si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: September, 2008

My First Durian (aka Stealing Alien Babies From The Mothership)

I decided a sunny Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to try durian. I’d had a small bite of one before, but was now determined to try the whole thing. Choosing, buying, opening & hopefully having enough nerve to actually eat one. I steeled myself to the distinct possibility of getting part way in & throwing the whole lot in the bin.

For the unitiated, a durian looks like this:


This came from ye regular olde supermarket downstairs – so it’s obviously not that bizarre a fruit. It comes in a handy dandy carrier bag, but the checkout girl still eyed it very suspiciously & placed it inside first one, then two plastic bags (which the spikes promptly & happily ripped through).

It’s difficult to see in the above picture, but there are tiny splits in the shell of the durian. When I bought it, this particular split was about 2″ long. By the next morning it had expanded to this:


So, after much researching & watching youtube videos on the matter, I discovered that you pry your fingers into these holes, and you can pull the fruit apart, thus:


This can only be described as.. uhh, vaguely sexual. *cough* anyway, it added to the experience, for me at least (I forgot to ask how the durian felt about it. Guess that’s a guy thing)

So how big is a durian? Well, I wish I’d got a photo of this, but alas, I didn’t think of it – it’s roughly as big as my head. Instead, here’s a picture of my head:


Two keys points – 1. See how extremely unconvinced I am by the durian (this was before I started eating it). 2. Note the extensive collection of booze in the background which will now probably never be drunk. If you’d like it, just shout.

So, once you pry out a section, it starts to look like this:


And you can see the little fruit sections inside. They have large softish pips in them (which you don’t eat, uhh, I think).

What do they look like? They look like ALIEN BABIES!!! No, I’m serious. Check it:


I swear. You’re stealing alien babies from the spikey mothership. This fruit is CRAZY. I kept expecting it to jump out of my hand and suck onto my face.

Of course, there’s also another *cough* minor detail with durian.

Ok, let me explain. With most food, it smells more or less like it tastes.

In geographic terms, durian smells like Oklahoma, but tastes like Nepal. They are NOTHING alike. So, in order to enjoy it, you kind of have to detach the part of your brain that links smell & taste, because your nose & tastebuds will be telling you completely different things. One part of your brain is saying to grab your cowboy hat, the other your prayer beads & pitons. It just doesn’t work.

The taste is.. hmm. very hard to explain. Remember Charlie & The Chocolate Factory? How there was the chewing gum that had an entire three course meal in it? Well, it’s sort of like that – except that afterwards you don’t blow up to the size of a house. It’s sort of creamy, a bit like custard, sweet, but less sweet than banana. Damn delicious though.

Also, on the subject of smell, the outside & the inside smell quite different from each other. I tell you, these things are stunningly weird. But ok, while we’re on the subject of alien foods, who the heck invented Daikon?


Coz I tell you, if that doesn’t look like some kind of insane frilly UFO with massive vertical exhaust fumes, what the hell does?

Oh, and the durian? I’m offically hooked. I ate the whole thing in a day (probably a bad idea, they’re quite high in fat), & went back for more today. SO GOOD! I am officially a hippie.


    How To Get What You Want In Relationships (But Not What You Asked For)

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how we attract people into our lives – who we end up in relationships with, and so on. This applies both to intimate relationships, and more importantly friendships (since we generally have far more & are less discriminating with friends than lovers)

    It’s pretty obvious (in hindsight) that while a bunch of factors determine our partners – very few of these are actually at the conscious level. You want a guy who treats you well, and yet somehow always end up with angry drunks? Huh?

    Here are some of the reasons why this sort of thing happens:

    Your Patterns
    If you look back over all your relationships, what recurring themes can you see? I don’t mean obvious things like age difference, or hair colour.

    I mean things like – were you meeting damaged people & trying to fix them? Were you with people who supported you as much as you supported them, or was it all one sided? Did they respect you? Do you often find yourself in relationships with people that were selfish or self-centred? That have no money themselves but lots of ideas how to spend yours? People that are angry? Rude to waiters? Lazy?

    The problem is – whether you’re aware of these patterns or not, whatever it is inside you that is creating them will continue to create them – at least, until you heal the patterns or otherwise clear them out.

    For example, I know that until very recently I’ve had a very deep need for approval (Thanks, great-great-great grandma! Fortunately this is sorted now). As such, I’ve regularly got in relationships with “broken” people – not bad people per se, just those with a lot of issues I could then help them with. As I help them, they’re grateful, and voila, my need for approval is fulfilled.

