fine.  Walking, according to reports!  Not even a limp!  Isn’t that great?  It’s really something amazing what they do in there.
I don’t know who she is, but I’m happy for her.  Truly.
Is there a prerequisite, I wonder?  What is it that allows humans to connect with one another?  Is it the information?  How much does it take, to know about someone, to care about someone’s well being?
How much information does it take about someone to know that you care for someone other than yourself?
When a child is born, they aren’t always given a name right after birth, because sometimes, the parents’ haven’t yet decided on a name.  In that case, the teddy-bear patterned identification braclet, fastened lightly around a baby’s pudgy ankle (but not flush, so as to prevent skin problems) usually identifies them as Smith, BB.  Well, it could be any last name, not just “Smith,” but the first name of an unnamed newborn is always BB.
There’s one such BB who was here last week.  She showed up on my emergency list a couple of weeks ago, booked for a category 3 (not extremely urgent) case.  Went through fine.  Had another category 3 last week, we took care of that also.
She underwent a category 2 ECMO decannulation today.
About an hour after it was done, one of the surgeons called me up to rebook the same patient as a category 1 : ECMO recannulation.
Ten minutes later, the same surgeon called me up to tell me to forget about it.
Eleven minutes later, I was informed that BB had just passed away.
Couldn’t tell you right now much more what’s on my mind, it’s kind of blank.  It’s an ounce heavier, a pound heavier.

Warrior Scholars


Father John Walsh is someone whose sermons I grew up with.  He’s going to be leaving St. Jean Brebeuf parish, a small church in LaSalle, that I’ve been attending as long as I can remember.  When I was a kid, I was an altar server there.

I’m not sure where along the way I kind of lost the faith, but I can tell you that nowadays, although I don’t brand myself as a Christian (much less a Catholic), I do believe that one of the reasons I still go to church every now and then is because of men of faith like Father John.  Despite the fact that he’s a spiritual and community leader of a particular denomination, Father John is quick to recognize the work of anyone doing good, rather than pointing fingers at denominations that do wrong.

Quoting the Dalai Lama, he asked last week: “So, what is the best religion?”  The majority of the parishoners in their heads thought, why, Catholicism, of course!  But his answer was surprisingly liberal: “The best religion is the one that makes you a better person.”

And I don’t think that this is something that a lot of fundies will understand, but it is nontheless something that resonates within me.
So what is my religion?  It’s hard to say… everything you read here is about it in respect. What is The Way?  People spend their entire lives defining it, and perhaps much less actually following it.
There is this meme throughout Asia from the ancient times, one of the warrior scholar.  The concept of the warrior scholar is characterized by a holistic approach to life.  

On one hand, the the scholar element is a filter to look at everything in the world as an opportunity for education.  You accumulate experience, you take in your surroundings, you absorb that which is around you.  In practice, it is a soft approach to interaction with the world, characterized by the arts which you use to express yourself, which are refined by the practices and techniques that you hone throughout your life.  A true baker doesn’t just make bread every day– he attempts to learn from every mound of dough he kneads.  And even if he doesn’t do it consciously, his knuckles and hands do, with every press.  He learns, and he creates from what he learns.  That which he creates is a cyclical reiteration of a growing art.

On the other hand, the warrior element is a force of liberation and distinction.  It is the necessary destructive component to life.  Just as how the lowly worm is as essential to the circle of life, arguably more essential than your pet dog or cat, in our lives we need to have the tools not only to create and express but to destroy or draw boundaries.  We also need the warrior’s training to come down from the theoretical and return to the pragmatic and practical– the warrior’s mind is to clean up shop and put things in working order.  It is what allows a person to deffend his beliefs, to conquer the beliefs of others, and to draw the limitations which must be respected in order to make peace possible.   Conflict arises when borders are drawn and not respected, and if not for the warrior, a person’s individuality and passion is dissolved, meaningless and insignificant, into the collective.

In order for a person to be whole, they need to balance these two opposing personalities within them.  A lack of one or the other leads to problems.  Too much of a scholar and you lose touch with reality.  Too much of a warrior and you become a sociopathic menace.  But in the right amounts?

In the right amounts, the two personalities push and pull, they help each other out.  You learn, which is to say, you add to your person, and you fight, which is to say, you test your extensions against your environment.  It’s a process of personal, natural selection by which you no only obtain traits, but you maintain and customize desirable ones through field testing, and shed the ones that weigh you down.

I think that one of the misconceptions about he warrior element in someone is that it has to do with going out there and picking fights.  That’s not true.  I think that while interaction with the outside world is essential (it’s the only way to see if anything you believe in is relevant), a great deal of the warrior’s job is to struggle against oneself.  Similarly– a true scholar isn’t someone who goes around reading all the books in the archives– it is the adventurer vagrant who puts on his shoes to go outside.

