Κατηγορία Αρχεία: Γονείς

When Your Child is as Big as You

My mom used to say that when your child is as big as you, you have to treat them with respect. What she actually said was that you had to address them using a respectful form of “εσείς,” which doesn’t make any sense in English, but may work in Hindi or French. It worked poetically well in Malayalam. I was reminded of this maternal pearl of wisdom recently when I was watching a movie with my son.

The protagonist in the movie, who felt like a human punching bag, was feeling low and getting drunk in a bar. And then he gets snubbed by a stranger, and walks away muttering something like, “Do I have an Everlast sign pasted on my forehead?”

My son, accurately guessing that I wouldn’t have gotten the reference, explained to me that Everlast was a boxing brand, and that they had punching bags with the name prominently painted on them. He had seen them in his Muay Thai gym. I remembered then that this was exactly the kind of tidbit that I would have loved to share with my dad, while watching a movie or a tennis match or whatever. The wheel had come full circle. Almost.

Λέω “almostbecause I also remembered a time when the references would become just too many to share, and the sons would turn quiet. In the next five or so short years, I can imagine that my son will also find it overwhelming to keep explaining every little reference that flies past me. He also will turn more and more silent. While dreading that inevitable age of silence, I enjoy this moment for now, when his repertoire of interesting tidbits has grown beyond mine. And remember some other things that I wrote a while ago, in a moment of melancholy inspiration.

The Sony radio plays on, impervious to these doleful musings, with young happy voices dishing out songs and jokes for the benefit of a new generation of yuppie commuters full of gusto and eagerness to conquer a world. Little do they know — it was all conquered many times over during the summers of yester years with the same gusto and passion. The old vanguards step aside willingly and make room for the children of new summers.

The new generation has different tastes. They hum to different iTunes on their iPods. This beautiful radio receiver, with most of it seventeen odd short wave bands now silent, is probably the last of its kind. The music and jokes of the next generation have changed. Their hair-do and styles have changed. But the new campaigners charge in with the same dreams of glory as the ones before them. Theirs is the same gusto. Same passion.

Sunset Career

Η διδασκαλία είναι ένα ευγενές και ανταμείβοντας κλίση. As my sunset career, I have accepted a faculty position at Singapore Management University, διδασκαλία analytics δεδομένων και επιχειρηματικών μοντέλων στη Σχολή των Πληροφοριακών Συστημάτων. Τα θέματα αυτά κάθεται καλά με το μου entrepreneurial ventures from earlier this year on data analytics and process automation, τα οποία ήταν όλα μέρος του ερχομού μου από τη συνταξιοδότηση.

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Why Have Kids?

At some point in their life, most parents of teenage children would have asked a question very similar to the one Cypher asked in Matrix, “Γιατί, oh, why didn’t I take the blue pill?” Did I really have to have these kids? Μην με παρεξηγείτε, I have no particular beef with my children, they are both very nice kids. Εκτός από, I am not at all a demanding parent, which makes everything work out quite nicely. But this general question still remains: Why do people feel the need to have children?

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Αντιρατσιστικό βίντεο

Βρήκα αυτό το σύντομο βίντεο στο Facebook.

Πρόσφατα, Ήμουν αντιμέτωπος με την ισλαμοφοβία από απροσδόκητες τρίμηνα. Το πρόσωπο που εκφράζουν τις αντι-μουσουλμανική αισθήματα περίμεναν από μένα να μοιράζονται τα ίδια συναισθήματα. Δεν το έκανα, αλλά εγώ δεν μίλησα κυρίως επειδή δεν ήθελα να προσβάλω. Δεν θα πρέπει να έχουν, και σκέφτηκα ότι θα μοιραστεί το βίντεο με ένα ευρύτερο κοινό, σε μια προσπάθεια να επανορθώσει.

Ήμουν στο λαμβάνον τέλος μιας παρόμοιο περιστατικό περίπου είκοσι χρόνια πριν στη Μασσαλία. Περπατούσα στο ΑΤΜ στη λεωφόρο de Mazargues ένα απόγευμα, όταν ένα κοριτσάκι, πιθανώς περίπου πέντε ή έξι ετών, tugged στο μανίκι μου και μου είπε ότι ήταν χαμένα και έψαχνε για εκείνη “Μαμά.” Σχεδόν δεν μπορούσα να μιλούν γαλλικά εκείνη τη στιγμή, σίγουρα όχι με έναν τρόπο ένα παιδί θα μπορούσε να καταλάβει; “Μιλάτε αγγλικά;?” δεν πρόκειται να το κόψει. Δεν θα μπορούσε μόνο με τα πόδια από το χαμένο παιδί είτε.

