Reserved Experiencer

Saw this neat DNA Personality test over at lunafish's blog (who is an Animanted Inventor) and decided it was worth taking (MIO has also taken it and she is a Benevolent Idealist).

I think it categorizes me pretty well Reserved Experiencer.

I was a little surprised to discover that 80% of people (who took the test) have more confidence than me because I have always had a very strong sense of self. However, perhaps self identity and confidence are different things ... hmm ... something else to think about.

Other interesting personality oddities include being more open than 92% of people, but less trusting than 96%. As well as, I am, apparently, more spontaneous than 70% of people, but less extroverted than 84%.

You can mouse over the coloured squares to get some little popups indicating what each on means.

Reserved Experiencer

You can read more here.

Other choice tidbits include:

At times other people's feelings are puzzling to you, and you wish that people were more rational. - I think this is true most times.

Your vision of the world is complex - your values are not set in stone. Instead, you are able to change your beliefs as you learn new information. - I think the world is very simple, but people complicate it.

Never one to be found in chic boutiques or trendy clothing stores, you take an extremely practical approach to getting dressed. - one pant leg at a time.

You can take the test here. Note, if you want to paste into your blog, the script they offer does not work, you have to find a not so obvious link that gives you a different bit of code to paste.



Thank you for your prayers

I spoke with my mother last night for the first time in two weeks (I had been speaking to my dad though).

She thanks everyone for their prayers, which she says have helped.

After her autologous stem cell transfer, she developped a fever (as expected) and was moved into the hospital where she was on continuous monitoring and medication.

She said that she spent a lot of her time dreaming or hallucintating. A large part of that time was spent imagining she was sleeping with Tania and Jason on either side of her.

She gave the hospital staff a scare last week when her blood pressure suddenly dropped to 54/44 and her pulse shot up to 160. Fortunately, additional fluids helped restore balance.

She described the cancer ward as a not very happy place with people crying or screaming from pain. For herself, while it was bad, she simply took it one day at a time.

Last night she was released from the cancer ward, but still needs to go for daily visits for the next two weeks or so.

The first year is described as being critical and she said there is a 3% chance of recurrence.

Image grabbed from here.



"I'm entitled to my opinion."

"It is your assumption that we are entitled to it as well that is irritating."

Blake's Seven, Bounty (exchange between Vila and Avon)




Not in our Genes

I picked up this book about a year ago because I was interested to read what Richard Lewontin (and others) had to say refuting genetic determinism (at around that time I underwent a fairly drastic shift in perception as I began to question the validity of free will). So, I was hoping they could provide me with good counter arguments to determinism.

I only recently finished the book. You see Sofia and I play a game, I start reading something and then put it down as I something else draws my fancy. Sofia then picks up the book and puts it away causing me to (1) become disoriented, since my environment has changed unexpectedly, (2) forget about it, since it is no longer within my ordered space, (3) grief as I foolishly try to discover where she has put it.

Anyway, it finally turned up again a few weeks ago. So I finished reading it.

I have to say that the book is very disappointing. I really was expecting better from Richard Lewontin. I had listened to (and bought the book) of his lectures on Biology as Ideology - which were really fantastic.

The main problem I had with the book, and perhaps this simply shows where I am at, is that he counter arguments to biological / genetic determinism, for the most part, were really, really weak.

Perhaps my expectations were beyond the scope of the book, I was looking for something to argue for free will and offer cogent arguments against determinism. This book restrict itself to genetic determinism and consequently does not address the larger issue of free will, only that genetics is not the overriding determining factor in our behaviour – nurture has a role in shaping us. Regardless, the book does not adequately answer or explore the issue of nurture being nothing more than an expression of nature. In other words, there is a lot of room for the argument that nurture is nothing more than nature (genetic determinism) acting extrinsically on the organism.

For example, we often practice something, say juggling, until it becomes second nature. The act of juggling is removed from conscious voluntary act, to ingrained autonomic activity. We simply reinforce certain neural pathways, feedback loops to allow us to juggle without having to think about it.

Another example, since returning to work in September 2005, I have modified my diet in an attempt to lose weight. This has taken the form of eliminating calorie dense foods (in general, anything with more than 2 calories per gram – taken in totality) – so, things like pasta, pizza, rice, chips, nuts, cakes have been out (not necessarily successfully, but I'm getting there.

