Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Love Marriage

and the Grammy goes to..


I am yet to meet someone who doesn't love this song. 

NETRA: Cell Phone Based Eye Test

This is really cool - sadly Optometrist's might be the victim of creative destruction.

Quote of the Day

"Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable."
Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Quote of the Day

"Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment."
Neural Buddhists by David Brooks - This column from 2008 had a profound impact on my life.  

No One Ever Makes It Alone

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers is one of my favorite books (and I have mentioned here on this blog so many times). There are so many little precious lessons in that book, I love it.  But the most important lesson I took home was Christopher Langan story. This country preaches so much on pseudo self-reliance (completely different from Emerson's version), we blindly start believing in the omnipotence of individualism and dwell in that awful Lake Wobengon effect - everyone believes they are above average. Here is old Times review of Outliers:

According to Outliers, genius isn't the only or even the most important thing. Gladwell's weapon of choice when assaulting myths is the anecdote, and one of the book's most striking, and saddest, is the strange story of Christopher Langan, a man who despite an IQ of 195 (Einstein's was 150) wound up working on a horse farm in rural Missouri. Why isn't he a nuclear rocket surgeon? Because of the environment he grew up in: there was no one in Langan's life and nothing in his background that could help him capitalize on his exceptional gifts. "He had to make his way alone," Gladwell writes, "and no one — not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses — ever makes it alone."


"Remember that a little love goes a long way.  
Remember that a lot... goes forever.
Remember that friendship is a wise investment.
Life's treasures are people... together.
Realize that it's never too late.
Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
Have health and hope and happiness.
Take the time to wish upon a star.
And don't ever forget... for even a day...
How very special you are. "

-Douglas Pagels

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why True Friends Are Essential in Our Life?

I cannot even begin to stress the importance of friendship. We must understand and remember that true friends improve our lives. A friend is someone we are not related to by either birth, marriage or legal ties that bind us. It's something very precious and that's what makes it so beautiful (here and here).

Finding a close or best friend is a wonderful experience but one of the most difficult. A close friend that sticks closer than a brother or sister. They understand you better than most people and you have a mutual respect and camaraderie. People will come and go from your life but always be on the look-out for close friends because they add so much value to your life. Finding a best friend should always be a high priority in your life. Unfortunately, you can not time the event of meeting and having a best friend."

"One of the most satisfying experiences in life are close friends. While many people place money or career at the top of their priorities, it’s the relationship we build with others that gives life meaning.Career and money will have little meaning on your death bed. In the end, it’s the sum of all our memories and relationships that will really matter."

What Makes Us Happy?

George Valliant's for 72 years at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age.

Ever since I read this essay last year, it fed my confirmation bias on my belief of matters most in life. We make things so much complicated when the happiness is derived from the simplest of simple wisdom. Nothing else matters in life, life is too precious to spend on what other people think. Yes, finding happiness within (inside) us is important but that's not complete. I think Buddhism got it wrong at some level. We humans are social creatures and we long for someone to share happiness. It's natural and that's part of who we are. At the end of the day, it takes two to share and find true happiness. I am so grateful for the circumstances in life made me understand this very early in life (and at the same time this makes me vulnerable at some level). Prerequisite for happiness is to learn to think with the head but speak from the heart.

When you were 74, the questionnaire asked: “Have you ever felt so down in the dumps that nothing could cheer you up?” and gave the options “All of the time, some of the time, none of the time.” You circled “None of the time.” “Have you felt calm and peaceful?” You circled “All of the time.” Two years later, the study asked: “Many people hope to become wiser as they grow older. Would you give an example of a bit of wisdom you acquired and how you came by it?” You wrote that, after having polio and diphtheria in childhood, “I never gave up hope that I could compete again. Never expect you will fail. Don’t cry, if you do.”

What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically."

Quote of the Day

"What we need to know about loving is no great mystery. We all know what constitutes loving behavior; we need but act upon it, not continually question it. Over-analysis often confuses the issue and in the end brings us no closer to insight. We sometimes become too busy classifying, separating, and examining, to remember that love is easy. It's we who make it complicated. "
-Leo Buscaglia


"Lying, thinking

Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

"What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies"

Six Intuitions We Shouldn't Trust

From the new book Invisible Gorilla - Six intuitions we shouldn't trust (full review here):

  • Inattentional blindness (failing to see things that are in plain sight);
  • The belief that our memories are more reliable than they are;
  • The tendency to think someone is competent if they are confident;
  • The illusion of knowledge (we know much less than we think);
  • The assumption that things that occur together must be causally related (think MMR vaccine and autism);
  • And the increasingly popular notion that cognitive exercises make us smarter (in fact, physical exercise has a much stronger effect).

