Longitude 180° E/W

It was my pleasure to be able to cross the 180° W to 180° E line last year (more or less this day), crossing the Pacific Ocean. The feeling of separation, of being thousands of miles from the closest bit of land, was spectacular on its own.

I am not entirely certain what more I can say. For me, this memory is so real I don’t need to use any more words. For anyone reading, these words are mere lines on a screen.

Thinking about it, I can describe a few more things.

One of these would be the sunshine Central Pacific experienced. I never thought it would be like that. I never thought it could be so warm, so calm, so tranquil. But, possibly the name of the ocean is not that wrong even though it can experience horrendous storms. Fernão de Magalhães may have been wrong in the entirety when he named the ocean, but he definitely grasped the occasion of the quiet sea.

The other thing to describe would be the sensation by which the aloneness feels. Sure, I wasn’t actually alone. There were probably about ten to fifteen other people on the vessel I was travelling, but, in general and in the modern world, that is secluded. The closest islands of Alaska and Hawaii were both more than two thousand kilometres away and even so, uninhabited. The closest inhabited place may have been a small town in Alaska.

Added to this distance across the globe I would add the distance above and below. The space above us is forever unlimited, and the space below is normally of no concern to us. Central Pacific in where we were was probably between three and four kilometres deep, and its inhabitants we can only imagine — the last frontier open to us on this globe is the depth of the oceans.

Only water, boundless water, in every direction. What an experience.

Review: You and Your Research

You and Your Research
You and Your Research by Richard Hamming
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I happened onto this by a chance link from Mr Tyler Cowen, and I have to say I’m very happy I did.

This little gem of a text is littered with worthwhile thoughts and good suggestions on how to improve on one’s research — but there is absolutely no reason why the same cannot be applied in any other fields. It’s the meaning behind Mr Hamming’s words here rather than the topical application of them which is more important. He also highlights a number of very good practices along with a lot of (fun) anecdotal history that illustrates his points so much better than a drier delivery might have.

I would absolutely recommend this to everyone.

View all my reviews

The Hannya Shingyo

I find that I enjoy listening to a chanting of the Hannya Shingyo. Sometimes as much that I half-consider going through the lines to memorize them — I believe that something in my mind says that chanting that sutra would be a perfect accompaniment to a walk of half an hour where I really do not want to take my player out.

And, yet, there the sutra remains: in that tab I opened a month or two ago. I see it there and think, ‘I should probably say something, post a few words.’ And now I am that far.

But why?

On that link in the beginning of this post is also a translation of the Hannya Shingyo. One of the pairs of lines reads “Form is precisely emptiness, Emptiness precisely form.” and despite the meaning moving on from there to its counterposition, I do like those two lines.

And I realize that more important than memorizing it would be to understand it.

Of Fate

Why do we think that everything matters?

What do I mean there? Well, inasmuch as I think of the rotation of planets and where our lives end up, I cannot help thinking that there is a predestined version of it all somewhere. That certainly sounds like a possibility. But, if there is, then nothing we do actually matters — so why bother with anything because surely that decision has been foreseen and already accounted for so nothing we can do would be able to change it.

That results from two issues:

a) if anything we did were able to change what was already set in stone, then the variables would be changing too fast due to seven billion people constantly moving them around, and the “system of fate” would collapse on its own complexity

b) if things we did were not going to change anything because they had been accounted for in the plan, then literally the shortest of thoughts in our minds would have to have been recorded *before it happened* in some database for it to not affect the course of life

Why do I say the last thing I did? My own view is that if I tried to model life without accounting for absolutely all of the variables, the things I missed would mean that my model deviated almost immediately after the beginning due to the intrinsic complexity of what is happening. If not even the shortest of thoughts of every one of us seven billion (due to be nine, I hear) is recorded then that could cause a necessary change in the plan.

But then the very amount of changes would be the undoing of the plan! Assuming that a third of us are awake we would still receive approximately two and a third billion thoughts a second (somewhat less), and of these if the plan accounted for even 75% the other 25% would eventually overwhelm the plan with the changes prescribed.

So, it would not be a plan that could be followed.

And if there is a plan created that cannot absolutely be followed, it is a waste of effort. And why indulge in a waste of effort…

 

Now, mind you… all of this is effective only if humanity is not an experiment of “free will” with some small set parameters that are supposed to be effected whenever any other target/goal takes place in which instance a partial plan would make sense. But that is far too much into guessing the fabric of universe for a late hour such as this.

K.u.k. (cont.)

As promised, I will now expand on that thoroughly unhelpful post from yesterday that more had the intention of forcing me to write more than to actually say something useful (unless someone has the ability to follow my random thought-jumps without any problems).

Now, from a historic point of view, K.u.k. is a way of addressing the political reality of what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the monarchy that ruled it. This comes from the German phrase “kaiserlich und königlich” that could be just as well rendered into an English “Imperial and Royal” though for my purposes “Imperial and Regal” would be better suited. Or maybe not. In any case, I much prefer the German one just because it has more of a ring to it than “I.R”/”I.&R.” would, at least in my mind.

But what could it signify when we go past the historical meaning?

Now we will use a different tool to delve into that: a dictionary. I’ll use both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster ones to illustrate my thoughts.

Imperial:

relating to an emperor:
the imperial family
majestic or magnificent:
the bedroom is huge and very imperial

of superior or unusual size or excellence

For the sake of clarity, the first explanation there is from the Oxford, second from MW.

