Archive for the ‘Quip’ Category

The Cons of Introspection

Monday, December 11th, 2006

I used to complain quite a bit about the lack of introspection in other people. More recently, another possibility has struck me – maybe it was I who was engaging in excessive introspection. Sorta like having a buggy Garbage Collector for cyclic structures.

Of Sex and Marriage – “…it seems to me that we are talking ourselves to death.”

The Pursuit of Happiness – “Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”

We’re all Big Babies – “The crucial difference is my grandfather’s lack of self-consciousness, and that self-consciousness is a hallmark of the perpetual, infantilised adolescents we have all become, monsters of introspection hovering twitchily on the edge of self-obsession, occasionally aware that the life that exists only to be examined is barely manageable; barely, indeed, a life.”


Monday, December 4th, 2006

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

– Wilheim Stekel

Pick your battles. Of the injustices I witness, I do not always speak out. I believe in the conscientious pursuit of goals with actions and words, not redundant exercises in vanity.

The naive believe themselves omnipotent, while the dying believe themselves impotent – they are the only ones exempt from thought in action.

If all stories were written like science fiction stories

Friday, October 27th, 2006


This is a very interesting piece. It is a description of a typical plane flight, but with an emphasis on the technologies involved, much in the way science fiction typically does. It really highlights how science fiction can just be a style of writing, and not a genre in of itself. This point has previously been argued for Asimov’s Bailey and Olivaw Robot series, which are detective novels written in the science fiction style.

A second language ‘changes personality’

Sunday, October 15th, 2006


I have long felt this to be true. Definitely is for me, I am a completely different person speaking English than in Mandarin. In fact, even the two dialects I use in English have different personalities associated with them.


Thursday, September 14th, 2006

The rain splattered in vain on the glass, insignificant and ignored – my eyes following well-crafted sentences, my mind filled with images of Trantor and thoughts of interstellar politics.

Lost in another world while hurtling home on the bus in rainy weather… it makes me feel really smug.

On ist’s

Saturday, July 8th, 2006
I am proud of belonging to the oldest surviving line of philosophers, mystics and poets. Does that make me a casteist?
Yes, because you’re evincing pride in achievements you haven’t made, by people you had no way of influencing. You’ve done nothing to deserve the pride you feel. It’s this innate and undeserved feeling of superiority that makes you a casteist.
By those standards, what can one be proud of?

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Just started watching The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi thanks to a recommendation from Hui. This anime is having the same effect on me as FireFly. It’s making me feel really really happy watching it. Such an odd thing.

There are TV shows that put normal people in extraordinary situations, where the viewer relates to the protagonist by thinking “Yeah I may feel and appear mediocre, but I’ll bet I could kick ass if the time came.”

The special thing about Haruhi is that she is an extraordinary person in a normal setting. She truly believes she is extraordinary, and wears it on her sleeve from day one, never condescending to any standard of normality. I find that inspiring.

Of course, Haruhi is aided by the fact that her extraordinarity just happens to be the truth. There are no if’s and but’s to her position in the center of her world. The story isn’t meta-religious dogma requiring the protagonist to go through various trials and tribulations to earn some overvalued prize. Her greatest/only enemy is boredom plain and simple, and since the only enemy of an anime series is also boredom, this is a perfect alignment.

Organic Photovoltaics

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006
  1. photon
  2. exciton
  3. polarons

  4. profit!

Leveraging Ideas

Monday, May 29th, 2006

To me there is one important difference between powerful ideas and ideas that are merely correct. Powerful ideas are transferrable. Powerful ideas are usually also correct to a certain degree, but the mindless pursuit of pedantic correctness can often be counterproductive.

Great ideas are great because of their influence on other ideas, and as such are necessarily powerful. In fact, I believe that many great ideas do not even have correct first incarnations. The fact that they are powerful allows the thinker to patch up superficial inconsistencies or realize that another important problem had in fact been solved. I believe great novelty and robustness often exists outside of details.

It is good to have a nose for powerful ideas. I have seen plenty of the opposite: correct solutions that require so much tedious, error-prone, slow, detailed work that they do not empower the reader at all. Worse still, there are those who are oblivious to this kind of failure, and who continue to pour effort into repetitive drudgerous tasks. These tasks are done only once, but are classified as repetitive in my mind because in doing them one does not learn how to do them any faster.

Of course, in completing the same task two people could learn really different lessons, what’s repetitive to one may not be repetitive to another.

NYT quotes LKY

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

NYT quotes LKY

“We’re not going to allow foreign correspondents or foreign journalists or anybody else to tell us what to do,” he said. “There are very few things that I do not know about Singapore politics, and there are very few things that you can tell me, or any foreign correspondent can tell me, about Singapore.”

I don’t believe that there is anything intrinsically wrong with arrogance. It’s just that most arrogance is a kind of ignorance.