Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It takes time to build great things

On a recent trip to Cádiz, Spain, I visited an amazing cathedral and learned that it had taken 116 years (a hundred and sixteen!!) to build it. As I admired the stunning detail of the exterior as well as the internal architecture, replete with cupolas, gargoyles, stained glass, and statues of saints, it brought to surface a very simple but important truth: it takes time to build great things. No prefab-design execution on this one, no strict deadlines, and certainly minimized egos needed to be involved...ones that understood that the legacy and appreciation that would be associated with their efforts (and the project's completion alone!) would likely only come long after their time. Experiencing first-hand what an impression this colossal construction makes engenders confidence in doing things correctly and not rushing to complete something for completion's sake. And when you think of the daily grind of it all- the labor in executing such a vision, the precision which this necessitated, and the coordination that such an undertaking entailed, the builders perhaps couldn't even have known how much their work would be enjoyed later on. Or maybe that is just it: they did.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Mental Diet

Any future post you see will not have been posted within an hour of my getting up in the morning. Why? Because I will not be using the Internet during my first waking hour. In the same vein, the idea behind any future post- though necessarily delivered through the computer- will not be conceived on it. I am finally taking heed to those morning television commercials that incessantly admonish us to "start your day right with ___...": but while the blank is typically filled with a breakfast product that will supposedly help you do just that, I am filling my blank with "being on the right mental note." I mean, I know this may seem like a stretch, but seriously: the quality of mental energy is the coefficient (determinant) on the quality of all of your day's outputs. Anyway I'd don't think you- I mean, I hope you don't- wake up in the morning with the objective to start your day off on the wrong mental note...
So how is my daily, inaugural-hour-refrain-from-the-Internet going to help me attain this objective? Quite simply, the buck has to stop here- as in, myself. Relying on websites for various kinds of information doesn't give much confidence in oneself for generating anything useful: yes, you may be better informed on certain topics, but the origin of the information wasn't found within you. I don't think this improves self-efficacy beyond a check-mark next to web-surfing. Also, getting information from the Internet doesn't seem the most authentic, root-based- way to learn, and I'd argue that the highest-quality ideas and work derive from authentic learning.
Have you noticed that many teens today have no clue how to spell? Likely, orthography (spelling) class has been supplanted by "accessing information on the Internet" class, and these poor kids' formal resources become blogs (I do realize the irony of this statement), which may contain a plethora of spelling errors, in lieu of classic literature. rockergirl672XOX- a very plausible candidate behind a webzine- may become your child's favorite "author" instead of Shakespeare...No wonder I'm slightly unenamoured with "new age" learning approaches and values.
The art of thinking (deeply) acknowledges the most fundamental and philosophical of principles: the good stuff is at the bottom. Kind of like when you eat an Italian ice and to your surprise (for better or for worse) you have stumbled upon this cache of syrupy sucrose that has settled at the bottom- so are the ingredients for your best thoughts. The proverbial kitchen for brewing them, then, is located deep down; to get to the kitchen, you cannot stay on the floor you entered...that would merely be "surface-level thought" (which, coincidentally, is the floor where automaticity and the Internet reside!). To access the clearing of deep thought, you have to remove all of the distracting weeds- this need not be technology-related; you can get distracted by pretty much anything. The point is, in order to think at the highest level (which, I believe, even serves a competitive advantage in business, no??) you have to engage and put effort into every facet of a thought. There's an authenticity and ruggedness about a mind at work, and that's exactly what is needed; a good core-workout- just like pilates, but for your mind.
Sure, at first my new mental diet will crave the processed sugariness (of instant access) of Internet knowledge, but the natural sweetness and greater ROI of my own thoughts will eventually be more satisfying and in a more sustainable way. Growth and capability in the most quality sense are conceived through authentic learning, and I don't see how having five web browsers open and shifting attention among them will help me get to the real sweet stuff at the bottom. The heightened self-efficacy (as well as mental athleticism) of placing myself at the epicenter of thought, as opposed to relying on the Internet, should be sufficient reason to stay on this mental diet...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Communicate- and be confident in- your preferences.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An essay on the movement to protect an endangered species of human experience: the ugly- but necessary- Negative:

Most people would argue that removing negatives from their lives- stress, inefficiencies, chores, etc., would make everything better: this, we will see, is a common misperception. Before getting to the crux of the matter, a brief glimpse of how we may be off in our evaluation of what is negative, what is positive, and what is necessary. Let us (re)consider stress: it is often blamed for people's overwhelm in life; yet, it is this same principle that is the impetus for growth (think of a muscle). Stress, you see, is not the problem; it is how we harness or fail to harness it that determines its effect on us. So to start, our valuation lens may be in need of correction.

Indeed, Nature intends for balance. We see evidence in this through various cycles: life and death, plate tectonics, day and night, seasonal changes, oscillations and circadian rhythms. This is all an effort to maintain some homeostasis- on an organismal, ecological, or societal level (our government, for example, even has built in a system of checks and balances). We as a culture have put great emphasis on and find value in this concept of balance: why else would be be obsessed with "averages"- baseball batting averages, average income, average temperature, crime levels, even average expectations of others (i.e. schemas, stereotypes, etc.)? We truly are enamoured by this idea of measuring and monitoring equilibria. Even the metric for valuating things (i.e. scales) often straddle zero, the Cartesian plane the quintessential symmetry.

What, then, does all of this have to do about removing negative from our lives? It is simple, really. As a society, we have become obsessed with improvement, having things just so, and living so that we can get everything that we want, and the faster the better. We think that if we have everything "perfect"- all good and no bad, achieve everything fast nothing to slow us down, all wins no losses- that life will be at its apex. But this fully and utterly defies the balance that nature intends for. In fact, if we remove the bad, we also slowly remove our ability to deal with it. And some bad things are inevitable: this is how Nature operates...because Nature is a little smarter than we are, Nature doesn't try to push the envelope like we do so often, and because Nature understands that balance is the sustainable infrastructure for life. We keep wanting to soar higher but, just as in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where fans at the top of the floating room threaten Charlie, it is imprudent to think that we can sustain an upward trajectory without the need to restore balance eventually returning us to equilibrium. Again, some bad things can happen, but it is not for us to necessarily avoid these negative things, but learn how to deal with them. Likewise, it is better to know how to comfort another that to try to keep them in perpetual glee.

The negative implications for removal of negative things may be rolled out in a psychological context: I argue that we have an internal ranking system (hierarchy) that reflects the balance on which Nature operates. Think of ten things (both good and bad) that you may encounter on a daily basis, and rank them, awarding "1" to the best and "10" to the worst of these things. If we were to remove the "bad", Nature will urge us to restore our balance by necessarily re-ranking that which remains (i.e. the original positives): the result? A recalibrated balance: which generates a new average, new middle, and new therefore "best"s and "worst"s within the hierarchy. Objectively, what may have been considered really great in the original set of factors now potentially holds the title of worst (of the bests). In order to preserve our MOST positive regard for these "good" things, then, we must maintain the original balance- that is, using the whole set of ten things, so that we pit the good with the "real bads."

Likewise, if we removed all "good" things from the original set, left with the original "bad"s, we would recalibrate and re-rank, finding some of the "bad"s not so bad. We are amazingly adaptive in this sense, making the "best" of (bad) things/circumstances; this adaptiveness is greater evidence of the innate balance that we need, which necessarily consists of two sides: greater things and their lesser- counterparts.

In light of the macrocosm of balance in Nature, and the human-level microcosm equivalent internal ranking system: let the negative hold their original place: they actually serve a purpose in the natural scale of life.
When a friend asked me my take on whether women secretly revel in being gawked/whistled at, straddling the disgust at and pleasure of being objectified:
"Initially -and I think this goes for even uncontroversial exchanges- we like to think that we don't need it, that we are above it (favoring the disgust, or indifferent, viewpoint); but we secretly pocket this feedback nonetheless, and replay it as positive feedback (favoring the pleasure interpretation) when a time comes that such a buffering effect, as might be afforded by such feedback, may be needed."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A situation can only be awkward if you're not confident :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today has a high starting value. Get high execution points and it's a successful day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

True story: happened 10 minutes ago. Location: joint bathroom I share with my suite mate.
Not really philosophical, but contains an epiphany, so I think it qualifies.