    Now, I saw this vividly in my very first relationship – with a suicidal bulemic – and swore I’d never do it again. At a conscious level, I chose to stay away from these situations, and yet – they continued to echo through my life regardless. Despite my best conscious attention, I’ve been involved with a violent alcoholic, an anorexic, sociopathic liars & many serious abuse victims. Most interestingly, none of these attributes were visible in the early stages of the relatonships. There was no way I would know until it was too late.

    At some level, I was drawing these situations to myself, despite my best (conscious) intentions.

    Their Patterns
    There are two people in every relationship (well, ok, excluding polyamory), so it’s worth remembering that any characteristics you have will attract people looking for those attributes.

    Think about it this way – whatever you dislike most about yourself? There will be people who are drawn to that (for many reasons). You will be part of completing their deepest desires – even if it’s a part of yourself you don’t particularly want to be sharing with anyone.

    Your Fears
    One of the most maddening aspects of life is that you not only attract things that you desire, but also things you hate, or fear.

    It breaks down like this – anything you place attention on – whether positive or negative – is drawn to you. Yeah yeah, law of attraction, etc etc.

    So how does this pan out in relationships? Well, if you have (as I have for years) a fear of being used for your dosh? Sooner or later (or worse – very often) you’re going to end up with someone who is mostly there for the bling. Have a deep fear of jealousy – you’re going to end up with people who make you jealous. Trust me on this – like crazy. Afraid of being cheated on? Your partners will cheat on you. Afraid you might be a loser? You’ll attract people who believe you really are.

    And so it goes.

    pic by McNeny

    What To Do About All This
    This could get frustratingly depressing very quickly. Hold your hankies though! There is, as always, good news!

    The first is to be aware that you always have choice. With the exception of family, every single person in your life is there because you (at some point) chose them to be there. So, you can also choose for them not to be.

    It’s also important to realise that unless you’re VERY careful (on an energetic level) every person you interact with will affect you, at some point. Your friends that you see all the time? They’re going to have a huge, cumulative effect on your life. Your boyfriend gets angry at the traffic? You’re going to end up road raging along with him.

    So, it’s worth thinking about who you want near you. It’s an important decision, and needs to be made for every significant relationship you have (not just your intimate partners)

    Secondly, once you figure out the worst of the patterns, merely being aware of them will help you avoid the most egregious examples. While I may have not have successfully avoided girls with eating disorders, that was the last time I spent time with anyone (friend or partner) who was aggressively suicidal. These are small but important steps that will still save you a world of hurt.

    Thirdly, by seeing the patterns, you’ll be able to track them back & heal them. There are tons of tools for doing this of course (heh, I feel like I’m always saying that – but I do keep discovering more of them every week).

    Even just giving some thought to your most recent relationship – or your closest current friends, you’ll be able to see definite patterns. If you were using EFT, for example, you could start with something really general like “Even though I attract people that don’t respect me..”. Something non-specific like that probably won’t clear the problem out completely, but it will definitely give you enough traction to really find out what’s going on, & then kick that junk to the curb.

    pic by Mark_2000

    The greatest thing is this – if you’re, say, 30 now, you may live another 100 years (yes, the typical life expectancy for 30 year olds today is 125-150 years).

    So, how many friends will you have in the next 100 years? If you make 5 new friends a year, that’s 500 friends. If you have one new partner every 5 years, that’s another 20 intimate relationships. So, even just clearing out one negative pattern will mean you straight away get 500 better friends & 20 better partners. How awesome is that? (answer: unbelievably!)

    And if you really get into it? Why, the sky’s the limit! Awesome relationships all round, on the double!!


      The Healing Power Of Music

      When I was in my early teens, my mother ‘encouraged’ me to do three things – take up an instrument (guitar), learn a language (French), & do gymnastics. I pretty much sucked at all three of them.

      I was talking to a friend yesterday about doing some chanting (in Sanskrit) – the thought of which freaked me the hell out. Ok, so what the heck is up with that? Of course – this hits two of the three – languages & music. Pretty obviously this was teenage rebellion at “being forced” to do something – I was thus insisting on being right, & on proving Mum wrong.

