Friday, April 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Four qualities make a good scientist: the willingness to work hard (diligence is far more important than brains); the ability to live with doubt, since we’ll never have all the answers and some of them are impossible to get; the willingness and openness to be wrong, and to admit it when you are; and the humility to realize that no matter what contribution you make, somebody else would have made it had you not existed"
- Jerry Coyne

Culture Shock in Dogs

It's a funny and fascinating to realize how much dogs have co-evolved with us. Saundra Schimmelpfennig writes in her blog 'Good Intentions Aren't Enough" (which is one of the few blogs with a noble purpose) about her Thai Dog named China:

"For a Thai dog being around American dogs can be a confusing and scary experience. There's no starting out at a cautious distance as the dogs size up each other. Instead American dogs are immediately violating their personal space. The Thai dog tries to communicate that the American dog needs to stay back by raising their hackles and baring their teeth. Both of these signals are completely missed by American dogs. If there is more than one dog violating her personal space China feels surrounded and trapped. After a few attempts at socializing my dog at dog parks China now refuses to move once she realizes that we're in the parking lot of a dog park.
My sister's dog has spent a lot of time a my house since I moved back to the states. When my dog realized that she had no choice but to be near my sister's dog she set out to determine the pecking order. This show of dominance so cowed my sister's dog that he now refuses to have anything to do with my dog. The few times China has shown interest in making friends with other dogs there have been similar bad endings because American dogs and dog owners are unprepared for the ritual of establishing dominance. 
China may have learned from her social faux pas because she has not tried to establish dominance with my brother's dogs. If she is with just one of them she's ok but she cowers under the table if both of them start shoving curious noses at her. On the few occasions when she's been brave enough to try playing with the dogs, neither of them have picked up on her Let's Play postures. She eventually stops trying to interact at all.
Although my dog was raised around lots of other dogs and had many dog friends back in Thailand, in all the times she's been in the states she's not had a single game of tag or a wrestling match. Despite my best attempts, she's not been able to adapt enough to dog culture here in the states."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sachin - 2010 Time 100 Most Influential People in World

Finally - Technically it has do with cricket but in reality I think this recognition is for being a decent human being.:

In the history of cricket, only one man has scored a double century — 200 runs — in a One Day International match, and his name is Sachin Tendulkar. To millions of Indians and countless fans around the world, this act, which caps a career of record-breaking feats, arouses a sense of awe.

Cricket casts the tiniest shadow on the American sports scene, but globally it stokes the fire in people's souls. Inherited from imperial England, the world's second most watched team sport has become a symbol of beating the colonials at their own game. Sports heroes such as Tendulkar, 37, stand for national dignity in a way that perhaps only a postcolonial nation can understand. And feel grateful for."

I still feel vindicated of my fundamental attribution error.

Quote of the Day

"Why is it so hard to find a soulmate? Because most of us are actually searching for egomates instead. We place the most limited and unloving aspect of our minds in charge of our search for love, and then wonder why we aren't succeeding. To the degree that we identify with this false sense of self, and operate on the basis of its limited point of view, we aren't looking for someone to love so much as recruiting fellow actors to take on supporting roles in a favorite melodrama." 
- Carolyn Godschild Miller

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Hidden River of Knowledge - Commencement address by David Brooks

David Brooks again - I was searching for an update on his new book  and came across this great speech. Audio and full text - here.

"I've observed a few things about the few really great people I've had a chance to meet and cover. First, they tend to have really big heads. As someone once said, what they have doesn't look like a head. It looks like a container for a head. They also can't sit still. They need to be around people. You and I require sleep. They require people.
But here's one other thing I've noticed that separates the really great people from the merely famous ones. They talk to dead people.
Merely famous people have pictures of themselves on the wall. Really great people have pictures of dead people on the wall, and on their desks. It's one of the first things I look for when I go into somebody's office."