Anyhow, for the past few weeks, I have noticed a definite lack of enjoyment of eating the prohibited items – Friday we went to Pizza Hut: I had a salad, everyone else had a personal pan pizza. JJ and Tania did not finish theirs, so I did, but I did not enjoy it as I once had – I’ve been noticing this with chocolates, nuts, and chips for a while.

Falling back to the theme, does this mean that neural paths, psycho-chemical associations that were once there are eroding? Are my preference changing because of chemical processes going on inside my body / brain? Are my tastes for high fat / high carb – sweet / salty foods being modified because of slow realization? Or because I am breaking a neuro-chemical feedback loop?

And, if I am breaking neuro-chemical feedback loops, is it because I am doing it out of volition, or because I am being influenced by other neuro-chemical messages saying "Hey! You're not 19 anymore, take it easy or you'll end up a coronary stiff." Or is it the environment around me that is imposing pressure on me. Is the environment around me a result of free will, or is it shaped by the genetics of those around me?

Is nature nothing more than intrinsic genetic determinism and is nature nothing more than extrinsic genetic determinism? Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) argues that we (and, in consequence, our civilization) is nothing more than a construct of the gene in order to propagate itself.

However, could we go further and claim that genes are nothing more than a construct of the Universe to facilitate the transition to entropy?

You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering. - Doctor Who, The Face of Evil




Picked up a very nice magazine the other day called Shop Notes.

Unlike many magazine it is not a high gloss one, nor is it printed on low quality "newsprint" style paper.

It also is not crammed with 3 ads for every page of article.

It has lots of pictures, but does not overwhelm you.

Finally, it comes prepunched with 3 holes for easy insertion into a binder.

While not everyone may be into woodworking, I find this magazine and its layout to be very comforting and practical. To bad more magazine don't try to be more useful rather than flashy.

As well, I find the quality of magazines to be going down (at least the computer ones). Used to love a magazine called Computer Language, sadly it is now defunt. They used to have the neatest cover pictures of any magazine.

Then there was the C Users Journal (later C/C++ USers Journal) - which recently closed its doors. But, for the last decade or so, it had been a pretty mediocre shadow of its former self.

Byte has been dead for ages, leaving only Dr. Dobb's as (I think) the longest published computer magazine. But, even Dr Dobb's (originally Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Calisthenics & Orthodontia - Running Light without Overbyte has been marching a slow death to mediocrity.



I looked at what I had made and it was good.

Seven years ago, my firstborn came into the world.

The joy and pride I felt cannot be described except to say that I finally understood the elation of creation.

Tania (meaning Fairy Princess) was the only girl born that day at the hospital - mirroring my own birth where I was the only boy born among girls.



Five Factors

Once again, in lieu of any real content, I post another silly blog test with flattering results.

Your Values Profile


You value loyalty highly.
You're completely devoted to your friends and family.
Even if they totally screw up, you're still there for them.
Just make sure they're equally loyal to you!


You value honesty highly.
You're unflinchingly honest, even when it's not easy.
For you, integrity is very important - in yourself and others.
People may not always like what you say, but they know they can trust it.


You value generosity a fair amount.
You are all about giving, as long as there's some give and take.
Supportive and kind, you don't mind helping out a friend in need.
But you know when you've given too much. You have no problem saying "no"!


You value humility highly.
You have the self-confidence to be happy with who you are.
And you don't need to seek praise to make yourself feel better.
You're very modest, and you're keep the drama factor low.


You value tolerance highly.
Not only do you enjoy the company of those very different from you...
You do all that you can to seek it out interesting and unique friends.
You think there are many truths in life, and you're open to many of them.
The Five Factor Values Test




While chicken menses may be on the ovo-lactic vegetarian's menu, duck embryos are not.

In the Philippines, Viet Nam and China, duck embryos are considered a delicacy (and aphrodisiac).

In the Philippines, they are considered perfect when they are 17 days, before the beak and bones start to form.

