The cygnet asked me questions

Visit her and she might ask you 5!

1) What led to your interest in basket ball?
There are several perspectives to it. In either case, it’s important to point out, that I have become a rather calm sports follower. I embrace the positive. I acknowledge the negative. But I don’t go over the top with either. Used to cry about tennis and football results when I was younger .. much younger .. it’s just not worth it.

The historical:
In the mid-90s, I found myself in a school where my classmates were mostly basketball-interested. As usual, to be able to stay in the talk, I read up a little (without internet – ugh!) and picked a favourite team – the Miami Heat. No one else was particularly into them, they had a cool logo (burning ball through a ring), players with cool sounding names (Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway) and a hot city to originate from – what else can you ask for!
I played a little myself, but was never really gifted. Unsuited hands.

The qualitative/comparative:
The great quality of basketball, from my point of view, is how much and how directly success relies on individual and team effort. Both. At the same time. The greatest superstar won’t win anything without a team to support him. The greatest team won’t win anything without a superstar to build around. Neither will succeed if they are not determined enough.
In basketball, the team that mails it in, loses. Invariably. You can’t win on a lucky goal, because you will be 30 behind by the time it happens, if you don’t compete from the start. If you don’t give effort. All your talent won’t win you a thing, if you don’t put your heart into it.
The separation in roles isn’t as stark as in many team sports. Everyone needs to defend to some significant extent. Everyone needs to be able to make a shot when it matters. And, this is what’s wonderful, it matters all the time. You can watch a wonderfully exciting football game with many fantastic actions that lead to nothing, and it will be decided by an awkwardly shot free kick which caroms off three random people and somehow rolls over the line.
A basketball game consists mostly of plays that succeed, rather than of those that lead to nothing. That includes defensive plays, which can actually succeed, too, because gaining possession in basketball is great in itself. In football it means nothing, because opponent possession doesn’t mean anything either. Through basketball’s high probability of scoring, the act of successfully preventing the opponent from scoring becomes much more significant. Defence isn’t just a bulky obstacle in front of a theoretical chance, but an active component.
Plus, and this is highly subjective, I find basketball to be highly aesthetic. We’re talking NBA-basketball here, mind you. Which leads us to…

The informative:
I love statistics. And NBA-basketball offers lots of statistics, which, you know, actually say something. And that’s important, considering most of the games I never get to actually see due to time zones and network availabilities – a paid service I’d only get to use half a dozen of times would not be a good deal. So, it’s really good, that the NBA, ESPN and others (South Florida Sun-Sentinel for example) offer such deep and exhaustive coverage for things that were, things that are and some things, that have not yet come to pass. All the information, commentary and highlight blocks make it that much easier to follow things without actually being able to watch things.
As a side effect, reading all that also helped and helps a lot in improving my English.

2) So the servers are down for a good week…. and you enter a library full of every type of book you can imagine, fiction and non-fiction. What sort of book do you opt for – and in what language?!
“How To Fix The Servers”! Ahem .. no, seriously…
There’s so much I feel I missed/miss out on, a week would not be enough. Especially since I’m not a fast reader. Not because I can’t read fast, but because I tend to re-read passages I found well written.
I’d like to read all works by Tolkien, just because. All the (popular science) books by Stephen Hawking, because I find it fascinating and extremely interesting. A few writings by Asimov at least, because he’s supposed to be awesome, but I have not read anything from him. Orwell, same reason. A thing or two from Robert A. Heinlein, to see if “Starship Troopers” was a one-hit, or if he has other, equally pointed looks to offer, too. Would not turn down a book or 10 on programming languages, programming guidelines and the likes, either. And then re-read everything I liked!
The language is easily chosen. If the original work is in a language I know, that is, German, English or Russian, then, please original language. If it has to be translated anyway, then I’d rather have it in German (a mistake I made with “Simulation and Simulacra”, tackling it in English – struggling with dated metaphors and intricate ideas in a still-foreign language the original wasn’t even written in was a bit too much in the end).
Oh, and bringing the servers down won’t be enough. You’ll have to cut my line and every line I could get access to. Otherwise, I’d just program and read about basketball *grins*

