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Tag: future

2015

Things are looking up– on the 13th of January 2015, [CM] was offered an internship position!

We have been waiting months for this. Most graduating med students were assigned internships back in November 2014, and all the leftover spots were drying up by mid December. If she didn’t get this internship, CM would have had to wait until November 2015 until we hopefully had permanent residency in Australia, in which case she would be able to get an automatic spot for 2016. That means that she would essentially be forced to take a year off because the university trained more graduates than they had managed to secure internship spots in hospitals for.

Anyway, details details– the important thing is that she got an internship. This is a huge cause for celebration!

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Work

Tomorrow will be my last day working at [The Institute].  I had a handover meeting with the CEO, Business Development and secretariat team today to figure out how my projects will proceed.  Yesterday I assisted at the annual general meeting of members.  I just have a few loose ends to tie up today in terms of paperwork, but tomorrow all I have left is essentially the fortnightly project leaders’ meeting, and then I’m done.

After that, I start working at [the Firm] full time as an employment lawyer.

 

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

The CEO told me this morning that I’ve been invaluable in my role because of my ability to work in the office. As in, I don’t just know how to feed double-sided documents into the document feeder– but knowing how to work with people in a politically charged environment.  And, in a pinch, I can just stand around and be helpful at an AGM by passing a microphone around to members.

 

I didn’t really think very much of it, but I guess that I have my time in the healthcare industry to thank for that.  Looking back at it, I was in my early twenties when I started doing serious administrative work, and quickly was getting a taste of office politics.  Read: backstabbing.  I also remember that I hated it at the time, and I think that this was largely due to a disillusionment of how the world worked.  There I was, a young adult (or whatever you call someone who is no longer a teenager) doing a grown-up’s job, and wondering why was it that in reality, it seemed that grown-ups in a hospital were more concerned about office politics and power plays than helping patients. But I digress.  You can learn all sorts of things at any place at any time.

When compared to a lot of other people, I’ve had a pretty diversified work history– and that’s given me a very electic mix of corporate skills that have really come in handy.  Especially as I increasingly come to terms with the fact that I’m no longer supposed to be the office junior.  I’m no longer 16, and I can’t just look up to “the adults” to tell me how to do something– at this point, I am one of the adults, and I’m increasingly taking ownership of my roles in my companies.

There are a lot of people out there who got better grades than me in school, but grades really aren’t everything– finding someone who can work, and add functionality to an office, is very difficult.  Oftentimes, the people who put all their points into book smarts are some of the most awful people to work with.

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

 

In the coming weeks, one of the things I’m going to be discussing with my boss at the Firm– who is also a university lecturer– is how I’ll be a guest speaker for her class.  I’m not sure what I’ll be speaking on just yet.  Not employment law– I mean, why get me to speak on something as a guest in  a class that my boss teaches? More likely, it would be something along the lines of career counselling or mental health and wellbeing advice.  I’ve been thinking about this casually over the past few days, and there are a few notes that I’ve been mentally keeping with regards to how I go about this.

 

  • I need to keep in mind that if people want career counselling, we have to “work with what we’ve got.”
  • This means that some of these students are going to be the types who have always lived at home with their parents, who have never held a part-time job in their lives, and who may very well be rich kids who were sent to law school by their parents.  They might be total assholes.
  • On the other hand, they might be super keeners who are perfectly book smart.
  • I suppose, basically, they can be any personality type imaginable– which means that they’d actually need personalised advice.
    • The challenge, therefore, is to give advice general enough that it can be useful to one group of students without villifying or insulting the life decisions of the other group.
    • Basically, this boils down to telling them all to pull a Neitszche or a Derrida.  Look deep into your deepeest of hearts and see where you need to improve.
  • I haven’t quite figured out what to say to International students except “learn to speak English.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Anyway, more planning on that later.

 

Next week, the first order of business as a full time solicitor is to finish writing my own employment contract. It’s time to get an annualised salary, instead of being a casual worker.

 

College of Law

super rant to follow.

