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I’ve always felt that your friends and families made the worst audience for your art but had a hard time explaining why. I think it’s partly because every context brings out different aspects of a person. In some ways, it can be said that art is a way to express aspects of yourself that are suppressed in your everyday life. If what you express in your art is naturally and continually expressed in your everyday life, there wouldn’t be much need for doing so using art forms. When you do express these different aspects of yourself, your friends have a hard time recontexualizing who you are. Read »

I’m back in Japan, first time in 16 years—although I’m not sure if “back” is a right word to use. Being back in the culture that I left many decades ago, both physically and psychologically, is a strange experience. We all like to believe that at the core, who we are is unchanging, but the stories we write about ourselves (also known as egos) are inextricably tied to the cultures we belong to. Read »

I jumped on the bandwagon and started meditating about six months ago. I was expecting that I would be a happier person but that’s not what happened. Even if I am indeed a happier person now, the effect is too subtle. The only noticeable effect of meditation for me is that now I value human beings more than inanimate objects or animals. I understand that this is how you are supposed to feel if you are a normal human being, but I wasn’t—probably still not. If a MacBook, a dog, or a human being (assuming I don’t know them personally) were to call for my help simultaneously, I would have had a hard time choosing one. Not anymore. Read »

I watched the cult classic, Coming Apart (1969), last night (DVD from Netflix). The experimental format was promising but I don't think the director, Milton Moses Ginsberg, pulled it off in the end. There was no psychological depth to the process of "coming apart". Wikipedia says it's a "schizophrenic breakdown," but I don't see how schizophrenia manifests in any of the characters. Read »

“Refactoring” in computer science means to reorganize the code without changing what it does. Programmers could spend many months refactoring their code, and at the end of their hard work, the users would not notice any difference. Why do they do such a thing? There are many reasons, but the main ones are: to create more room for growth and to adapt to changes in the environment that they did not account for. Read »

I sat in the back of the yellow school bus with a bunch of fifth graders in front of me, including my daughter. We were headed to the skating rink uptown. My daughter told me that if I didn't go, she would be the only kid without a parent. As it turned out, I was one of the few parents who were suckered into coming. Read »

Why do we procrastinate? I believe understanding this can help us make the coming year a bit more productive. Here is my theory. Read »

Now that I’m 48, Roosevelt’s famous phrase, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” takes on a personal meaning. In some aspects of our lives, we are "over the hill" at this point, and are making a gradual descent. Having reached the top, we can see the other side of the hill for the first time. The fear of death becomes real. When we are still climbing the hill, it can feel as though there is no end because we are continually staring at the sky. Read »

Our current culture praises charities, social services, donations, and philanthropies, but let’s not forget that they are the symptoms of our societal dysfunctions and maladies, not the solutions. It’s like Red Cross in the times of war; they can’t stop the war. And, in many ways, they perpetuate the dysfunctions because the biggest contributors to these temporary fixes are also the greatest oppressors of our societies who create the dysfunctions. Let me explain what I mean by that. Read »

The way people think about aesthetics in business have fundamentally and irreversibly shifted in the last decade or so. The shift started with the advent of online advertising. For the first time in history, advertisers can quantify the return on their investment, and get detailed data back to examine what worked and what didn't. It was a paradigm shift in the so-called "creative" business. Read »

Every new generation is accused of being spoiled, but according to this article on Psychology Today, it is now a statistical fact that our current college students have no resilience, and it is becoming a serious problem. Read »

The trailer for this short film sets up an expectation that we will see a lot of drama in the typical style of reality TV, but what we actually get is an NPR-style story. It has both flaws and substance; the flaws are in the execution, and the substance is in the content. It feels like a beginning of something that can become great. Read »

I have this theory that fine arts is a culture that you cannot learn after a certain age. Once you are over twenty, I think you’ve missed your chance. It’s like trying to learn English after a certain age (say, 12); some do succeed in being able to speak flawlessly, but they still wouldn’t get the culture. There is no way to objectively prove if someone “gets it” or not, but you can sense it in the same way gay people can sense other gay people with their “gaydar”. When you are young, especially when you are in college away from your parents for the first time, you suck everything in your environment like a sponge just by being exposed to it. Trying to learn a culture after you are twenty is sort of like trying to marinate your vegetables after you have already marinated them in something else; you are not going to absorb much. Read »

Touring a middle school for my daughter inspired me to think about how I would design a school. Given that I'm an introvert, and was thoroughly bored all the way to high school, I would design one specifically for introverted students. Before describing my vision, let me explain the motivation behind my design. Read »

Some people go through their lives not realizing the fact that there is something unusual about how their brains work. They simply assume that everyone else has the same ease or difficulty in processing certain types of information. Only in their adult lives, they begin to suspect that something is amiss. This has been happening to me too. Read »

Body weight is a topic filled with land mines. I've been observing how my 10-year old daughter navigate this topic for herself and others. It's a tough one. Most adults have a hard time. We are bombarded with mixed messages, trapped in a double-bind; damned if we do, damned if we don't. We hear about the grave consequences of the obesity epidemic, but at the same time we are told to love our own bodies no matter what shape and size. As a parent, I want my daughter to live an active, healthy life, but at the same time, I would not want to cause her to have neurotic body image issues either. So, what's the right thing to do as a parent? Read »

When I worked on Wall Street (for an investment bank), the working hours were normal because I was in the front office. The traders went home shortly after the market closed. However, the back office people were expected to work long hours. The "80-Hour Week" culture is common for jobs where their managers lack the ability to evaluate performance based on merits. The traders I worked with on Wall Street had clear metrics of performance. As long as the metrics looked good, they didn't need to prove anything else. Read »

When people talk about "digital divide", they are usually referring to the lack of access to technology, especially to the Internet, for the underprivileged. Although this problem still exists in the US, it is continually improving, and has become a lesser concern. The new digital divide in the US has to do with how we use information technologies. Even between two people who have access to the same technologies, a significant difference can be found in what they are able to do with them. To bridge this gap, we need to figure out what creates this gap. Read »

Many startups have this strategy: “Let’s get as many users as possible, and worry about monetizing later.” And, some startups have the opposite problem where their monetization strategy is sound but cannot build enough user traction. I use an analogy of building a campfire to describe these problems. Square, for instance, was able to build user traction very quickly because their card reader was revolutionary. They struck the fire-starter rod once, and the tinder (shaved pieces of wood or pieces of paper) caught on fire immediately. It started spreading quickly to the kindling (small pieces of wood, twigs, or branches), but they had no fuel wood (large blocks of wood). It looks like they didn’t even think about where to get the fuel wood from when they launched the company. Other financial firms like Chase and Citibank have introduced their own mobile card readers. They have plenty of fuel wood as traditional banks. Now Square’s kindling is burning out, and their flames are getting smaller. If they don’t find the fuel wood soon, their campfire will go out completely. Read »

In the old days, if you tried to sell baskets that you weaved, the main criteria by which your potential customers made their purchasing decisions was how useful they were and how nice they looked. Today, the main criteria is how cheaply they can buy the same thing elsewhere. I would call this “arbitrage economy” because it’s about gaining from market discrepancies/inaccuracies. Read »

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