Monday, May 2, 2011

Basic principle of happiness

Ever heard of this book called the Art of Happiness by his Holiness The Dalai Lama?

Chances are you have either read or heard of this book. I remembered there was a time when I was facing a difficult time in my life and this book has helped me immensely to recover from those dark times.

Recently came across an article by His Holiness which I think is a concise summary of the book. Hope anyone who is facing difficulty and unhappiness in life finds this useful. Go read the Art of Happiness, I strongly recommend it. It is a simple and easy to understand concept and not difficult to put it to practice. I read the Art of Happiness more than 10 years ago and the message is still clear in my mind. Coming across this article is a timely reminder to me that I should be spreading the message across others to assist them to face challenges in their daily life.

Whoever you are, I wish you as a human being to another fellow human being may you find the path and strength to achieve happiness in life.Enjoy the article.

Countering Stress and Depression

At a fundamental level, as human beings, we are all the same; each one of us aspires to happiness and each one of us does not wish to suffer. This is why, whenever I have the opportunity, I try to draw people's attention to what as members of the human family we have in common and the deeply interconnected nature of our existence and welfare.

Today, there is increasing recognition, as well as a growing body of scientific evidence, that confirms the close connection between our own states of mind and our happiness. On the one hand, many of us live in societies that are very developed materially, yet among us are many people who are not very happy. Just underneath the beautiful surface of affluence there is a kind of mental unrest, leading to frustration, unnecessary quarrels, reliance on drugs or alcohol, and in the worst case, suicide. There is no guarantee that wealth alone can give you the joy or fulfilment that you seek. The same can be said of your friends too. When you are in an intense state of anger or hatred, even a very close friend appears to you as somehow frosty, or cold, distant, and annoying.

However, as human beings we are gifted with this wonderful human intelligence. Besides that, all human beings have the capacity to be very determined and to direct that strong sense of determination in whatever direction they like. So long as we remember that we have this marvellous gift of human intelligence and a capacity to develop determination and use it in positive ways, we will preserve our underlying mental health. Realizing we have this great human potential gives us a fundamental strength. This recognition can act as a mechanism that enables us to deal with any difficulty, no matter what situation we are facing, without losing hope or sinking into feelings of low self-esteem.

I write this as someone who lost his freedom at the age of 16, then lost his country at the age of 24. Consequently, I have lived in exile for more than 50 years during which we Tibetans have dedicated ourselves to keeping the Tibetan identity alive and preserving our culture and values. On most days the news from Tibet is heartbreaking, and yet none of these challenges gives grounds for giving up. One of the approaches that I personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. In other words, if there is a solution or a way out of the difficulty, you do not need to be overwhelmed by it. The appropriate action is to seek its solution. Then it is clearly more sensible to spend your energy focussing on the solution rather than worrying about the problem. Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway. In that case, the sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be for you. This formula, of course, implies directly confronting the problem and taking a realistic view. Otherwise you will be unable to find out whether or not there is a resolution to the problem

Taking a realistic view and cultivating a proper motivation can also shield you against feelings of fear and anxiety. If you develop a pure and sincere motivation, if you are motivated by a wish to help on the basis of kindness, compassion, and respect, then you can carry on any kind of work, in any field, and function more effectively with less fear or worry, not being afraid of what others think or whether you ultimately will be successful in reaching your goal. Even if you fail to achieve your goal, you can feel good about having made the effort. But with a bad motivation, people can praise you or you can achieve goals, but you still will not be happy.

Again, we may sometimes feel that our whole lives are unsatisfactory, we feel on the point of being overwhelmed by the difficulties that confront us. This happens to us all in varying degrees from time to time. When this occurs, it is vital that we make every effort to find a way of lifting our spirits. We can do this by recollecting our good fortune. We may, for example, be loved by someone; we may have certain talents; we may have received a good education; we may have our basic needs provided for - food to eat, clothes to wear, somewhere to live - we may have performed certain altruistic deeds in the past. We must take into consideration even the slightest positive aspect of our lives. For if we fail to find some way of uplifting ourselves, there is every danger of sinking further into our sense of powerlessness. This can lead us to believe that we have no capacity for doing good whatsoever. Thus we create the conditions of despair itself.

