Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Too easy

Why do people like to be extremists? Maybe part of it is just laziness. If there is only pure good and pure evil, there is no need of mental effort to do good; no point in putting effort to try to avoid evil.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Karma tales

I can't believe he's not calling me, and I'm sitting in this boring office,
and I've got nothing to do tonight but..
wait a second.. what's this?
What?? We're already recording?!
Yes. We're recording your average happiness level.
When you're done with this life, we'll send you to the next one according to your score.
What? When did you start?
Ohh.. the day you were born.
What?? So everything so far counts?
Didn't we agree you would only start recording when everything worked out for me?
Ahh.. not really.. though a lot of people assume that for some reason.
But it's totally not fair. How I am supposed to be happy before I get a relationship
with that guy I've been thinking about?
Well if I put a gun to your head and said do something that will make you happy now,
what would you do? Would you say `Ohh just kill me there's no way I can be happy now
without him'
No, I'd meditate, or work on one of my music projects, or math projects,
or call a friend, or give someone on the street a complement,
or volunteer at the meditation center, or write something creative,
or go dancing, or just smile at someone, or just take a deep breath and tell myself I'm awesome, or..
Well, then I'd highly recommend you start doing more of that stuff even without a gun to your head.. cause your numbers are not that great so far..
we're thinking of making you an elevator constantly playing `marry that girl' next time..
Ohh no that song has such shitty lyrics
..well being a higher power.. can you at least tell me when he'll call?
ohh sure.. it'll be next.. ohh sorry you're out of higher-power query karma..
what?? this sucks..

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

I'm watching the great move `inside job', about the US financial crisis.
Well by 50th minute it's a bit repetitive so not sure about the great part.
So many Jewish names in the movie. Is it anti-semitic? Or is this just what you get by an unbiased sample of leading figures in the financial industry?

There's an interesting analogy between finance and mathematics about
the value of abstraction.

We know that money is an abstract thing, that is made
very real by the collective human mind.
But it turns out the rapid growth of financial industries,
is by making even more abstract things real.

For example - derivatives.

Rather than the value of a currency\company -
the change over time of a currency\company.

This becomes a real thing you can buy on the stock market.

Maybe the more abstract a thing you can make the general public think
of as a real, tangible thing - the more you can leverage and control.
Because there's a bigger gap between what people perceive as how the thing
is and works, to what it actually is.
This gap, already exists when thinking of a bunch of atoms, as cells,
and than of a bunch of cells as a human.

But how much larger is this gap when looking at something like a financial derivative.

`They found - the part of the brain stimulated when these men make money,
is the same part that Cocaine stimulates'

The investment companies would, at the same time,
sell their clients mortgage packages, buy `insurance' derivatives that would go up if these packages
lost their value, and buy insurance in case the company selling the insurance derivatives - AIG - would go bankrupt

It seems everything is part of the system - you see a congress board questioning the bankers,
accusing them on TV `You knew you were selling your clients crap!' , and you see the CEO of a big company like Goldman Sachs mumbling an answer like an embarrassed child being scolded - and that makes you feel `OK, it is being taken care of. The power is indeed with the people' so I can continue just living my life and not worry about it.

They say people's interests as they grow from infants to teenagers to adults to being old
are peeing-> food -> sex -> money -> peeing.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Scott Adams Connect2014 Keynote

Just bought Scott Adams' book: How to fail at almost everything and still win big.

He talks a lot about systems vs goals.

He defines a system to be something you do regularly that increases your odds of success.

He says focus on doing things that no matter what the short-term outcome of a specific action -

Did I get the job? Did I get the date? Did I prove the Theorem?

Put you in a situation where you have better odds of success in the future -

though you may not be able to predict where this success will ultimately manifest,

especially in today's increasingly complex, and getting more complicated at an increasing rate, world.

One nice example he gives: A friend who would go to interviews for jobs he didn't want just
to get better at selling himself. At the end of one of these interviews the interviewer said `well you're totally overqualified for this job; but the department manager just left and you'd be perfect for that job.'