"We inherit, starting even before we are born, a great river of knowledge, a great flow from many ages and many sources. The information that comes from millions of years ago, we call brain chemistry. The information that comes from hundreds of thousands of years ago from our hunter and gatherer ancestors we call genes. The information that was handed down thousands of years ago we call religion. The information passed along hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family. The information you absorbed over the past few years at Wake Forest we call education.
But it is all information, and it flows from the deep past through us into the future. It flows from the dead through us to the living and the unborn. We exist as creatures within this hidden river of knowledge the way a trout exists in a stream or a river. We are formed by the river. It is the medium in which we live and the guide about how to live.
The great people I've seen talking to the dead do so because they want to connect with the highest and most inspiring parts of the river. When people make mistakes, often it is not because they are evil. It's because they don't have an ideal to live up to.
These great people also talk to the dead because they want a voice from outside their selves. Much of our culture culminates in the self. It's all about making you happy. Making you rich. It treats you as the end of a long process.
But the best people I've met don't feel that smart or that special. They have powerful jobs, but they don't feel powerful. They don't feel like architects building these great projects from scratch. They feel instead like river boat captains negotiating the currents around them.
They want to step outside their egotism and understand the river of events. They want to feel how people in the past have negotiated its channels. They want other voices in their heads so they can possess the ultimate power, which is the power of facing unpleasant truths.
Finally, I think they talk to the dead because they want to widen their time horizons. We're living in a technological age that turns everything ephemeral. Newspapers become blogs. Letters become text messages. Everything becomes a more temporary version of itself.
But this other scientific revolution, this brain research revolution, lengthens our time horizons. It underlines how much we owe to the Ice Age hunters and gatherers ages and ages ago. It underlines that we are part of this long process.
People who talk to the dead want to feel connection to this procession through the ages. They need to feel in their bones where they have come from, and what ultimately they will leave behind."

"Over the years, we all pick up good advice. Spend a year abroad. It's bound to change your life. Think hard about who you marry. It's the most important decision you will ever make. Devote yourself to your kids. Nothing else is guaranteed to make you happy. The only thing I'd add is, create a posse of dead people. Create an entourage of heroes. Put their pictures on your wall, and keep them in your mind.
They will remind you of your place in the hidden river of wisdom. They'll serve as models. They'll give you an honest perspective on how you're doing. They'll remind you that your blessings don't come from you but from those who came before you."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Ben:

The Mind as a River
Understand: the greatest generals, the most creative strategists, stand out not because they have more knowledge but because they are able, when necessary, to drop their preconceived notions and focus intensely on the present moment. That is how creativity is sparked and opportunities are seized. Knowledge, experience, and theory have limitations: no amount of thinking in advance can prepare you for the chaos of life, for the infinite possibilities of the moment. The great philosopher of war Carl von Clausewitz called this "friction": the difference between our plans and what actually happens. Since friction is inevitable, our minds have to be capable of keeping up with change and adapting to the unexpected. The better we can adapt our thoughts to the current circumstances, the more realistic our responses to them will be....

Think of the mind as a river: the faster it flows, the better it keeps up with the present and responds to change. The faster it flows, also the more it refreshes itself and the greater its energy. Obsessional thoughts, past experiences (whether traumas or successes), and preconceived notions are like boulders or mud in this river, settling and hardening there and damming it up. The river stops moving; stagnation sets in. You must wage constant war on this tendency in the mind.

-- Robert Greene, 33 Strategies of War, page 22.

Autobiographical Odor Memory

Olfactory bulb is probably the queen of synesthesia and odor is the mother of all memories - earlier post. New research here:

"According to a recent review not all of this is just nonsense. This review especially interested me due to it’s creative use of research design and theories about memory. Autobiographical memory across the life span can be divided into intervals across the life span. Over all the age distribution of memories evoked by verbal information is divided in the following phases: childhood amnesia, the bump, and recency or forgetting. Childhood amnesia is why we can’t remember almost anything before the age of 10, the bump is the enormous amount of memories that can be recalled from the ages 10 to 30 years, and recency reflects better retention of events occurring from the last 10 years. More on that
This knowledge is based on verbal cues on personal memories, when comparing verbal cues to odors it’s found that older individuals have a bump with olfactory induced autobiographical memories whereas younger cohorts don’t have this bump."

