Monday, February 11, 2013

Life: Meaning of Life? (Take 1 of infinite)

My Views on Life (Part 1)

With the recent event in life and the Chinese New Year ("Lunar New Year" for the nationally-agnostic friends), I've been spending some time thinking about death, (re)birth, and meaning of life.

Death is such an interesting topic because anyone who is trying to make sense of the world, or living life to the fullest, or just trying to live more effectively must at some point ponder on the idea. What is it? What happens afterwards? And no one alive has experienced it.

Logically with current knowledge, I cannot possibly know what happens afterwards except that I cease to exist in this plane of existence. I have some beliefs of what may or may not happen. These beliefs fall into three general genres: nothing, another plane of existence, a different state of existence in the same plane. There could be others, but they are beyond my comprehension at this point of life.

What if nothing happens? What if there really is no meaning to life? Although a lot if not most of the evidence points in this direction, I just cannot convince myself without a doubt that this is it. But even if there is no purpose, I could create one by transcending basic instincts in "surviving" this world by supporting an idea or meme that could survive through time and hope that someday someone will be able to use such information to know the answer.

The other part of me wants to believe there is something more. I know this belief exists because I continue to question that very logical thought (at least to me). This belief drives me to continually question what reality is. This act makes me wonder if there is something built into my existence to seek some sort of fulfillment even though I do not know what it is. I have a friend who has told me several stories of the Hindu gurus. I believe I have touched upon such enlightenment about being one with the world. Although I may potentially be able to convince myself that a certain point of reference is sufficient to attain a type of nirvana, the "solution" seems too boring. Also outside that reference, I know my existence although they may think we are of the same existence.

What does this mean? There is a similar passage to Hinduism from Taoism. Paraphrasing, "a path that can be taken is not the path; a name that can be given is not the name." This resonates with me strongly in that I believe everyone has their path to enlightenment. I have a path that I take but it may not be your path. The name "my path" is not "your path" although there may be many intersections, overlap, or not at all. Although I may not follow your religion or your school of thought, you way may not be wrong.

But... this enlightenment does not answer what is death or what happens after death. I see this type of enlightenment as a death to "I"-ness. Where does the soul or the mind go? What is soul or mind? I sense there is some uniqueness to me (ie "I"). Let us say that cloning is possible and all the brain matter is exactly the same. The instance that clone exists, the clone is still not me because in the moment we have different experiences although we may "share" the same memories of the past. To others, I may be the original but the clone could still claim it is the original but just "teleported" or could accept that he is not the original. What if I were the clone? It would still not change my "I"-ness because the original is somewhere else.

Translating Descarte, "I think therefore I am." I think... why do I even think? What is thinking? A ball thrown up will follow the laws of gravity and fall. The ball does not think. If I live life as dictated, am I thinking? Can I live a life without thinking? Would that then be death? If so, what is wrong with that thought? Such a life seems so simple and possibly fulfilling if one does not have to think beyond its own existence.

Such a school of thought makes me cringe at some level. To me, it seems like a different type of suicide on a meta-level. But the "life" of thought seems to be cruel to be seeking an answer that has a rather good chance that there is no answer. Given today's science, the world will continue to exist without intelligent beings.

The only problem is that "I" still question the information that I process. Is this the world real? The only reference that I know is my own and I cannot leave my reference. Perhaps, this reality is something like a computer-generated simulation; perhaps, this existence is something like the Matrix; perhaps, there is an all-power being that decides our fate upon death. Is there proof? Well, clearly not evident to myself.

Thus far, the dilemma of thought appears to be the source of life. I live because I seek an answer. Hypothetically, the answer does not exist because if there was an answer I would not be living. This means my life was temporary or I was never really alive. Or perhaps this means that this is the  "contradiction" to be living. Almost like my will to getting things done because I'm lazy.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bored: Terry Crews Old Spice Muscle Music

Quite entertaining video of Terry Crews using muscles to trigger musical instruments. Plausible? Appears to be. Real? Unsure, I think there was some video editing involved. Entertaining, all the same so a really well done commercial for Old Spice.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Life: Acquaintance Took His Own Life

The other day, I heard through a friend that someone I've met on a trip committed suicide. The first and last time I met the person was a few years ago, so I do not remember much except that he was a good person. Even with such a small connection, I was very saddened by the news.

The situation sounded very sudden that my friend knew very little of what happened. So, the news is quite frustrating because... because... it is just not a good feeling to be helpless. So many questions ran through my head, like "was he depressed? how does someone reach such depression?" or "was it loneliness? or bad work environment?" or "what could his friends have done if he shut them out?" or "what would I have done?"

I want to say that I know how depression feels, but to reach that level... I have to accept that I really have no idea. What seems scary was that at the time, he appeared to have good group of friends and family. How can something like that change in a couple years? Perhaps things are not as they seem?

Is it possible to understand such a state? Would he have been able to persuade me his experiences? Or even believe that I understand even if I was capable of understanding? I apologize for not having much constructive to say on this topic.

I do not want to say that there is always someone worse off than you because that means someone is at the bottom. What I am trying to explain is that if you have reached a point where you think the world is better off without you or that if no one would even notice that you are missing, there are so many people out there seeking for help that could be greatly influenced by you in different ways.