So today was my first day doing the “Practical Legal Training” stuff– essentially, the last bit of formal schooling I’ll need to do.  Well, not exactly last when I really think about it.  I still have to finish my final papers for my actual postgraduate law degree in tandem.

Read the rest of this entry »

Plug ‘n Play

I remember, back in the 90s when I was in High School, one of my English teachers was saying how he hated the information age. It kept on inventing words that either were ugly words, or which read as one thing but meant another.  He didn’t like, for example, words like “login,” and the variants, “log-in,” “logon,” etc.

 

I find I agree with him.  Words don’t mean much nowadays in tech.  I might just be chasing at shadows on this, but I think it largely has to do with capitalism’s influence, specifically marketing.  What words mean don’t matter any-more– what we’ve done is made proper nouns out of what would normally be common nouns.

It’s a bit hard for me to explain this idea, because I haven’t sorted it out myself.

But take for instance– USB.  That was something that a small fraction of people knew about in the 90s– now, even though my parents, now in their 50s, have no clue how it works, they’ll still know what USB means when I tell them to plug something into a USB port.

In reality, it stands for “universal serial bus,” which to the layman will make no sense whatsoever.  I’m more annoyed by words like “universal,” because it’s really not.

Similarly, a big idea that came out of the 90s was “plug ‘n play,” the idea that you could just plug something in and it would just work.  Well, it’s almost 20 years later, and we still don’t have that experience across the board, even when people releasing software and hardware say you can.  You’d think that plugging a printer into a laptop would be simple enough– the plugs only fit the ports if you connect the right ones, for instance.  But software size? Things don’t work that simply.

Yeah, I’m sure it’s difficult because all these manufacturers and developpers aren’t agreeing on standards– but occasionally, it annoys the shit out of me when even a single company can’t keep up with it’s own departments.

Just now, I was installing the latest version of Firefox on my laptop.  Well, it wasn’t a fresh install, more like a reset because I had so many plug-ins that had since died over the past little while that resetting things was the easiest way to clear the slate.  After that, all I wanted to do was re-sync my bookmarks, history, passwords, etc– which were all on the cloud.  There should be a redundant copy on my mobile phone’s firefox as well.

How long did it take me to set up the synchronisation? Over 30 minutes.  I was doing something else in other tabs while looking up how to do it– but for a feature that’s supposed to make my life easier, it was surprisingly difficult to set up.  I’m not an idiot either– I consider myself a lot more tech savy than the average person.

It just so happens that the settings for syncing on Android phones and on the Debian version of Firefox are just buried in inconsistent places, and rely on all these extra steps with this ridiculous “sync key” pairing code where they could probably get the same thing done with a traditional login and password interface.

 

I just want my bookmarks to be the same on my phone as on my laptop.  This should be easy– but even among two Firefox products, the process is just painful.

Yes, the world is still a lot easier than the days of DOS and things.  I would never have been able to get my parents into basic computing back in those days.  But still– it just seems like the conceptual stuff, like user interfaces (where you want to bury your settings and options) should be the easy part.  It doesn’t have to look pretty– you just need to make it consistent and logical.

 

But there’s always all these nigging little details that annoy me about interfaces that really ruin what could otherwise be an excellent experience.  This causes confusion and stunts adoption rates.

 

It’s not just a problem on computers– it’s also a problem in games.  User interfaces are incredibly important– it’s the technology equivalent of “people skills” in the business world.  Without a good connecter between the product and the user/client, it doesn’t matter how great the work into the product is– it will still be shit, because the client can’t access it properly.