Odor-evoked memorie are more emotional, associated with stronger feelings of being brought back in time, and have been thought of less often as compared to memories evoked by other cues"

David Shenk Interview

His epigenetics talk sounded surreal, David Shenk's interview on freaknomics blog:

"Q.The Genius in All of Us is “not a instruction manual about how YOU TOO can become JUST LIKE WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE!” but you do offer some suggestions for how the average person can achieve greatness. Can you share a few of them with us?A.In the book, the suggestions are made specifically in the context of understanding the science that lies behind them. Without that scientific underpinning, they’ll likely come off as motivational pablum. But here goes…
Nietzsche wrote: “All great artists and thinkers [are] great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering.” His observation was dead-on, and timeless. Hollywood movies suggest that genius is a series of Eureka! moments, that true greatness flows effortlessly. We live under the great myth of the perfect first draft. While moments of inspiration do exist, great work is, for the most part, painstaking and cannot happen without the most severe (and constructive) self-criticism.
In consumer culture, we are constantly conditioned to gratify our impulses immediately: buy, eat, watch, click— now. High achievers transcend these impulses. Like the Buddha who waits patiently at the gates of heaven until all others have entered before him, young Kenyans are content to run for many years before they can even dream of competing in a major international contest. The tiny violinist screeches out earsplitting sounds not because he thinks a dazzling concerto is right around the corner, but because there is something satisfying in the struggle and in the tiny improvements made along the way. The big prize is envisioned and appreciated as a far-off goal— it is not lusted after. Small accomplishments along the way provide more than enough satisfaction to continue.
Q.What does this new understanding of genetics and intelligence mean for parenting? What can parents do to help their kids achieve greatness?
A.In this limited space, let me just stick to one point, which is that parents need to model a life of delayed gratification and persistence if they want their kids to embrace those values themselves. Show your kids how hard you work, how often you experience disappointments and how you respond to those disappointments. If you blame others for your failures or simply give up, that’s what your kids will learn. If you take on a long-term challenge, show a deep commitment to the process and a refusal to give up in the face of adversity, your kids will pick that up instead."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Smart People and Dumb Decisions

Great article (pdf) adapted from Michael J. Mauboussin's book Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counter-intuition, featuring Daniel Kahneman, Naseem Taleb et al. (and the first ever picture of brain in the process of forming memory). More I read on this stuff, the illusion of my omnipotence dissipates. I can only hope and wish this feeling is universal.

Our natural decision-making pro- cess makes us vulnerable to certain mental mistakes. One example is what psychologists call the “inside view,” which explains that we con- sider problems by focusing on a spe- cific task, use information that is close at hand, and make predictions based on that narrow and unique set of in- puts. This approach is common for all forms of planning and almost always paints too optimistic a picture.
Overconfidence, in one form or an- other, is central to the inside view, and can lead to three illusions that can derail decisions: the illusion of superiority, the illusion of optimism, and the illusion of control."

"In his book
Full House, Stephen Jay Gould, who was a paleontologist at Harvard University, showed the importance of knowing the distribu- tion of outcomes after his doctor di- agnosed him with mesothelioma. His doctor explained that half of the people diagnosed with the rare can- cer lived only eight months (more technically, the median mortality was eight months), a seeming death sentence. But Gould soon realized that, while half the patients died within eight months, the other half went on to live much longer. Because of his relatively young age at diagno- sis, there was a good chance that he would be one of the fortunate ones.
Gould wrote, “I had asked the right question and found the an- swers. I had obtained, in all probabil- ity, the most precious of all possible gifts in the circumstances—substan- tial time.” He lived another 20 years."

A brief understanding of phase transitions, an aspect of the behavior of complex systems, is useful here. Phase transitions are where small in- cremental changes in causes lead to large-scale effects. Physicist Philip Ball calls it the “grand ah-whoom.” Put a tray of water into your freezer and the temperature drops to the threshold of freezing. The water re- mains a liquid until — ah-whoom — it becomes ice. Just a small incremental change in temperature leads to a change from liquid to solid.
The grand ah-whoom occurs in many complex systems where collec- tive behavior emerges from the inter- action of its constituent parts. You can find lots of these systems both in the physical world and the social world. Examples include everything from the behavior of stock exchanges to the popularity of hit songs.
The presence of phase transitions invites a few common decision-mak- ing mistakes. The first is the problem of induction, or how you should log- ically go from specific observations to general conclusions. Although philosophers from Sextus Empiricus to David Hume have for centuries warned against extrapolating from what we see, refraining from doing so is very difficult. To state the obvi- ous, induction fails — sometimes spectacularly so — in systems with phase transitions."