As a Buddhist monk I have learned that what principally upsets our inner peace is what we call disturbing emotions.  All those thoughts, emotions, and mental events which reflect a negative or uncompassionate state of mind inevitably undermine our experience of inner peace. All our negative thoughts and emotions - such as hatred, anger, pride, lust, greed, envy, and so on - are considered to be sources of difficulty, to be disturbing. Negative thoughts and emotions are what obstruct our most basic aspiration - to be happy and to avoid suffering. When we act under their influence, we become oblivious to the impact our actions have on others: they are thus the cause of our destructive behaviour both toward others and to ourselves. Murder, scandal, and deceit all have their origin in disturbing emotions.

This inevitably gives rise to the question - can we train the mind? There are many methods by which to do this. Among these, in the Buddhist tradition, is a special instruction called mind training, which focuses on cultivating concern for others and turning adversity to advantage. It is this pattern of thought, transforming problems into happiness that has enabled the Tibetan people to maintain their dignity and spirit in the face of great difficulties. Indeed I have found this advice of great practical benefit in my own life.

A great Tibetan teacher of mind training once remarked that one of the mind’s most marvellous qualities is that it can be transformed. I have no doubt that those who attempt to transform their minds, overcome their disturbing emotions and achieve a sense of inner peace, will, over a period of time, notice a change in their mental attitudes and responses to people and events. Their minds will become more disciplined and positive. And I am sure they will find their own sense of happiness grow as they contribute to the greater happiness of others. I offer my prayers that everyone who makes this their goal will be blessed with success.

The Dalai Lama

December 31, 2010
Originally published in the Hindustan Times, India, on January 3rd, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Origins of the word computer bug

From Wikipedia:

The First "Computer Bug" Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1947. The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: "First actual case of bug being found". They put out the word that they had "debugged" the machine, thus introducing the term "debugging a computer program". In 1988, the log, with the moth still taped by the entry, was in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Computer Museum at Dahlgren, Virginia, which erroneously dated it 9 September 1945. The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History and other sources have the correct date of 9 September 1947 (Object ID: 1994.0191.01). The Harvard Mark II computer was not complete until the summer of 1947.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The less traveled road

From the first time I was introduced to this poem during my college days it has always been one of my favorite. Written by Robert Frost, perhaps his finest - the author wrote this poem about his walks in the woods with his friend. During these walks, his friend will always wonder what they have missed by not taking other paths they encountered.

To me, this poem always represent the choices that life presents to us - not necessary there will be a right or wrong choice, but always an existence of a choice.  Some may regret that they can't choose all the choices that present themselves, and there's always a dilemma on whether the choice yet to be made is a right or wrong choice. We are always afraid of choosing the wrong one (and some took too much time to choose!). And then we realize that we have to make choices, whether we like it or not and the choices that we make are always justified by our own reasoning and perhaps to a certain extend - logic. But is our choices the rights ones or the wrong ones? We probably think that the one we chose are the most attractive one amongst the rest - but is it true over the time?  

When I was first exposed to this poem I thought that it is a form of advocation of non-conformist attitude, but as I grew - what this poem really means to me is that we have choices in life - which is great.

So is the sigh mentioned in the poem a sigh of satisfaction or merely a sigh of regret? Food for thought - hope you like the poem as much as I do.

The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Champasak, Laos (2009)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New year, old friends

As I sat in a restaurant in a mall near my home I am contemplating what would be the first post of the year would be about. Then I thought about my friend's request the day before to write about how we celebrated the last day of 2010 and ushered in the new year. To be forthright, as a matter of fact our celebrations yesterday was nothing exceptional to say the least. In fact looking at it you might call it downright mundane for a new year's celebrations - dinner, no countdown, few minutes of fireworks (which we don't even know there is one until it happened) and of course poker session till late at night.

Not even close to the top of list.

As we ushered in the new years it brought in many changes as well. Our celebrations soon consists of new faces - new friends, partners, spouses and children. 2011 would be no exception, already we are expecting a new bundle of joy for our group due in February and I myself would be soon getting married a few months later.

One of the great things why we celebrate the arrival of new year is it marks a time of our life where we can leave unwanted pasts from the previous year and renew our hopes for better things to come. It is a milestone for some, one year older, another year we have been married or another year that we have been friends. It is also a time for a kindly reminder that some things probably would never change. It's still the eccentric behaviour of one of us ( we are starting to lose hope that he might ever change ), he is still late for appointments, and I am still pissed with him for being not punctual, and one of us is still occasionally moody.

Although the years might roll by and certain changes and additions might come along, there are however a few that remain unchanged. Good friends remain, some people that you can depend for company and when you most need it, someone that you can rely on. Like familiar saying goes, it's not where you go but the company that you keep that makes it count Here's to 2011 and many more mundane new years to come, so long that it is celebrated with dear friends.