Quote of the Day

"Thus nature has no love for solitude, and always leans, as it were, on some support; and the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship."

Incredible Video of a Man's Reunion With a Gorilla


12 Roses

"I would love to give you 12 Roses
One for how much you show you care
One for your pretty eyes, in them I would love to stare
One for your personality that is so greatly astonishing
One for your beauty that is greatly appealing
One for the conversation we share which are so stimulating
One for the way you make a sad day so invigorating
One for your kindness, which is so heartwarming
One for your shyness, which is so mysterious, yet keeps you so interesting
One for your hardworking attitude that shows your strength
One for your smile, which is so breathtaking
One for showing you how much I appreciate you and everything about you
One for you being like the stars in the sky, every part of you is the reason your beauty shines so brightly…"

Craigal R. Lindo

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dreaming of You

Wish Selene was alive to give us more melodies... love this song, one of my all time favorites.

What I've been reading

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. The theme of the book is neural plasticity, neural plasticity and neural plasticity. And I love it. Period (but may be at times he does go over board). This book is a follow up of his famous 2008 essay "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (This is a great place to start before reading the book). I have seen so many people do (and I have done it myself) this "F" reading:
"Studies have tracked the movement of readers’ eyes and revealed that Web readers typically do not read line-by-line, the way they would if they were reading a printed text. Instead, their eyes trace out a pattern resembling the letter F. The eyes typically begin by following a few lines all the way across, then skim part-way across a few more lines before drifting downward along the left-hand side of the text. Jakob Nielsen, a Danish Web usability expert who conducted some of the early eye-tracking studies, puts it succinctly: “How do users read on the web? They don’t.”

People love the internet and no wonder, so many were very critical about this book:

Steven Pinker - here:
"For a reality check today, take the state of science, which demands high levels of brainwork and is measured by clear benchmarks of discovery. These days scientists are never far from their e-mail, rarely touch paper and cannot lecture without PowerPoint. If electronic media were hazardous to intelligence, the quality of science would be plummeting. Yet discoveries are multiplying like fruit flies, and progress is dizzying. Other activities in the life of the mind, like philosophy, history and cultural criticism, are likewise flourishing, as anyone who has lost a morning of work to the Web site Arts & Letters Daily can attest.
Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case, citing research that shows how “experience can change the brain.” But cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it’s not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience."
Not many people know about a website called Arts & Letters Daily leave alone reading it. The ground reality doesn't reflect Pinker's wish of people using the web to enhance knowledge. The distractions offsets the benefits of web as a knowledge repository.

Ben Casnocha - here:
"Some of the most successful consumers and producers of intellectual bits on the Internet -- guys like Tyler and Andrew Sullivan -- spent 30-plus years pre-Internet reading long books and establishing the foundation of knowledge upon which their bits sit. Me? I've grown up on the web. I haven't read all the Great Books. My model is more a mix of books and bits. I do believe the bits will cohere in the long-run into a kind of foundational knowledge of the sort Tyler got from books, but perhaps the books/bits ratio for me should be different than his at this stage."

This is very true but the future generations might lack depth of that intellectual foundation. What we assimilate from the bits is mostly cursory knowledge. It's very hard for bits to replace books but paradoxically at times bits do simplifies an idea or theory making for anyone to grasp easily. Finding those bits in the ocean of web needs patience. Further, after finding the bits, reading it without getting distracted is possible only in quite contemplation but it's oxymoronic on web.

