Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thinking and responding to negative emotions

Someone wrote, in a Hacker News disscussion, on how he thinks of dark or undesirable emotions. Some things can not be changed easily. That stray thought that makes you feel like a blasphemer, accept it as part of the normal. It does not mean you have to be overly concerned about it, instead, what we should do is think about it, recognise it, just don't assault yourself for these thoughts:

You, the thing listening to this advice, is just a small part of a greater whole, much of which you (the thing listening to this advice) are not consciously aware of. This is because you were built by your genes to be good mainly at one thing: reproducing. That's all your genes care about. They don't care about your happiness or achievements or having a fulfilled life. In fact, they don't even really "care" about reproducing, except the same way that water cares about flowing downhill.
Your negative emotions are real. The pain you feel is real. But it's not you. It's something that is being done to you. In that regard it is exactly the same as physical pain, which is also not part of you, but rather something done to you. The fact that you're depressed is no more a character flaw than the fact that it hurts when you skin your knee. - lisper

It is a beautiful way to look at things when it comes to emotions. An objective assessment of the situation, a contextualisation based on biology, so that you need not feel bad about it all, most of it is beyond your control.

Original post linked to a research news on how accepting negative thoughts without lashing out against yourself makes people better than beating yourself up for your thoughts. Feeling bad about feeling bad can make you feel worse

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Art of Stillness talks about and around 'stillness' for the whole of the book. The author makes it clear in the beginning of the book itself that it is not a manual on how to meditate or a guide on practising 'stillness'. The fault lies with me for taking this up and giving a one start rating. But it the rating represents how I felt and has nothing to do with the book in objective terms. If you like to read an individuals stream of consciousness survey of stillness you may prefer to read this. I wanted to learn about dish washing, I do not want to listen to someone preaching for pages about dish washing philosophy (even though meditation lend itself to infinite philosophical thoughts).

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Feynman's letter to Wolfram: You don't understand ordinary people; what is RFP;ht?

I saw Richard Feynman's letter to Stephen Wolfram: You don't understand "ordinary people". In the bottom of the letter I saw "RPF;ht". I was curious to understand this abbreviation. RPF is Richard P Feynman and "ht" is Helen Tuck:
'ht' is Helen Tuck, the secretary at Caltech's Theory Group for many years; that mark indicates she typed the letter. I was there many years after Feynman passed away, but I have fond memories of Helen and some of the stories she had to tell about the "old days". -kscaldef
Here is an article about Helen Tuck's retirement
The letter was in reply to Wolfram's letter seeking advice from Feynman on starting a new institute for complexity research to overcome the inhibitions imposed by his existing environment.

Needless to say Wolfram didn't heed his advice and the next year founded UIUC's Center for Complex Systems Research; then, in 1987, he formed Wolfram Research, the company responsible for releasing Mathematica in 1989 and, more recently, Wolfram Alpha. - Letters of Note
Feynman suggests, rather bluntly, Wolfram does not understand ordinary people:
You don’t understand "ordinary people." To you they are "stupid fools" - so you will not tolerate them or treat their foibles with tolerance or patience - but will drive yourself wild (or they will drive you wild) trying to deal with them in an effective way.
He further advice him to try to stay away from ordinary people as far as possible with one exception, to fall madly in love.

Here is the letter in full:


October 14, 1985

Dr. Stephen Wolfram
School of Natural Sciences
The Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, NJ 08540

Dear Wolfram:

1. It is not my opinion that the present organizational structure of science inhibits "complexity research" - I do not believe such an institution is necessary.

2. You say you want to create your own environment - but you will not be doing that: you will create (perhaps!) an environment that you might like to work in - but you will not be working in this environment - you will be administering it - and the administration environment is not what you seek - is it? You won't enjoy administrating people because you won’t succeed in it.

You don’t understand "ordinary people." To you they are "stupid fools" - so you will not tolerate them or treat their foibles with tolerance or patience - but will drive yourself wild (or they will drive you wild) trying to deal with them in an effective way.

Find a way to do your research with as little contact with non-technical people as possible, with one exception, fall madly in love! That is my advice, my friend.


(Signed, 'Richard P. Feynman')

Richard P. Feynman


Friday, June 3, 2016

Evernote Clearly XPI

Evernote Clearly was shuttered (Evernote blog post) along with some other products. I use this addon frequently in Firefox, it has the ability to grab text from multiple pages and present in one page. Saves clicks and is very convenient to read without losing the flow.