To old friends and to new beginnings.

I have been commissioned to write this, so when we say commissioned it means that I should be getting paid to write this. JJ please take note!

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to make your blog's URL much cooler

Recently discovered a cool way to use Google's URL shortener as well as the Google Goggle feature available on the Google app available on Android, Blackberry, iPhones and other smartphones.

For those of you who are unaware, you can shorten any URL by just using Google's URL shortener, the resulting shorten version of the URL would appear as something like this plus a 3D barcode which look something like this:

And then using the aforementioned Google Goggle, take a picture of the barcode above and voilĂ !, your search results returns the version of the URL. 

And so a conversation like this:

Ah Beng: Eh, what is the yew-arrr-ell of your broggg again ah?
Me: It's w-w-w, dot epiphany ...
Ah Beng: Ah? What ah? Tiffany ah? Why your broggg got a girl's name one? Your girlfriend ah?

would soon be replaced by something like this:

Ah Beng: Eh, what is the yew-arrr-ell of your broggg again ah?
Me: No need URL, do you have the Google app on your iPhone? 

Technology is cool, go embrace it like the cuddly teddy bear on your bed :).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

G-Shock Gulfman

Recently got me-self a new gadget, actually it's an early birthday gift from both my brother and sister, thanks to both of them :) . I have always been a sucker for products where featuring high tech elements both in the design of the product itself or during the course of producing it. Amongst the items that I have fallen "prey" to include phones, gadgets, or even clothing items like Columbia's Bamboo Nano-Charcoal Fiber tights, and their Omni-Tech jackets. Usually these products come with cool names like Omni, Techno, i-something and comes with a description like these on the boxes:

"As bamboo charcoal with innumerable holes structure, can absorb and decompose benzene, phenol, methanol, sulfide, nitrides etc, it can reduce harmful matters and odors, such as a  53%  deduction in odor from  NH3gas. It also can adjust the moisture, release anions, restrain microbe... etc.  The major function of our products is Warming. According to ITRI test result, with 500W halogen lightshone on the bamboo charcoal yarn for 10 minutes, the yarn emits  far infrared rays for  87% ~ 92%,and warm up the temperature 10 oC, which is much higher than for instance wool's with 5 oC.The bamboo charcoal powder is equally diffused in to the fiber structure and not a coating on the surface, therefore any method of washing will not influence its function. It has an excellent water-resistance natural no irradiationthe best choice of warm textiles."

Doesn't makes much sense to when I read it, but I suddenly feel much "cooler" wearing it. Smart underwear anyone?

This time around my latest gadget is a G-Shock watch. I have always wanted to get a G-Shock after seeing my friends wearing them. I wanted to have a watch for weekend use where I don't have have to worry about scratching it or suffering any "abuse" during the course of outdoor activities. Now as most of you know G-Shock watches are synonymous with toughness and more recently trendiness as well judging from the new colors and design available in their line-up. So there you go, a G-Shock is something that fits my needs pretty well and the great thing is it's not too expensive as well.

G-Shock was created as part of  "Project Tough" by Casio engineers way back in 1981 with the sole aim of creating an "unbreakable watch". Over 2 years numerous prototypes has been created and finally in 1983 the first G-Shock was born - the DW-5000C. Here's what the makers have to say on the technology that is involved in making a G-Shock:

And here are the tests the watches are subjected to: gravitational shock resistance, dropping sock resistance, hammer shock resistance, water pressure, electrical current, low temperature resistance and vibration resistance. Here's a video showing the various tests. Kinda "shocking" how they test their watches, sorry pun intended.

The model that I recently acquired is a G9100-2, where the postfixed number 2 denotes that it is in color blue. Nicknamed "Gulfman", the watch is part of the Master of G collection, others being the Frogman, the Mudman, and the Riseman. Each series represents unique features that the namesake suggests - Frogman has very high resistance to underwater pressure, features a dive timer, tide data and so forth, Mudman features dust and mud resistance design, a rally mode, a highly accurate stopwatch mode and the Riseman has twin sensors featuring an altimeter and a barometer (in which you can use it to gauge whether it will rain or not, by the means of atmosphere pressure around you).