Johnan Lehrer - here:
Carr makes many important, timely and eloquent points about the cultural losses that accrue with the arrival of new technologies. (This seems like an apt place to add that Carr is an awesome writer; The Shallows was full of graceful prose.) I'm a literary snob, and I have a weakness for dense novels and modernist poetry. I do worry, like Carr, that the everywhereness of the internet (and television before that) is making it harder for people to disappear down the worm hole of difficult literature. This is largely because the book is a quiet medium, and leaves much of the mind a bit bored. (This helps explain why many mind wandering paradigms give undergrads readings from War and Peace; Tolstoy is great for triggering daydreams, which suggests that literature doesn't always lead to the kind of sustained attention that Carr desires.)".
I was most disappointed by Lehrer review. Carr never refutes anything about the benefits of web like enhanced multi tasking skills. But the point of the book is we will lose the traits of deep contemplation and self reflection at the expense of multi taksing. While we are at it, why do we need multi-tasking? Computers are much better even today at multi tasking than we are. So why enhance our multi-taksing skills? Do we really need it? Unless, we are planning to train everyone to be Drone pilots for a perpetual war, we don't need multi tasking and we should stop getting carried away by it's flamboyance. We need to preserve what makes us human's unique and what computers can never emulate - our creativity, our deep thoughts, our ability to synchronize ideas and honing morality. We should stop kidding ourselves trying trade this gift for multi-tasking.

Clay Shirky - here:
I am big fan of Shirky's cognitive surplus speech (and his new book) but it's a hope not a fact. I hope, his hope will be true. Nicholas Carr book warns us to be prudent while Shirky's book oozes with optimism. I personally like to heed Carr's message.

The benefits of internet are immense but it does comes with a cost:
1. Given that current society either ridicules or oblivious to self reflection, metcognition et al, probably its going to get worse as internet perpetuate hedonism and chaos of quasi-knowledge.
2. Will there ever be Picasso, Adam Smith or David Hume again? (David Brook's 2009 article "The End of Philosophy" )
3. Is it safe to have the foot prints of humanity on a flash drive? What will be left for future archeologist? (Great article from New Scientist - Digital Doomsday: End of Knowledge)

Reading a book is fast becoming victim of creative destruction. Carr equates reading to meditation so eloquently:

"To read a book was to practice an unnatural process of thought, one that demanded sustained, unbroken attention to a single static object. It required readers to place themselves at what T.S.Eliot, in Four Quartets, would call "the still point point of the turning world." They had to train their brains to ignore everything else going on around them, to resist the urge to let their focus skip from one sensory cue to another. They had to forge or strengthen the neural links needed to counter their instinctive distractedness, applying greater "top-down control" over their attention. "The ability to focus on a single talk, relatively uninterrupted," writes Vaughan Bell, a research psychologist at King's College London, represents a "strange anomaly in the history of our pyychological development."

At the end of the day, it comes down to how we use (or abuse) any new technology. The truth is we are all excited by the immense potential and repository of knowledge unleashed on the internet. In this excitement, most tend to forgot it's shortcomings and how much we abuse it. It's prudent to listen to Nicholas Carr's very important message. Internet is an addiction which surreptitiously sneaks upon us and this fact can never be understood without self reflection. Sadly, self reflection is not even in the vicinity of current society.

Although, we like to believe that the wisdom of crowds will increase exponentially with the processing power of computers (
Moore's law), history and current state of society proves otherwise. Paradoxically, web might expedite the genesis of lone geniuses all over the globe. There will be always exceptions, people who weave the web elegantly. They might be the only intellects of the future. I think this famous lines by Margaret Mead will stay alive for generations to come.

"Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.

Slate recommends some really "cool" software to minimize distractions:

First Six Months of a Dog's Life

Max had green eyes when he was a puppy - Animal Planet Video!!

I Knew You Well

"I knew your dreams
Because we used to talk
For hours at a time.

"I knew your friendship
Because you were always there
When I needed your comfort.

I knew your pain
Because you trusted me enough
To share your past with me.

I knew your fears
Because you helped me
To see that mine were the same.

I knew what was important to you
Because you were always
So honest with me.

I knew your goals
Because I felt the enthusiasm
In your words when you talked of them.

I knew your guidance
Because you patiently explained
The things I didn't understand.

I knew your heart
Because I saw right into it
And felt it a part of my own."