I guess what motivates me was my experience volunteering in China. Even though I could barely speak Chinese, I could clearly see how enthusiastic the other volunteers in the group were. They were all local high-school students, college students, and young adults. Even in China standards, they were not well-off but they were always willing to help those even less fortunate. Surprisingly, the people (who we assisted) returned to not only thank us but also assisted in other ways. At some point, I realized that no one really is at the bottom like those considered at the top.

So even if you think you are at the "bottom" of life, there is still others who value you. Those people may not be directly around you, so reach out... you are not alone.

PS, I happened to stumble across this the day after I wrote the above (fate, destiny, coincidence? perhaps):

Although no informative results, more awareness cannot hurt:

Try hugging a teddy:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bored: The surprising truth about what motivates us

RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

I can relate to this:

The question is how does this relate to the top 1%? Sports players and CEOs? I would think those types of roles require quite a bit of cognitive skills. 

Interview: My Take on Using Oddball and Riddle Questions (negative)

My Take on Including Oddball and Riddle Questions in the Interview Process (negative)

As much as I enjoy answering questions that are based on riddles, puzzles, oddness, or other unrealistic scenarios, I do not find these particularly helpful to the interview process. First, I do not think it helps weed-out any candidates. Second, the interviewee may already know the solution or answer to the question. Lastly, most interviewers do not seem to understand the purpose of the question. They may have their place like as an ice-breaker or a warm-up or in theme to a specific company, but in general, there are better questions.

An interview question should provide some insight into what type of person the interviewee is. This insight should provide information that will allow the interviewer to rank or eliminate the candidate. Because open-ended questions are subjective in nature and cannot provide definitive skills, this type of question tends to be one just to eliminate a candidate. So for an experience interviewee, this really is really matter of not giving the wrong answer to a question that has a billion and one not incorrect answers. Thus even an amateur or someone trained for a minute can bypass this answer, so the question is not a strong "weed-out" question.

If not an elimination question, that leaves providing some positive or negative impression of the candidate's answer. Ideally, the question is supposed to be unique enough that no one has heard of it. Word still gets around, so the candidate pool results will be corrupted typically favoring the latter candidates. But let's assume that you can control it, candidates may or may not figure out the answer. That in itself is not useful because that really is not the point of the question. The rest may have different experiences thus providing different levels of detail. Someone from NYC can provide a better details story than someone from Tulsa. So, one cannot rank even by detail. Worst case, is that someone  may happen to know the specific answer, then the entire pool has now been contaminated.

Even accounting for the different possibilities, most interviewers do not even know the purpose of these questions. Because this lies in my interests, I have been able to answer these types of questions and usually end up also providing other puzzles or oddball questions. The interviewer typically ends up coming back to me for an answer. Was I any better skill-wise to all the other candidates? Unlikely since I had only 3-5 years of experience at the time. I did not apply for a job that expected good interviewing skills, so I do not find it fair that I had an advantage because I knew how to "play" this type of question. I also do not find it fair that others may not how to "better" answer other types of questions. This in itself will skew the choices of my responses.

Unless the job calls for amazing imagination where you judge by how original the idea is, most jobs do not care for it even if they claim that they value such out-of-the-box thinking especially the larger the company is. In most corporate companies, people have already been there for a decent amount of time. The managers or employees with seniority and tenure typically expect "underlings" to follow orders to protect their domain. They may claim that they want an open discussion, but in most cases, one must always understand the position and wordings of new ideas. There is some value to small-sized companies because it does provide some interpersonal information, but unfortunately, most small-size company interviewers ask only because they read it in an article who I found even more impressionable.

So there you have it, my thoughts on the value of this interview question. If you're an interviewee, this should be a super easy question. This is also a great opportunity to impress on intangible skill-sets for the impressionable (ie amateur, rookie, etc) interviewers. I've asked this a few times but did not get a lot of value out of them. It has been a long time since I have been pulled to help with interviewing, but if you happen to have me, just smile and have fun with the question but don't make it too long. Most importantly, follow up with the correct answer after the interview and how that would impact your made-up story.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Guesstimations: Super Bowl XLVII - Conclusions

The final score:

Teams Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 F
Baltimore Ravens 7 14 7 6 34
San Francisco 49ers 3 3 17 8 31

Both teams scored 10 points over my prediction, but my point spread holds. Even in hindsight, betting on a 3.5 - 4.5 points to either teams would have been extremely tricky.

The 108 yard return touchdown in the third quarter was unexpected. Due to the unexpected lack of offense from 49ers, this gave Ravens more time to score. This can explain for the extra 10 points.

The breakdown of the Ravens after the blackout which allowed 49ers 17 points in 5 minutes increased the expected output of the 49ers score. Plus, there was additional 2 points due to the Ravens voluntarily taking the safety to burn more time. This would explain the extra 9 points of the 49ers.

In conclusion, there were some sudden spurts of scoring that I did not account for even though the initial numbers were very arbitrary. This poses an interesting question if someone has a correctly guessed scores or spreads for a long history through pure "guesstimations" would have some scientific explanation.