A psychological positive side-effect of being system vs. goal oriented,
is that each time you follow the system - by going to the gym, going to the job interview,
you feel good: `I'm doing something right now that's making a long run positive impact on my life'
Whereas, with the specific goal in mind, you are almost constantly in `pre-success failure' -
as except for that small interval of time where, in the best-case scenario, you've achieved your goal
and are still enjoying the glow of victory before moving on to the next goal, you're feeling like you are lacking something.

This reminds me indirectly of how in Buddhism they talk about `The Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end'.
That is, the true spiritual path should give fruit every step of the way, it should not be total misery
except when reaching Nirvana.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Being a scientist of life,
rather than being dogmatic,
you see an experiment that goes against your intuition,
again and again.

Whenever you think of a time you got what you desired,
all you feel is a sense of lack of not having it now.

Even more than this, whenever you are in a situation
where your desire is fulfilled, the main thing you feel is stress.

But when you think of an act of generosity or kindness you did,
the good feeling is there forever.

And whenever you simply contact the present,
by being aware of your posture,
or being aware of a feeling on the body,
or being aware of a thought in the mind,
or being aware of your breathing,
or being aware of what you are hearing or seeing  at this moment,
rather than being immersed in your thought process,
you feel a stable, though not exciting, joy,
even though life is not how you dreamed it would be.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Every morning, intoxicated by the beginning,
Every morning, forgetting the end is coming.

Every evening, fearing the end of pleasantness,
Every evening, forgetting a new beginning always comes.

Every moment, whether day or night,
the wise take refuge, not in the sun,
but in the knowledge that day and night 
always change into the other.
Take refuge, in the place where there is no day or night.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Only by knowing,
nothing awaits you but death,
does the heart truly expand
embracing the beautiful and ugly,
the desired and undesired,
as nothing more,
and nothing less,
than molecules in space.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nice quote from Dan Ariely :
Technology gives us the ability to do noting, while feeling like we are actually doing something - a.k.a. structured procrastination
We are under the illusion that we don't have time,
while usually we don't have energy.
So we keep spending our time in low energy tasks
that sometimes are clearly useless,
and sometimes create the illusion of being useful
cause the relate on the surface level to our actual task,
e.g., browsing the internet for related papers,
browsing the internet for possible conferences to send a paper,
we are yet avoiding to finish writing.
Use the morning to `swallow some frogs'
and do the task you're avoiding that will make you feel awesome after it's done smile emoticon
.. while your energy levels are still relatively high.
Don't rely on willpower. Get into a `Ulysess contract' where
there will be consequences if you don't persist in what you've decided is important to you.
Commit to paying a 100$, for each week you watch too much TV (see stickk.com)
Dan Ariely tells a nice story about the `Denver Drug program'
where people would write a letter to their Mom saying
`Dear Mom, I've started using hard drugs'
The organization would keep the letter, give them surprise urine tests,
and send the letter if the tests were positive for drugs.
By the time you are in your 30s, even if you are not too rich,
you may have more dollars than healthy\free days..
don't trust that time supply in the hands of Mr. WillPower


Friday, June 05, 2015

A man desired something - a person, a position.
He made an attempt to obtain it.
He had some level of success in obtaining it.
This process of trying to obtain what he desired brought a
mixture of pleasant feelings, disappointment, excitement, stress, sadness,
frustration, happy moments, euphoria.

He is left with the feeling that if he did a better job getting what he desired,
or if he was more lucky and things worked out perfectly,
he would have gotten only the subset of positive feelings from the list above,
and he would have kept feeling them, day after day, till he died.

He encounters Buddhist teachings.
They tell him - when the root of something
is desire - it is inevitable you will get the whole package,
the pleasant and the unpleasant.

He tries to believe this. He tries to go on with his life
without feeling he missed something perfect.

He listens to the news. He reads the interviews in the papers.
It seems like everybody feels they missed something perfect,
because of some bad luck, some injustice.
He rationalizes - well, so it's just everybody's illusion.
There is no perfection outside, only inside.
He tries to believe this. He tries to go on with his life
without feeling he missed something perfect.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Biography of the walking dead

There's no way around it,
to change you need to be cooked.

Pain is the heat, meditation is the water.

