Sunday, June 26, 2011

What do we say to the god of death?

I just got through watching the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it was a lot of fun. I was really big on fantasy when I was a teenager, reading a lot of D&D related books, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and so on. I never read anything by George RR Martin. In fact, I haven’t read anything in the fantasy genre for probably about a decade, since re-reading Tolkein’s books before Peter Jackson’s films came out. I had left the worlds of fantasy far behind.

But a few months back someone who had read Martin’s series was raving about it, and telling me that I had to watch the series. I wasn’t particularly keen, but tuned in knowing nothing at all about the story.

It is quite a good series. There is a lot of good acting, interesting characters, and a medieval world similar enough to ours to be familiar, but different enough to be intriguing. Where no one lives forever.

Which brings me back to the title of this post, a line spoken by a minor character, a fencing teacher to his young charge; “What do we say to the god of death? Not today.“ Despite all the interesting characters and remarkable scenes, it is that single line that has stuck with me the most.

The reason is not too hard to figure out of course. I’m still fighting depression, and while I am not suicidal, it is tough to get through every day. But no matter. For me it is not so much the god of death as the god of despair, of hopelessness. Of giving in and falling apart. And maybe that will happen someday. We are all mortal, and in the long run we are all fighting a losing battle.

The other day as I was out running in the blazing sunlight, sweating, suncream dripping into my eyes, my legs hurting. I wanted to stop exercising, to just say “bugger it” and give up and just shuffle home. But those two words came back to my mind, and I kept running, kept up the exercise routine that is helping to keep me sane.

The end will come someday. But it didn’t come that day. It didn’t come yesterday. And it won’t be today either. The god of death, along with his buddies, despair, delusion and defeat, can all bugger off as far as I'm concerned!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Library stamps

The other day I went down to the local library and wandered around looking for a book. I eventually settled on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I’d read it once before, at least six or seven years ago, and I thought I might take another trip through Hugo’s epic tome.

As with all libraries these days, the book has a barcode and is scanned, and a slip printed with the due date. After I took the book home, I noticed that someone had left their slip in the middle of the book. They’d borrowed it two years before, at the same time as an issue of GC magazine. What kind of person was this?

During the 90s libraries changed over from the old system of having a slip of paper to stamp the return date to the barcode system, and I’ve always felt that something was lost in the reading experience. Not a big thing, of course, the book is still the same, and from the library’s point of view it is no doubt better, as they can keep better records on which books are popular, how often they are borrowed, and so on.

The books that are consistently popular were not so interesting, they just had an endless series of date stamps as one person after another borrowed them. But I was always more interested in the books more rarely borrowed.

Who borrowed this book three times in a row ten years ago? Was it the same person? Why had no one else borrowed it? What type of person were they like? Were they like me? Would we have anything in common?

With the switch to digitization, this little part of the library reading experience has gone, and apart from judging by wear and tear on the books, it is hard to tell if a book has been borrowed all the time, or never left the shelf since the library bought it.

But looking at the print-out slip left behind in the middle of Les Mis, I wondered about the person who had left it. Had they been using the slip as a bookmark, and did they give up reading Les Mis half way through? Or did they just absent-mindedly pop it in there after they finished reading? Were they a deep thinker who borrowed GC in a futile attempt to become more fashionable, or a metrosexual who borrowed Les Mis in a futile attempt to become better read? Or were they just like me, someone who picks up different reading material on a whim?

I guess I will never know. But I'm glad that I stumbled on the slip that made me wonder this. It almost tempts me to get out unusual combinations of books together, then leave the slip in one of the book for future borrowers to find.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

18k / Lists

It is Friday here in Tokyo. The rainy season has come, and it was raining for most of the day yesterday. But today was nice so I went out for a run. It was a bit humid but I went anyway. At first it felt kind of heavy, and I have had some foot pain recently. But I persisted and kept running. I took short breaks to drink and use the public toilets, and took the opportunity to stretch a little bit each time.

I had been intending to run 5 or 10 kilometers, but in the end I wound up doing about 18. My pace was relatively slow, about 90 minutes, but I’m happy with that. Before I always wanted to keep running the whole time, but that is less fun and limits my distance. My feet were a bit sore by the time I finished, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment. Tomorrow I will most likely feel a real sense of discomfort, but it will be worth it.

Moving on.. the other day I met a friend who told me about his list system for getting things done. It is pretty simple, he has the same list every day more or less, and if the things on it are not necessary for that day he just skips over it and moves on to the next thing.

Lists are something that I do on and off. They do seem to help me to get things done, but so far I have not been able to write them consistently. I keep it up for a few days or so and then lapse again. Then a week or two later I do it again for a few days.

I am the kind of person who likes routines and responds to things being orderly and predictable. As I blogged about in the last post, I’m also a person with memory issues, so lists are a good fit for me.

So, why haven’t I been able to continue with the writing of lists, despite the fact I know they help? Writing down tasks and crossing them off is satisfying, and it seems that writing things down means that they are more likely to be done. So why haven’t I been able to do it?

Perhaps part of the reason is that I have not had anyone to keep my honest about it, and I am prone to procrastinating. Perhaps a public statement that I’m going to work out a list system and then stick to it will help, so that is what this post will be.

Over the next week I’m going to work out a format for a list that I can stick to, and then start actually using it. There will be some trial and error, but I think this is something that could really help me be more effective and a bit more functional. And hopefully, a little happier.