General Musings

Lazy Susan’s Life Lessons

Jack sat silently at the family dining table. It had started off many years ago as a smaller, round, wooden-framed table with four matching chairs but had long since been augmented.

The first addition had been an extended and removable table-top which had been crafted from two larger crescent-shaped pieces of wood and connected in the centre with hinges. During gatherings or larger family dinners the larger table top would make an appearance, easily doubling the capacity of the table.

The second addition, almost as a necessity borne from the first, was a home-made Lazy Susan which allowed for easy access to all the food on the table. This wasn’t like the Lazy Susan normally found in the local Chinese restaurants which were usually made of glass on ball-bearings and were often quite difficult to spin. Rather, this home made version wasn’t exactly on-centre but seemed to defy the laws of physics (or at least the laws of Lazy Susan operation) in its ease of operation.

Jack’s father, Michael, joined him at the dining table as Jack spun the empty Lazy Susan around. Michael lightly rested his hand on the Lazy Susan causing it to decelerate and come to a stop. Jack looked up at his father quizzically.

“You know, there are life lessons you can learn from a Lazy Susan,” began Michael as he launched into an impromptu soliloquy. He grabbed a nearby bowl of tomatoes and green capsicums and placed it on the Lazy Susan, spinning it around.

“Lesson number one… what goes around comes around,” as he watched the bowl of vegetables spin around he followed it around with his pointing finger, “come around, go around, come around, go around.”

“Dad, how many lessons are there?” Jack interrupted, realising this could go on for some time.

“Not many,” replied Michael which Jack interpreted to mean: “I don’t know yet, I’m just making them up now.”

“The second lesson is that life needs to be balanced,” he paused to take out the tomatoes and capsicums and spread them evenly around the circumference of the Lazy Susan before spinning it around again. “I think that’s it,” said Michael with a hint of finality and a satisfied nod.

Jack wasn’t exactly sure why, but he enjoyed these small and almost ridiculous moments of Zen. Over the years the lessons had been many and varied. Jack liked to think that he owed much of who he was as a person to his dad’s example through his words but even more so through his actions. Jack, who had been resting his head on his folded arms watched the alternating green and red whiz past him, “Thanks, Dad.”

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General Musings

The Futility of Arguing with Mothers

FADE IN:

INT. KITCHEN/DINING ROOM – DAY
Kris, Jack’s sister, inspects the fridge noting a couple of half-finished bottles of wine and an unopened can of Coke.

Leona, Kris and Jack’s mother, walks into the room and is immediately accosted by Kris about the lack of appropriate beverages in the fridge.

KRIS
Mum, you need to buy some juice.

LEONA
Kris, you know I don’t buy juice.

KRIS
You don’t buy juice?

LEONA
No.

KRIS
But… OK, I’ll go buy the juice.

LEONA
I only buy juice when its on sale.

KRIS
You never buy juice. Is it never on sale?

LEONA
There’s not enough space in the fridge.

KRIS
Wait, do you not buy juice unless its on sale or because there is no space in the fridge?

LEONA
I drink water.

Kris is about to retort back but then realises that her mother’s last comment doesn’t answer any of her above questions. She stands in front of the open fridge, confused, as Leona leaves the room.

FADE OUT.

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General Musings

Strange Surroundings

Jack stopped in his tracks as he accosted his surroundings. There was something strange about this place… something alien. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

The walls were off-white painted brick with signs of aging. The familiar glistening of porcelain and industrial mirrors arranged in a production-line-like array. The steel mesh reinforced opaque windows for natural light. The ever-present sound of trickling water.

Despite all the familiarity, he quickly realised that it wasn’t what was there that had him on edge. It was what wasn’t there. Something was amiss… something important.

The shiny metallic surface, normally so cold and lifeless all of a sudden felt like a long lost sibling. The yearning for their reunion welled up within him. Without it he knew he was an unwelcome visitor in a foreign land.

How did this happen? What was he doing in the female toilets?? Jack turned around and channelled his inner ninja as he snuck out, unseen. That was certainly more than enough misadventure for one day.

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General Musings

Achievement Junky

The alarm on his phone started ringing as Jack lay lifeless on his bed, his iPad perched conveniently on his chest. His eyes darted to his phone lying beside him. He swiped to deactivate the alarm as his eyes darted back to his iPad’s screen.

