Christmas Day reflections


in Daily updates, Music, Writing

Abstract imageOxford today looks like a stadium after the concert: receipts and little bits of paper ground into the earth, a few stragglers wandering about, but an overwhelming sense of sudden and profound emptiness. That is less the case within Wadham, where Tanushree and I are occupying Library Court collectively and where I have been getting to know the young woman who is standing in the for porters: the daughter of the head gardener, now studying psychology and philosophy somewhere up north.

Today included tolerable progress on the reading front, though the volume of material continues to overwhelm as much as it inspires. Regular infusions of the more melodious Tracy Chapman songs helps maintain perspective and focus, as do those of the more sonorous of Tori Amos songs. I remain particularly transfixed by the live songs on the second disc of To Venus and Back: they are reminiscent of the two Tori Amos concerts I have been lucky enough to attend. At the first, she was in her soaring, Godlike mode (embodied in songs like “Precious Things”). The second concert, which I saw with Nick, was firmly rooted in the playful side of her character, as represented by songs like “Mr. Zebra.” It’s hard not to believe that music has the ability to shape cognitive processes, both in the long term and the short term. It becomes internalized in a way that is profound and probably impossible to completely isolate and understand. Something Nicole Kidman says in the commentary that accompanies Moulin Rouge, about how sung words are interpreted on a different conscious level, definitely has something to do with it. Read as naked characters on a white page, even the cleverest lyrics lack the huge bulk of their poignancy and power.

For this upcoming Oxford term, it strikes me as a good idea to become actively affiliated with at least one club. Back at UBC, I developed a five-pillar strategy that was meant to promote the absence of depression, the living of an active life, and the general pursuit of satisfaction. The basic idea behind it was to always have five distinct threads of life running at the same time. School was always one, and generally one that could be balanced against things that were going poorly. Others included photography, long-term romantic relationships, debate, hiking, and other such activities that occupy time, introduce you to people. and use physical energy. Given the not-insignificant time that it requires, as well as the people to whom it introduces me, I think blogging can be counted as my second thread, after school. Now, I just need three more.

The danger that this approach is meant to mitigate is the danger of setbacks on one front colouring the whole experience of life: creating a self-perpetuating cycle of perceived failure and dissatisfaction. With five threads, each fairly distinct from the others, the chances of that are significantly reduced. It also allows for a versatile approach to allocating time, especially if some of the tasks (like photography) can expand and contract in response to the overall burden being imposed by tasks that cannot be deferred: things like school and romantic relationships.

In closing, I think, it’s best to extend my greetings and best wishes to my friends around the world. I was reminded of my appreciation for them yesterday, when I called Alison, Greg, Ashley, Sasha W., and a number of other people to wish them an enjoyable winter break. If there is one thing I’ve appreciated most about life – especially since starting university – it has been the chance to meet the people who are now my friends. They are challenging, interesting, intelligent people who constantly force me to reconsider my positions on things, while simultaneously providing affirmation about the purposeful nature of life, and the possibility of improving the world. I hope very much that I will have the chance to introduce some of the people who I’ve met in Oxford to people who I met elsewhere. Providing connections between heterogeneous groups of people who will gain something from one another is among the most rewarding forms of inter-personal relations.

  • While further attempts to fix the sidebar so it appears in the correct position in IE continue to be fruitless, it is becoming clear that literally hundreds of people are having the same problem. Somehow, discussions like this simply do not help me.
  • Anyone interested in commenting on my brother Mica’s videos, as have been discussed here previously, should do so on the blog which he created for that purpose. This will probably conclude my making links related to this, since there is a forum specifically intended for it now.
  • In response to some confusion that was related to me yesterday, perhaps I should make clear that the blog includes several types of posts. The most common are daily posts, which include a photo of the day, and are published either after midnight or with the timestamp 12:01am, when they are published earlier than that. This is to ensure that each daily post appears under the date heading of the date after the one about which the post is written. In addition, there are post types that are made with unmodified timestamps, regardless of when they were written. These include photo posts, like the five from the Baltic trip, topic posts, like the one about the Tallinn occupation museum, and steganographic posts. Daily posts can also have steganographic content, as can image files.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 25, 2005 at 8:11 pm

Why five? It seems a fairly arbitrary number. Same as the fingers on one hand, maybe?

M.R. December 25, 2005 at 8:18 pm

Judging by the filename on that image, it was taken weeks ago.

Anonymous December 25, 2005 at 9:37 pm

It has been much too long since you wrote anything about “The Daily Show.” I think you would be happier if you were still watching.

B December 25, 2005 at 10:06 pm

Is it available on DVD, for people outside the sweet embrace of North America?

Anonymous December 25, 2005 at 10:09 pm

Your site works in Opera. Not your fault IE is a garbage browser.

Milan December 25, 2005 at 10:37 pm

Down in the Wadham College basement, I am astonished to note that all the Daily Show correspondents seem to have changed since last I watched it. It won’t work on my Mac, from the Comedy Central page, hence my requirement to be embedded in this icy crypt.

Even so, it strikes me as sad how utterly insane ‘mainstream’ politics tends towards becoming.

Anonymous December 25, 2005 at 11:26 pm

Here’s the real question:

Is Dick Cheney insane?

Milan December 25, 2005 at 11:29 pm

Right now, it seems clear to me that John McCain is the best President we can hope for in 2008, given how the field looks at the moment.

G.G.r December 25, 2005 at 11:46 pm

No confidence in another Clinton?

Anonymous December 26, 2005 at 10:42 am

For the benefit of those who find the above difficult to understand, it’s worth noting that on a recent episode of The Daily Show, the host – Jon Stewart – asks Senator McCain whether he believes Dick Cheney to be insane.

Personally, I didn’t find his answer very interesting.

(video linked here) Windows only

Tony December 26, 2005 at 7:05 pm

I’ve been really interested to read about your travels to Tallinn, Helsinki etc. All good wishes for Christmas and the New year.

Anonymous December 26, 2005 at 8:15 pm

Here’s a joke I know you will find amusing:

“Did you hear about the statistician who used to go out with
a lot of girls but didn’t like to talk about it?

He was a discrete data”

It’s from this list on Simon Singh’s website.

B December 26, 2005 at 8:21 pm

I also have a joke:

“A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen. Ugh!” The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “The driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off – go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

Milan December 26, 2005 at 8:30 pm

Excellent. I have one for both of you:

“Why do ducks have webbed feet?
To stamp out fires.
Why do elephants have flat feet?
To stamp out burning ducks.”

As a free bonus, this fact: Leon Alberti, the man who invented the Vignere Cipher, also designed the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Anonymous December 26, 2005 at 9:50 pm

Speaking of the Vignere Cipher: I’ve noticed that you now have a script for Vignere encoding and decoding built into this page.

While it seems that the Vignere Cipher is weak when keys are much shorter than messages, with longish keys and a moderate need for security, it seems like a good option.

Anonymous December 28, 2005 at 12:54 am

Another nerdy joke:

“Some people say the glass is half full, others say the glass is half empty, but engineers say that the glass has a factor of safety of 2.”

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