      In some kind of synchronicity, I’ve also had this song brought to my attention – “Fall At Your Feet” – by Crowded House:

      The lyrics of which are:

      I’m really close tonight
      And I feel like I’m moving inside her
      Lying in the dark
      And I think that I’m beginning to know her
      Let it go
      I’ll be there when you call

      And whenever I fall at your feet
      You let your tears rain down on me
      Whenever I touch your slow turning pain

      You’re hiding from me now
      There’s something in the way that youre talking
      Words don’t sound right
      But I hear them all moving inside you, go
      I’ll be waiting when you call

      Hey and whenever I fall at your feet
      Won’t you let your tears rain down on me
      Whenever I touch your slow turning pain

      The finger of blame has turned upon itself
      And I’m more than willing to offer myself
      Do you want my presence or need my help
      Who knows where that might lead
      I fall

      Whenever I fall at your feet
      Would you let your tears rain down on me
      Whenever I fall, ever I fall

      (courtesy of lyricsfreak)

      I start listening to this song this morning, and immediately felt stuff start to lift off me. Singing along with it only amplified the effect. I ended up singing this for the best part of two hours, tears streaming down my face as long buried memories surfaced & layer after layer of rubbish cleared away. As I sang or struggled with certain phrases completely different things would lift off. I also instinctively began by singing in a much higher (ie, adolescent) register – then, as the healing progressed, my voice dropped significantly. My vocal cords hurt – they’d never been used at that pitch before.

      Here’s what singing this song lifted off me:

      • “Finger of blame” – that it was time to accept learning
      • “Let it go” – it was ok for Mum to be right
      • I kept forgetting the lyric – which echoed French vocab – & was accompanised by a definite visual of my 13 year old school hall
      • “Want my presence of need my help” – obstinance
      • “Something in the way that you’re talking” – French vocab tests
      • Any time I lost the tune – took me back to 14 year old music & not being able to remember any guitar at all
      • Some obvious residual breakup stuff
      • I was continually starting singing too early – much like business ventures I’ve started that have been a decade (or more) ahead of their time
      • When singing in the higher register, I couldn’t hold “I fall” for the entire length – realising that when I am now is where I am supposed to be
      • I was much more comfortable in a higher register – the belief that things have to be comfortable, familiar, to be safe
      • Still struggling to find the right notes – & the right place in my life
      • The subtle words kept tripping me up – echoing accents/graves, etc in French
      • The 2nd verse got rid of some residual anger at having things hidden from me (despite my fully knowing)
      • “Let it go” – much trickier in the lower register – fear that it was harder to do things this way, easier/safer the old way
      • Was still struggling to remember the most basic words

      At this point I started singing the song without listening to the music or reading the lyrics

      • Still can’t get it right – hit my residual perfectionism
      • At the higher register – I was warbling a bit – not as good as I thought I might be
      • Kept saying “you” instead of “her” – afraid to get close
      • Kept screwing up verb tenses – just like French
      • Kept saying “happy” instead of “willing” – I wasn’t happy, & wasn’t willing to be happy
      • “whenever I touch your slow turning pain” – that I was addicted to other’s pain
      • Kept saying “moving” not “turning” – also addicted to helping them with their pain
      • Kept saying “know” not “go” – knowledge being more important to me than action
      • Kept saying “touch” not “fall at your feet” – that I’m desperate for touch, having spent a long time with minimal human closeness
      • Still singing flat – just like music class when I was unable to tell notes apart
      • Timing was all screwed up – just like when I’ve been trading
      • “Whenever I touch” – that my addictive personality – I can’t get high without assistance (via food, chemicals, whatever)
      • I really struggled with “let it go”. hehe.
      • “I fall at your feet” – I kept warbling “your” – because I had a problem with what others have that I don’t
      • Got a complete mental block at “I’m more than willing”, thought it was “more than ready” – realised I wasn’t “more than ready” for anything

      Needless to say I drank a TON of water & went through a LOT of tissues through this process.

      I’ve seen & used a lot of healing techniques, but this absolutely blew me away in terms of how much it cleared. Amusingly, I’m sure this comes as no surprise to the musicians out there.

      Ok, so now let’s dissect the frog (ie, examine in ridiculous detail an otherwise beautiful thing).

      Here’s what I like, lyrically, about this track:

      1. The subtle tense changes showing the emotional growth of the relationship – first “I’ll be there” when she calls, then “I’ll be waiting” – you can feel him hanging on more as he gets more involved. In the chorus, first it’s “You let your tears rain down on me”, then “won’t you..” – begging, then finally resignedly pleading “would you..”
      2. The growth of the relationship: from early sex “Think I’m beginning to know her”, the development of behaviour patterns, sympathy from her as he falls at her feet; to her hiding something, pulling away; then, finally, his desperation and pain.
      3. The subtlety of the final line – the implication of aloneness – he falls, but there’s no-one there to pick him up “whenever I fall, ever I fall” – so he stays fallen forever.
      4. The tie in – first he’s moving inside her, then, when she’s pulling away, he can hear the (wrong sounding) words moving inside her – as she’s avoiding subjects, wheedling around the (obvious) truth – since he’s already picked up that there’s something in the way that she’s talking.
      5. The subtle transition from – thinking that he’s knowing her, but telling himself to relax & just enjoy the moment “let it go” – to hearing that she’s lying, “words all moving inside you” & breaking up with her – the imperative “go”.
      6. The transition early on from singing about her, to singing to her.