Here's how my Gulfman looks like:


Besides the usual shock resistant feature the Gulfman is the only watch in the Master of G series that features a rust resistant structure by using titanium in it's case back cover, button shafts and buckle. So the watch feels really light weighing at 53 grams. Each Master of G features a unique logo at it's back. Here's how mine looks like:

And with the electro-luminescent  (EL) back light synonymous with most G-Shock watches - the Gulfman features dual illumination back lights built into the LCD and the dial for better visibility (for those who work at night at the seas, I am not one of them), and has a feature that can turn on the back light automatically with just a tilt of their wrist - although I have to say that I have turned off this feature as it would probably drain the battery faster. The manual states that the battery can last for around 7 years.

On the watch face you can see the tide graph and the moon phase indicator (with moon age and moon phase) , of which you have to set your coordinates and the lunitidal interval of your locality in order for the watch to display the info correctly. The watch is also water resistant up to 200m.

Another feature that I like is that it stores world time for 48 cities in 29 time zones, with daylight saving mode. Good to know what time it is before calling that cousin at London eh? Although I have to say one thing that I don't like is the abbreviations that they use for the city names some of which are pretty straightforward to guess like LON, but what's MLE?

The watch has 3 alarm modes - 2 normal alarms, 1 with snooze feature of which can be set to go off at daily, monthly, or on a certain date. It also has an hourly time signal.

The 1/100 second stopwatch feature allows you to measure elapsed time, split times and able to time up to  finishes. A 1/100 second is also known as a centisecond, or 10 milliseconds which is 0.01 seconds. So how fast is a 1/100 second? Well it's probably somewhere as fast as a typical camera shutter speed. The stopwatch can display up to 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59.99 seconds.

Next feature on the watch is the countdown mode which allows you to set a time between 1 minute to 24 hours before the alarm sounds when the timer reaches 0. It also has a auto repeat feature which allows the watch to restart the timer after reaching zero and as well as a progress beeper which sounds at specific intervals before the end of the countdown. The above said stopwatch, countdown alarm, alarms and hourly time signal have a Flash Alert feature which enable the watch to flash with buzzer when ever the alarm / timer goes off.

The watch  has an accuracy of  plus / minus 15 seconds for every month of operation - for those of you who wonder what this means, man made watches inherently inaccurate due to many reasons some of which are due to the mechanism, quality of craftsmanship etc. etc. So if we say a watch is %99.9 accurate for example, it will still be out by a minute and a half in 24 hours! Some watches like mechanical ones (think Rolex, Omega etc.) are less accurate not by design but by nature - imagine all those tiny gears and screws in the watches are constantly affected by the gravitational forces, so they are quite inaccurate if you compare to a say, a much cheaper Casio quartz watch. Of course there are certain exceptions which features very very high workmanship and which are a Certified Chronometer where each watch has to be certified individually by COSC in Swiss where the watch movement has to achieve somewhere in the region of %99.994 accuracy which means -4 to +6 seconds accuracy. All certified watches are then allowed to feature the designation "Chronometer" which is a mark of distinction for a high quality and exclusive watch. However it is interesting to note that a normal quartz watch is %99.9998 accurate which only leaves room a loss of accuracy of between -2 and +2 seconds per day. Why is this so? Because a quartz watch uses a crystal oscillator to create electrical signals which is very precise. It is also interesting to note that some G-Shocks features self-calibrating features which the watch receives signals from calibration stations which is based on, wait for it ... atomic timekeeping! Whaaaattt?

Wheeeewww, that's a lot for a watch nowadays isn't it? But it's so cool to know that the stuffs that you are wearing has so many technology in it. Makes it sound like something from a James Bond movie. Well who knows, probably James Bond would be proud owner of a G-Shock someday ;)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Count of Monte Cristo

I am currently reading the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas on the iBook app on my iPhone and iPad. Reading books the iBook is such a breeze and it has now become my favorite companion to pass my time. Anyway this post is not about the iBook or the iPad for that matter but probably I shall in my next post.

This post is about the Count of Monte Cristo, for those who have not read it before I highly recommend that you do. I feel that Dumas is such a great writer that all his characters in the book come alive in front of you as you read. You can't help but empahize with Dantes when he was cruelly dealt with injustice, you feel the joy of his learning when he met the abbe. I just wish I could write like the master storyteller that Dumas is.

From time to time I would encounter some classic lines from the book and I would like to share them with you. Here is the first one, an extract from a chapter detailing the time when Dantes was rescued by some smugglers after he escaped:

Moreover, it is possible that the Genoese was one of those shrewd persons who know nothing but what they should know, and believe nothing but what they should believe

How true it is indeed that some can live their life wisely by knowing only what they need to know and when not to meddle in the affairs of others!