"There’s a funny paradox with deci- sion making. Almost everyone real- izes how important it is, yet very few people practice in order to improve.There are common and identifiable mistakes that you can understand, see in your daily affairs, and manage effectively. In those cases, the correct approach to deciding well often con- flicts with what your mind does nat- urally. But now that you know when to think twice, better decisions will follow. So prepare your mind, recog- nize the context, apply the right tech- nique — and practice."

First Ever Image of Memory Being Made

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Rant on Friendship

Love and Friendship are quintessential part of human existence and lack of both probably might have been one of the reasons for the demise of Neanderthals. There is an old Indian adage - "It doesn't matter if you have 60 friends when you are 20 but consider yourself lucky if you have one when you are 60." It's heart-bearking but there is an immense truth in that statement since people change and grow apart in time.

Ben Casnocha writes excellent blog but his posts never has a hint of euphemism. Sometimes bluntness is what we need to see the obvious. Here is one of his old post I loved -
The Quest for Platonic Intimacy (but I disagree with his follow up post):

Growing up, you have only personal, emotional friends. A 10 year-old isn't debating marketing strategy with a colleague from work. But over time, as you enter the workforce and mature, you develop specific intellectual interests (or not). You become intellectually curious. You take on professional interests and goals. For a broadly fulfilling friendship, you need more than pranks or playing sports together. You need to be able to have a stimulating conversation.

So I think around age 18-30 you face a question: Can my personal, emotional friendships develop a meaningful intellectual dimension? If yes, you probably have a life-long friendship that will be deeply rewarding and intimate. If not, you have a relationship worth maintaining but not destined for intimacy.
As you enter your late 20's and 30's, you're meeting people mostly in a professional context with intellectualism as the animating force. Work as a social place is an environment not as naturally conducive as school or a youth sports team to personal, emotional intimacy. More authentic "social" time must be scheduled in advance due to a busy schedule and perhaps a family of your own, which means it happens less often.
Hence the second, harder question asked a few years later and for rest of life: Can my professional, intellectual friendships develop a meaningful emotional dimension?"

Not all or even most friendships need to fit all of the boxes (personal, professional, emotional, intellectual). But the best friendships -- the intimate ones -- do, especially both emotional and intellectual boxes.
What do I mean by "intimacy"? Intimacy is a concept not exclusive to romance. I think it's also a potential descriptor of high-wattage interactions, feelings, and trust between two platonic friends. In a romantic relationship intimacy can be conveyed via physical contact -- just snuggle up with her/him. In a platonic friendship intimacy must be expressed mostly via words and body language. So it can be hard to pin down in a friendship.
Here's one possible sign of intimacy: When you're with this friend, does your best and most natural self come out? Does being the person you want to be become effortless?"

We should consider ourselves lucky if we have friend(s) who quenches our emotional and intellectual needs. If we don't, life becomes stale.

Through a Dogs Eyes

Fantastic PBS documentary on service dogs and how they changed peoples lives. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why I love Adam Smith

I wanted to read Theory of Moral Sentiments for long long time but kept procrastinating it for a long long time too. Now I made myself a promise to read it before the end of this year. Depending on our connivence, roots of all of our economics is derived and picked out from his insights sans the his important enlightenment in Theory of Moral Sentiments. World would be much better place if we had sculpted our economics based on Theory of Moral Sentiments with Wealth of Nations instead of just one.

Here is Amartya Sen's
great piece on the same (thanks):

The presumption of the similarity of intrinsic talents is accepted by Smith not only within nations but also across the boundaries of states and cultures, as is clear from what he says in both Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. The assumption that people of certain races or regions were inferior, which had quite a hold on the minds of many of his contem poraries, is completely absent from Smith's writings. And he does not address these points only abstractly. For example, he discusses why he thinks Chinese and Indian producers do not differ in terms of productive ability from Europeans, even though their institutions may hinder them.