Έτσι, εκεί ήμουν, κρατώντας το χέρι του παιδιού και απεγνωσμένα ψάχνουν γύρω για βοήθεια, σχεδόν πανικοβάλλονται, όταν η μαμά της εμφανίστηκε από το πουθενά, άρπαξε την, μου έδωσε βρώμικο βλέμμα και έφυγε χωρίς μια λέξη για μένα, και υποψιάζομαι κατσάδα το μικρό κορίτσι. Ήμουν πιο ανακουφισμένος από προσβεβλημένος εκείνη τη στιγμή. Υποθέτω ότι ακόμη και τώρα, Δεν μπορώ να σκεφτώ καλύτερο τρόπο από αυτή την κατάσταση. Καλά, α “σας ευχαριστώ, τζέντλεμαν” Θα ήταν ωραίο, αλλά ποιος νοιάζεται?

Φωτογραφία Tim Pierce cc

Τι σε νοιάζει εσένα τι σκέφτονται οι άλλοι?

Είδα αυτές τις φωτογραφίες στο Facebook πρόσφατα. Πολλοί άνθρωποι σαν κι αυτούς. Εγώ προσωπικά δεν κάνω, αλλά το Facebook δεν έχει ένα κουμπί αντιπάθεια, έτσι δεν μπορούσα να κάνω τίποτα γι 'αυτό. Εκτός από, πολλοί από εκείνους που τους αρέσει η εικόνες είναι οι φίλοι μου, και είμαι πορεύεται προσεκτικά εδώ.

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Αυτισμός και Genius

Τα περισσότερα πράγματα στη ζωή διανέμονται κανονικά, πράγμα που σημαίνει ότι όλα δείχνουν μια καμπύλη καμπάνα όταν ποσοτικοποιούνται χρησιμοποιώντας ένα λογικό μέτρο. Για παράδειγμα, τα σήματα που σκόραρε από ένα αρκετά μεγάλο αριθμό των φοιτητών έχει μια κανονική κατανομή, με πολύ λίγες βαθμολόγησης κοντά στο μηδέν ή κοντά σε 100%, και οι περισσότεροι στρίμωγμα γύρω από το μέσο όρο τάξη. Η κατανομή αυτή είναι η βάση για την επιστολή ταξινόμησης. Φυσικά, Αυτό προϋποθέτει μια λογική δοκιμή - εάν η δοκιμή είναι πολύ εύκολο (σαν ένα τεστ δημοτικό σχολείο δίνεται σε φοιτητές), όλοι θα σκοράρει κοντά στο 100% και δεν θα υπήρχε καμία καμπύλη καμπάνα, ούτε λογικό τρόπο της επιστολής-ταξινόμησης των αποτελεσμάτων.

Εάν θα μπορούσαμε λογικά ποσοτικά χαρακτηριστικά όπως η νοημοσύνη, παραφροσύνη, αυτισμό, αθλητισμού, μουσική ικανότητα κλπ, θα πρέπει όλοι να αποτελούν κανονική Gaussian κατανομές. Που θα βρείτε τον εαυτό σας στην καμπύλη είναι θέμα τύχης. Αν είστε τυχεροί, θα πέσει στη δεξιά πλευρά της κατανομής κοντά στην ουρά, και αν είστε άτυχοι, θα βρείτε τον εαυτό σας κοντά στο λάθος τέλος. Αλλά αυτή η δήλωση είναι λίγο πολύ απλοϊκή. Τίποτα στη ζωή δεν είναι αρκετά ώστε κατ 'ευθείαν προς τα εμπρός. Οι διάφορες διανομές έχουν παράξενες συσχετίσεις. Ακόμη και σε απουσία των συσχετισμών, καθαρά μαθηματικές εκτιμήσεις θα δείχνουν ότι η πιθανότητα να βρεθεί εαυτό σας στο δεξί άκρο της πολλαπλής επιθυμητά χαρακτηριστικά είναι λεπτή. Δηλαδή, αν είστε στην κορυφή 0.1% της ομάδα σας ακαδημαϊκά, και όσον αφορά την εμφάνιση σας, και αθλητισμού, είστε ήδη ένα στα ένα δισεκατομμύριο — η οποία είναι ο λόγος που δεν μπορείτε να βρείτε πολλά εντυπωσιακά όμορφος θεωρητικούς φυσικούς, οι οποίοι επίσης κατετάγη παίκτες του τένις.