(08:00:00am) Roommate: Hey! What time did you go to bed this morning?
(08:00:04am) Me: Morninggg, um...4?
(08:00:05am) Roommate: Omg! You have to start getting more sleep!
(08:00:10am) Me: Yeah, and two mornings ago I went to bed at 5 and got up at 10...well, at least I got over 3.5 last night...
(08:00:20am) Roommate: Why so little sleep?
(08:00:28am) Me: I have a meeting with my (PhD) advisor this morning and I'm working on a proposal, but it's my fault for staying up so late. I took a couple hours off from working yesterday...
(08:00:45am) Roommate: Gosh! With all this work you're doing, you should have just gone for your MD...
(08:01:15am) Me: F***.

I walk away wondering if it's too late to matriculate for med school Spring classes...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Never operate out of fear, only strength.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A lot of everyday human behavior is adaptation woven around uncertainty. With a subconscious zeal, we learn efficient routes through the labyrinth of contingency fractals we encounter on a day-to-day basis to reach a psychological equilibrium of baseline expectation* -a temporary reprieve- until a higher set of unknowns penetrates and therefore violates this asylum, whence we set off anew on the learning path.
In this light, life should always be at least somewhat of an adventure :)

*Our everyday behavior is guided by these baseline expectations.
[And if a previously certain thing suddenly becomes uncertain, it becomes a chutes and ladders scenario where the uncertain thing must be patched before moving on along the life-needs continuum towards higher functioning.]

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Awareness is a necessary- but not a sufficient- factor in being deliberate; rather, in order to be deliberate, one must additionally be able to detect contingency within this awareness beyond random chance, and have the motive to convert this perception into strategy...

Monday, October 20, 2008

The concept of inertia is very useful, even applied outside the domain of physics: in fact, it can explain many Why's, ranging from the usual association with physical phenomena to habits and emotional momentum, and a lot in between.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The clarity proffered by an unaffected Night can calm the souls of even the most troubled of men...
Sometimes it's not the potato, but how it is cut, that counts.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A balance of network and knowledge will go a long way; for networking by itself does not ensure substance, and erudite knowledge alone lacks a dimension that would promise dissemination. This balance...combines the strength of each while it eclipses their flaws, and...results a dynamic vehicle towards sustainable growth.
(Beckett, 1953)

Vladimir: Let's go
Estragon: We can't
Vladimir: Why not?
Estragon: We're waiting for Godot
Valdimir: Ah!

...what do you do while you wait?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In reaction to a statement in a psychology journal article that, though it pertains to consciousness from an adaptationist point of view, is still absurd; "No one yet knows what the function of consciousness is" (Haselton & Funder, 2004):

Consciousness is a prerequisite to human emotion, belief, and understanding: consciousness, essentially, is the ability to discern, and the foundation for accessing everything that is worthwhile. While the article doesn't explicitly question the importance of consciousness, it seems a blaspheme to bring into question the utility of something we know to be central to our lives: it marks the difference between merely existing, and living. Scientific validity versus human reminds me of the light in which religion was shown in the movie Contact.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The vacuum-like environment created by self-referential evidence (by the author) within a body of text is tantamount to intellectual incest...
Advances in technology, which allow for increased real-time communication and value thereof, actually select against quality of input from each contributor within the communication...likewise, real-time communication has caused us to recalibrate our expectations regarding stimulation (reward) in the direction of shortened capacity for patience; basically, we may end up an ADHD society as well as an HDTV one- an ADHDTV society if you will. God, there must be some correlation merit there beyond the pun...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Let us hope that convenience is not our fate.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

If you catch yourself marginalizing something, ask yourself why; it's a good indicator of what action to take.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I have a fear that psychological science may indulge in codification to the point that natural social phenomena will be reduced to meaningless, isolated, quantitative data that do not in any way help us live more fulfilling lives. In deference to the movement for deepening meaning, I will avoid operating in a fashion that would further the grounds upon which my apprehension is based...