While I have eaten many parts of animals (heart, stomach, liver, tongue, etc) and many different kinds of animals (guinea pig, horse, crocodile, llama, etc) and prepared in many different ways (raw, marinated with lemon juice, BBQ'd, boiled, etc), and desire to try still more kinds (raw camel liver, dog, cat, snake), I am not sure I could bring myself to eat a balut.

There is some irrational squeamishness buried deep inside me that makes me balk at the thought. Actually, it is the same sqeamishness that makes me balk at eating bugs as well (not withstanding I eat shrimp and crabs and other shellfish - which are just like big insects in the sea. Incidentally, people who are allergic to shellfish, should avoid eating insects).

Images taken from here and here.



Chicken Menses

A friend of mine is an ovo-lactic vegetarian. This means that in addition to the plant matter he consumes, he also consumes dairy products and eggs.

Dairy products I can accept, but eggs? … hmm, I wasn’t so sure - it sounds a bit like those vegetarians who say they eat chicken and fish.

After all, the egg is an animal product.

His answer was simple and satisfying, "Eggs are chicken menses. The hen will produce an egg whether she is fertilized or not. Unfertilized eggs are the discarded products of ovulation akin to menses in mammals."

Image grabbed from here.



Why redemption?

I am always thinking about things. One that has been on my mind the past 2-1/2 to 3 years is "Why redemption?"

Sin, in the classical Jewish sense is a debt that needs to be paid. As the Bible says, "The wages of sin are death."

Paying the debt is one way of clearing it. However, it is not the only way. Someone can redeem the debt for you, i.e. they pay off your debt.

Classical Christian theology would argue that humanity is incapable of paying off its debt and overcoming death. So, a Redeemer is born, one who not only redeems humanity's debt by dying in humanity's place but also has the strength and power necessary to overcome death.

There are some wonderful apocryphal tales of Jesus' descent into Hell and how the gates could not resist against him, how He took Adam by the hand and led him and all holy people to the archangel Michael who ushered them into the glorious paradise. Humanity, which had been condemned by the tree of transgression, was redeemed by the tree of the cross. (look for it in the Gospel of Nicodemus – some variants are quite different).

However besides payment and redemption, there is a third option.

As Christians, we speak of God's love for all humanity, of His mercy, of His forgiveness.

Even the 'Our Father' taught to us by Jesus says "... forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us ..." (pick your favourite translation, it may say trespasses or debts instead of sins, but the meaning is the same).

This God of love, of mercy, or peace, of forgiveness chose not to forgive us, and demanded payment in full for our transgressions.

So why redemption and not forgiveness?



The empty tomb

Image grabbed from here.



A people in darkness waits

Why is it, O Israel, why is it that you are in the land of your enemies, that you are growing old in a foreign country, that you are defiled with the dead, that you are counted among those in Hades? - Baruch 3:10-11

O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, the soul in anguish and the wearied spirit cry out to you. Hear, O Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned before you. For you are enthroned forever, and we are perishing forever. O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the people of Israel, the children of those who sinned before you, who did not heed the voice of the Lord their God, so that calamities have clung to us. Do not remember the iniquities of our ancestors, but in this crisis remember your power and your name. For you are the Lord our God, and it is you, O Lord, whom we will praise. For you have put the fear of you in our hearts so that we would call upon your name; and we will praise you in our exile, for we have put away from our hearts all the iniquity of our ancestors who sinned against you. See, we are today in our exile where you have scattered us, to be reproached and cursed and punished for all the iniquities of our ancestors, who forsook the Lord our God. - Baruch 3:1-8

The image is from here.



It is done

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day,
but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.

In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.

To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.

All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me,
they shake their heads;

"Commit your cause to the Lord;
let him deliver —
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!"

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.

My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.

They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!

Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!

Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob,
glorify him; stand in awe of him,
all you offspring of Israel!

For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.

May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.

Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.

The image is Salvador Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross




Great Eggspectactions

Last night I went out and bought 5 dozen eggs.

I will bring them to Montreal with me tonight and then tomorrow and Saturday, the kids and I can color them. Actually, we will probably only colour a dozen or so, but who knows, the kids might want to do more.

