A brief update. An important work milestone and a vignette of how I spend my wild late nights in this vibrant, restless city - at McDonalds working.
A Carafe out of place
My plan read “write next blog by saturday”.
Well it’s 4AM on Sunday morning (which, yes does still count as Saturday) and I’m at the 24 hour McDonald’s by the uni, celebrating - because I am now ready to begin writing it.
Fight club, the film (although I hear the book is pretty good, maybe better), has been on my mind. Good film. Specifically, right at the start where we are being introduced to the character of Edward Norton, and he tells us about his perfect, modern apartment - his obsession with Ikea, the hand crafted bowls and identity-defining dining set - then it all gets blown up. It’s become a big reference for me. Ed’s condo gets blown to pieces and even though he loved it so, in the end he’s thankful. He thought that he had been making his life more and more perfect but, in the void after the fire, he realised this: Rather than improving his life, he had become the possession of his possessions. By curating a life so exact in its comforts, by assigning such importance to every detail - every coffee cup, coaster, carafe - he suffered from an acute interior-design-related anxiety. An anxiety that he alone was responsible for creating, but nevertheless held him captive. To be unable to buy a new toothbrush because the handle must be rosewood (so as to match the cabinet doors) - Or: to be incapable of sleeping at a friend’s because their bedsheets have not the sufficient thread count. That’s the prison Norton had constructed for himself. And I think the film makes quite a persuasive argument, in this way, that possessions are not all that good. Edward Norton’s case is extreme, but the message is clear, caring about this stuff is a bit silly, and really caring about it might drive you so mad that you get insomnia and, one day, find that your home has spontaneously combusted.
So Edward realises the error of his ways and begins beating up other men in pub basements. Hang on a minute, what was the moral of the story supposed to be again?
Anyway, the reason it’s been a big reference for me - this conflict between curated comfort, and the liberty of holding nothing dear - is because I am Edward Norton before his apartment blows up. I have made my life very comfortable, in my very particular ways. I am always making it more comfortable, and that suits me just fine most the time, until I remember that blazing fire, and Edward’s change of heart. Do I need a change of heart?
I’ve never been able to stick to a routine, but I sure have built up a nice collection of routines, and I like to carry them out just-so. Like here, now, at McDonald’s. I’ve only been in Hong Kong a little over two weeks (gee, that’s actually a while isn’t it?) but my order, the bubble tea and the 6 nuggets and fries, I think this is the fourth time I’ve got it. I will get it again, and in the exact same way. Same dips, same shaking spice. I will wear my favourite GAP hoodie (because the AC is a little too cold), I will put my phone in the inwards facing pocket of my Marimekko bum-bag. I will plug my chunky, curly corded headphones in and choose a playlist to listen to (or maybe just put my loves on shuffle). I know what does and does not go in every pocket. I could tell you now exactly what my pockets will contain a week from now. And when I finally get a stain on this jumper that won’t come out, or wear a hole in this bum bag, drop my phone, or God forbid, McDonald’s stops offering this promotion, I will find that really tough.
The one area of my life I am most guilty of this anxiety-inducing dogged pursuit of, well - I don’t know what it’s even a pursuit of really. Marginal gains? That area is digital, electronic. When I proudly showed my research supervisor one of the little hacks I had put together, he - post doctorate computer science researcher - called me a nerd. Perhaps efficiency hacks can be justified up to a point, but that seemed like an indication that perhaps the point is behind me.
I am willing to endure so much frustration in the name of reducing frustration. This week has been a frustration filled one, and now - at it’s end - I have reached the bit with the gains and it’s pretty nice, Check it out!
Assuming it worked, and there’s a box above this paragraph that a fern is drawn in when you press the submit button - I am pretty chuffed. The reason I’m questioning whether I’ve used my time well is because the ‘real’ work in producing that image was (to describe what I’ve done in the least favourable way) just me copying someone else’s code. What took the rest of the time, (or actually, most of the time) was all of the secondary stuff - the behind the scenes organisational stuff. I wanted it all just so. Does the plumbing really need to be gilded? Well I’ve absolutely gilded this plumbing and, at the end of the day, I’m chuffed with the result. I had to rearrange all the bookshelves, move the bed to the other side of the room, replace all chevrons with stippling, but this; my little website setup - I can sleep soundly one more night with it like this.
And that’s where I’m going to leave it. A little thought about fight club, and a little research milestone. I’ll write about the maths behind it all, the programming, the life in Hong Kong - the books I’m reading, music I’m listening to, friends I’ve made, realisations I’ve had - I’ll write about them soon, next, later. Not in that order.