I copied the Evernote Clearly from the profile folder. Profile folder can be easily accessed by going to about:support and click on the 'Show folder' in the 'Profile' row in the table.

It is a zip file, you have to extract to get the Evernote Clearly xpi. Drag and drop this xpi file to Firefox window. Done.

I don't know how long this copy of Clearly will continue to work considering the rapid changes happening in the extension environment in Firefox. I am on the lookout for another extension with similar fetching of multiple pages feature.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Boy I once was lives in me

 I've been following a Charles Dickens reading group mailing-list since the past few months.

Charles Dickens Discussion/mailing list:  Inimitable-Boz


There are some committed members who read the books and contributes to many wonderfully detailed discussions. Here is one that caught my attention. This came up in the A Christmas Carol discussion:

When I was a boy in the 1940s, New York City, my city, had the largest Jewish population in the world, about 2 million people out of the city's 8 million. And yet Jewish culture and history were almost never acknowledged in public discourse. Although 26 students in my class of 28 were Jewish, our teachers made us sing Christmas songs and make Christmas decorations. This badly insulted our identity, doubly so as nothing was ever said to us in school about the Holocaust, which had made all of us crazy with distress, which made us all ache with despair. The stores were always decked out for Christmas, as were the magazines, and the songs on the radio were all Christmas songs. Our culture, our identity was utterly invisible, it seemed. We weren't the only group that was ignored. Black people had it worse, as did gays and lesbians. And our situation was mitigated by how many Jewish entertainers there were on radio and early television, but those comedians and singers were almost never identified as Jewish, although we all knew that they were.
I bring this up to explain my identification with Scrooge. If Christian culture was going to deny our existence so thoroughly, we would harden ourselves against Christmas. If our teachers couldn't manage to wish us a Happy Hanukah, we'd view their holiday joy as humbug. Because anti-semitism intensified at Christmas and Easter, became more visible and vocal, we were always made uneasy at holiday time.
We live in a much healthier time, one in which many cultures are acknowledged, and as a result my children don't cringe, as I used to, when strangers and friends wish us Merry Christmas, thinking they're being neighborly. But the boy I once was lives on in me, and I still love it when Scrooge say, "Humbug!"  At that moment, he represents for me the refusal to submit to everyone else's assumptions.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Grotesque fonts

Today while reading this page: Roboto: Google’s signature font is now open source, I saw this comment, in response to someone asking what is so special about this font, Roboto.
I don't know specifics about this particular typeface (and I haven't been "into fonts" for a while), but Roboto is pretty much another typeface with some Grotesk (e.g. Helvetica) lineage.
Who would name fonts grotesque? My knowledge about fonts begin and end in discerning them as serif and sans serif. Wikiepedia says :
Akzidenz-Grotesk is a grotesque (early sans-serif) typeface originally released by the Berthold Type Foundry in 1896 under the name Accidenz-Grotesk. One of the first sans serif typefaces to be widely used, its design influenced many later neo-grotesque typefaces after 1950.
Grotesque is a subcategory of sans serif fonts (they are grotesque, neo grotesque, humanist and geometric). It is not clear for me what is the defining characteristic of a grotesque font, even after reading those description; I can't identify a font by looking at it as grotesque or humanist, these categorisations more or less appears arbitrary to my untrained eye.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sate of Indian intelligence when the British left

When it comes to the Indian Army, it is often said that it is one of the finest institutions left by the British when they left, and comparison and contrasting between the Indian and Pakistan armies and their role in respective nations are discussed to oblivion. There is also a common perception that the British were the reason for the formation of a unified India, which is incorrect; It was VP Menon and Sardar Vallabhai Patel that united india. The English left what the could not have taken back, the rest, what they could take back, they did take.

This paragraph from Frontline tells how the state Indian army was really left to the Indians:

When the British left India, the new nation was left with nothing resembling a functional covert service. Departing British officers had denuded the Military Intelligence Directorate in New Delhi of almost all sensitive information, leaving it without even a map of Jammu and Kashmir to which the first radio intercepts of the Pakistan-backed invasion of 1947-1948 could be correlated. The Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) was, for its part, in what Lieutenant-General L.P. Singh has described as "a tragi-comic state of helplessness", empty of everything but "office furniture, empty racks and cupboards". Its senior-most British-Indian official had chosen Pakistani citizenship and left for that country with what few sensitive files the imperial authorities had neglected to destroy. (emphasis added)