Of course, we will drive Sofia crazy with the mess. I also bought a ham for breakfast Sunday morning. Eggs and ham are strongly ingrained in me as the proper way to start Easter morning (ok, after church). Of course, fresh baked buns are essential as well – although I don’t think I will be making any (principally because the oven still doesn’t work, and secondly, because it is a lot of work – yes, I have kneaded my fair share of dough in my life).

My mother colours eggs using onion skins. Yeah, those thin brown papery wrappings will actually colour the eggs a nice reddish brown. You need a lot of them, put them in a pot, add eggs, add water, add caraway seed (if you like) and boil for a while (I am sure it was in the 2 hour range).

The eggs would then be decorated by scraping them with the point of a knife. This scratched away the reddish-brown colouring, revealing the white underneath. So you would have these gorgeous reddish-brown eggs laced with delicate white images.

This page explains one way of doing it.

Image take from the same page.



Phase 2

A big thanks to all those who have been praying for my mom or otherwise thinking positive thoughts.

She has competed her 6 day marathon chemo treatment. Her bone marrow is now completely destroyed.

She has been doing very well (no sickness or side effects) and is in good spirits.

Today at 13:00 EST she begins the second phase which is the reintroduction of stem cells harvested from her blood a few weeks ago. These stem cells will form her new marrow. She will also likely need hemoglobin transfusion on Thursday, as her hemoglobin levels are very low now.

Apparently, this is the more dangerous part of the treatment. She will also be given drugs to help stimulate the growth of the marrow.

If everything goes well, perhaps another 4 weeks, she will have a virgin immune system – no memory of vaccinations or colds she has ever had will be part of it. About a year later, after her body has had time to heal and the immune system restore itself, she will need to be vaccinated all over again.



On being tagged and blogging about something else …

Cool! I got tagged. First time in more than a year of blogging (ok, ok, just barely more than a year) – thanks! Now I know someone really cares :-)

Unfortunately, I’ve already done this one, you can take a peak at it here.

Prince Romp also commented that in Singapore acquiring English proficiency is hard because it is a multiracial, multilingual country so people’s language skills are divided.

Hmmm … all I can say is that of the Singaporean blogs I have visited, I have always been impressed by the high quality of the English prose I find (I cannot comment on those who write in Chinese because it looks Greek to me).

However, I also notice idiopathic constructs and usage that sometimes make my head spin. Definitely there is slang I don’t get. Language purists would insist that this sort of Pidgin English is improper and incorrect. I would disagree (I would, wouldn’t I?). It is a distinct dialect and I am happy to be able to share in it – not that I use it (ha ha, I just comment in my incongruous English like some stiff shirt).

If you want to conform your English to a certain style, then you need to read more of it, listen to more of it and of course practice it (any of the English language broadcasts out of Europe – BBC, Radio Netherlands, Radio France, etc - have that pleasant English accent). Although, I instinctively rebel against conformity of any sort.

I remember going to a show once with Sofia, when she was still acquiring English. After the show she was saying, while clapping, "Claps, claps" – which I thought was really cute, but I corrected her and now she no longer says it. sigh.

For a while, I had this weird notion that Singaporeans speak English with a British accent (an irrational assumption based on the quality of the English prose that comes out of there). Blinky Mummy has cured me of that.

Personally, I love diversity. I think Montreal and Ottawa are fantastic multicultural cities. When I moved to Toronto back in 1986, I found it too white and too English for my tastes.

Toronto is now the most ethnically diverse city in the world, but … the various communities are clearly segregated and do not intermix – unlike Montreal and Ottawa, where the communities are more intermingled.

I think this world would be a boring place if we were all the same (unless that sameness was me ;-)

then it would be extremely boring :-(

Image nabbed from here.



"... kneeling down, [he] burst into deep sobs."

"Captain Nemo was terrible to hear; he was still more terrible to see. His face was deadly pale, with a spasm at his heart. For an instant it must have ceased to beat. His pupils were fearfully contracted. He did not speak, he roared ...

The speed of the Nautilus was accelerated. It was preparing to rush. The whole ship trembled. Suddenly I screamed. I felt the shock, but comparatively light. I felt the penetrating power of the steel spur. I heard rattlings and scrapings. But the Nautilus, carried along by its propelling power, passed through the mass of the vessel like a needle through sailcloth!