And during the cooking process you are the walking dead.
You can't move in the real world, or in the illusory world.
you are stuck in between.

The times you do nothing, your body and mind say,
this is the opportunity to do something important instead of urgent.

You are sick and with heat, and you are searching for a divine voice
to take you out of here.
And it tells you keep on cooking.

Your life flashed before your eyes,
and you wonder how could anyone stand so much pain and disappointment
and still survive.

You started this war. You don't remember why.
You vowed that this would be the last round.

You cut off all escape routes,
and now are regretting doing so.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

You feel it so strongly some days.
Your story has reached its final chapter,
and the end is bitter and disappointing.

But a moment later, the view of
the same experience changes completely.

All this `final chapter' was just a part
of a foot stepping on a thorn,
as part of one step,
in a journey that is 10,000
miles long.

Monday, April 06, 2015

We live in paradox, and isolation.
Alone at our computers, in front of our TVs
We browse, we listen, we see.
We get the message `dark emotions are a sign that something's wrong'
But we feel them. We think: what can I do to make them go away right now!?
And, in it's many forms, the answer is generally to consume something.
An experience, a coffee, a workshop, a trip, ..
And we play our part in the economy.

But the truth that we don't want to face is not that bad.
We are just at sea, not on land.
A sea of the mind, and the waves are emotions.
All they can do is pass through you like water.
The water passes, the peace underneath stays.
Face it, your home for the next million years is the sea..
Just be the ocean.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Avoiding the will-power trap

Real-life example before the theory:
I want to use the stairs more often going to my office instead of the elevator.
Right now, I don't feel like walking up from floor 1 to 7.
I don't want to force myself,
and ask myself `what part of that do I feel like doing?'
I realize it's walking just up to floor 2.
I do that, and take the elevator from there.

There is no isolated event,
and with every action we take,
we are reinforcing certain behaviors and habits.

How to reinforce a desired behavior?
Perform that behavior, or one similar to it,
while feeling a positive emotion.

What if you don't feel like doing it?
You have two options.
Not do it, or do it while using substantial will power..
well the second option is many times only hypothetical,
as you might not have the sufficient will power at that given moment for
that action.
The second option, in addition to not always (perhaps even usually) not existing,
 may not be good for reinforcement of a habit,
as performing an action using will power may evoke negative emotions
that will be associated with the behavior.

My suggestion:
Perform the largest part of the action that you are able
at that moment, without passing your `will power threshold'.
The threshold is the point beyond which negative emotions of stress are generated while doing the action.
Again, this threshold is not a constant, and changes from moment to moment.

This way you perform an action you wish to reinforce, while feeling positive emotions.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Stop checking your f***ing phone!!!

I hope I'm not the only one who checks his phone every 5 minutes and gets
disappointed every time there's not something extremely interesting on it.
I'm trying to treat this `tiny steps' style..
and taking into account `you can't improve what you don't measure'

Like when I sit with a piece of paper working on something, I'll write the times
when I checked my phone : 14:56, 15:01
If I see there was a 5 minute gap I say -let's try to make the next one at least 6 minutes.
say it came out
now again I say, let's make the next gap at least 10 minutes..
A simple way to bring awareness to what you are actually doing in your actual life.

Monday, February 23, 2015

They met briefly,
and a spark exploded.
He wished to share every moment with her.
But darkness fell, and he was alone.
He cried, laughed, learned new things,
had adventures, disappointments,
wasted time in front of his TV..
He said to himself .. `well this is life'
.. `this is as good as it gets'
One day the curtains were lifted,
and the sun shone in,
 he discovered her still there in the same room
he spent all his life in.
She cried when he cried, laughed when he laughed,
they in fact did share every moment.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wake up, your life has already started

Ohh.. you didn't hear the gun go off?
Well.. there's no option to restart, sorry.

Ohh.. you say you won't participate in the race
cause that's not fair and you don't have a chance to win?

Well.. that's your choice.. but just so you know, when
this life ends , another race starts and you will start at
at whatever position you finished this one.

If you start running now you could finish in place 1.5 billion out
of 7 billion.
If you keep sitting here or walking at the same pace you'll finish at place roughly
2.5 billion.

