Sunday, October 18, 2009


You know that guy? The one who is always in great shape despite apparently living off fast food. The one who always gets top marks despite apparently never revising for exams. The one who can drive, skate, ski, swim, fight, play every card game known to man, and all without ever seeming to break a sweat.

Everyone knows someone like this (guy or girl). After years of wondering how the blazes they do all that and still look so laid back, I've come to a conclusion.

They're frauds.

Sure, they may have a slightly broader range of talents than the average bloke. Sure, they possibly started out with slightly better strength and dexterity than us mere mortals. But there is no level of innate ability that could set them that high above the rest of us.

I think that, for every burger you see being eaten, there's an hour in the gym that you never find out about. For every cakewalk of an exam, there are many frantic hours of secret preparation. For every activity that they're "just naturally good" at, they have undoubtedly spent time preparing and training.

This is reassuring. It means that anyone can do what that guy does. Anyone can upgrade themselves to the status of god among men. It just takes a lot of work. Specifically, it takes a lot of work without any sort of immediate reward.

I now have a goal in life. Firstly, to practice the discipline required for this sort of long-term training plan. Secondly, to develop the sophistication required to STFU.

I will make better progress towards both of these goals if I get a good eight hours sleep. Goodnight.
Read the full post


I've been trying to cut back on my public use of mad-scientist laughter. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, it does disturb my co-workers somewhat.

To compensate, I intend to use my blog as a gloating platform. I consider this to be ethically acceptable on three grounds:

1) My blog, my rules (incidentally, the new dress code round here is "winged monkey")
2) Blog-reading is strictly voluntary - you fools chose to read this garbage
3) It's not like you can do anything about it anyway

Those preliminaries out the way, I would just like to say I'm very happy. And boastful. But mostly happy.

About four months back now, I got bounced up to a different part of England - I'm sure I've whined about it previously. My temporary home is a hotel in a little sea town that wishes it was Las Vegas. For generations, anyone with any brains or talent has been escaping from this dump*, and the result is reminiscent of Innsmouth without the successful fishing industry.

Coming to terms with the mindless tedium presents an interesting challenge. As a partial solution (because there's only so many books you can cram in a suitcase - believe me I know) I've taken up Taekwondo. I've previously done Karate, but they don't have a club for that within walking distance of the hotel, so what the hey.

I've actually been really enjoying it. This is the first martial arts training I've done in about three years, and it's been good to feel the old skills starting to come back (plus a few new ones). It's been going so well that I've been rather looking forward to the grading, which was earlier today.

Ah, the grading. I used to think the sweetest words you could hear in a grading were "you've passed". It turns out I was wrong. The sweetest words are "we've decided to let this student skip a belt". I've jumped yellow-belt entirely and gone straight to yellow-with-green-tag. Who thinks up these colours?

Normally I would take this with a large dose of humility - until this morning I was the only adult white-belt at the club, so they could have just been letting me catch up with my "peer group". However, when they were handing out the new belts, it transpired that they did not have a green-tag belt with them, which suggests that this was a spur-of-the-moment decision based on my performance in the grading.

Quite apart from providing me with excellent bragging rights, this episode also highlights the unreasonable effectiveness of the human brain (yes, even mine). Once connections are made, they tend to stay made. Once a skill is learned, it persists far beyond its anticipated sell-by date.

The moral: never be afraid to spend a bit of time learning a new skill, or polishing an old one. I'm going to be leaving this area in December, so I'll only have had a few months with this club. But even this short few months has been good for me. And I know that, next time I decide to take up a martial art, it'll be easier than ever.

* This is unduly harsh. There are many good, intelligent people here - I work with a bunch of them. But the social agenda seems to be completely controlled by people who think fart jokes are the height of humour, big flashing lights make a place look modern and tasteful, psychics can solve all your problems, and Sophistication is an island in Greece.
Read the full post