Royal:

of a quality or size suitable for a king or queen; splendid:
she received a royal welcome

a : suitable for royalty : magnificent
b : requiring no exertion : easy <there is no royal road to logic — Justus Buchler>
a : of superior size, magnitude, or quality —often used as an intensive

So, to explain what all those quotes might have brought to mind — in ideal conditions, these two words could be used as an adjective of the highest order to describe something. So, why not try to live so that these could be applied to a person’s life? 🙂

That indeed was my thought — that when used in a well-meaning way, these words could be representative of what an ideal person could be like. That is not to say that an ideal person would have to be a monarch, but rather to imply that regular descriptive words are weaker and less all-encompassing than the need here.

There we go.

Friends

Friends change, and yet they remain the same. It is somehow so very simple to think of the past that was and to remember how things were — maybe it is such an easy thing to do for the very reason that it can never be again. Never? Yes, never, for even if it were to repeat itself in the future, the people would have evolved. Hopefully. No, not hopefully — certainly evolved. Time changes everything (an Arab adds, “but the pyramids”).

I had been certain of who my friends were for such a long time. And then a few days can change so much — when one sees what is happening instead of a guess or idea.

And that made me realise I had seen some things from what used to be, as if time were fixed. But it is not — time moves constantly; and my mind had yet to accept that people move with time and in time as much as they do. But now I know. 🙂

And I am likely to be a better person due to the knowledge.

A Vision

It would seem that all a person needs to succeed is a vision — of what, where, and when. Images can easily blend into one, but it is most difficult to do something if there is no idea of what is wanted.

Therefore, having an image of the place and time — and situation — would probably be a helpful and beneficial factor.

But, what is there to stop us then ? What of the inherent limitations in our minds ? What are we actually capable of imagining ?

All questions of possibilities are difficult to answer, but I would dare say that everything will happen — sooner or later.

And when we imagine — is it a dream of grandeur, or happiness ? Or, are the two even mutually exclusive ?

What if the situation a person manages to conceive in their mind is mistakenly considered the one where he (or she) wishes to be ?

I guess it all comes down to acceptance.

Narrowsightedness on Democracy

The case for democracy is a moral one, not an economic one; but if democracies can’t handle responsible governance, either on economic or more general policy issues, then governance will gradually become less democratic, and the moral case will make little difference.

The above quote is from a The Economist blog post and illustrates what I believe to be an extreme case of narrowsightedness. A quick Google search on “the case for democracy” brought up the following quote: “The moral case for democracy is based on the apparent degree of fairness that it offers…”

I would very much like to hear what the author of that blog post has to say on such apparent democracies like the United Kingdom, Spain, or similar countries, which are decried not to be democracies by their republican fanatics but which offer a degree of fairness that is comparable to “the greatest democracies” on Earth (or in a singular form, “the greatest democracy/country”, as the US politicians love to call their land). Comparable, I say, though it would not be wrong to call them fairer than the United States.

So, does the author actually mean something more in line with the so-to-say republican fanatics that we see all around the place these days, or does he also accept the possibility of a fair monarchy/autocracy (Singapore anyone?) which does provide an “apparent degree of fairness” and a far more effective political governance (though it would be fair to say that no democracy can or should be effectively governed given that means that debate is being smothered somewhere along the line)?

What is the worst about this approach, however, is that the author has refused to accept that the same moral values might exist in a non-democratic society if the tradition and principles for it were there. Fairness of people does not need to mean governance by people.

No… and yes!

 Things have changed in an inexplicable manner. I do not know the reason for this, but I am sure that I soon will. Seems like Crete again, and I enjoyed that. I know I will enjoy whatever comes after, though the changes are likely to be smaller in all manners. 

Before the first exam this year (Chemistry, on the 17th) I started listening to Strauss again. I know the reason for this. And listening on a grand scale, songs I’ve never heard before though ones I wish I had heard of. They are wonderful, the one linked to here is almost as good as the ‘Kaiser-walzer‘, and that, from me, is a praise unlike most that I could give. 

So, what has changed? 

Perception. People, time, place. As an odd twist I cannot even place whether it was Devon or my earlier thoughts back home, but something started it, and I enjoy it.

I reminded myself before writing this short piece that I promised myself I’d write on Marsden. Not today, but I would hope, within the week… but I love reading too much right now, being close to the exact scene that I wished to see (to see equals to read). But after that, certainly. 

Languages: Japanese, Part IV

A few calculated days later so that I could make my post on a overdue time that’s not too long when I get back to the UK in April.

Previous “time-interval” goals:

  • カタカナ reading improvement : Yes.
  • ひらがな reading improvement : Yes.
  • one Cpt. per week from Heisig’s book on 漢字 (this means, Cpt’s 4, 5, 6 and 7) : Yes.
  • reading through that story which began so promisingly with “こんな夢を見た。” [Author: Natsume Soseki, Title: The First Night] : First two paragraphs.
  • listening to that same thing a few times over : A few, quite literally.
  • more music : Yes.

I can’t say I did too well, but it’s something. Demands too much concentration and I’ve started to use my other languages more for some odd reason (:P) so effort has been rather divided.

In any case, excuses are mere excuses (still useful).

Next “time-interval”:

  • Read [Author: Natsume Soseki, Title: The First Night]
  • Listen [Author: Natsume Soseki, Title: The First Night]
  • Re-check some chapters in that good book which I’ve temporarily lost sight of (grammar and usage)
  • More music//New artists

And let us continue!