Paragraph for the day

January 4, 2010 10 comments

From Ben Casnocha’s blog, an excerpt from a David Foster Wallace story:

a large percentage of bright young men and women locate the impetus behind their career choice in the belief that they are fundamentally different from the common run of man, unique and in certain crucial ways superior, more as it were central, meaningful — what else could explain the fact that they themselves have been at the exact center of all they’ve experienced for the whole 20 years of their conscious lives? And that there was also a good possibility that, when all was said and done, I was nothing but just another fast-track yuppie who couldn’t love, and that I found the banality of this unendurable, largely because I was evidently so hollow and insecure that I had a pathological need to see myself as somehow exceptional or outstanding at all times.

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The ‘story’ of my life

December 28, 2009 4 comments

I watched this interesting and thought provoking talk by Tyler Cowen recently and came to some conclusions about myself.

1. I am highly influenced by stories – I bought an iMac 🙂 – but it is ok to be so 😉

2. I think I am agnostic about a lot of issues and comfortable with it.

3. I don’t think I am dogmatic about too many things (tell me if I am!)

4. I promise to be a little more messy!

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Categories: life, me Tags: , , ,

Rebel with a cause

December 14, 2009 8 comments

A major life decision has been made. Plans are afoot to break free of cubicle nation and go where the heart desires (the list is long!). As a friend aptly put it, “There is a premium on your youth, don’t piss it away”. Of course, some might say aimless wandering is precisely pissing it away, but I think not.

And what do I purport to gain from said rebellion? Perspective – that much bandied about (by me) term but I value it. Hark, I have spoken about this in the past!

It is time to put dreams and thoughts into action. What experiences shall I partake of, what beauty shall I seek? It feels like the world is a smorgasbord and I am the lone diner. Should I sample various fares, or should I satiate myself with really digging into a small number of dishes. I think I’ll pick the latter for now. Pick two or three experiences that I think will help me grow, and dive right in.

I have applied to be a volunteer in Tanzania or Ghana. Post that I intend to live on a farm in New Zealand. Next I’d like to learn Spanish, so probably some time in a Spanish speaking country – again the choices are many – Argentina is top of the charts right now! So much to do, so little time.

Thankfully, this is one smorgasbord where the food outlasts you!

Tokyo Vice

November 9, 2009 9 comments

If there is one thing that makes commuting bearable (and I daresay fun) it is NPR.

On my way home tonight, I stumbled upon an interview with Jake Adelstein – author of ‘Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan’

Jake has led an extraordinary life by any standard. Here is an excerpt from an interview with him on Amazon:

Question: What drew you to Japan in the first place, and how did you wind up going to university there?

Jake Adelstein: In high school I had many problems with anger and self-control. I had been studying Zen Buddhism and karate, and I thought Japan would be the perfect place to reinvent myself. It could be that my pointy right ear draws me toward neo-Vulcan pursuits–I don’t know. When I got to Japan, I managed to find lodgings in a Soto Zen Buddhist temple where I lived for three years, attending zazen meditation at least once a week. I didn’t become enlightened, but I did get a better hold on myself.

Question: How did you become a journalist for the most popular Japanese-language newspaper?

Jake Adelstein: The Yomiuri Shinbun runs a standardized test, open to all college students. Many Japanese firms hire young grads this way. My friends thought that the idea of a white guy trying to pass a Japanese journalist’s exam was so impossibly quixotic that I wanted to prove them wrong. I spent an entire year eating instant ramen and studying. I managed to find the time to do it by quitting my job as an English teacher and working as a Swedish-massage therapist for three overworked Japanese women two days a week. It turned out to be a slightly sleazy gig, but it paid the bills.

There was a point when I was ready to give up studying and the application process. Then, when I was in Kabukicho on June 22, 1992, I asked a tarot fortune-telling machine for advice on my career path, and it said that with my overpowering morbid curiosity I was destined to become a journalist, a job at which I would flourish, and that fate would be on my side. I took that as a good sign. I still have the printout.

I did well enough on the initial exam to get to the interviews, and managed to stumble my way through that process and get hired. I think I was an experimental case that turned out reasonably well.”

Some interesting nuggets from the interview on NPR.

  • The sex trade is big business in Japan, and is largely legal. According to one Joan Sinclair (via Wikipedia), “the sex industry in Japan ironically offer[s] absolutely everything imaginable but sex.” This is because other than the actual act of intercourse, nothing else falls under the legal definition of ‘prostitution’.
  • In case someone is apprehended, neither the prostitute nor the customer are liable for punishment, only the ‘pimp’ or the brothel owner is!
  • The Japanese have strange fetishes.

Bottomline? I am putting Tokyo Vice on my wish list. And I intend to contribute to NPR’s next fundraising effort!

We ‘want’ them broken

October 20, 2009 7 comments

Hat tip to Aristotle the Geek for this one.

”You honest men are such a problem and such a headache. But we know you’d slip sooner or later—and this is just what we wanted.”
”You seem to be pleased about it.”
”Don’t I have good reason to be?”
”But, after all, I did break one of your laws.”
”Well, what do you think they’re for?”
Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden’s face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap.
”Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against—then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Categories: law

Events

October 8, 2009 6 comments

I read Funes the memorious, and thought* – what is an ‘event’? Some Wiki-diving reveals that philosophers are still divided over how to define an event.

What is an event? [To my lay brain, an ‘event’ is the temporal equivalent of a point in space**. You can see it (in your minds eye), assign co-ordinates (properties) to it, but “it” is infinitesimal.]

What is the extent of my memory? [I distinctly remember Scotland – 1989, I remember some vague stuff about Mini KG and nursery – 1987]

What is the granularity of my memory? [Definitely not points but some larger intervals of time – incidents, places, smells, sounds]

What is the capacity of human memory? [Landauer did a study that estimates it at a few hundred megabytes! A summary is here]

*Says Borges, “To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes, there was nothing but details, contiguous details.”

**I have not studied relativity and don’t understand spacetime. My thought process is firmly Euclidean.

Conservatory of monkeys.

September 29, 2009 17 comments

“Show me something original!” said the producer.
“Original?, but there is no such thing Sir!”, replied Benjarong.
“What do you mean there is no such thing?”
“A musical piece is but a permutation of notes that sound pleasing to the ear, is it not?”
“Yes”
“If I had a million monkeys and gave them a million pianos and left them in a room, one of them would likely come up with a musical piece, could he not?”
“A trillion monkeys perhaps, but I see your point.”
“And what if there was an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of pianos kept there forever. Is it not guaranteed that all the musical pieces that ever were, are, and will be, will be produced by them, eventually?”
“You have been reading too much Borges, Ben!”
“Guilty as charged Sir, but why pick on this glorified monkey?! Let us just make the audience happy and leave ‘originality’ to the critics!”

Categories: music, philosophy Tags: , , ,