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Archive for December, 2006

Trap in my little universe

A year passed by since I wrote about my insignificance in this universe, my thoughts on the topic haven’t changed much (except becoming more skeptical of any significance I might truly have). I feel like I’m creating my own little universe through which I interact and see the world. It’s like a movie, which I view as an abstraction of the world. Movie tends to focus on a certain aspect of life it wants to emphasize and manipulate the temporal and spatial experience to convey a story. Similarly, we tend to abstract from our experience to create a story we like to live, and our brains help us to achieve this through our subjective memories and experience of time. Science, religion, cultural and moral teachings as well as popular media all help shape the story we want to create in life and the way we see and experience things.

 

Now I don’t think there’s any particular meaning in asking the meaning-of-life type questions. I’m also content to know that there’re lots of things I’ll never be able to know and probably won’t matter (life as we know will eventually cease to exist). I don’t think there’re any absolute moral or ethical standards. They exist to serve a purpose but are easily dispensable by most people under conditions where survival’s essential.

 

So what am I left with? I probably can’t escape from creating story that satisfies my hypocrisy. But I’m content to make it consistent enough so I can enjoy myself and strike a balance between transient, superficial/sensual pleasures and the sustained, deeper satisfactions gained from accomplishment brought by personal effort.

 

On that slightly cynical note, I’ll end this year’s entry. Happy new year to all.

*it’s likely I’ll disappear for a while again to reorient my life and focus on my studies.

 

 

‘All scientific view of the world is really just in our minds. When you look at it carefully, it is not something that is out there in the real world.’

 

-Robert Aumann

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Without Limits

After the Christmas Eve night out to the Cathedral I hadn’t leaved my room (except to the kitchen) till yesterday, when I found it hard to concentrate and study effectively, I went out for a run. I ran along the embankment to the Big Ben and return via the millennium bridge. The whole trip took around 1 hour and made me feel great. I can understand why so many people are obsessed with running: bankers who wake up 7 am Saturday to run a 50 miles marathon after only four hours sleep before heading back to work, or runners who just want to challenge their limits. Here’s the trailer of a movie about Steve Prefontaine that I’d love to watch (friends, download it and send it to me please), and here’s an article on Karnazes, who could run 350 miles in three days without sleeping.

 

Although running is never my main sport, I found it rewarding: the freedom and confidence it brings, not to mention the benefits it has on health. Perhaps I should add running to my regular schedule and use it as an opportunity to see more places in London (people around me will know that I’ve only been to very few places in London, basically just from my dorm to school; most tourists would have seen more places in London than I do). And maybe one day I’d be strong enough physically and mentally to challenge and break my limits.

 

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Blog entry of the day

 
The related links on profession choice and innocence are highly recommended as well.

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I went to the St. Paul’s Cathedral with a few flatmates on Christmas Eve for the midnight Eucharist. Given I haven’t been to church for a long time, my state-of-mind seemed to have changed a lot from my previous church attendances. The architecture of the Cathedral’s impressive and its grand interior reminded me of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (here are some photos of the church online). And a bit surprisingly, I found I enjoyed the Baroque style church music very much. The sound of the harpsichord was lovely, the choir was professional (my friend said he felt like he’s in an opera), and the church’s well-designed acoustics further accentuated the musical effect. The music and the interior created a solemn atmosphere that invoked certain spiritual, larger-than-life experience which I very much enjoyed.

 

Another thought I had at the night was the similarity between the message and experience the church’s conveying and communism’s. It first came to my mind when the priest said ‘this day is the birth of hope and the death of the self’. Various messages on suppressing the self for a larger goal are at the opposite end to the Ayn Rand novel I’m reading. Given the novel’s main adversary’s the communist society, the similarly between the church and communism dawned on me. The priest talked about men’s sinfulness, the need to be saved, the wars, hatred, and fragmented family in modern world, and provided a way to salvation. The utopian future portrayed by both was also similar: one’s everlasting happiness in heaven, while the other one is on earth. There’re definitely differences between the religion and the ideology, and I believe both exist to serve a certain human needs and purposes. All said, Christmas is still my favourite holiday, and I definitely enjoyed the experience at the Cathedral.

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Christmas break update

Coffee Mania

A flatmate who used to work at Starbucks introduced me to the world of coffee. It has since been a part of my daily schedule (I limit my consumption to two cups a day, and usually have green tea in the evening as substitute). Ethiopian blend is my favourite so far, and I plan to sample more beans from different areas by the end of the break.

 

Job Hunting

Continue tussling with the ‘gruelling and soul-destroying’ market to land a job in management/economic consulting. The track record so far is pretty depressing: lots of rejections, a couple of unsuccessful interviews. Recently received interview invitations from two top companies (Gosh! time to prove myself). I plan to post a detailed entry after the process is over. It’d be interesting to see how my application statistics evolves (it’s already pretty impressive now).

 

Body Rhythm and Productivity

 

There would probably be lots of activities and distractions during Christmas and New Year, thus provide my other-self with lots of excuses not to work (even my rational self would probably want to do something different as well). Knowing this, I figure I should use my time as best as possible now (ideally should do it always). With a few experiments, it seems like I’ve discovered my body rhythm and hence a more productive way to use my time. So far it has worked pretty well for me. I’ve reviewed econometric coursework and working on Macro now.

 

Here’s how a typical day looks like:

 

 

7:00 Wake up, study for an hour

8:30 Breakfast, coffee, check mail, RSS feeds

9:30 Continue studying coursework

12:00 Take a 30 minutes nap, lunch, and stretch

2:00 Work on maths, problem sets, or past exams

6:00 Dinner, online

8:00 Business reading, interview & case preparation

10:00 Extracurricular reading, miscellaneous impulses, reflections

1:00 Bedtime

 

*The schedule (especially the nap) tends to shift around a bit, depending on how I feel.

 

Extracurricular reading lists:

 

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nation—David Warsh

Unended Quest—Helmut Kohl & Karl Popper

Lateral Thinking—Edward de Bono

Inside The Economist’s Mind—Paul Samuelson & William Barnett

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Exit, Voce, and Loyalty—Albert Hirschman

Life of Schopenhauer—William Wallace

The Philosophy of Schopenhauer—Dale Jacquette

 

Finished the first two, now reading the next three items, and hope I could finish the rest before school begins.  For Schopenhauer, I mainly want to see his views on art and music.

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Misc. Reflections

 

My Satisfaction

Working hard, challenging my limits and expanding my possibilities

What I seek

An understanding of the world and a coherent view of life

Pure beauty and truth

(revision: I changed my mind. Forget about truth. What I seek is pure, simple and spontaneous beauty)

People who challenge my thoughts and point out my ignorance

Someone I can connect with and share understanding

 

 

My Plans for the Christmas break

Sink myself in economics, explore London, get myself an intellectually rewarding job, keep in touch with friends, design and draw, read & read, dream and write

 

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