I’ll give you some examples of user interface aggravations:

  • Facebook.  While I understand that Facebook wants to add features, if they’re going to do it, they should probably add them across all platforms simultaneously instead of rolling them out over one platform and not another.
  • Microsoft Office.  Whenever you change something as fundamental as the menu system, you need to keep in mind that the transition is probably going to lose you a lot of clients.  While logically grouping certain features together may make sense, you’re playing with fire if you group functions differently from how they used to.
  • Firefox: There is a hella lot of inconsistency across platforms and versions as to where you configure things.  In some versions, there’s an “Options” menu, in others, you find “Preferences” under the “Edit” menu.  It others still, it’s under “Tools.”  In some versions, Sync is a feature of one of the above– in others, it’s nested in the phone’s system settings (as opposed to in the in-application configuration).  What is this, hide and seek? That’s just annoying as hell.
  • Microsoft Windows 8: …Enough said.
  • Any university’s website, which has multiple logins for your email, your schedule, your Moodle / Blackboard, the library…

You wouldn’t go into the service industry if the interface for your service, the sales people, weren’t trained to get the client what they wanted.  So why is it that in the world of technology, we place so little importance on user interfaces?  What makes technology an acceptable place to screw around with mediocre client-facing investment?

It might be a bit too much to ask, but maybe if developers spent time on beta testers who didn’t just test a single product, but integration and consistency across multiple platforms, maybe users would be a bit happier?

The Hunt Continues

I met up with an HR guy from one from one of the firms that I didn’t get a clerkship from.  The guy was really helpful; surprisingly so.  I suppose I’m mostly surprised because he has nothing to gain from helping me.

He essentially gave me some career counselling and some hints as to where I should start looking for jobs and such.  He pointed me in the direction of recruiters and large accounting firms that hire for their internal legal departments.  They’re all worth a shot.  Nothing to lose, right?

I guess the guy put me in a good mood because there are very situations in the corporate world where people will do things for nothing– or at least, that’s the impression I usually get.  Here was a guy who was just helping me, as an individual, with no strings attached.  Just… unexpected.

It is unfortunate that such acts of generosity are few and far between.

At the university, there is little or no career counselling.  It’s an unfortuante state of affairs that the educational institutions we attend are every bit as corporatised as the firms themselves– I guess that’s rather normal, considering that the firms are the ones sponsoring the university, so they have a heavy influence on the sorts of opportunities that actually get advertised and explained.

Part of the problem too is that the universeity law faculty itself has almost no offerings in terms of career advice– in fact, all the careers events are arranged by the student-run law society.  And there’s no continuity to those sorts of efforts.  LawSoc is a big free for all that is used by law soc execs to put themselves in the prime spots for hiring– it’s a clique thing.  It is social positioning, like controlling the centre field.

Anyway, big firms are all done with their clerkship processes now, and as a final semester student, I’m no longer eligible to get sydney jobs by that route.  Unfortunately, there’s a huge black hole between the clerkship applications, which students apply to in their penultimate year, and direct applications for solicitor possitions, which usually require 2-3 years of previous licensed experience.  So what do people do in the 2-3 years in between?  That means that the overwhelming amount of positions are for the same group of people who got a clerkship in the first place, doesn’t it?

I’m going to be applying to mid-sized and smaller firms from now on, as well as internal legal departments from big accounting firms.  It’s not exactly ideal, but I can’t be picky, and know that I have to start somewhere.

I think it’s extra difficult on them morale because I never went too long in the past without finding a decent job.  The problem now is not finding a job, per se– it’s finding a specific type of job, namely, work as a solicitor, which is one of the shittiest markets lately in Sydney.  It is very much a soul-crushing experience to just be looking for a specific type of job that the market is completely saturated with at the moment.

Fingers crossed.

Fortress of the Will

I don’t remember if I mentioned, but a couple of weeks ago at judo, I took a bad fall in judo.  My opponent was a good 40 pounds lighter than me (a bit under 20kg lighter) and at least a foot shorter than me.  He attempted a one-arm shoulder throw, ippon seoi nage.  This is one of the classic basic throws of judo– my opponent spins around in front of me with control of my right sleeve or lapel using his left arm, hooks his right arm under my right armpit, and does a forward twisting motion that should theoretically cast me over his right shoulder in a high arc, with me flipping forward and landing on my back.

 

There’s a few components to a throw– the first is the off-balancing of the opponent; the second is the entry to get your body into position for the throw (usually placing yourself in a good fulcrum position); and finally, the execution of the throw.