I could stand it no longer. Mad, out of my mind, I rushed from my room into the saloon. Captain Nemo was there, mute, gloomy, implacable; he was looking through the port panel. ...

I turned to Captain Nemo. That terrible avenger, a perfect archangel of hatred, was still looking. When all was over, he turned to his room, opened the door, and entered. I followed him with my eyes. On the end wall beneath his heroes, I saw the portrait of a woman, still young, and two little children. Captain Nemo looked at them for some moments, stretched his arms towards them, and, kneeling down, burst into deep sobs."

Jule Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea


Poison in the wellspring

Today my emotional state is definitely on the down side, bringing with it shades of despondency.

I'm not sure if this is a side effect of the cold (both my kids have the same and are really emotional) or if it is the angst of dissatisfaction rearing its malevolent head or if it a side effect of the potato chips I ate last night (we watched "Get Smart Again").

Other thoughts today include: why is it so hard to find a decent pencil sharpener? They don't sharpen at the right angle, they always break the lead. sigh. I used to have a fantastic Staedler Mars brass pencil sharpener about 20 years ago. It worked like a charm. But I lost it. Since then, I have never been able to find another decent pencil sharpener (not even another Staedler Mars).



"Call people you love - and tell them you love them.

Love is not motivation. Love is inspiration. To be your best, you must go beyond motivation - to inspiration."

- Jeffrey Gittomer's Little Red Book of Sales Answers

I picked up this book today while browsing the computer books at Chapter's. It was sitting on a chair. Random luck or fate?

Anyway, I need to work on my marketing skills - I have none. My problem is that I say something once and expect people to respond thoughtfully and rationally.

The book seems to be chock full of little gems like the one above. It is light on prose and focuses on being direct and succinct.




Today Forbidden Planet turns 1 year old.

I have considered a web presence since 1996, but eventually it was Ingrid and her Ice Cream that inspired me to start.

Initially I expected the content to consist of pontifications and technical entries (princiapally focussed on programming and my sceptical views on conventional knowledge in various fields of science).

In the end, it has turned into a more reflective blog. This has actually turned out better for me, since it reminds me of younger days, coffee shops, long walks and deep talks.

I have kept my original rule which was to only post one entry per day (actually less than that sometimes).

One interesting thing I learned was that "being found" is quite hard. People did not come tripping over my blog in the early days – even now they don't. It still requires a fair amount of browsing other people's blogs and leaving comments to generate visits.

I am very gratified with those who regularly visit my blog and leave thoughtful and meaningful comments.

Thank you to all for being there and making my first year's experience a wonderful one!

Image taken from here.



Prayers, not sympathy

Today my mother begins a six day chemo marathon designed to destroy her bone marrow.

In January of 2005 she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (cancer arising from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell). It was later narrowed to an aggressive form of large diffuse B-cell lymphoma.

She began chemo on 06-April-2005, finishing 8 sessions on 31-Aug-2005.

Despite going bald, there was no question that she looked much better for the treatment. Prior her lymph nodes were extremely swollen.

Unfortunately, a check up in January-2006 revealed that the cancer had not been arrested and a new round was begun 21-January-2006 (the weekend of her birthday).

This latest round, is her final chance. It consists of 3 chemo treatments. The first two comprised two 2 full day sessions spaced about 4 weeks apart. About 4 weeks after the last session she went in for two days and they harvested stem cells from her blood.

Today, she begins a six day session to destroy her bone marrow (the production source of blood cells). There are serious risks. The chemo alone can kill her – heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure. Her white blood cell count will be 0 (nothing to fight infection with – actually this has been true for all her chemo treatments, they severely compromise her immune system). She will be susceptible to hemorrhaging because of a lack of platelets. The reintroduction of the stem cells has many risks, even though it is an autologous transfusion, fever is a common side effect.

After all this, being brought to death and back, there is still no guarantee of cure – but if the stem cells take hold and they have been properly cleaned, she should be free of the cancer. The 3 year survival rate for diffuse large B cell lymphoma is about 30% - that means 30% survive 3 or more years.

I am confident. My mother has done very well. Other people I have known with cancer have been dead within months of diagnosis. On the other hand, my mother always lived a clean and healthy life, so that is one big plus for her.