Η πρόσφατη παγκόσμια πρωταθλητής σκακιού, Magnus Carlsen, Είναι επίσης ένα πρότυπο μόδας, η οποία είναι νέα, ακριβώς επειδή είναι η εξαίρεση που επιβεβαιώνει τον κανόνα. Με τον τρόπο, Μόλις κατάλαβα τι μυστηριώδη έκφραση "εξαίρεση που επιβεβαιώνει τον κανόνα" πραγματικά σημαίνει - κάτι που μοιάζει με μια εξαίρεση μόνο και μόνο επειδή κατά γενικό κανόνα,, δεν υπάρχουν ή συμβαίνουν, γεγονός που αποδεικνύει ότι υπάρχει είναι ένας κανόνας.

Να πάρει πίσω στο θέμα μας, εκτός από την μικροσκοπική πιθανότητα για ιδιοφυΐα, όπως ορίζεται από τα μαθηματικά, μπορούμε επίσης να βρούμε συσχετίσεις μεταξύ ιδιοφυΐας και παθολογικές καταστάσεις συμπεριφοράς, όπως παράνοια και τον αυτισμό. Ένας εγκέφαλος ιδιοφυΐα είναι πιθανόν ενσύρματη διαφορετικά. Οτιδήποτε διαφορετικό από τον κανόνα είναι, επίσης,, καλά, ανώμαλη. Συμπεριφορά ανώμαλη όταν κρίνονται με βάση τους κανόνες της κοινωνίας είναι ο ορισμός της παράνοιας. Έτσι, υπάρχει μόνο μια λεπτή γραμμή που χωρίζει την τρέλα από την αληθινή ιδιοφυΐα, Πιστεύω. Οι προσωπικές ζωές πολλών ιδιοφυίες συντείνουν στο συμπέρασμα αυτό. Ο Αϊνστάιν είχε παράξενο προσωπικές σχέσεις, και ένα γιο, ο οποίος ήταν κλινικά παράφρων. Πολλοί ιδιοφυΐες στην πραγματικότητα κατέληξαν στο τρελάδικο. Και μερικοί που πάσχουν από αυτισμό δείχνουν εκπληκτικά δώρα, όπως φωτογραφική μνήμη, μαθηματική ανδρεία κ.λπ.. Πάρτε, για παράδειγμα,, η περίπτωση των αυτιστικοί σοφοί. Ή να εξετάσει περιπτώσεις όπως Sheldon Cooper του The Big Bang Theory, ο οποίος είναι μόνο ελαφρώς καλύτερη από ό, τι (ή διαφορετικά από) το Rain Man.

Πιστεύω ότι ο λόγος για τη συσχέτιση είναι το γεγονός ότι οι ίδιες ελαφρές ανωμαλίες στον εγκέφαλο μπορεί συχνά εκδηλώνονται ως ταλέντο ή ιδιοφυΐα στη θετική πλευρά, ή ως αμφίβολο δώρα από την αρνητική πλευρά. Υποθέτω ότι το μήνυμά μου είναι ότι κανείς μακριά από το μέσο όρο σε κάθε διανομή, είναι το λαμπρότητα ή παραφροσύνη, πρέπει να λάβει ούτε με υπερηφάνεια ούτε μνησικακία. Είναι απλώς μια στατιστική διακύμανση. Ξέρω ότι αυτό το μήνυμα δεν θα απαλύνει τον πόνο εκείνων που έχουν πληγεί από την αρνητική πλευρά, ή να εξαλείψει την αλαζονεία από αυτά για τη θετική πλευρά. Αλλά εδώ είναι ελπίζοντας ότι τουλάχιστον θα μειώσει την ένταση αυτών των συναισθημάτων…
Φωτογραφία Arturo de Albornoz

How to Take Beautiful Pictures

I recently learned a technique in portrait photography from this artist friend of mine. He told me that one could use backlight to create beautiful portraits. I had always thought that backlight was a bad thing, which was something my dad taught me. I trusted him. Μετά από όλα, he used to take impressive portraits with his faithful Yashica Electro 35. Αργότερα, after acquiring my first SLR, I spent a lot of time understanding the merits of TTL (Through-The-Lens) metering and fill-flash to counter the evils of backlight.

So when Stéphane told me that the best way to capture nice portraits is to have the sun behind my subject, I was shocked. But experience had taught me to always pay attention to Stéphane. He used to take better pictures with a drugstore paper camera than I could with my prized Nikon SLR. He was right, φυσικά. With the sun behind them, your subject doesn’t have to squint and screw up their eyes against the light. They are less distracted and tend to smile more readily. Και, most importantly, their backlit hair looks magical.