Of Pride and Humility - David Hume

From Tyler Cowen - excerpts from

A Treatise Of Human Nature, by David Hume, Volume Two

It is plain, that almost in every species of creatures, but especially of the nobler kind, there are many evident marks of pride and humility. The very port and gait of a swan, or turkey, or peacock show the high idea he has entertained of himself, and his contempt of all others. This is the more remarkable, that in the two last species of animals, the pride always attends the beauty, and is discovered in the male only. The vanity and emulation of nightingales in singing have been commonly remarked; as likewise that of horses in swiftness, of hounds in sagacity and smell, of the bull and cock in strength, and of every other animal in his particular excellency. Add to this, that every species of creatures, which approach so often to man, as to familiarize themselves with him, show an evident pride in his approbation, and are pleased with his praises and caresses, independent of every other consideration. Nor are they the caresses of every one without distinction, which give them this vanity, but those principally of the persons they know and love; in the same manner as that passion is excited in mankind. All these are evident proofs, that pride and humility are not merely human passions, but extend themselves over the whole animal creation."

Quote of the Day

"There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential."
-Rusty Berkus

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Secret Garden

Yup, this has been a Jerry Maquire week. 

Than Eternity Without It

Well, decided to start posting some of my favorite movie scenes. This one is from City of Angles - David Hume was right. This is what makes us human:


"When we were idlers with the loitering rills,
The need of human love we little noted:
Our love was nature; and the peace that floated
On the white mist, and dwelt upon the hills,
To sweet accord subdued our wayward wills:
One soul was ours, one mind, one heart devoted,
That, wisely doting, ask’d not why it doted,
And ours the unknown joy, which knowing kills.
But now I find how dear thou wert to me;
That man is more than half of nature’s treasure,
Of that fair beauty which no eye can see,
Of that sweet music which no ear can measure;
And now the streams may sing for others’ pleasure,
The hills sleep on in their eternity."

-Hartley Coleridge

Quote of the Day

"To know someone here or there
with whom you can feel
there is understanding
in spite of distances or
thoughts expressed
That can make life a garden."

Power of Meditation

This has been a ongoing rhetoric nevertheless very true - here:

"Studies have suggested that meditation promotes brain activity, boosts the immune system, helps with insomnia, reduces pain, and increases the thickness of the meditator's prefrontal cortex. I have my doubts about yogic flying, but there's some pretty strong evidence that meditation is useful.

So it's not terribly surprising that a new study found that meditation improves brain function. What is surprising is that the improvements were measured after only four days. Previous research often tested meditators who had been practicing for at least a couple of months.

For the study, participants were taught to meditate by focusing on the sensation of their breathing, acknowledging and dismissing any stray thoughts that popped into their heads. Meanwhile, the control group listened to an audiobook—which, for some reason, was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tests showed that both groups were more relaxed. But those who had meditated also demonstrated significant improvements in working memory, verbal fluency, and executive function. From the paper:
Our findings show that there are immediate, short-term benefits to practicing mindfulness meditation. These benefits may have clinical implications. For instance, if a meditative state can be experienced after a brief training regimen, then individuals may feel more inclined to continue practice, which can lead to better health outcomes (Grossman et al., 2004). Moreover, meditation practice may be more attractive and easily disseminated if it can be shown to be effective without extensive training.
More experienced meditators, the authors note, probably experience greater benefits. But their research suggests that a long weekend of meditating might make you a little bit smarter."

p.s. for the record I still suck big time, the monkey in the head is still jumpy and that's an understatement.

GM Food: Welcome Improvement or Risk?

A Simple Truth - We need it to feed the world.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Love is missing someone whenever you're apart, but somehow feeling warm inside because you're close in heart."

-Kay Knudsen

What's the most recognizable scent in the world?

I love it but never could have guessed it - here:

"Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder. Why? Lindstrom has the answer: "No matter how old you are, if you take a whiff of Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder, chances are good that all those primal childhood associations will be reignited in your memory. Being fed by your mother. What if felt like to be held in her arms." Of course this all happens as a subconscious level.

Of all our senses smell is the most primal. After all, smell is how our ancestors developed a taste for food and sought out mates. When we smell something, the odor receptors in our noses make a beeline to our limbic system, which controls emotions, memories, and our sense of well being. As a result our gut response is instantaneous. Or, as Pam Scholder Elle, A Georgia State University marketing professor, puts it, "All of our other senses, you think before you respond, but with scent, your brain responds before you think."

Quote of the Day

"To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world."
- Breanna M Herrera

Face Blindness - Prosopagnosia

I never knew Oliver Sacks was born face blind. Radio lab has a very interesting and yes, funny podcast on face blindness.