Ohh you're saying everybody should start at the same place each time?

Yeah.. well those are the rules. They call it Karma.

You don't like the rules? You demand to speak to whoever's in charge?

Well, you can only speak to him if you get first place in a race.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Across the distance of a thousand miles,
she whispered through the wind:
Let me experience love as magnificent as I know it can be.
Don't expect it to be safe and reassuring every moment,
or even once a year.
Trust that when you float in the middle of an ocean,
you will not drown.
Trust that if you do drown,
death will only take you to a place
where this love is stronger.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Tiny habits

I was having a day where I was zoning out infront of my computer,
watching various shows and movies.
During these days I typically think, well it doesn't seem realistic
that I would stop watching videos for an hour and do something productive,
so no sense in trying.
Inspired by how BJ Fogg talks about tiny habits,
I thought.. well what can I do that would be positive and fun?

I tried to follow Fogg's formula of trigger->desired-action->reward.

I decided, each time I come back to the couch after getting something to eat (trigger),
I'll pause the video for 5 seconds and do a mini-breath awareness meditation(desired action), and then say to myself `I'm awesome!' (reward)

Then I thought , well maybe each time I have the thought that I should stop watching this stuff
I'll do this 5 seconds pause and say `I'm awesome'.

I think I ended up doing 9-10 of these 5 seconds pauses during that evening.
I still wasted most of it.

I do think though that my mood the morning after was better than average after these zoning out days,
and I think it had to do with these 5 second mindfulness breaks

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

This company, that I saw as a sponsored link, is the wrong and terrible direction undergrad science and engineering education is going in.
It all sounds so nice - give the students a chance to get exactly the information they need so they won't be stuck on `nuances' and be able to get the core of the teaching.
But the CEO's story contradicts her message.
She was stuck on compiler nuances for hours as an undergrad cause she was shy and did not have a good platform to ask..
and where did that bring her?
Being homeless on the streets? hm..
not exactly.. she went on to do a Computer Science MsC, and work as an engineer at facebook and Oracle, and now she has her own software company.
Would the same have happened if she had not hacked her brain till 6am each day on silly compiler syntax bugs?
My conjecture is that any CS undergrad today, who will spend 10 hours a week trying to solve his problems with no facebook forums, or whatsapp groups will have a huge advantage over his/her peers

The human brain always chooses the least resistance\least effort path..
Like even saints download movies illegally these days,
practically noone is spending hours trying to solve math exercises by themselves
with a f***ng piece of paper.. and while shutting off their f***ng computer.
They are developing other skills, but fewer and fewer people are developing the depth of though that comes from spending 10 hours on trying to solve a math problem you don't have the first idea how to approach (and perhaps is even unsolvable cause your professor made a mistake in writing the question)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The shittiness of life

I'm kind of repeating myself,
but at moments I find this remarkable.
People use the claim that `Life is equally shitty no matter what you do'
as an excuse for their depression and laziness.
(These people include me once or twice a week)

But the remarkable thing is that it seems the shittiness of life, during a particular day,
is in direct almost linear correlation to what the positive and negative things you do
during that day  (well.. almost linear with a big multiplicative constant depending on previous karma from previous days and years and lives)

In a tangible sense,
if you spend 2 hours on facebook and youtube  before leaving the house.
You're day will be 10% more shitty,
than if you'd had spent 1 hour and 48 minutes doing that stuff,
6 minutes stretching and doing pushups, and 6 minutes writing a nice email to someone who
was waiting to hear from you.

The reduction in shittiness in the case you spent those whole two hours before leaving your house,
doing things like meditating, exercising, communicating with people (in a mindful way),
studying something new, installing your new shower head. (or at least wrecking your wall while trying)..
is almost enough to make someone optimistic about life..

of course, there are complications.. cause if you spent a whole 2 hours outside of the regular `hypnotized zombie' mode, in addition to the good feelings, uncomfortable repressed feelings from the past would start to arise.
In general this is also good, cause there's a chance there to process and dissolve them..
but yeah when going a little deeper it's no longer a smooth ride.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A fresh new morning it was.. supposedly..
but seeing an image of those red roof tops,
he knew that even after traveling around the world ,
his heart would always be in those old streets and gray skies
and squeaky wooden doors.

