Archive for May, 2012

May 29, 2012

Changing Leagues

What do you do when the baseball team you pull for is forced to switch from the National League to the American League?  I had to think through that question when it was announced late last year that the Houston Astros had been coerced into precisely that deplorable situation, despite the fact that in all of the team’s 50 years of history, it had been in the NL.

The problem is that I am a real fan of the NL, and I hate the way the AL plays, with the designated hitter making the thinking aspect of the game almost completely unnecessary.

So, if you’re an NL fan, and the only team you’ve ever loved is forced to move into the junior circuit, what do you do?  Well, first thing is to get past the stage of complaining about the commissioner’s obvious bias in the situation, being that the team his family owns was the logical choice to move… *ahem* back to the AL, if anyone had to move at all.  And that can take a while.  But, once you’ve done that, you’ve got to decide — are you more an Astros fan or a National League fan?

That was something I had to consider. Not wanting to be unduly influenced, I didn’t want to get input from my dad — a much bigger baseball fan than I am — before making my decision, but I did want to get input from a couple of friends.  Funny enough, I chose to ask friends who are not baseball fans at all, beyond the interest they take for my sake.  One Singaporean and one Shanghainese.  What was amusing was that both gave me almost exactly the same answer — they seemed to think it was a question of character (my character), and they were sure I wasn’t the sort of person who lacked character enough to change teams.  They both based their answers on their assumptions about what it is to be a fan, placing that alongside what they think about my character.

To both of my friends, a fan sticks with the team, even when it plays poorly, and even when it has to make an unpopular move (or a move that doesn’t sit well with you personally).    And knowing that I have no problem sticking with my team through the former, my friends assumed the latter would likewise be a non-issue for me.

And in actual fact, I knew they were exactly right on that.  The only real question was, would I cease to be a baseball fan at all?  When I asked my friends that question, once again both of them had precisely the same response.

They simply laughed, and that was the end of it.

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May 23, 2012

Mind in a Material World

I’m about halfway through Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working with your Hands.  I picked it up several months ago, but have been out of Singapore for most of the time since buying it.  I am glad I’ve finally gotten to start reading it.  It’s exactly my kind of book… smart, critical, and actually saying something.

Crawford’s book deals with the changing world we live in, a world that disconnects us from the way our devices operate and making us less able to manage and maintain them, even as we become more dependent on them.  He starts out by focusing on the separation of manual and mental work, with the manual work having slowly become devalued over time.  Crawford’s argument is that the manual work that is often looked down on often involves a great deal of mental work, though this is often overlooked when discussing manual labor.  I think it is a very valid point — the mental effort it takes to solve problems and the creativity required to solve them is one of the most important aspects of manual labor of professionals such as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and so forth.  The “automization” of our devices has only served to make these jobs more and more important and valuable in today’s world.

I did not expect it when I bought the book, but I’ve found that The Case for Working with your Hands share something important in common with Mary Midgley’s Science and Poetry.  I read Midgley’s book several years ago, and loved the message of it so much that I bought copies for several friends. Something about it seemed so revolutionary, even as it seemed so obvious / self-evident.  I was really blown away by that book, with its deconstructing of the mind/matter binary, and I find that Crawford’s writing seems to be continuing that process.

It’s always exciting to find a good book, and that is only magnified when you realize that it is continuing a process of recalibrating your thinking that was unexpected initiated by another, seemingly unrelated, book you’d read before.

May 13, 2012

Delays… the good and the bad

On my way back to Singapore from Shanghai this past weekend, I had a little delay at the airport.  It was not nearly as long a delay as some of my previous experiences with this same airline, but certainly quite long enough.

I did find there was a good side to the deal, though, which almost made up for the achy body and lack of sleep once I got to Singapore (though I don’t  think the friends who were waiting for me at the airport will agree that the good side was worth their wasted time).  The good bit was that I finished most of A Yi’s book 《下面,我该干些什么》, which was a  very gripping read.  And I made some headway in Tony Harrison’s Selected Poems.  I even came across one of his poems that dealt with one of my current obsessions, the Vulcan myth.  (That obsession is evidenced by my reading agenda for this year.)  It was one of those poems that made me think, “Why didn’t I write that.”

As I said, it doesn’t exactly make up for the inconveniences caused by the delay, but if you are the sort who likes to look on the bright side of things, I think this qualified as more than just a tiny glimmer.  At least for me.

May 7, 2012

Short Story coming out soon

I just got word today that my sci-fi short story “Rewrites” is going to be included in the Singapore anthology Fish Eats Lion.  It was a lot of fun writing the story, and I am pleased it is going to be included in the anthology.  And to top it all off, Jason Lundberg has been a top-notch editor to work with.

What more could you ask for?