The observable examined

Archive for October 2011

Dragon moms

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The future is the edifice of our hopes, the clothesline on which to hang our dreams.  In fact, we all conduct our lives under the assumption that the edifice is strong, that the clothesline will not snap.  By implication, it means there is a reliable certainty to the trajectory of our lives. But more importantly, there is a fundamental assumption that the expiry date on the license of life is beyond the horizon.

In the realm of parenting, witness the Tiger moms dwell in the future, running pillar to post, soccer field to gym to admissions counseling to swim lessons to <you name it> activity, trying to secure a competitive advantage for their children. For them, the present is just a vehicle into the future.

But for some parents the present is all there is. In a brave, moving, and eloquent essay  – Notes from a Dragon mom  – Emily Rapp, explains why. Her child, Ronan, just 18 months old has Tay-Sachs disease. He is expected to live to the ripe old age of 3, none of it very pleasant. Please read it. It is as beautiful as it is tragic. If nothing else, it offers a mirror against which to calibrate our own lives.


Written by asterix98

October 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

Posted in future, parenting

Traumatic brain injury

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Here is an interesting NYTimes opinion piece – Starting again after a Brain Injury . The author shares here experiences after an accident that left her quite debilitated cognitively and physically. She talks about a complete change in personality, loss of memory, disrupted cognitive social map,  and coping with the world anew after 45 yrs in existence! She is somewhat more fortunate (or is she ?) than the famous neurological case of Phineas Gage.

Because of the injury, her cognitive apparatus, responsible for weaving her past, present and future  into a coherent canvas, is now in disarray, mostly cutting her loose from her past, resulting in the loss of all of her anchors, her bearings. Much of the narrative is about her journey piecing together her life again. Less poignant and more resolute.




Written by asterix98

October 16, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Stay hungry.Stay Foolish

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The words in this blog’s title are the last words in Steve Jobs’ brilliant commencement speech for Stanford’s graduating class of 2005. I think we will all do well to give it a read.

At one point in the speech he said “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”  My own encounter with this quote occurred much later in life, in my 30s. It showed up as a thought for the day, in one corner of the landing page, on our company intranet and it was more prescriptive. It read “Live each day as if it were your last”.  It instantly appealed to me. One it draws attention to the fact that your time here is finite. Two, it urges you to prioritize and focus on what’s important and relevant. But to make this your credo does require enormous mental discipline given the very noisy environment of daily commerce.

Again here, there are some gems in Jobs’ speech. It is his story on death. Read these excerpts carefully

“…Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…”

“….No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

(My comment : Put another way, as somebody said, the leading cause of Death is Life).

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary…”

Jobs is not highlighting something macabre or being very dramatic. Instead I think what he is trying to do is establish a frame of reference for how you can maximize your potential, be useful, make a meaningful exit.  I want to believe I have followed this in my own journey so far (more recently augmented through the lens of Lechi’s death) . Maybe not as erudite but it can be captured simply as “maintain and follow your own internal yardstick”. We all face enormous pressures to keep up or do better than the Joneses. But that is not a winning strategy.

I want to mention one more thing. Jobs talks about connecting the dots.  In practice, this translates to not limiting your life experiences. This is very important, especially, in this age of intense specialization. Cross pollination is an essential ingredient for game changing innovations.

I want to end with a Mark Twain quote, which exhorts us to stay hungry and foolish, in his own brilliant, witty way. He said ” I did not let my schooling interfere with my education…..”

Written by asterix98

October 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Posted in life choice

Some haunting images

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Imagine that you are in a lot of pain. Imagine that your arms have been abused by constant needle pokes. Imagine your body is being ravaged by disease. Imagine that you have had surgery in your neck which has now limited your range of head movement. Imagine that you have been told that your days on the earth are numbered. Imagine that you are lying on your recliner (eventually death bed). Now with a partial turn of the head you look askew at the clock on the far wall. Psychologically, what does Time now mean? What could be racing through your mind? Or is the pain and fatigue so great that it just doesn’t matter. This is a highly poignant image of Lechi that keeps playing in my mind over and over……..

Imagine there is a reasonably big living room. It has all the modern amenities (HDTV, surround sound, etc.,). Imagine in one corner of the room is a recliner. Imagine Lechi lying on the recliner. I walk towards her. As I am approaching, she is wincing in pain, with tears silently streaming down her cheeks. She looks at me pleadingly (I cannot forget those eyes). I don’t say much. I wipe away her tears with my hand. Stroke her hair. Go behind the recliner and start massaging her back.  An image that is gut wrenching to date…

I was recently on an overnight camping trip with my daughter’s class. The setting was a flat round meadow. A creek flowed tangentially across one portion of the meadow. The meadow was surrounded by hilly vegetation on one half and mostly dry hills on the other half. The night sky was absolutely beautiful, crystal clear and filled with stars. The milky way streaked across the entire length of the meadow. As I looked up, I found myself spontaneously talking to Lechi, as if she were one of those stars, and promising her I would take good care of our daughter.

Written by asterix98

October 6, 2011 at 5:27 am

mining the tweets

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I must confess. I am a luddite when it comes to the usage of social media/networking sites. I do have a Facebook presence which I hardly use. On Twitter, I don’t exist.

Nevertheless, whether you tweet or not, Twitter is turning out to be a goldmine for academics as well as folks in the industry. Researchers at HP were able to predict the box office success or failure of movies by mining tweets. Tweets are also being used by behavioral finance analysts to inform their investments. And they claim to have used the information to beat the market! DARPA wants to use the medium to wage information warfare. Political campaigns are being run over this medium to influence the swing votes. And of course, the marketeers are not far behind employing “twitter bots” to do the needful.

You can read more details in this article – Decoding our Chatter

In some ways, I am excited about this because we are heading towards a highly connected world where probably millions of embedded devices with sensors are going to produce enormous amounts of data. Data discovery and mining of this information is going to afford unprecedented opportunities for improving our lives (if done right), especially healthcare, which is my favorite.







Written by asterix98

October 4, 2011 at 4:10 am

Posted in social media

More on taxing the rich – Scott Adams

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This weekend there was another brilliant piece in the WSJ by Scott Adams – Driving the Rich into the Sea .

Here are some excerpts

“….This was a pivotal moment in life’s long march from amorphous sea snot into the highest form of mammalian beings—hedge-fund managers. ”

“….It will start innocently with a modest tax increase on the rich, the same way you might pluck a chicken to give it fair warning before you barbecue it. The final phase will involve a tax rate on the top 1% of earners that is so high it can’t be described without the Viking word for pillage.”

Social commentary combined with humor at its best.

Written by asterix98

October 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Posted in humor, scott adams

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