I guess you can say that in reality, a scholar is also warrior, and a warrior is also a scholar.


(Un)like anything you’ve ever seen

Time: 4:45AM September 22nd

If any of you worked in this hospital, you would totally change the way you think about healthcare.  It’s one thing entirely for you to be someone who is coming in as a patient, or as family of a patient– most of you will get this experience at least once in your lifetime.

It’s entirely different to have the insider’s view of a hospital though.  If you could see just what goes on inside these walls, you’d be speechless.


Today, the hospital implemented a new version of a patient management application, code named “Siurge”.  As far as I was previously told, this system only affected triage nurses.  It integrated an electronic triage input, replacing the old chicken scratched hand-written triage sheets with a click and drag equivalent.  The idea is that this system makes for a more complete medical records database, and reduces error by eliminating the need for handwriting.

Unfortuantely, integration is never as smooth as projected.  That’s to be expected.  You might say things going less smoothly than projected is to be the projection.

Tonight was rough as a result.  Training was a big issue.

Because most of the training for Siurge was done during the daytime many of the dedicated night crew either had scarce training, or no training at all.

There was also a misinformation– from the administrative point of view (my sector of Emergency), we were told that the Siurge installation wouldn’t affect us in any way.  That turned out to be a lie.  The Siruge installation changed about half of the computer fuctions, and somehow managed to kill three essential print functions.  We weren’t trained with the new Siurge, much less how to fix anything in the new OS whenever something got borked.

So, the first few hours of work for this shift were nothing short of Warzone– the ER department was figuratively ambushed because we went into the night thinking that we had our guns in order, and then suddenly, everything jammed.

Triages that normally take between 5 and 10 minutes ended up taking over 15 minutes each, clogging the boards and backlogging registration.  Registration, on my end, was madness– with the primary printer down, I had to run over to to the admitting department and manually print each form for every patient who came in.  It only takes about 30 seconds more per patient, but it’s a huge hassle because it takes me away from my primary post and leaves the phones unattended.  Especially when I first come in, the phones are usually ringing off the hooks because we’re trying to line up patients for tests or consultations before the consultant departments leave for the day.  It is a mess, really, and while it is true that I was hired so that I could deal with tough situations and multitask, I think that it’s a bullshit situation when we go into an overnight with reduced staff under such conditions.

And while patients’ and their families can be annoying, that’s not what I’d like to address– it’s the management.    There will always be days with 7+ hour waits in the Emergency department– that’s just the way it is, and I accept that.  But what is unacceptable is that I go into this night without the proper training to deal with that sort of situation.  It’s ridculous, and further, it’s dangerous. And it is not my job to get myself trained– this is a management responsibility, because I (and I’m not the only one) as a clerk was lead to believe that the Siurge installation wouldn’t change anything for us.  How was I even supposed to know?

And that’s just a tuesday.


Time:  8:15AM September 22nd

In the morning, after I finished my shift, I ran into my boss– she had the nerve to tell me “Someone told me that you aren’t doing the MD labels at night.”

“That’s… not possible.  It happened once, and I talked to Linda about it, and it was handled. Every other time, I’ve made sure they’re done.”

“Well, someone said you weren’t doing them.  I’m just passing on the message.”

In my head, I’d already killed my boss 20 times in that span of 10 seconds.

“Well that’d be fine,” I said, gritting my teeth, “if the message was valid, but it’s not, so there’s no need to pass it to me. I’m always the N1, and that’s the N2’s job.   When’s the last time I worked N2, and further, when was I ever N2 and didn’t do the labels except for that one time, which I told Linda about, so it was handled.”

……………..  I just irks me when management comes in with their bullshit concerns; meanwhile, the department is a madhouse because of idiotic higher-up decisions and mistakes, and it’s us on the front lines who have to clean up their bullshit.

‘Confidence,’ on a guess, seems related to the word ‘confide,’ as if there’s some sort of secret. To tell someone in confidence is to trust someone with something you don’t want others to know.  To have confidence is ‘to trust yourself’ or ‘to believe’.

Throughout the years confidence has come to be contextualized in really different ways to me, and it’s not so much that the nature of confidence has changed– but the way that I look at myself and the way I look at others has, and perspective changes everything about confidence because of what you think you see.

There’s two kinds of confidences: one is the domain specific one; the other is the general one.

As you might guess, a domain specific confidence is one that you derive out of a situation that you’ve got experience in.  Usually good  experiences that you have survived.  Put me in front of a classroom of 8- to 18-year olds, throw a textbook of history, sciences, math or literature at my feet, and yeah, sure: I’ll wing it with a certain amount ofconfidence.