He is inclined to see the relative backwardness of African economic progress in terms of the continent's geographical disadvantages - it has nothing like the "gulfs of Arabia, Persia, India, Bengal, and Siam, in Asia" that provide opportunities for trade with other people. At one stage, Smith bursts into undisguised wrath: "There is not a negro from the coast of Africa who does not, in this respect, possess a degree of magnanimity which the soul of his sordid master is too often scarce capable of conceiving."
The global reach of Smith's moral and political reasoning is quite a distinctive feature of his thought, but it is strongly supplemented by his belief that all human beings are born with similar potential and, most importantly for policymaking, that the inequalities in the world reflect socially generated, rather than natural, disparities.
There is a vision here that has a remarkably current ring. The continuing global relevance of Smith's ideas is quite astonishing, and it is a tribute to the power of his mind that this global vision is so forcefully presented by someone who, a quarter of a millennium ago, lived most of his life in considerable seclusion in a tiny coastal Scottish town. Smith's analyses and explorations are of critical importance for any society in the world in which issues of morals, politics and economics receive attention. The Theory of Moral Sentiments is a global manifesto of profound significance to the interdependent world in which we live."

Too busy to think about life

We are complex creatures longing for cognitive fluency and both traits don't go easily together. Hence most of us eschew thinking about life and lead mostly a hedonic life. Those of us who tend to ponder about life, tend to soak in a sea of introspection. Both this perspectives are at best not healthy.
Less Wrong has a great post to find a right balance;

Reasons to make the effort (thinking about life):
Happiness is a pairing between your situation and your disposition. Truly optimizing your life requires adjusting both variables: what happens, and how it affects you.
You are constantly changing your disposition.  The question is whether you'll do it with a purpose.  Your experiences change you, and you affect those, as well as how you think about them, which also changes you.  It's going to happen.  It's happening now.  Do you even know how it works?  Put your intelligence to work and figure it out!
The road to harm is paved with ignorance.  Using your capability to understand yourself and what you're doing is a matter of responsibility to others, too.  It makes you better able to be a better friend.
You're almost certainly suffering from Ugh Fields:  unconscious don't-think-about-it reflexes that form via Pavlovian conditioning.  The issues most in need of your attention are often ones you just happen not to think about for reasons undetectable to you.
How not to waste the effort (thinking about life):
Don't wait till you're sad.  Only thinking when you're sad gives you a skew perspective.  Don't infer that you can think better when you're sad just because that's the only time you try to be thoughtful.  Sadness often makes it harder to think: you're farther from happiness, which can make it more difficult to empathize with and understand.  Nonethess we often have to think when sad, because something bad may have happened that needs addressing.
Introspect carefully, not constantly.  Don't interrupt your work every 20 minutes to wonder whether it's your true purpose in life.  Respect that question as something that requires concentration, note-taking, and solid blocks of scheduled time.  In those times, check over your analysis by trying to confound it, so lingering doubts can be justifiably quieted by remembering how thorough you were.
Re-evaluate on an appropriate time-scale.  Try devoting a few days before each semester or work period to look at your life as a whole.  At these times you'll have accumulated experience data from the last period, ripe and ready for analysis.  You'll have more ideas per hour that way, and feel better about it.  Before starting something new is also the most natural and opportune time to affirm or change long term goals.  Then, barring large unexpecte d opportunities, stick to what you decide until the next period when you've gathered enough experience to warrant new reflection."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ten Tips to Boost Creativity

Nice tips from Richard Wiseman's :59 Seconds 

"1) Ditch group brainstorming because it often causes people to simply follow the most dominant member of the group.  Instead have people come up with ideas on their own and then meet to discuss them.
2) Try feeding your mind with new ideas by doing something completely different such as, visiting a museum or art gallery, flicking through a magazine, going on a journey, or randomly searching the internet.
3) Try imagining how a child, friend, artist, or accountant would approach the problem.  Or think about doing the exact opposite of every solution you have created so far. Changing perspective helps produce novel solutions.
4) Watch a funny film, incorporate the words ‘cheese’ and ‘pie’ into your next meeting or telephone call, or digitally alter a photograph of your friend so that he or she looks more like an owl.  People are more creative when they are having fun.
5) Become more curious about the world.  Ask yourself an interesting question each week. How do elephants communicate over hundreds of miles?  Why do people laugh?  Why are bananas yellow?
6) To inspire creative thoughts, embrace nature.  Place a potted plant on your desk and, if possible, work in a room that looks out on trees and grass.  Or head for the nearest green spot and walk around.
7) Listen to classical music.  People are at their most creative when they are relaxed and in a good mood.  Slow moving classical music induces both of these feelings in most people within minutes. 
Carry a small notebook and pencil around with you and scribble down an idea the moment it comes into your head.  Good thoughts strike at any time and it is important to record them before they are forgotten.
9) Randomly select a word from a dictionary and then create an ideas based around this word.  The random combination of elements helps people become more creative by constraining their thinking.
10) Go for a walk, get to the gym or even just stroll around your office or home.  Movement relaxes the body and people tend to have better ideas when they are moving than when they are static."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Obesity and Brain Damage