I am not asking for sympathy, but I am asking for prayers (or positive energy thoughts if you are not religious). (Last year, I also ran around asking people for prayers when my mother almost died during her biopsy because of undiagnosed water in her lungs – my mother had complained about gurgling and difficulty breathing and a pain in her lung, but the ENT, who was in charge of the biopsy, gave no concern to anything below her neck. That was Good Friday, 2005).

Some people give up
after they have done so much;
Some people give up
even before they really start.

So should I also give up
like some people do?
Should my heart be 'dead'
when my heart feels hurting too?

No, my heart will go on
to sing that beautiful song;
A song of love and faithfulness
that lasts so long

- Bee



"Oh my God! That is a serious infection!"

Thus spoke the doctor as he looked into my right ear.

I came down with a cold last Friday – nothing out of the ordinary, a raw throat, some congestion, a phlegmy cough, but no fever. It lasted this way through the weekend and then Monday. Tuesday morning I woke up with my left eye sealed shut because of dried mucous (a programmer here, who used to be a doctor in Serbia, told me it was likely my drainage tubes were blocked, so it came out my eye – ick).

Anyway, yesterday, the congestion in my nose started to clear. "Hey! That's good!" I thought. Then I had a sharp pain in my left ear around 14:00, which passed and was replaced with a dull pressure. Around 16:00 I started experiencing pressure in my right ear. By 18:00, I had lost all ability to hear high frequencies. At 20:00 the doctor was peering in my ear and getting agitated.

Well, I'm on Amoxicillin. The normal dose is 1 capsule 3 times daily. I was instructed to take two capsules immediately, followed by two more at midnight, followed by two more this morning and two more this evening. After which I can go to the normal 1 capsule 3 times a day routine.

I was also prescribed some 650mg Ibuprofen tablets for the pain – which I really didn't have that much of. Discomfort? Sure. Pain? Not really.

About three hours after I took the first does of Amoxicillin I started feeling better – I could feel the pressure easing in my ears.

Hmmm … in an earlier blog about the new year, I said I had a good feeling about it. Following the pain in my chest and this infection, I’m not so sure anymore (I would mention the Strep Throat, but that was so last year). One thing I know about predictions is that I am usually dead wrong (figuratively, to date, no one has died because of decisions I have made ;-) A good example is investing, in 1997, I invested money in energy mutual funds – the next day the price started falling and continued to fall for many years. Fortunately, I am patient (or maybe that is just a euphemistic way of saying procrastinator) and did not move to do anything with them until fairly recently and so, my investments eventually grew (which impressed my financial advisor, since my investments over the past 5 years outperformed anything he was offering).

Image grabbed from here. If you have ever wondered what a doctor sees looking in your ear, this is a pretty good site to visit.



3-4-1 Revelations

Your Quirk Factor: 65%

You're so quirky, it's hard for you to tell the difference between quirky and normal.
No doubt about it, there's little about you that's "normal" or "average."
How Quirky Are You?

Your Blogging Type is Confident and Insightful

You've got a ton of brain power, and you leverage it into brilliant blog.
Both creative and logical, you come up with amazing ideas and insights.
A total perfectionist, you find yourself revising and rewriting posts a lot of the time.
You blog for yourself - and you don't care how popular (or unpopular) your blog is!
What's Your Blogging Personality?

You Have a Phlegmatic Temperament

Mild mannered and laid back, you take life at a slow pace.
You are very consistent - both in emotions and actions.
You tend to absorb set backs easily. You are cool and collected.

It is difficult to offend you. You can remain composed and unemotional.
You are a great friend and lover. You don't demand much of others.
While you are quiet, you have a subtle wit that your friends know well.

At your worst, you are lazy and unwilling to work at anything.
You often get stuck in a rut, without aspirations or dreams.
You can get too dependent on others, setting yourself up for abandonment.
What Temperment Are You?



Final descent

I suppose that could be a tag to talking about Sofia’s arrival from Brazil yesterday … but it is not.

I have mentioned and hinted that I went through a rather protracted period of feeling unhappy. I call it my despondency period.