 

My pretty good for the first two elements– but execution of the throw is where it went all wrong.  Instead of him sending me over his back and flipping over him, he lost his balance halfway through execution.  The result was that I half side-dodged to avoid his throw, but at the same time, was half sprawled over him as we fell, because he didn’t let go of my arm.  Normally in a competition situation, this would be a failed throw because I didn’t land on my back or on my side.  But regardless, the way we fell with him still hanging on to my arm, I wasn’t able to break my fall.

Imagine doing a one armed right handed pushup– now imagine both of your legs are pointing about 30 degrees upwards, instead of towards the floor.  And then imagine that the vector of your force is forward, as if you are about to plow the ground with your face.  Now imagine that your left hand can’t help you (it’s blocked by his body) and that you can’t really chose how to absorb your impact with your right arm (because he’s got it locked in with both of his) and there’s no angle for you to tuck your head and roll.  WHat happens in this situation?

 

Well, in my whole case, my whole body weight landed on my right arm, and the weakest link was somewhere in my shoulder.

 

From what I have manged to gather from my visit to the physio last week, and reading up on the subject, and having [CM] do various physical tests on me, my condition is more than likely known as a shoulder impingement due to some complaints of the supraspinatus tendon.  To give you an idea of what this entails practically, it’s difficult for me to find the strength to raise my right arm to scratch my left shoulder if my right elbow is shoulder height.  Anything where my right forearm is parallel to the ground and left to right in front of me is kind of difficult.

The interesting thing is that a lot of the motion is covered by other larger muscles– so if I move my arm quickly in one fluid motion, I can put my right arm in those positions I just mentioned.  However, if I do the motion slowly, I might find that I have a lot of difficulty doing it.  This is because the large muscles don’t engage for slow movements unless the brain feels they’re needed– and the brain usually only feels they’re needed for larger more quick motions.

 

 

Being the former hospital employee that I am with limited medical training, I’ve been doing what most people of my experience do when they think something is wrong– be a cyberchondriac about it, and spend a day self-diagnosing myself.  I’m really grateful for Youtube, actually– there’s a lot of information that’s so quickly available, and of a pretty high calibre quality, that is helping me understand my problem in ways that my physiotherapist just wasn’t all that good at explaining.  Getting the same information from several different perspectives makes it easier than just reading the one or two paragraphs of my flatmates’ highly technical medical textbooks.

 

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

 

I’m not sure how I feel about knowing what’s wrong with my shoulder though.  It will heal, no problem. It’ll take time.

 

But every time I get sick or injured, it’s just my habit: I feel mentally worn out.  I can say with a lot of confidence that I am a lot better at dealing with physical injuries and sickness than most people I know– I’m quite “tough” really.  But the fact of the matter is, I also go through a lot more injuries than the average person.  Which means that despite my higher level of physical activities, depending on how you evalutate “health” I may not be better off than the average person.

 

If we think of health in terms of biochemistry, body fat ratios and and cardiovascular endurance, then I suppose, yeah, I’m in great shape.

But if you were to think of health in terms of having a well-rounded body that is suited for all rounder use, I might actually score as unhealthy.  Acute injuries are one thing.  But I’ve got a pretty long list of in-between and downright chronic conditions, especially when it comes to joints.  This most recent supraspinatus injury is the most recent installment in a history of tears and strains to my right rotator cuff from all that badminton, especially when I was trying to improve my smash power.

 

I know that bumps and bruises are all part of growing up.  And it is true that a lot of my fellow orange belts in judo are mostly ten years younger than me.  But I have almost two decades of fighting experience at this point– and when this all started, I never would have suspected that it would all take so much of a toll on my body.

The experiences have been invaluable.  Both in terms of badminton and martial arts.  But having been able to train myself so hard in the past, I suppose it’s ridiculous that I’m only 31 years old and I feel like I’m reaching certain peaks in terms of physical condition.  Yes, I can improve on my mental game, on techniques and strategies– and I think, largely, this is what differentiates my style of judo from the other orange belts.  But I do not feel that my body is getting any stronger.  I mean, I’m certain I am getting stronger overal– but the weakest links in my physical strength are gradually getting worse.  I take an injury that shaves off 10 hit points from some part of me. I heal up and recover, but it only ever restores 9.9999 points.  Rinse and repeat.