Though he had been debating with himself long and hard as to whether to stay or go, he had known for at least the last fifteen minutes what his eventual answer would be. He had lost his inner battle… again. He stared at the animations of his creatures battling to level up and let his mind wander.

The reality was that Jack was an acheivement junky. It could have been his upbringing in a family where nothing was quite as good as it could have been – an A should have been an A+, and an A+ was ‘okay’. It could have been the culture all around him where other people’s successes were put on a pedastal or on their Facebook wall. Whatever it was, he needed to achieve. Yet, like any other junky, he needed his fix. He needed to acheive right now.

Jack’s weakness had always been games. He had played games since he was young, his first game, on a laptop that his father had brought back from work had been Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of Lounge Lizards. For the record: he had been totally oblivious to the adult-rated material in the game at the time. His interest would later turn to the likes of Star Control and Star Control 2, Warcraft and its sequels, text-based MUDs and more recently, anything related to Blizzard.

But Jack’s interest in gaming had only begun to reach arguably unhealthy levels in recent years as the gaming industry began rolling out psychological manna-from-heaven in the form of achievements. The little in-game micro-goals that steered you towards a certain objective to earn a star, or a badge, or extra gems. And it had suckered him in good… because it catered to the basic human need that had been exacerbated by upbringing and culture: the desire for a feeling of accomplishment. Seemingly it didn’t matter how arbitary of superficial that accomplishment was. In his current game of choice, Summoners Wars, his goal was to collect strong monsters and level them up. To what end? Jack hadn’t bothered to ask that question yet.

Naturally this made it difficult for any meaningful, real-life achievement to be made over time. The delayed gratification required to learn a physical skill, say, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or to learn a new language, while immensely more useful, by virtue of being real, corporeal skills, was just so distant to be inconceivable by him. In the mental battle of willpower the immediate satisfaction of levelling an imaginary monster stood as a Goliath against the ten years it would take to get a black belt in BJJ. Goliath had been winning that daily battle for the last two months.

Maybe what I need, he thought, is a shift in perception. Maybe my real-life achievements need to be smaller and more attainable instead of so big-picture: i.e. go to class instead of sitting in bed playing a game. Perhaps, his train of thought continued, the solution is to blog about it to get the issue out of my brain and onto an open, web-wide forum!

“Yes! That’s a good idea,” Jack exclaimed out loud to nobody in particular, “I’ll get to that right after I get to this next level…” he trailed off as he directed his little monsters to their next objective.

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General Musings

Echolocation

Bruce: Just like a…
Lucius Fox: Submarine, Mr. Wayne. Like a submarine.
– The Dark Knight (2008)

*click* *click* *click*… Jack stumbled around with his arms flailing in all directions as he made irregular clicking sounds with his tongue. “Like licking peanut butter off the top of your mouth,” was how it was described. Jack wasn’t sure if was doing it right.

*click* *click* *click* *THUMP*… Jack stumbled back and rubbed his nose. Mental note: that’s the sound of a click’s echo off a solid door. He would have to remember that one for next time. He was pretty sure at that point that he wasn’t doing it quite right.

He had just listened to the latest episode of the new Invisibilia podcast, “Batman”, about blind people using echolocation to “see”. He thought it would simply be remiss of him not to give it a go. He had been under no illusion that he would be able to actually do it, but the meta-discussion about the effect that other people’s expectations had on you had been insightful enough for him to honour the podcast by giving it a hearty, albeit ill-fated, try.

As it turned out, it was just like that time he listened to a podcast about juggling. He couldn’t do that one either, at least not on his first try (maybe he needed to listen to that podcast about persistence and mastery, again). Though, he definitely remembered juggling being less painful.

REFERENCES:
Invisibilia Podcast – Batman
BBC News – Human Echolocation

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General Musings

Once Upon a Time…

It was a day like any other. It had rained heavily the night before and it was forecast to continue raining – “torrential” was the word the newspapers were using – until the start of next week. Jack sat in his newly set up office, which was conveniently positioned on a desk a couple of metres from his sofa bed and quickly dismissed the idea of starting work before he had eaten lunch. Instead, he decided to start blogging…

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