3) The red pill or the blue pill? Why?
Huh. That’s a hard one. Of course, xkcd offered an answer recently. And of course, you are expected to jump up and yell “red, of course, I want to know the truth!”. But if a sentence contains two “of course” already, it’s obviously too easy a way out.
All Morpheus is “offering, is the truth, nothing more”. Do I want to know the truth? Do I want to know every truth? The whole “no one can explain what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself” deal is only a metaphor for the fact, that once you learn about something, you can’t just unlearn, when you find you don’t like it after all. So, do I take the risk?
Of course, in Neo’s case it’s rather trivial. He spent his entire life looking for this, searching for this. He’s been a semi-outlaw, he had a run-in with authorities, just yesterday, because of that. He’s been living for the sake of coming to this very point. Now, when Morpheus offers him “I’ll tell you what it’s all about, or I won’t – your choice”, it would have been rather comical, if he said “oh, never mind, bring on the blue”.
So, ultimately, I think it’s not the question what I seek, but where I come from. Will the truth give me anything, or will it just take away? Am I happy with what I am, where I am, how I feel, how things develop? If I feel I know enough, do I need to know more? Maybe it’s blue then …. but then again, how to know if what I know is enough? How to assume to know enough without descending into the ignorant hypocrisy we’re all quick to condemn in others?
What am I doing here in the first place? I wouldn’t have come to ask, if I didn’t think I need to hear the answer. Back to the above, I can’t unlearn. If I know there’s something to know, can I stop thinking about it, because I choose to? If Neo takes the blue pill, he will forget the evening, their meeting, but he won’t get rid of his continuous discomfort.
When I have that nagging feeling, that “splinter in your mind, driving you mad”, then, there is no other way than to run the gauntlet and face the truth of the red pill. Maybe it will make things better, maybe worse. But if I don’t, I’ll never know. And I’ll know, that I don’t know.
So, in the end, it’s red again. If I’m at the point of being asked, I’m there for a reason. And the reason can’t be any other than that I wanted to take the red pill from the very beginning. Just like Neo.

4) What would be your perfect meal and in what setting would you choose to consume it?
Ah, here I’m going to take the cheesy (and the easy) way out and say that it’s all about the company. The taste won’t make it. The view won’t make it. The ambience won’t make it. They might ruin it, but they can’t make it. What will make it, is the other person, or the other people, who sit at the same table.
That’s it. Some answers are short.

5) If you could change just one thing about yourself what would you opt for?
Discipline. That’s really the one thing I’d like myself to be better at – significantly better.
Make no mistake, there’s lots of areas I could wish myself to be better, or different in. But then I wouldn’t be me any more. I wouldn’t have had the life I lived so far. Hey, maybe it would be better. But I wouldn’t know. It would be another guy sitting here, reasoning about things now. Not me. I am the sum of all my traits, all my experiences, good or bad. And I don’t wanna miss a thing.
Except, discipline. Discipline makes everything easier. Everything. No matter what you dedicate yourself to. I know, being more disciplined would, of course, also have shaped me and my life in a different way. But that’s such a great gain, that I’d take the risk. Just this one risk. The red pill of self shaping.


2 thoughts on “The cygnet asked me questions

  1. cygnet

    2) This answer caused me to have a conversation with Colt about books. We both came to the conclusion that we found Asimov very dry, but that the physicists and mathematicians among our friends were fine with his writing style. Which makes me wonder about reading styles and what works for some people but not for others.

  2. Anonymous

    Isn’t it a matter of personal taste. Some people find Asimov’s style and books fascinating, some prefer Barbara Cartland. It all depends on how the individual reader finds the author “speaking” directly at them.



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