Here - Other than the obvious reasons, more:

Why fatness should affect the brain in this way is not clear, although a host of culprits have been suggested. A paper published this week in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified a gene that seems to be involved. FTO, as the gene is known, appears to play a role in both body weight and brain function. This gene comes in different versions; one version — let’s call it “troublesome”— appears to predispose people to obesity. Individuals with two copies of the troublesome version tend to be fatter than those with only one copy of it, who in turn tend to be fatter than those with two copies of the “regular” version. Now, the troublesome form has been linked to atrophy in several regions of the brain, including the frontal lobes, though how and why it has this effect remains unknown.

Diet may play a role, too. Studies in mice have shown that eating a very-high-fat diet increases brain inflammation and disrupts brain function. And the onset of brain decay may itself play a part. Since the regions of the brain most affected by obesity appear to be those involved in self-control and the regulation of appetite, erosion of these abilities may lead to greater obesity, which may lead to more rapid brain erosion, in a downward spiral."

On a positive note - 10 great ideas to beat obesity here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

David Shenk on Epigenetics

David Shenk on his new book The Genius in All of Us. The kicker here is epigenetic's - how we behave, what we eat, what we think, our lifestyle et al not only defines who we are and who we become but the ripple effect goes on for generations. Earlier post on Orchid Hypothesis.

Bottom line is like our brain, gene expressions are also malleable - a very good reason to "behave" even when dancing alone. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What I've been reading

I always look forward to the books Fareed Zakaria recommends every week on his show. This one from his last show, Mandela's Way:Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage by Richard Stengel is an easy read but a very powerful book.

In-spite of being in the limelight for decades, I don't believe we got satiated with Mandela. Most of us do believe we know so much about him but this book shows his human side sans that larger than life figure we are so used to.

Each of the fifteen lessons are to be savored and are timeless but these three were my favorites (in Stengel's words).

Courage - None of us is born courageous, Mandela would say, it is all in how we react to different situations. Sometimes it is only through putting up a brave front that you discover true courage. Sometimes the front is your courage. "Pretend to be brave and you not only become brave, you are brave."

It's always Both - For someone like me who has an obsession against cognitive dissonance this was great eyeopener that not everything that seems like cognitive dissonance is cognitive dissonance. Here is great story from Mandela about a young Africa man who left his small village to search for a wife. He spent years traveling all around the world looking for the prefect woman, but did not find her. Eventually he came back to the village without a bride, and his way in saw a woman and said, "Ah, I have found my wife." It turns out, she had lived in the hut next door to his all her life. "Is the moral of the story that you don't need to wander far and wide to find what you are looking for because it's right in front of you? Or is it that sometimes you must have wide experience and knowledge in order to appreciate those things that are closest and most familiar to you?
Mandela answer - "There is no one interpretation. Both may be correct". There are no simple answers to most difficult questions. All explanations may be true. Every problem has many causes, not just one. That is the way Mandela sees the world.
This way of thinking is demanding. It takes an effort of will and it requires empathy and imagination.

Love - No way in the world, I would have imagined Mandela as a romantic guy. Of-course things that matter to us most don't come easy, especially those who have the innate longing and made of that thing. For much of Mandela's life, love was something distant, existing more in his imagination and memory than in reality. And when it was reality, it was often a source of pain rather than solace. Yet he never gave up the idea that love would be in his life.
When someone goes through so much in life like Mandela, one acquires that  profound wisdom and his words of wisdom - "When you love a woman, you don't see her faults. The love is everything. You don't pay attention to the things others may find wrong with her. You just love her."
Wait was painful but he eventually found his love at age 88.

"To those who would say that everything happens for a reason, Mandela would reply that we are the reason and we are the ones who make things happen. There is no destiny that shapes our end; we shape it ourselves."