To do backlight portraits right, Ωστόσο,, you have to be careful about a couple of things. Πρώτα, make sure that you don’t have direct sunlight on your lens, which will create unseemly flares. I’m sure the next time I meet him, Stéphane will teach me how to use flares to my advantage. But for now, I would avoid direct light on the lens. Look for a spot in the shade. Για παράδειγμα, look for a tree casting a shadow. Don’t try to stand in the shadow, but try to get the shadow on your face, which is where the camera is likely to be. Get the tree in between you and the sun. How do you do it in practice? Just turn around and look at the shadow of your head; if it is hidden within another bigger shadow, you are safe. Εάν δεν, move.

Stephane in CassisThe second thing to pay close attention to is the background. It cannot be too bright, or the average metering of your camera will underexpose your subject’s face. (Ξανά, another dictum the creative photographer will probably scoff at). Look at the portrait of Stéphane himself, taken by me the day after I got the revelation about backlight. You can see my reflection on his glasses, trying to crouch low so as to get the dark hill in the frame rather than the bright beach sand. I think this is a nice photo, at least technically. Stéphane looked at it and complained that he looked like a James Bond villain!

Kavita in Carnoux
Here is a backlit portrait of my lovely wife. See how the framing includes the dark shrubbery in the background giving the nice contrast and brightness to the face. Εντάξει, I will admit it, the composition was probably a lucky accident. But still, I wouldn’t have attempted this snap unless I knew that backlight could be good. So be bold, experiment with backlight. I’m sure you will like the results.

Here are some dramatic backlight portraits by a gifted photographer.

Deferred Satisfaction

The mother was getting annoyed that her teenaged son was wasting time watching TV.
Son, don’t waste your time watching TV. You should be studying,” she advised.
“Γιατί?” quipped the son, as teenagers usually do.
“Καλά, if you study hard, you will get good grades.
“Ναι, so?”
“Στη συνέχεια,, you can get into a good school.
Why should I?”
That way, you can hope to get a good job.
“Γιατί? What do I want with a good job?”
“Καλά, you can make a lot of money that way.
Why do I want money?”
“Αν έχετε αρκετά χρήματα, you can sit back and relax. Watch TV whenever you want to.
“Καλά, I’m doing it right now!”

What the mother is advocating, φυσικά, is the wise principle of deferred satisfaction. It doesn’t matter if you have to do something slightly unpleasant now, as long as you get rewarded for it later in life. This principle is so much a part of our moral fabric that we take it for granted, never questioning its wisdom. Because of our trust in it, we obediently take bitter medicines when we fall sick, knowing that we will feel better later on. We silently submit ourselves to jabs, root-canals, colonoscopies and other atrocities done to our persons because we have learned to tolerate unpleasantnesses in anticipation of future rewards. We even work like a dog at jobs so loathesome that they really have to pay us a pretty penny to stick it out.

Before I discredit myself, let me make it very clear that I do believe in the wisdom of deferred satisfaction. I just want to take a closer look because my belief, or the belief of seven billion people for that matter, is still no proof of the logical rightness of any principle.

The way we lead our lives these days is based on what they call hedonism. I know that the word has a negative connotation, but that is not the sense in which I am using it here. Hedonism is the principle that any decision we take in life is based on how much pain and pleasure it is going to create. If there is an excess of pleasure over pain, then it is the right decision. Although we are not considering it, the case where the recipients of the pain and pleasure are distinct individuals, nobility or selfishness is involved in the decision. So the aim of a good life is to maximize this excess of pleasure over pain. Viewed in this context, the principle of delayed satisfaction makes senseit is one good strategy to maximize the excess.

But we have to be careful about how much to delay the satisfaction. Σαφώς, if we wait for too long, all the satisfaction credit we accumulate will go wasted because we may die before we have a chance to draw upon it. This realization may be behind the mantralive in the present moment.

Where hedonism falls short is in the fact that it fails to consider the quality of the pleasure. That is where it gets its bad connotation from. Για παράδειγμα, a ponzi scheme master like Madoff probably made the right decisions because they enjoyed long periods of luxurious opulence at the cost of a relatively short durations of pain in prison.

What is needed, ίσως, is another measure of the rightness of our choices. I think it is in the intrinsic quality of the choice itself. We do something because we know that it is good.

I am, φυσικά, touching upon the vast branch of philosophy they call ethics. It is not possible to summarize it in a couple of blog posts. Nor am I qualified enough to do so. Michael Sandel, από την άλλη πλευρά, is eminently qualified, and you should check out his online course Δικαιοσύνης: Ποιο είναι το σωστό πράγμα που κάνει? if interested. I just want to share my thought that there is something like the intrinsic quality of a way of life, or of choices and decisions. We all know it because it comes before our intellectual analysis. We do the right thing not so much because it gives us an excess of pleasure over pain, but we know what the right thing is and have an innate need to do it.

