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March 21, 2006

the Passing Time

Have you ever noticed that when you are busy working on something enjoyable, time just flies away so quickly. When you are immersed in what you love, just blink and the times passes without you realizing that it has passed. People working in the sciences or engineering may see this more often since they have to wander inside their heads while at work. On any day, they would have to do a number of mental juggling or callistenics as part of their work. And given an interesting problem to think about, the hours just pass away like nothing at all. These are enjoyable moments.
time.jpg At the other end of the spectrum: do you remember when each minute passing would seem interminable? Periods of time such as:

  • waiting for a flight at an airport
  • waiting for a doctor in that empty examining room
  • waiting for the train to arrive in the tube
  • or... from that Seinfeld episode of waiting for a table at a restaurant...

We abhor these moments and just cannot wait until they are over. In fact, they are absolutely excruitiating.

These are just example of how our perception of time is all wrong. Time isn't linear as we measure it on a stop-watch or a clock. It changes depending upon the context... our context. How we feel at each moment may even affect the sense of time passing.

Posted by Hoang at 10:45 AM | 2 Comments | Common Sense

March 14, 2006

Reawaken to Happiness

There was a night during which I was having beers and evening drinks around a dinner table with some new parents. Our conversation revolved around the topic of raising kids and providing the right facilities for their eventual happiness. People talked about bathing their babies in Evian water, sending them to the best gymnastic school, piano classes, swimming classes, and even saving for their kids to go to the best colleges. Obviously the overriding theme is how to provide the best that they can for their kids. Common to every parents, the topics are very motherly and sweet. (Let me preface by saying that I don't have kids; so anything I might say on the topic will make me look like someone talking out of his ass)

grow.jpg Throughout the night, the conversation continued on about giving children more and more positive experiences. It seemed obvious that this is the right and only way to raise and teach their children about life. That they should give their kids whatever the kids want, give them those things that the parents themselves never had as a child, and give them what society and commercials say that a parent should give their kid. Despite my being the only childless person there, a nagging question keeps popping up in my head. Real life isn't just about having only good things. How about exposing them to some negative experiences? Exposing them to the raw bad experience might be too heartbreaking, but how about in a controlled environment? In helping our children grow, is it just as beneficial to expose our children to negative experiences as well as positive ones? Reflecting back in our own adult lives, without having tasted bitter, we might just not know how sweet sweet tastes. This is a good article that explores the topic in much greater detail:
Psychology Today: The Hidden Side of Happiness

In trying so hard to shield ourselves from bad experiences, could it be that we might have the idea of happiness wrong?

Posted by Hoang at 01:50 PM | 3 Comments | Common Sense , Wonderful Links

February 22, 2006


    - There are two types of people:
    Those that talk the talk
    and those that walk the walk.
    People who walk the walk,
    they sometimes talk the talk.
    But most of the time, they don't
    talk at all, because they are busy walking.
    Now, people who talk the talk,
    when it comes time for them to walk,
    - you wanna know what they do?
    - What is that?
    They talk people like me
    into walking for them.

from the movie Hustle and Flow

I get into trouble a lot because I don't make a lot of promises. Words are important to me. Because of this, I try not to make promises that I can't keep. When it does happen, it devastates me for a long time. In a world where words and messages are so plentiful, my own are small drops in a vast torrent that is the sea. On the other hand, I now find tremendous value in those who are willing to listen.... who truly listen. It is rare to encounter someone who actively listens without judgment or comment. Out of respect for you, I quiet down my own inner turmoils, put it aside for this moment in order to listen to stories of your life.

November 09, 2005

Design meets Business

I have written, debugged, and fixed software for most of my life. My conversations with other software developers have often ended up with wondering thoughts of how certain lines of code are worth more than than gold or platinum. Then there are others where which many people have spent countless amounts of time pouring over, become worth less than the dirt that you are standing upon. It is very much the same way in the careers of people. Some end up richer than anyone can even imagine while many others toil and grind their entire lives just to squeek by with the demands of life.

In the world of technology, there is a disconnect between the value and difficulty of a product. As human beings, we tend to equate what is hard with its worth. It is hard to make so it must be worth a lot of money. This is not necessarily true. Engineers, scientists, developers always tend to choose the path that they think will lead to the money. This inevitably leads to complicated designs and ideas. They end up discussing it to death when a business opportunity comes along. It comes, it wilts, and it dies without anyone becoming the wiser. Business people has a sort-of street smarts in that they understand that an idea has to be tried out before you can jump on the bandwagon. This is a thought that was previously explored: Ideas are cheap, words are even cheaper

Like NIKE says: Just Do It. That's where the rubber meets the road. And the results of doing it may surprise you more than you think. One step to getting to reality is to do it rather than to just talk about it. It may turn out or it may not. But you are not going to know if it is still on the drawing board.

Software developers understand this as the mantra: release early, release often.

Addendum: Good ideas are like any sharp sword, it is very easy to cut yourself if you are not careful with it. This idea release early, release often -- is a double-edged one.

October 07, 2005


CSI Miami is pretty fancy when it shows off technology. There is usually a lot of flash in the show which makes it engaging for us commoners. It doesn't have the brilliance of the writing team for the original CSI; however, sometimes you do have to let your brain take a shit.

Recently I saw an episode where the investigator backtraces a webcam transmitting video wirelessly towards a receiving computer many states away. The CSI traces it to an IP address located in Georgia. Then the IP address rolls around on the screen like a fancy slot machine and comes up:


Aha... so the perpetrator is caught by the special technology. But there is something wrong here, can you guess? Message to hollywood: if you're going to wow us, try to do it right.

blurb on the flub: IP addresses are made up of a set of 4 hexadecimal numbers. Each hexadecimal number is in the range of 0-0xff (this translates to 0-255 decimal). The first number on that made-up IP address is entirely wrong.

Posted by Hoang at 08:25 AM | 1 Comments | TrackBack | Common Sense , Technology

September 16, 2005

A Social Commentary: Beautiful Wreck

how can a wreck be beautiful? As a society, we love to romanticize. Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a whole of list of movie stars make a wonderful living by cranking out gushy and drippingly sweet romantic movies. We romanticize love by believing that it can last forever. Does it ever?


When we come to realize that it doesn’t, we romanticize breakups. Do you recall Charlotte’s marriage in Sex in the City ? The media shows how adult the two people involved can take it. Two sides meet face-to-face across a table with their respective lawyers and both sign a piece of paper. C’est tout…. it’s done!!!
Is it ever that clean and frank? Where are the dishes flung across the room? Where are the hurtful words that flow across the lovers’ lips like so much spit into the ocean? And where is the lingering pain of a dream shattered?

We romanticize war by showing how bravely the men fight and how pure their idealism is. Most of the truth lies in the gutter where men are screaming at their body parts having been blown to bits. They are screaming in pain worse than the babies that are recently birthed. It is downright ugly. Life is ugly, full of pain and warts.

However in our society, ugliness is just not politically correct. Rarely is it seen. We hide away our elderly population because we are afraid of all the messiness and clumsiness that old age brings. We take to plastic surgery with such gusto to get rid of the imperfections that make us human. And we never mature or grow up to the acceptance of life.

Posted by Hoang at 01:37 PM | 1 Comments | TrackBack | Common Sense
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