He thought of a television reporter coming to him,
after all these wars and problems were over,
when old loves were finally reunited, asking him:

`Was it worth waiting 20 years for?'

and he would answer

No. Waiting is like smoking or eating junk food . It's always bad.
I tried my best not to do any waiting.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The only way to cope with life being disappointing for
long periods in a row is to develop the ability to tangibly feel how
observing the disappointment is burning the negative karma.

You want something, some recognition, some attention from someone.
Every moment you think - maybe it will come now..or maybe now..
but it doesn't come..
every moment you are disappointed..every moment you feel the opportunity to
observe that negative emotion, and let it dissolve another small chunk of your ego,
let it take you back to earlier emotions and experiences from childhood and previous lives.

Let every disappointment ground you a bit more in the peace and joy that is unconditional.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The illusion, and the secret

In the movie `The Secret', they like to talk about a secret kept from the `common people' to prevent them from being successful.
I think the big misconception or illusion in our society is:

Some moments are more important than others.

This is actually taken to the extreme of:

99.999% of moments are insignificant, and once or twice in your lifetime you will have moments that shape your life.

A nice example of this extreme, is in the back to the future movies, where a few key events -  like whether Marty's father stands up to Biff, completely change the future,
the future dynamics and relationships of the people involved, their type of career and success in that career.

This kind of thinking leads to laziness and desperation which are two sides of the same coin in this case.

- laziness cause you think It doesn't matter what I do most of the time, except in those moments where I meet the girl of my dreams, or have some other special opportunity, so I might as well just sit in front of youtube at best, some sick site about sex between cats and goats at worst (of course my real perversions have nothing to do with cats and goats, otherwise I would not feel comfortable writing that.. I'm sure in a year or two everybody will have the app to see what porn sites their facebook friends use.)

-desperation/apathy cause you think - OK I either missed my chance, or luck wasn't on my side, in that significant moment, so all is lost..

but it seems the reality is completely different..
your emotional state during a day, and the kind of good events that happen to you during that day,
are in perfect correlation, up to a very high resolution, with the negative and positive actions you have taken.

This is why I choose a few negative and positive behaviors, that I have singled out as having a large impact on my mood, the quality my consciousness, my body,
and use a spreadsheet to track daily how much I am avoiding the negative ones, and applying the positive ones.

I call this spreadsheet `1500 days'. Cause I opened it when there were about 1500 days till I reach 40.
I thought of it as someone giving me a budget of 1500$ and saying let's check back in 5 years to see what you've done with it.
I don't know .. sometimes it's annoying to think about it like this, but sometimes it's fun.
Like being on a budget makes you appreciate everything more.
It reminds me of a time I just got to Canada and got my wallet stolen.
I loned some money from my university host for the weekend, till I get my new ATM card on Monday.

I remember the day before getting the card. Having a fixed amount of money for food,
the burrito I bought for lunch tasting so much better.

An important thing is that it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

For example, I had a period where I was able to avoid the 2 negative biggies I have identified - jerking off and watching TV\youtube, pretty much consecutively for a year.
I haven't been able to do that for a while..
but I say.. OK can I have a 24 hours streak avoiding these things?

I can? I've done that 4 times in a row?
Now can I do 36 hours?.. 48 hours?

It's important to congratulate yourself on these small accomplishments.
Saying `Yes!' inside or outloud.

I go play basketball, and go bouldering once a week now.

I am by far the worst climber, and player out of all the friends I go with.

They are climbing the level 3 or level 4 walls.
I'm usually succeeding a level 1 or level 2 wall up to the top , once or twice
after two hours of being there.
And when I get down I say Yes! like I've just climbed the Everest,
That way I am motivated to progress, rather than freezing myself up in self-criticism.

I compare myself only to myself. I practice compassion and sympathetic joy towards myself, so it will manifest also towards others.

I know my whole motoric development as a small child was way below average, so no sense comparing myself to someone else..