Monday, April 19, 2010

How should 'Lost' end?

CNN iReport is asking this question. Check it out for some fascinating theories from the fellow losties.

There have been many, many, many theories about “Lost” over the years, and every fan has an idea of how the show should end… so we want to hear yours! CNN iReport and the SciTechBlog's Geek Out! are partnering for this special challenge.  We also want you to keep it under 30 seconds or less (a very big challenge indeed for any fan of the show). The more creative and clever, the better!

Go on video and tell us what you want to see on the series finale of “Lost” and your theory could end up on CNN. Remember: keep it short!

Deadline: May 17 at 12:01 a.m. ET"

I would love to see the show ending with Desmond David Hume making them and us realize that it's all about love!!

Sometimes we have to live in a self-imposed hatch to realize this and we all have that totally "lost" Jack in us too. May be it takes philosophy, quantum physics, dharma et al to realize this simple truth but what matters is we should all eventually realize that. Nothing else matters. 

The metacognition loop from Antonio Damasio's book, Descrates Error ain't easy.
In order to decide, judge; in order to judge, reason; in order to reason, decide (what to reason about)."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

God Was That Dog I Held Today

This is painful, last minutes with his dog Oden. Life lessons taught by dogs are .....

Last Minutes with ODEN from phos pictures on Vimeo.

I couldn't watch the full video.

Karen Roddy Tweets Maximus

I have no idea who she is. Her profile says she is from Greece and - "I am researching fMRI data-basing from a personal perspective and will publish the findings."

Thank you, it's humbling to find a researcher who understands our curiosity about neuroscience and the importance of spreading that knowledge. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Inquiry into the Persistence of Unwisdom In Government

Stephen Hall in his book had quoted from an essay by Barbara W. Tuchman - An Inquiryinto the Persistence of Unwisdom In Government.

This was written in 1979 and sadly things have gotten only worse not only with respect to the unwisdom in the government but we collectively as a society as well. Yes, we have been conquering new frontiers in science, technology,space but some of the mundane common sense seems to be traded off. It's a fantastic essay, I highly recommend reading it - An essential component of truest wisdom is the self-confidence to reassess.

"Males, who so far in history have managed government, are obsessed with potency, which is the reason, I suspect, why it is difficult for them to admit error. I have never known a man who, with a smile and a shrug, could easily acknowledge being wrong. Why not? I can, without any damage to self-respect. I can only suppose the difference is that deep in their psyches, men somehow equate being wrong with being impotent."

 I am guy and I have qualms to admit that it is true for most men (and yes some women too).

"In the Age of Enlightenment, John Locke thought the motions should be controlled by intellectual judgment and it was the distinction and glory of man to be able so to control them. But as witness of the 20th century's record, which is comparable to the worst in the history, we have less confidence in our species. Although professionalism can help, I tend to think that fitness of character is what government chiefly requires. How that can be discovered, encouraged, and brought into office, I have no idea.

No society has yet managed to implement Plato. Now, with money-making and image making, manipulating our elective process, the changes are reduced. Perhaps, rather than educating officials, we should concentrate on educating the electorate."

Sorry, I couldn't resist, I found that last line hilarious.But yet that's the only thing which can bring sanity to our proceedings and we have pursue it relentlessly.

"Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom and a great Empire and little minds go ill together." 

- Edmund Burke

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Meaning of Life

Few months ago Mark Rowlands started writing a book called Running with the Pack which is also about meaning of life. I had commented to his post with one of my favorite quote by physicist, Alan Guth:

"It's ok to ask those questions, but one shouldnt expect to get a wiser answer from a physicist. My own emotional feeling is that life has a purpose - ultimately, I'd guess that purpose it has is the purpose that we've given it and not a purpose that come out of any cosmic design."

That was a very abstract thought but meaning of life cannot be quantified either. Max taught me to life live for the moment but the ape in me longs to find the meaning too. Each one of us can deduce a different meaning through a visceral or rationalization process. But our meanings come together in harmony in only one paradoxical situation. Meaning of life can only be harmonious when we have someone to die for. It's when we not only find the meaning of life but we also get to live that meaning. The meaning of life becomes self-evident when love becomes the purpose of life.