 

I suppose my big gripe is that I have always believed in an interrelatedness between mind, body and spirit– but if the body starts to grow weak, where will I house my mind and spirit?

 

I’m probably getting ahead of myself though. I’ve still got a few more decades of ability left before I’m reduced to the  “average” person’s standards of physical wellness.  I don’t have to figure out how to deal with aging in just a day.

Sans Frontières‎

I remember that when I was in CEGEP (“college,” which is your schooling in Quebec for what would be equivalent to year 12 to 13, 14, depending on what your degree was, pre-university) there was a friend I had made.  Lets call him [Spike], after the character from Cowboy Beebop.

Back in those days, I spent equal thirds of my time in the anime/manga club; the arcades; and the martial arts club.  Spike was someone who was a diehard for the anime/mange club and the martial arts.  We credit him as one of the three founding members of the original Martial Arts Club (MAC), the other two being [StrangerInBlack] and myself.

Spike loved japanese manga, anime and videogame culture.  I think that’s why we got on so well, because he always had this modern day samurai spirit to him.  In fact, we bought him a white pine shinai as a birthday gift one year.   That’s a rather rare gift, since I think most shinai have a dark brown colour to them.

He always admired the same types of characters in video games– Spike Speigel from Cowboy Bebop; Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid (the first PSX one, since that was all that was around at the time); Heero Yuuy from Gundam.


It’s natural that when you hang around people with the same interests, your passions resonate. I don’t know whatever happened to Spike, to be honest.  He dissapeared from College suddenly.  I  heard that he had gone to a different CEGEP for some reason or another. I crossed paths with him briefly when I was doing my undergrad at Concordia… he’d taken to wearing cardigans all the time, and he’d put on a lot of weight around the waist.  I remember that meeting him was shocking.

I remember that we, his friends in CEGEP, always had this sense that Spike was somewhat disconnected from reality.  Maybe that he was in denial.  I always got this sense that hew as unhappy with life– and that’s why many of us turned to fantasy worlds and martial arts.  Here were worlds that were glamorous, cool, exciting, and awesome– the real world demanded so much!  But with enough friends? With enough friends it was possible to maintain a constant illusion that we’d never be responsible for anyone or anything.  We could go on living as if all would continue forever.

There are a few ways that this scenario could have played out for us.  For all of us who floated between the anime/manga club, the arcades, and MAC I mean.  [Zanshin] is one of the few of us who “got out” quick and on time, but the vast majority of us had a lot of growing pains when it came to becoming responsible people out of that and didn’t graduate on time.

-=-=-=-=-=-

When I ran into Spike again some years after CEGEP, it was a random encounter during my undergrad degree.  It was strange– he always had a certain energy to him, but suddenly, it was gone.  He had put on a lot of weight, and seemed really out of shape.  Instead of his bombastic big smile, it was a tired, almost guilty one.

I couldn’t believe it.  MAC was one of the prides of my youth– although that original MAC had probably by that time closed, I was still always doing some martial arts in some form or another. But he had gotten… fat.  And more severely, the fire in his eyes had died.

It wasn’t something I had noticed because we were specifically talking about martial arts– it was just that he seemed tired.

Now, I realise that there are a lot of things in his life that I likely didn’t know about.  But that’s one of those things that I never thought would have died out from anyone’s eyes– that struggle, that fire, that want of being the protagonists.

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

It goes without saying that life s a very difficult thing, for a number of reasons.  It’s difficult, first of all, to figure out what we want.  But once we know it?  Then it becomes apparent that it’s difficult to get what we want.  To make matters worse, if getting what we want is difficult, then we start reevaluating what we want– we start wondering if it’s not something we really wanted anyways.  So we make compromises

If we’re lucky enough to figure out what we need, then we can go after that whole heartedly– but it takes a lot of courage to do that.