The initial stages centred around my unhappiness in my work (not that my job is bad – it is excellent, but I really have little stimulation or fulfillment from what I do – and I am addicted to the pay and benefits). This resulted in about 2 – 2-1/2 years of me being in flight mode and simply looking for ways to escape (change jobs, new career, go independent). I read tons of books on self-esteem, career change, motivation, starting your own business, etc.

Then I got a 6 month unpaid leave of absence – which was excellent (even if I didn’t accomplish much, at least I was able to refocus a bit). A few weeks into this sabbatical, around this time a year ago, something changed in how I perceived myself and the world.

All my life, I have been confident of myself. If anyone asked me who I am, I would simply reply, "I am me".

I viewed myself, my manner of thought, speech, dress, desires, behavior … whatever … as normal. So I was the rule I applied to the rest of the world to determine if things were normal or not. Obviously, I noted that I was the only normal person in a sea of insanity. I always believed that I would eventually find that oasis of sanity, populated with normal people, just like me.

A year ago, I realized that it is I whom am different. Everyone else is perfectly normal, it is my responses that are atypical. Do people have free will or is it an illusion? We can examine the question as, “If people have free will, would pop culture be possible?” So, if everyone (the majority) acts in a particular way, is it because they have freely acted, or because they had no choice? Look at the behavior of crowds, it behaves as a single organism, people are plugged into it – but I am not. I have never been swept up in the emotion of a crowd – I am always detached.

So, I act the way I do not because I am making an alternative choice, but because I am incapable of making the same choice everyone else is making.

That was hard because it undermined my personal beliefs and convictions about free will. I have always been a hardcore non-determinist – "We are condemned to be free!” as Jean Paul Sartre might be summarized.

Having this fundamental truth kicked out from under me was hard and I spent a lot of time just listening to Grace Slick belting out Somebody to Love – especially the opening lines:

When the truth is found to be lies
and all the joy within you dies

I have not yet fully recovered from that yet. My position on free will is indeterminate at the moment (although, it is leaning towards non-determinism).

Between the two extremes of non-determinists and determinists, there is a third group called compatibilists who argue: "While true that people do not have free will, it is the illusion of free will that is important. As long as you are happy with the decision then it can be argued that free will has been exercised." I don’t buy that.

Either free will exists or it doesn’t.

Site note: A benefit of there being no free will, is that things like astrology, entrail reading and other forms of augury would actually work, since it would a simple transformational mapping from teas leaves to your life (just trust me on this one).

Probably the most famous compatibilist would be St. Thomas Aquinas, who in defending free will in the face of an omniscient God who already knows the future (hence our actions), wrote that God’s knowing did not cause us to act, just as your knowing a thief was going to break into your house did not actually cause the thief to actually commit the crime. I have rejected this argument pretty much all my life and had always maintained that God could not know my actions if I was truly free willed (hence, God’s knowledge of the future is imperfect.)

With free will out of the way, I had no need for God – so that knocked out another core pillar in my life.

And, if there is no God, afterlife is out of the question – knock out another pillar.

If there is no afterlife, then morality and social conscience are really moot points aren’t they? Especially if you consider that you had not choice in the first place because you have no free will.

So, with a fairly simple doubt, I managed to knock down quite a lot of my foundation.

What I was left with, if determinism is true and free will is false, is that life is nothing more than extremely complicated dance of entropy.

Entropy is the tendency of a system to move from an ordered state to a disordered state (or moving from a useful state of energy to an inert or non-useful state of energy). In a deterministic universe, the sole function of the universe is to move from an ordered state (atoms, molecules, planets and suns) to a disordered state (everything run down and dead, no light, no warmth, no life).

The sun does its bit by converting hydrogen into helium and releasing energy which is captured by the earth and fixed by plants and bacteria. Humans mine, build, tear down, procreate, make war – but all for no purpose, since their only function is contribute to the overall entropy of the universe.

A depressing and desolate vision – I think it would make a nice bleak sci-fi story.

Ever since I was a little kid, my parents warned me, "Don't think thoughts like that / ask those kinds of questions or you will go crazy."

That time I almost did.



"Satan himself is silent when an angry woman rages."

From "The Sleeping Tsarevna and the Seven Giants" (a Russian variant of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves")


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