Put in me in front of a classroom of salsa dancers and turn on the cd player and tell me do my thing, and I’ll probably just say something like “Oh, I think I hear my goldfish calling” and then run out of the room.  I may or may not come back (but I wouldn’t put any money on the latter scenario).

General confidence is like confidence that you get from having a confidence in other different domains.  Every domain you have confidence in, you take a percentage of that, and then throw those airmile points into a general pool, and that’s your general confidence.

Maybe you’ve cooked spaghetti before, so you figure making a linguini dish won’t be so hard.  Maybe you’ll even try to do canneloni.


But just what is confidence, that we develop anywhere? I think a better word more specific to this explanation would be trust. Trust is an awareness of certaininformation. Maybe it’s that ‘confidental’ stuff that’s been ‘confided’ to you.  You came across this information bceause you saw things a certain way, or you just know things.  What’s trust except a bunch of statistics that say that X out Y times, you get the result you expected? If you can swim the length of the pool without drowing, you’re probably going to be confident you can do it again.  Confidence has a lot to do with knowing what’s going to happen, and liking the odds of favorable outcomes.

Knowing what will happen to you is half the power.

But as the nija mantra goes, not knowing is the other half of the battle.

Because, here’s the dealbreaker that separates the proverbial mice from the so-called men– favorable outcomes.

Favorable outcomes are really important to us because that’s what tells us that our life isn’t in vain.  Without favorable outcomes as a result of our actions, we’d feel that we were constantly at the mercy of fate.

Yet, while it is true that we have a large say in what we do, it is also true that the world is a lot bigger than we are and that with a gajillion sentient players in this MMORPG we call life, there will be conflicts of interest.  that.

What you know is important because that’s what you build the basis of your confidence– those are your foundations, those are your ‘basics’ like jab-strong-fierce that you need as a prerequisite before you can do anything else.

Not knowing, however, is the basis of growth.

Acceptance of a lack of control has a lot to do with picking your fights, and if you can’t pick your fights, then you can at least put it in the perspective of a bigger pictures.  This is really a mind over matter kind of exercise.  You don’t take it personally when a sunny day turns out to be a rainy one (at least, you shouldn’t) because it’s not about you.  It just happens.  Most people don’t even put too much importance on things like the weather, and rightly so, because to do so would only be to set expectations that are inevitably going to be left wanting– it’s much easier to just own an umbrella or a rain coat, or learning to enjoy the rain, regardless of what the weatherman says.

See, in that way, your control isn’t defined in terms of the weather, but in terms of what you can do should the situation arrises.

So that’s where general confidence comes from– it’s when, having earned some exp in this or that domain, you’re presented with problems you’ve never been faced with before, but yet, you know that you’ve got a toolshed full of things at your disposal.  You might not have the perfect tool for the job yet, but you’re handy– you can make due with what you’ve got.

Confidence isn’t strictly about a checklist of merit badges you earn– two people can go through, survive ,and excell at the same activities, but one might still be more confident than the other.  So where does the difference come from?

I don’t know.

It might have something to do with fearlessness, which is not unlike stubbornness or recklessness in other contexts, because fearlessness, which is, when you think about it, rather illogical, and that’s the opposite of anything mathematical.  But what decides what we’re afraid of?  When you ask “why” enough times and get to that primal binary of “yes” or “no” for no other arbitrary reason other than that’s you, then what?  How does that get decided?  Was that even your choice?

I don’t think we can really chose what we’re afraid of, but I do believe that in spite of all our kryptonites we’ve still got a lot of powers that we can use to either deffend those weakneses or remove them altogether.

Fear is a self deffense mechanism of sorts.  It strikes deep in your organs, makes you want to curl up and protect you from attack.  It makes your heart beat, getting you geared up for fight or flight.  It makes you jumpier, more perceptive, more alert.

We fear because of dangers.

So when we get up in front of a room and do some public speaking, make no mistake– there is a danger of being ridiculed.  There is the possibility that people will boo you.  Not all dangers are physical because not all the harms that we are to our bodies alone.


So then, where can we draw the roots of confidence?  It probably has something to do with fear, and fear naturally has something to do with danger.  So, maybe confidence is actually rooted in dangers– that is to say, things that can cause us harm.

Therein lies the reason why my idea of confidence has changed throughout the years– because my idea of dangerous things has evolved as I gained more experience doing things.  But it hasn’t always been direct or obvious.


I think confidence is half of the equation though.  Confidence can sometimes just be an ignorance of a situation, or an ignoring of the reality of things– but confidence isn’t everthing, because in many ways, progress is a results minded scale.

So… one needs what I call “substance.”  Substance is the intersection between confidence and ability.  Think: Optimus Prime.