My life has been a contradiction of two opposing forces– at one hand, this philosophy of being the hero of my own story.  Forward, towards the goal!  Take no prisoners, make no comrpomises.

But at the same time, experience has been showing me that I actually need very little in life.  Pursing things without any respect whatsoever for reality can be very self-destructive.  In fact, it is one of the components of psychopathy.

-=-=-=-=-

Despite everything, I wonder– have I really figured out what it means to be happy?  Is happiness a state, or a process?  Is it counting your blessings and being able to say “wow, that was a good run,” or is it to say “I know, finally, where I want to be”?

I do know that without things that we’re passionate about, life is pretty boring.  But with passions, at the same time is the possibility that in wanting something, or deciding that we need something, we’re doomed to not be able to get it.  So do we content ourselves with the struggle?  Is it just to go down gloriously?

Who decides by what criteria a high score is determined? And if it is us– how would we score it?

Maybe this empericism is my problem.  Maybe I should just ask intuitively how I feel, and if it’s good, then things are good, and that’s that.

 

Maybe it’s not just about what we want or need, nor if we’re there yet– maybe it’s whether it’s enough to be facing the right way, even if we don’t have it.  I don’t always know.  So many questions.

Reconstruction

After a couple of days of mindless video gaming, sleeping, and judo, I think I’ve successfully reset my brain and am ready to take on school again. Just in time, I suppose– week 7 is coming up, which means midterm assessments.

To be honest, I kind of feel a bit disgusted with myself that I spent so much time gaming lately. It’s dirty work, but I think that that sort of thing is what i need to get my head back on straight.

[CM] was recently doing her rotation in the psychiatry department, so I got to overhear a fair amount of the video lectures that she’s been listening to. Apparently, when it comes to bad memories, there are two big coping mechanisms when it comes pushing that memory down: suppression and repression.

Repression is the unhealthy mechanism. That involves taking the event and just burying it so deep that you forget about it completely– at least on a conscious level. However, it continues to affect you at a subconscious level. That’s where you get all these typical television psychiatry stereotypes about people saying that the problem is a deeply repressed traumatic event that has never been dealt with. It leads to a psyiatric gangrene, in a sense.

Suppression, on the other hand, is healthy. Best example of this is Lily and Marshal from <i>How I Met Your Mother</i>, who, if they see they’re getting nowhere with a huge argument, just decide to call a time out, and resume every other aspect of their life as if the argument isn’t happening. Basically, they put it on a shelf in suspended animation, to deal with it later. In the meantime, it allows them to take care of other business.

I think for me, it depends on how low I’ve gone because of something. I might not be able to completely compartmentalise a negative feeling or event, because I live a very integrated life– I draw connections between every event in my day and the next, so it’s hard not to have things leak out.

I think that’s probably why video gaming is probably a good suppression. For me, it involves getting unplugged from reality, and plugging into something completely different. Spending time in that other world takes some of the CPU processing away from that traumatic event– allows the microprocessor to cool down, if you will, so that when I come back, things are less gunked up and a bit easier to deal with.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Do be honest, I feel much better right now. Best I’ve felt in a while, actually– for the past two or three months, I’ve been sleeping incredibly poorly. Maybe 6-7 hours per night, sometimes in chunks. Now that I’ve failed at clerkships, it feels as if an enormous burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

I sleep better now, I eat better now, and all that background noise has mostly cleared up.

That’s not to say that I don’t care about getting a job– but I do have some breathing time to focus on other things in my life right now.

I called home and spoke to my parents last week. This was before I had my last clerkship rejection. But it made me feel better because my parents were pretty supportive of my studies, and all my effort to build a life for myself with CM.

To be honest, I’m still not very used to my parents being so supportive. But I guess it makes sense, because when I was in my teens and early twenties, I did quite a bit that would make any parent cringe. Our relationship has improved a lot over the years– I can talk to them like friends now, which I never could do when I was younger. Who would have known that all I had to do was to sort my life out and have some ambition?