Monday, August 11, 2008

The few regrets I have had in life are things that I haven't done rather than things that I have; so take a deep breath, have faith, and take a walk on the less-cautious side :)
Try to be around people whose conversation with you renews your life battery, and slows down time.
Don't assume the problem is gone just because the symptom has stopped being expressed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

No good thing has ever been defined by the absence of negative characteristics.
The longterm yield when 1/2 the effort is put in, or when there is 50% alignment between values and behavior, unfortunately does not follow the reflexive property of mathematics- it does not give you half the potential outcome (a=a): A repeated 1/2 does not give you half, which would result if the relationship were linear (independent) 1/2 x 1, 1/2 x 1, 1/2 x rather is compounded and follows the following relationship: 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2...=1/(2y) where y= the number of events in which the fraction applies. Thus, for three instances of half effort, one would yield 1/(2x3) of its potential, or 1/8. While there is no proof that this is indeed the relationship longterm yield follows, it derives support from the logic of momentum where getting back on track from repeated half effort would seem to get progressively harder as the pattern is reinforced.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Instant gratification and instant access to things (for example, on the Web) rob us of developing the more complex thought processes that ultimately stretch and enrich our minds, as well as satisfy us.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It seems that narcissism- once considered a personality trait that one either had or didn't have- has become a cultural ideal in individualistic cultures. In this way, narcissism has become a plastic mindset that one may adopt and exercise as need be as an adaptive trait. Will narcissism become a selection for success in our society- and for a successful society- though? My bet is no: while for a time it may seem advantageous to become highly ego-centric with a zero-sum mentality, it eventually will catch up to us- we can't simply all be narcissists. Imagine a room where everyone was a narcissist...

Plus, the social hierarchy would collapse (which is a distinct characteristic of society, for better or for worse).
As I stared into the rural suburban night, as I oft do- pondering why exactly the simplicity of the night is so truthful- a comparison came to mind regarding the night, and NYC. See, in a way, they are exactly alike: both have players (in the city, it's the people; in the night, it's the trees and objects) which can cast parallel shadows that never interact. And then I see that this similarity contains a major distinction: while the activity of the city would intuitively be said to be full of life, it can really (in that ideology of apathy) be disappointingly silent. The night, on the other hand, oft conjures an image of "silent" or "still," yet if considered more closely, is marked by a liveliness and fullness that is unmatched by the more overt action of the city.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When one lacks the means to document or measure a thing of interest, two things happen: the thing goes underdeveloped (you're blindly grabbing or are operating within a vacuum), and second, you eventually lose concern for the desired thing (a combination of emotional and cognitive pruning as a result of the strain of the situation).

For example, take a digital camera: it is a tool for documenting what one may see with their artistic eye. In this way, the photographer may come to depend on this tool, as it serves as a source of "feedback" both theoretically (the concept behind the shot) and technically (the actual execution of the shot). If the camera becomes "indisposed" in some way- lost, broken, stolen, etc.- this source of feedback has been removed. Chances are, if knowing upon an encounter with a stimulus of interest that one's access to a permanent representation of their artistic eye has been revoked, the photographer's motivation to invest effort in using their congenital artistic lens (their eye) would diminish.

