Friday, August 18, 2006

BAHBC: Day 2

Couldn't report yesterday since Dad took the computer in the evening, so a quick status on yesterday.

Living in the Real World: Full marks on this one. I walked for almost 4 hours and went barefoot in a fountain (Chicago's Millenium park - gorgeous).

Random stranger: Not really random, definitely not a stranger, but I met up downtown with David, a friend from high school (hence the 4 hours wandering the city streets, including the last 15 minutes charging frantically through Chicago trying to get to Union Station before his train left). Yeah, this is me trying to excuse my lack of finding an actual stranger to talk to.

Nontechnical book(s):
John W. Gardner's Self Renewal (which I read on the train) reads like a manual for incoming Olin students. The first half is vastly better than the second. More on this in a separate post.

Also got halfway through a pretty hefty tome on qigong. One of the things I want to learn about when I go to China is the traditional medicine - or actually, their entire concept of health, disease, energy, and healing. In the Chinese mindset, health and medicine isn't something you just go to the doctor for; you heal yourself every day through the exercises you do, the food you eat, and the way you move and think. It's a kind of balance that I'd like to learn, since balance (and stillness) is something that's sorely lacking in my life.

Technical book(s):
Sheepishly swallowing my words on finishing Learning Python here - chapters are not the same thing as sections, and sections are huge. (This is why I need to look at the actual book when estimating reading speed, not the online table of contents). I read about 11 chapters, but that totals to only 3 sections. Got a long, long way to go.

Nope. I do have a good excuse for it, though. Instead of spending the evening coding as I'd planned, I spent it wrestling with the financial software (Quicken) on my mom's laptop. Hurrah for repeatedly importing and checking statements from various banks and financial institutions. Hurrah for brain-numbing work. (Is there personal finance software out there that's human-usable? Quicken and Money strike me as being frustratingly overkill, and I need to find something more than Excel spreadsheets for myself soon.)

Final grade for the day: C+, but an A for effort.


Cheryl said...

Mel, you never cease to amaze me. Speaking of Those People who live stable lives in the suburbs playing golf and doing pilates or whatever . . . it's sort of strange, but I never want to become that, and at the same time, I really love stability, knowing what's going to come next, and being "on top" of it. I'm not sure I understand this balance between wanting normalcy and individuality, but I guess everyone has it? Good news is, for the time being, I am in little danger of becoming normal. I mean . . . who the heck lives in a Boston suburb with moderately okay access to public transportation and such without having a car or even a license? I'll have those soon, though I doubt they'll make me normal instantly. I think . . . I think I'll be okay as long as I remember what I don't want to be, perhaps. I feel that even if I have my stable life with my stable job, I can always be moving forward in other ways, and that will set me apart from what I don't want to be. (As you can see, I don't have the highest opinion of the average American.)

Gui said...

How could you not find a random stranger to talk to? They're everywhere :)

Proper stranger-attraction requires a conversational point of nucleation - this can range from nonchalantly donning a jesters' hat while reading your book on Python to sticking your hitchhiking thumb out for a slowing train. Laughter focused on a source of physical comedy invokes a certain basic level of intimacy, which you can use as the start of a conversation.

A more-difficult-to-master form of conversational nucleation is to begin the conversation yourself, focusing on some aspect of the other person. Compliments (I love your skull and crossbones tatoo!) can sometimes work if you can maintain a carefree, honest style to your conversation and focus on aspects of themselves you believe they enjoy. Inquiries (Where'd you get those awesome pants?) work well at generating responses, but are a mediocre conversation starter - once the inquiry is satisfied, the other person may not feel the need to continue.

I'm working on more techniques, but they're not as refined as these two.

Anyone will talk to you if they're amused or intrigued. Good luck!