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

I remember from when I was studying philosophy during my undergrad an anecdote from Nietzsche. I tried to find it again but couldn’t, which makes me wonder if it was Nietzsche at all. In any case– it’s the story of friendship, and the footbridge. When Nietzsche’s friend came to visit him, he had to come up on a footbridge leading to his house.

Upon his arrival Nietzsche basically tells the friend to stop, and turn around. You’re not welcome here. ANd that’s it– he shuts his door in the guy’s face. There’s no where to go except back across the footbridge where he came from.

That makes Nietzsche sound like quite the bastard, and it’s a wonder that he had any friends at all. As I understand it, he died quite miserably. But in his head, he was being the best friend ever. The reasoning is that, by rejecting his friend, his friend would be cast into self-doubt and introspection. By having his confidence in their friendship completely shaken, he would be broken and forced to reevaluate everything about himself. This is the beginning of the <i>ubermensch</i>, the superior man– because if the foundation is broken, then nothing can be taken as granted. It becomes thus necessary to rebuild from nothing, and to scrutinise every stone before it is set in place.

In his view, this was the best experience a friend could give you.

In reality, if I had a friend who slammed a door in my face, my first reaction might not be to wonder too much what I’d done wrong. I’d probably kick down his door and ask him what the fuck his problem was.

But employers are more like this, and the way I’ve decided to fit in employers who reject me into my life experience is in this way. It’s the only way that I get anything useful out of this.

-=-=-=-=-=-

My parents are keeping busy with a lot of renovation projects. My dad hates working on the apartments (a couple of investement properties that we rent out) because the idea of losing money to those things totally stresses him out.

But they recently helped one of my uncles build a deck. I saw the pictures they sent me, from the foundations to the finished product– and I must say, it looks very professional. At the moment, they’re now working on completely redoing our kitchen.

I have a lot to appreciate about the childhood I had. Even at a young age, we were a very “Do It Yourself” family, and I mean with actual carpentry skills, not just 3d printing or basic crafty abilities with scissors and duct tape.

I am often shocked at how the average person I know doesn’t know how to use a hammer or a screwdriver, much less change the brakes on a bicycle, or even dismantle a piece of IKEA furniture without the instructions.

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

It, as in, <i>life</i>, is a lot like playing with building blocks, or lumber and nails. Yeah, there area lot of easy ways to do things nowadays– you can build a deck nowadays with artificial PVC planks that all but snap together, for instance.

But at the end of the day, I think you have a much broader sense of imagination and a greater ability for adaptation to bad circumstances if you know the basics– how to hit a nail in straight so it doesn’t crook, for instance.

Human psychology is a lot the same– it’s a building space. Yes there are many space age materials out there that make things so much easier. However, I pride myself on being hard on myself and really being able to give into a full range of emotions, from happiness to despair. A respect for my own feelings, motivations, and fears gives me small lowest common denominators that I can work with.

Throw in a tornado, and I don’t need the space age materials to rebuild my life– I can make do with the timber and nails I’ve got.

I just need time to remember that setbacks are nothing new, and neither is getting beyond them.

Game on, assholes!

I had the most epic dream last night. I can’t remember the details, but it involved solving a murder mystery, tied in with breaking a child adoption / people smuggling ring.  Oh, and it also involved me using kung fu in a massive Chinese banquet brawl.  Some of my adversaries were using chopsticks as throwing weapons.

A few people I knew were in it.  [CM] was like my operator, kind of like an exasperated Cortana role, telling me codec-style where I needed to be and whose asses needed kicking. And then there were a bunch of new faces, familar-ish but not people who I know personally.  Probably people from judo.  [Zanshin] was also in it, as was [T-Bird].

When surrounded by enemies with just one or two allies, I remember saying.

“Alright you motherfuckers, lets do this!!”

“What the fuck man!” asks one of the allies.  “Who are the motherfuckers? Us, or them? Like, are you pep talking, or threatening? I don’t even fucking know!”

“It doesn’t matter! This shit just got real! Game on, assholes!”

… or something like that, and with a battle cry I initiated a fray of titanic legacy.  I think at some point, I actually broke a baseball bat in two with a kick.  Sometimes, I feel so much energy that a purpose doesn’t matter– burning it is all I need to do.