      Oh, & here’s a version I just recorded of myself singing this. It was all done from memory (no lyrics in front of me), and acapella (since I don’t have any instruments here). For comparison, I estimated once that I’ve listened to my all time favourite song, “One” by U2 probably around 1500 times. Last time I checked, I still had no idea what the entire lyrics were. Oh, and this is both the first time I’ve sung in public, the first time I’ve recorded myself, and it was done in one take, with no edits. Fall At Your Feet


        Two Approaches to Trans-Humanism (Who Wants To Live Forever?)

        Post humanism is, essentially, what it will be like to be “more than human” – ie, what are we going to evolve to next. This could be purely biological, purely mechanical, some kind of nano-tech, or a combination of the lot.

        Transhumanism is more or less synonomous with “human enhancement”. This is the stepping stone to post humanism.

        Of course, many people see this as complete nonsense – and that’s totally fine.

        However, assuming people think “Hey, become better? What a great idea!”, there are two main approaches:

        1. Wait Till Technology Does It For You
        I know a guy who’s a great example of this. He’s 29 (but looks 49), chain smokes, does a lot of drugs, and so on. He plays guitar, but his body is so massively crippled that he can’t play it for more than 5 minutes at a time without extreme pain. He can’t do any exercise because every joint in his body hurts. This isn’t a genetic disease – bad life choices have gradually crippled him.

        He’s firmly convinced he will live forever.

        I suggested that perhaps he should cut back on the smoking, but he disagreed. Why? Because he’s sure that ‘science’ will catch up soon enough that it’ll be able to fix all his smoking related issues – oh, and all his other health problems as well.

        Ahh, well. Ok then.


        2. Start Now
        Aubrey De Grey is a main figure in the immortality movement. He’s opinionated as hell, so unsurprisingly, his ideas are hotly debated. He does however have some interesting points.

        One of his key tenets is that if you can live another 30 years, then medical technology will improve enough to allow you to live another 30 (in robust health – we’re talking quality of life here too, not just quantity). In the 30 after that, technology will improve to allow another 30 – and so on ad infinitum. A longevity equivalent of Zeno’s dichotomy paradox.

        The critical first step is that you want to hit that +30 year mark in as good a shape as possible. It’s touch & go which aspects of human frailty will be dealt with first – so if, say, you have destroyed your lungs but the rest of you is fine, you might die anyway if medical science hasn’t quite figured out lung replacement (or lung cancer) yet.

        Now, health & wellbeing is a many faceted thing. Is it worth having a healthy body if your mind has completely deteriorated (or vice versa)? All the different aspects of your system have to be kept above a certain baseline, otherwise the entire system will collapse in on itself. Witness how quickly old folks can spiral downhill if they lose their mobility, catch pneumonia, or lose a loved one.

        So, unsurprisingly, this is the approach I prefer. Working on improving my physical, mental, emotional & spiritual wellbeing, more or less all at once – thus ensuring maximum longevity (more importantly quality of life, not just quantity), and, eventually immortality.

        The really interesting thing is – once you start looking at some of the technologies that have become available to assist & improve in these areas (and boy, the internet is a godsend for this kind of research), you quickly become exposed to more & more ways to improve your life. Not only that, but many of these technologies are both exponential in benefit & complementary to each other. You start using even a couple of them, and massive chunks of your life radically improve at once. The more you use them, the faster & more significantly your life improves. Even better than that, many of them are both free and stupidly simple to implement.

        Of course, which technologies (or indeed any) to use is always a personal choice – and different things do just seem to work better for different people.

        An unexpected benefit too is – once you start looking at some of these diverse aspects of the human system, you’ll start to see that it is possible to live a life with higher highs (& much higher, or even non existent lows) than you might ever have previously dreamt possible.

        Happier. Fitter. More energy. More peacful. More fulfilled. Wealthier.

        I look at all this, and to me at least it seems obvious – why wait for the future to arrive when it’s becoming easier & easier to race up to meet it, with a giant smile on your face?

        But of course, as usual, there is always choice 1.