Let me end with an example of the other extreme than the back to the future example.
I've been wasting time almost all day today, and looks like I will continue to do say till 2am.
But just right now, coming back from getting something to eat, and before sitting down for another episode of `the office', I did 2 push ups.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The line between natural and unnatural

I always thought it was a bit arbitrary, how people will say a herb is a `natural'
medicine, and an Aspirin is `artificial'. Aren't they all made from the same components?
Same atoms? Even same molecules I think, cause looking at Wikipedia it seems it's all C,H and O.

Anyway, I was on a `gatherer's trip' where they teach you about different plants and which ones
you can eat (seems almost all of them).

When looking at the leaves of the plants, some having thorns for protection.

I thought of how start-up companies are just as natural as plants.

Some organized phenomena that arises and tries to ensure it's survival.

Some do a better job at it, some worse. Just like the plants.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Putting for  a moment aside what your Mom told
you, what self-improvement seminars have told you,
what movies have told you,

you think - I don't want to be normal,
I don't want to be nice. I don't want to be balanced.
I don't want to have a cat to get over my supposed fear of intimacy.

I just want to float in my imaginary worlds,
aren't I imaginary anyways?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Who am I?

Like deep questions in mathematics, it can take years to understand what the question is at all,
why is it interesting? why is it not obvious?

It is hard to separate layers of thoughts that answer the question without understanding it..
A thought comes ..` I am an artist.' ..`I am someone who is in love with this person and destined to unite with her' .
We are so busy we do not question the undefined words in these answers.. mainly `I'.

You wake up at 4 in the morning, into silence, a silence you avoid all day and night with problems and dramas and goals.
These are suddenly  not as available at 4am.
You feel the discomfort..
and if you do not run away from it to your favorite internet site,
you discover it's a fascinating field of research..
this consciousness, just made up of tiny  movements of emotion and sensation,
just tiny movements of particles like in any other place in the universe.
You see your most basic assumptions about `I' are just convenient assumptions,
but have nothing to do with the truth.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The difference between math and computer programming

In math, when something doesn't quite work you are sure there is a silly reason why but it's usually a deep reason.
In programming, when something doesn't work, you are sure there is a deep problem, but it always ends up being something silly.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Bitcoin was born as a spam filter

I recently learned that Bitcoin's main component: the `Proof of Work', had it's beginnings in a cool idea of Adam Back called hashcash for preventing spam.
One nice thing about hashcash is that it gives a simple way to explain the PoW concept through puzzles:

The idea is to attach a mathematical puzzle to each email someone wants to send such that:

-The puzzle will be different for each email

-Each puzzle will take a modern computer about a second to solve.

- The recipient will only accept an email if a legitimate answer to the puzzle is included.

- Checking if an answer is legitimate will only take a computer a microsecond.

Why is this useful?
The idea is that for a legitimate user spending a second of computer time is fine for each mail
he\she desires to send.
But for someone wanting to send a spam message to millions of addresses, looking for the one-in-a-million'th person who will aid him in exchange for part of his fortune that the dictator of some African country is currently confiscating, spending a second for each mail will be a big problem.

So this is a mechanism to prove that the person sending you a mail cares enough about specifically you getting it to let his computer work on sending it for a whole second! Talk about sacrifice!

How do these puzzles look like?
What you need to construct the puzzles is something called a psuedurandom function.
What this means is this is some function h such that when you give it an input z,
the output h(z) is a sequence of bits that is completely unpredictable for all practical purposes.

Now, say I want to send an email to firstname.lastname@here.com on the date 1.1.15.
We will think of this address and date as some string of symbols x.
   x= "1.1.15firstname.lastname@here.com".

Now if the person I am sending to is using hashcash, for the mail to be accepted I have to attach a y
such that the hash of x and y starts with 20 zeros.
That is, h(x,y) is a string beginning with 20 zeros.
Since h is pseudorandom, the only way to solve this is to try *alot* of y's, 2^20 on average,
until we find a good one.

.The functions we use as h currently in the world are called SHA-1 and SHA-2.

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Hi! I am a computer science postdoc. For some reason google is not finding my new homepage so I added a link from this profile