 

It was all very ridiculous, because that’s what dreams are like.  Especially mine, when they’re good.

 

I haven’t been having this sort of dream for a long time.  I’ve mostly been sleeping dreamlessly, with that feeling that as soon as I blink at night, sunlight is suddenly everywhere as if I had just hit a switch.  I think it’s the subconscious stress of clerkship applications.

However, that all changed a bit yesterday.  Although I’ve racked up 4 rejection letters so far, yesterday, I managed to net invitations to first round interviews with a couple Australia’s most famous law firms. This could be the chance I’ve been waiting for.  It won’t be easy.  The planned progression: pass first round interview -> pass cocktail evening “this is not a test” test -> pass second round interview -> get clerkship -> get grad job -> get work sponsorship -> get work visa -> get permanent residency.

But well, at least, I’ve managed to stick a crowbar in a couple of doors.

Needless to say, I’m fucking pumped.

High Density

I moved a book on a shelf at work yesterday, because I was doing my Business Associations exam remotely via computer.  I couldn’t help but think that technology had changed so much about the way my everyday life goes about.  For one thing, the fact that I was dong an online exam– not just submitting something by email, which I’ll admit, even that is something new in the past few years.  It’s because as I cleared myself some space, I found a 3.5″ floppy diskette on the shelf.  It wasn’t dusty or anything, probably because it was under a box– but it looked like it might’ve been something I used just yesterday.

In reality, none of the computers at work even have disk drives at all.  Indeed, most of them are without CD-ROM drives, now that network installations, even at small enterprises, are becoming so ubiquitous.

 

In the past, when my friends and I were running the Dawson Martial Arts Club (MAC), when the jiu jitsu guys first started storming our strikers-only club, the only way we could learn their techniques was by trying to figure things out from pictures if we could find a book in a bookstore or library, or by finding a jiu jitsu guy willing to teach us.  The other night?  The other night, I was in randori (sparring) with one of the blue belts, a guy who is 20kg heavier than me and almost a foot taller than me– he got me in a kesa gatame (scarfhold, I think they call it in other styles) pin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kesa-gatame).  Since starting judo, I’ve been really bad at escaping pins– from my MMA days, most of the time the opponent will always try to pound or attack a limb, which often makes gives them (the attacker) one or two less limbs less to balance with.  But in judo, because you can win a match just by basically pinning the person, they have all four of their limbs to make sure you have a very hard time escaping.  Because of my lack of experience, I often have a lot more hard times escaping pins than I do countering attacks.

 

But when that blue belt got me in kesa gatame, I actually managed to escape– using a technique that I learned on YouTube.  (Stephan Kestings “How to Escape Kesa Gatame and the Headlock,” which you can find at  http://youtu.be/9Im8IKc8NeY ).  I know, I know, a lot of you people actually do brazillian jiu jitsu and you think that this is really simple stuff– but if you are like me, and simply are ignorant, where will you learn these things?  As a yellow belt, I learn a handful of new things every time I go to judo, and in a completely random order depending on what comes up.  Frankly, it’s a hella lot of information.  But sometimes, I want a particular solultion to an ongoing, specific problem– and as good as my instructors and seniors are, they only have so much time to share with me.

Technology, thus, allows me to do “judo homework.”

When I actually pulled the technique off, I think my opponent was as surprised as I was that we suddenly found our positions reversed.

 

On the flipside, I see a lot of ways that technology has not made our lives better… in fact, it might have made it worse.   Classrooms full of students on facebook instead of paying attention to a lecture– I’m not trying to be a luddite, but why not just do it the way I used to, and just skip the damn class and do something else?

This morning, I almost saw a girl fall off her bike, because she was listening to her iphone, while texting, and lost momentary control.  Almost performed a tank slapper.  Oh, and her helmet was hanging from her handlebars.  What can technology do for her… I guess it could get her a brain MRI after she gives flies off her bike one day.

 

End of the day, technology is just a tool, and it doesn’t automatically make us smarter.