strictures and structures

if only we stopped trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time

Month: February, 2011

How to Never Hit Bottom

My brother said this today in the car:

Sometimes, when I’m on my way to the gym, the temperature is not too
cool, not too hot, and the breeze is blowing just right. And I think
that as long as I’m never so depressed that I can’t enjoy that breeze,
I can do anything I want.

Erin Shore lyrics

I walk all alone, I stand by myself by the side of green Erin’s shore,
I hold out my hand, but my love, you’re not there,
I sing, but it’s lost on the air
And all I need now is the taste of that dream that one day we shall
meet here again.

My love, when you’re here, do you know how we’ll dance by the side of
green Erin’s shore,
We will waltz palm to palm, and I’ll spin you around,
Like the stars in their endless romance,
And until that day comes, I shall sup on that dream that one day we
shall meet here again.


And then I ran out of ideas. Perhaps if I’d spent more time hopelessly
in love, I’d have more ideas.

For an “official” version, check out “Shamrock Shore” by the Horslips
on YouTube. The lyrics for that are pretty good, and it’s a very good
incarnation of the melody “Erin Shore” has in its own right.

I can’t believe that I’ve danced to this waltz every single time it’s
been played in these last couple years, except when I had to miss
Jammix because my mother broke her leg, and I’m still not sick of it.
I think it must be because the melody is very old, and for any song to
survive as long as this nameless melody has, it has to be quite
wonderful indeed.

it is pointless for the old to try to school the young

Someone on Quora asked what advice was useful that nobody had ever

Thought I’d cross-post my answer here.

Nobody told me that the vast majority of wise advice you see is
abbreviated to the point of uselessness. People are shitty
communicators. I saw a figure recently saying that the body receives
eleven million bits of information per second. A few million from the
eyes, a million from the skin, so on and so forth. Your conscious mind
is capable of dealing with only fifty bits per second. The English
language contains only 1.5 bits of information per character. When I’m
done writing this, there will be only 1500 bits of information
conveyed to you. Wisdom is more than explicit precepts on how to
behave; it’s a set of attitudes and coping mechanisms. It is a way of
feeling, not just a way of thinking. You can’t accurately compress
billions and billions of bits of feeling into a couple thousand. I
sometimes think that pleasant aphorisms exist only for the benefit
of the advice-giver, so they have a handy summary of what they’ve
learned. It makes sense to them, but it won’t to you; at least, not
enough that you’ll be able to use it.

Here’s my overly-abbreviated contribution: nobody told me that some
things can’t be learned. They can only be experienced.

a perfect example of Tiger Parenting fail

Here’s a story Dad told me at dinner:

There was a man in my class…I mean to say, that he was a member of
that same group of students that I was in who passed an exam and was
permitted to go to graduate school in the United States. He went to
Harvard, the best school, and got his PhD in physics. Then he set his
sights on becoming a professor and became a tenured professor at UCLA.
That wasn’t enough. He calculated his chance of winning a Nobel Prize
and concluded–infinitesimal. He calculated his chance of marrying a
woman he liked and concluded–infinitesimal. Then he killed himself.

my brother is dumb and mean

Me: If there was a zombie apocalypse, would you be okay with having me
on your team of survivors?
Zhao: No. I’d take Mom instead.
Me: Are you kidding?! She can barely walk anymore!
Zhao: She’s more resilient.
Me: What are you talking about? She literally couldn’t sleep whenever
one of us got a B in high school.
Zhao: She passed her driving test on the very first try. You took five
times. She’s more resilient.

hey, a tip for any aspiring artists

Drawing spider webs would be a great negative space exercise. If you
have trouble spotting negative spaces, it’s ridiculously easy to see
them in a spider web. Plus, they’re pretty and complicated-looking,
which makes them significantly more satisfying than looking for
negative spaces in chairs.