I think their willingness to invest the effort is directly proportional to the perceived probability that the feedback will again become available...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oh, and speaking of NYC, it would be cool to just (time) freeze one city block, take all the people that happened to be on that block at that given time, and get each of their stories. I'd be hard-pressed to think of another way to gather a more diverse and rich account of life experience than that :)

NYC tolerance: an expression of underlying apathy

Tolerance for "weird" in NYC is really an incidental byproduct of apathy. A disapproving stare at another's attire assumes that there is a status quo whose tacit guidelines are not being upheld. But in NYC, stares have tapered to the occasional passing glance. The "group" into which one may fit has been reduced to a single inhabitant: themselves- lending credence to the notion that it's a city comprised of as many subcultures as there are individuals. Even the understanding and respect that everyone has their own way of doing things are subjugated by the prevailing apathetic NYC ideology. So, if one voyages to NYC longing for acceptance of their "freedom of expression," that's exactly what they'll get; they just can't expect that anyone else will ever care enough to discuss this liberty over coffee.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One becomes very good at whatever one (truly) spends their time doing. So the question we must ask ourselves is: What is it that we want to become?

Monday, July 14, 2008

In response to the headline in the NYTimes today: "9 Americans Die in Afghan Attack: The attack was the worst against Americans in Afghanistan in three years and illustrated the growing threat of Taliban militants and their associates"...

Why do articles always position an event in the most negative of terms? It's always "the attack was the worst in ___ months, years, days, seconds" etc. It puts the reader always thinking in a negative trajectory, and anticipating more negative events. This very same event may have been described in a different context built around different stats: "the attack left 9 dead, the lowest death toll in an Afghan attack in ____ months"...It seems that whatever time frame will make it the "worst" or have the most dramatic, dysphoric effect, that is the one that will be used strategically in the article. Or if it had said "it was the worst attack of the week" yet a graph accompanied it showing that yes, it was in fact the worst of the week, but that this week saw a 60% decrease in militant activity, that would mean a decreasing- not increasing- threat of Taliban militants, here, too, the prose of storied statistics mislead.

It seems that whatever conclusion a story "needs" (i.e. to qualify as newsworthy and dramatic) you can find statistics and "evidence" to support that prefabricated conclusion.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Psychology, while limitless in its natural capacity, takes shape around emerging societal constructs. In order to understand its increasingly complex face, therefore, it is important to consider the holistic web of influence that governs society.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Apophenia may be fueled by expectation, which gives rise to the confirmation bias and other potentially reality-distorting cognitive predispositions.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The extent to which relaxation is satisfying is directly proportional to the work one does preceding it; relaxation is best enjoyed when it is truly earned. Otherwise one has completely and utterly flatlined, and one's life pulse is but a weak quiver; a proposal that the splash most seek to make in life will only be accomplished if one undulates this pulse, and with it, necessarily, a call to action. Action that will inevitably demand relaxation.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The acronym CICI holds the three components to growth and success:

-Capacity for Improvement.
The worst excuse to ever ignorance.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

There is no substituting doing what is fast or easy for doing what is right.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Is it ironic, antithetical, and maybe even impious that I feel the need to say that my favorite word is entropy?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In reaction to today's NYTimes article entitled "American Exception: Unlike Others, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech"...

Syndicated speech and published words are role models for the beliefs and behaviors we adopt as our own; their publication suggests an air of acceptability. We must be responsible with our words, therefore, so that we set a good example for ourselves, our neighbors, and our children to follow.

If we continue to proffer generalities of certain groups, for instance, we are giving credence to a notion that creates a reality that might otherwise have been different. In buttressing biases and preconceptions in our own minds, it is imminent that we will seek confirmation of them in our interactions with others. And by inducing behavioral confirmation of these perhaps erroneous charges, we have killed the potential for a member of that group to ever convey their true self. Do we really want to engineer fate through self-fulfilling prophecy? Is its only use to artificially elevate our own opinions of ourselves so that we can believe we would come out on top if natural selection were founded on a social hierarchy?

Monday, June 9, 2008


Most things are arbitrary until context channels them to relevance.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The fatal flaw of today's anti-utopia may very well be that we are used to getting what we want, instantly.

Obama-inspired thought :)

Those who feel injustice in their lives...cling to the virtues of propriety and moral rectitude as a social regulatory mechanism.


Accessibility to things material rests at one terminal extension of a fulcrum; at the other lies ability to hold these things sacred.