Oliver and Chuck–both born with the condition known as Face Blindness–have spent their lives decoding who is saying hello to them. You can sit down with either man, talk to him for an hour, and if he sees you again just fifteen minutes later, he will have no idea who you are. (Unless you have a very squeaky voice or happen to be wearing the same odd purple hat.)"

Forgotten Language

"Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly
in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions
of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying
flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?"

-Shel Silverstein

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. (Go out for lunch often)"

Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Quote of the Day

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unskilled and Unaware of It

Socrates once said "Only thing I know is I know nothing". Centuries has passed in vain without that wisdom embedded in our genes. Humility, epistemological modesty et al are sine qua non of humanity. We will be making a fool out of ourselves without it. Having said that it's very difficult to come out the illusion of omnipotence unless that famous metacognition lends us its helping hand.  Metacognition will not lend us it helping hand unless we have an open mind and to have an open mind we have to come out the illusion. Well, good luck to anyone who wants to come out this quagmire. But the mere thought of understanding this makes one humble and has crossed half way through.

Or else please read this (one of the best papers I have ever read - "Dunning-Kruger Effect") paper by Justin Kruger and David Dunning (interview here) - 
Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments:

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The au- thors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overes- timated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacogni- tive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of partici- pants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities."

Prediction 1. Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overesti- mate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria.
Prediction 2. Incompetent individuals will suffer from deficient metacognitive skills, in that they will be less able than their more competent peers to recognize com- petence when they see it—be it their own or anyone else's.
Prediction 3. Incompetent individuals will be less able than their more competent peers to gain insight into their true level of performance by means of social comparison information. In particular, because of their difficulty recognizing competence in others, incompetent individu- als will be unable to use information about the choices and performances of others to form more accurate im- pressions of their own ability.
Prediction 4. The incompetent can gain insight about their shortcomings, but this comes (paradoxically) by making them more competent, thus providing them the metacognitive skills necessary to be able to realize that they have performed poorly."

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”
-Charles Darwin

A Dreamer of Dreams

"You have come to me from a distant land,
Dreamer of dreams, to fill my hearts desire,
Sweet music flowing from your nimble hand
That plays within... to light my passion's fire.

A symphony of word and thought you bring.
Excitement builds upon crescendo's sound,
Brought forth in tones to make my light heart sing
For all the beauty that, with you, I've found.

A life is changed in just an instant's time,
All darkness fled before that brillaint sun
That shines from spoken words of softest rhyme
And speaks of treasures, only just begun.

This mystic meeting gives my heart a glow
That few have seen and only you will know."

-Gloria Jean Berry

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Things We Think and Do Not Say

Over the past few years, I have learnt to say what's in my heart. Life is too short and we might not get another chance. Everything that needs to said should be said especially to the ones we love. It's been over a decade since I watched Jerry Maguire but today I don't know why, one of the most inspiring and my favorite scene came to my mind - "I wrote, wrote, wrote and wrote and I am not even a writer..."

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated."


Marcus Aurelius: A Life

Life is full of coincidences!! After more than a decade I made a resolution this year. As I was thinking about it yesterday, I took a print out of Meditations to hand it out to a youngster. I wish, I read it when I was 17 but at-least now I find solace in watching a kid read it. Anyways, after I came home, I read this awesome review of the new biography of Marcus Aurelius by Frank McLynn. I cannot begin it explain the importance this book (Meditations). If Marcus can write and think with splendor and serenity at the time when barbarians were thriving, we can do much better than that. But for starters we have to learn and imbibe a thing or two into our lives from his philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius' contribution to this philosophy has come to be known simply as the Meditations, though the title Marcus gave the work-more a private collection of self-examinations and moral exercises than a systematic philosophy or spiritual autobiography intended for publication-was "The matters addressed to himself." And it is as much a model of moral self-examination as a demonstration of Stoic principles.  The work's subtitles suggest that Marcus wrote some portion of the text during Rome's Marcommanic wars, a long, brutal series of military campaigns prompted by the invasions of barbarian German tribes on the northern boarders of the Roman Empire during the 160's.