That, τουλάχιστον, is the theory. Αλλά, από τα τέλη του, I’m beginning to wonder whether the whole right-wrong, good-evil distinction is an elaborate ruse to keep some simple-minded folks in check, while the smarter ones keep enjoying totally hedonistic (using it with all the pejorative connotation now) pleasures of life. Why should I be good while the rest of them seem to be reveling in wall-to-wall fun? Is it my decaying internal quality talking, or am I just getting a bit smarter? I think what is confusing me, and probably you as well, is the small distance between pleasure and happiness. Doing the right thing results in happiness. Eating a good lunch results in pleasure. When Richard Feynman wrote about The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, he was probably talking about happiness. When I read that book, what I’m experiencing is probably closer to mere pleasure. Watching TV is probably pleasure. Writing this post, από την άλλη πλευρά, is probably closer to happiness. Τουλάχιστον, I hope so.

To come back my little story above, what could the mother say to her TV-watching son to impress upon him the wisdom of deferred satisfaction? Καλά, just about the only thing I can think of is the argument from hedonism saying that if the son wastes his time now watching TV, there is a very real possibility that he may not be able to afford a TV later on in life. Perhaps intrinsically good parents won’t let their children grow up into a TV-less adulthood. I suspect I would, because I believe in the intrinsic goodness of taking responsibility for one’s actions and consequences. Does that make me a bad parent? Is it the right thing to do? Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

Another Pen Story of Tough Love

Once a favorite uncle of mine gave me a pen. This uncle was a soldier in the Indian Army at that time. Soldiers used to come home for a couple of months every year or so, and give gifts to everybody in the extended family. There was a sense of entitlement about the whole thing, and it never occurred to the gift takers that they could perhaps give something back as well. During the past couple of decades, things changed. The gift takers would flock around the rich “Gulf Malayalees” (Keralite migrant workers in the Middle-East) thereby severely diminishing the social standing of the poor soldiers.

Οπωσδήποτε, this pen that I got from my uncle was a handsome matte-gold specimen of a brand called Crest, possibly smuggled over the Chinese border at the foothills of the Himalayas and procured by my uncle. I was pretty proud of this prized possession of mine, as I guess I have been of all my possessions in later years. But the pen didn’t last that long — it got stolen by an older boy with whom I had to share a desk during a test in the summer of 1977.

I was devastated by the loss. More than that, I was terrified of letting my mother know for I knew that she wasn’t going to take kindly to it. I guess I should have been more careful and kept the pen on my person at all times. Σίγουρα αρκετά, my mom was livid with anger at the loss of this gift from her brother. A proponent of tough love, she told me to go find the pen, and not to return without it. Τώρα, that was a dangerous move. What my mom didn’t appreciate was that I took most directives literally. I still do. It was already late in the evening when I set out on my hopeless errant, and it was unlikely that I would have returned at all since I wasn’t supposed to, not without the pen.

My dad got home a couple of hours later, and was shocked at the turn of events. He certainly didn’t believe in tough love, far from it. Or perhaps he had a sense of my literal disposition, having been a victim of it earlier. Οπωσδήποτε, he came looking for me and found me wandering aimlessly around my locked up school some ten kilometer from home.

Parenting is a balancing act. You have to exercise tough love, lest your child should not be prepared for the harsh world later on in life. You have to show love and affection as well so that your child may feel emotionally secure. You have to provide for your your child without being overindulgent, or you would end up spoiling them. You have to give them freedom and space to grow, but you shouldn’t become detached and uncaring. Tuning your behavior to the right pitch on so many dimensions is what makes parenting a difficult art to master. What makes it really scary is the fact that you get only one shot at it. If you get it wrong, the ripples of your errors may last a lot longer than you can imagine. Once when I got upset with him, my son (far wiser than his six years then) told me that I had to be careful, for he would be treating his children the way I treated him. Αλλά στη συνέχεια,, we already know this, don’t we?

My mother did prepare me for an unforgiving real world, and my father nurtured enough kindness in me. The combination is perhaps not too bad. But we all would like to do better than our parents. Στην περίπτωσή μου, I use a simple trick to modulate my behavior to and treatment of my children. I try to picture myself at the receiving end of the said treatment. If I should feel uncared for or unfairly treated, the behavior needs fine-tuning.

This trick does not work all the time because it usually comes after the fact. We first act in response to a situation, before we have time to do a rational cost benefit analysis. There must be another way of doing it right. May be it is just a question of developing a lot of patience and kindness. Ξέρετε, there are times when I wish I could ask my father.