These wars occupied most of the last two decades of Marcus' reign as emperor (160's and 170's), but to read the 
Meditations, you would not imagine them to be the writings of a man encamped in barbarian lands in the midst of war, nor of a man commanding the largest army ever assembled on the frontier of the Roman empire, nor of a man whose empire and army were in the grip of the Antonine plague (believed now to have been smallpox or measles, possibly both), that lasted from 165-180 and killed, by some estimates as many as 18 million people, including, in 180, Marcus himself (notwithstanding Ridley Scott's fanciful version of Marcus Aurelius' death in Gladiator-smothered by his son, the psychotic future emperor Commodus).  The Meditations' lack of political or worldly anguish and anxiety is a mark of the philosophy they profess: Stoicism.

As McLynn explains, our modern conception of Stoicism consists mainly in colloquial expressions such as "be a man," "take what's coming to you," "roll with the punches," and "make the best of it." Such expressions communicate the Stoic insistence on acceptance and steadfastness in the face of whatever life presents, no matter how calamitous. One of the most famous lines from the 
Meditations is, "Remain ever the same, in the throes of pain, on the loss of a child, during a lingering illness" and many modern readers, including McLynn, find the Stoic creed-that virtue is the only good and the source of happiness and that we should train ourselves to rise above emotional, physical, and material concerns-inhuman, even monstrous. "

The Gift Of Knowing You

"There are gifts of many treasures
For both the young and old,
From the tiniest little trinkets
To great boxes filled with gold.

But, put them all together
And they could not stand in lieu,
Of the greatest gift of all
The gift of knowing you.

When your times are filled with troubles
Sadness, grief, or even doubt,
When all those things you planned on
Just aren't turning out.

Just turn and look behind you
From the place at which you stand,
And look for me through the shadows
And reach out for my hand.

I will lift from you your burden
And cry for you your tears,
Bear the pain of all your sorrows
Though it may be for a thousand years.

For in the end I would be happy
To have helped you start anew,
It's a small price to pay
For the gift of knowing you."

-Dave Stout

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blind Dog Myron Plays Fetch

From Andrew:

Quote of the Day

“Sitting where we're at right now, I'm very pleased. I've been waiting for somebody to pinch me and wake me up.”
-Craig Heller

Being Wrong (Is OK)

To err is human. It's an age old wisdom but society thrives on an illusion of perfection and that myth is propelled by each one of us. This is the theme of the new book Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz, which is buzzing with raving reviews. Schulz dichotomizes wrong into incorrect and bad. Being incorrect is part of who we are where as bad is well.. very bad. Now further to accept incorrectness as part of life is divided into two parts:

1. We need to first get real and accept our innate short comings. That's what makes us human. We need to learn to go easy on ourselves and learn from mistakes not dwell or camouflage them. Inductive Reasoning explains why we are the way we are:

Psychologists and neuroscientists increasingly think that inductive reasoning undergirds virtually all of human cognition — the decisions you make every day, as well as how you learned almost everything you know about the world. To take just the most sweeping examples, you used inductive reasoning to learn language, organize the world into meaningful categories, and grasp the relationship between cause and effect in the physical, biological, and psychological realms.
But this intelligence comes at a cost: Our entire cognitive operating system is fundamentally, unavoidably fallible. The distinctive thing about inductive reasoning is that it generates conclusions that aren’t necessarily true. They are, instead, probabilistically true — which means they are possibly false. Because we reason inductively, we will sometimes get things wrong.
For example, consider the role of inductive reasoning in learning language. If you are a native English speaker, you figured out within the first several years of your life that you should add the suffix 
-ed to form a past-tense verb. This was a brilliant guess. It’s largely correct, it taught you a huge number of words in one fell swoop, and it was a lot less painful than separately memorizing the past tense of every verb in the English language. But it also meant that, sooner or later, you said things like “drinked” and “thinked” and “runned.” You got a huge number of things right, at the price of getting a certain number of things wrong."

2. Learn not to look down on others mistakes. Be magnanimous of those who have the audacity to accept their were wrong. Here:

lenty of honest, thoughtful, intelligent and well-intentioned people have blundered into massive and costly mistakes.  Maybe you are one of them.  Or maybe, one day, you will be.  Ask yourself: if that happened, would you stand up and say, “I was wrong”?  And if so, in the fearsome moment that followed, what would you hope to hear?"