The hundredth post and a legacy to remember...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Sunday, August 29, 2010 8:32 AM 6 comments
Can’t believe it’s happening...

My hundredth post!

This Blog’s 100th post!

Let me cut the cake first.

I had thought that my 100th post would be an epic post.

A post that everyone would remember. But looks like it ain’t going to be anything of that sort.

I had told myself that I would call myself a newbie on the Blogosphere until I write at least a hundred posts.

So, here's something to commemorate my 100th post.....

One of the biggest problems with the world is that we're bound by so many legacy systems.

For example, it's hard to deal with global warming because there are so many entrenched interests.

It's problematic to get power from where it can best be generated to where people live.

The tax system is a mess. Banking is a hodgepodge of regulations and products glued together. I could go on. The point is that anything that has been around for awhile is a complicated and inconvenient mess compared to what it's ideal form could be.

My idea for today is that established nations could launch startup countries within their own borders, free of all the legacy restrictions in the parent country.

The startup country, let's say the size of modern day Bahrain, would be designed from the ground up for efficiency. Buildings and cars would be so energy efficient that the startup country could generate all the power it needed from sun and wind.

The extra power created during the day would be stored as heat in molten salt, or maybe by pumping water up to a artificial lake. (Both energy storage methods are already being used in places.)

The entire banking system would be automated. There would be no cash in the start-up country. You wouldn't need to "apply" for a loan because the virtual bank would always have a current notion of your credit-worthiness.

If you need a mortgage, just type in the address of the home you want to buy and your pin code. The bank automatically checks your income and expenses from your bank account records, along with your employment status and credit background. You have your loan in less than one second. And you don't need to sign anything.

The tax code in the startup country would be simplified to the point where residents might forget it exists. I won't argue the flat tax versus sales/use tax here, but the point is it could all be collected automatically by the virtual bank.

There would be no such thing as an accountant or tax auditor in this new country. (I would argue that the government could be the only insurance company, for every sort of risk, from health to fire to auto, with its profits substituting for taxes. That's another discussion.)

The Fire Department would be tiny. You can design modern homes to be virtually fireproof. And let's say cigarettes are banned, because we can, to further reduce the fire risk.

I imagine a world with cameras in every room, and on every street corner, recording all the time, but encrypted so that literally no one could view the video without a court order. You wouldn't need much of a police force in that scenario because every crime would be on video, along with the entire escape route, all the way to the criminal's bedroom.

Maybe that's too Big Brother for you, but if you reflect on how much privacy you've already given up to technology, it's not that much of a stretch.

Most of what is scary about the government having power is the lack of transparency. The startup nation would have full transparency. Any citizen could log on to his computer and see what court orders had been issued for what videos and why.

Campaign contributions would be eliminated because all campaigns would happen on the Internet so that running for office would cost next to nothing. Once elected, any citizen would have access to the elected politician's full banking records, including investments.

I could go on, imagining every element of the startup country as an optimal design, from its local government to the layout of its streets, to the livable nature of its homes. The point is that the startup country could be awesome. And only the most employable folks would be allowed in at the start, so the economy would be blazing, mostly from IT jobs and light industry.

Arguably, China accidentally performed a variant of this experiment with Hong Kong. Oversimplifying the history, Hong Kong was part of China and leased to the United Kingdom for 99 years, like a startup country within a country. When the lease expired, China presumably made a fortune by getting it back in a far more robust form than it could have generated within the Chinese system.

A startup country designed today could, in fifty years time, become a tax-generating windfall for the parent country. And it would also test a lot of concepts for building, banking, economy, energy, and lifestyle.

Would love to work on this project... Any takers???

Now let's all toast to my 100th post!

Not bad for a little over eight months, don’t you think?

Perhaps I should have waited for the 108th post, a Hindu mystic number?

Or the 888th, a propitious Chinese number?

Or the 69th, Hugh Hefner’s sacred number?

It's Ok, me think....

Let’s get on with it…

Three ways to interact....

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, August 26, 2010 8:52 AM 2 comments
My theory is that a typical human understands only three ways to interact with another person.

Pushover: I'll do whatever you want.

Negotiator: I'll do this if you do that.

Bully: Do what I want or there will be consequences

People change modes depending on circumstances. A parent, for example, can't afford to be a Pushover, or a Negotiator, with a small child.

The parental role is a Bully role by definition. It's the only way it can work. "Do what I say or I will take away a toy."

One person might be a Bully in one context, and a Pushover in another. If you're locked into one mode all the time, you're probably experiencing some friction.

A person in the military might take the Pushover role with a superior, the Bully role with subordinates, and the Negotiator role with peers. I'm making no judgment on the ethical or functional value of any of the roles.

They all have a legitimate place.

The Bully role takes some explaining. Almost any human interaction has an implied penalty if it makes another person unhappy. Sometimes the penalty is emotional, in the form of withdrawn affection, less attention, or fewer future favors.

Other times it can be more explicit, as in "Do this or you're fired." Don't get hung up on the word "bully." It simply refers to someone who promotes a "do this or else there will be a penalty" environment.

Bullying isn't necessarily bad. Sometimes the only way to stop another person from doing something harmful is by threatening consequences.

Bullying is society's boundaries and its glue. The Police have to be Bullies to do their job. In the rare cases that negotiation is called for, a special Negotiator steps in.

The value of the true Model of Personal Interaction, if any, is in understanding what modes of interaction are likely to work together. Obviously two Bullies will make bad partners.

Two Pushovers will get nothing done. A Negotiator won't do well with either a Pushover or a Bully, because neither will negotiate.

A Bully and a Pushover can do well as long as the Pushover keeps his ego in check.

Some Pushovers enjoy the role.

Two negotiators can do well together, if they don't exhaust each other, and they negotiate fairly.

While people can move easily from one mode to the other, I suspect everyone has a go-to mode when the situation is ambiguous.

You have to start somewhere.

I wonder thus, if most tension in this world comes from people who get locked into their go-to mode and don't recognize when it's time to change modes.

An assignment done quite well....

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:44 AM 5 comments
My assignment was to pick up a few items from the grocery store. You should understand in advance that I'm not the designated shopper in our family. I suffer from a condition. If you ask me, for example, to open the crisper and take out the bag of fresh peas and the sealed cabbage, I would come back with, at best, one of those items and a bag of small carrots.

So you can imagine the panic that sets in when I'm handed a shopping list. I hope and I hope and I hope that the list will contain only familiar and easy-to-locate objects. For example, cucumbers are a good choice for me. I know where to find them, and when I come home with one that is spongy and inedible, I can say, "It was the best one they had."

I scan the shopping list: six items. I feel good about five of them. The sixth is coconut milk. Oh, God. I do not ask Shaila where in the grocery store I might find coconut milk. That is announcing failure in advance. I vow to find it on my own.

As I drive toward the store, I consider the possible hiding places for coconut milk. I'm sure it's not in the dairy section. And they probably don't have an "all things coconut" section. It's not a fruit juice. It's not a soda. My only hope is that a thirsty monkey is in the store at the same time, so I can follow him.

I soon realized that I don't have any of the qualities necessary for finding coconut milk. I'm not a good shopper. I'm not experienced at cooking, which might give me a clue as to what section the coconut milk would be in. I have no knowledge of the store. I have no patience. I'm not a good guesser.

If there's a choice that is correct and a choice that will go horribly wrong, my instincts always lead me in the direction that will be comically catastrophic. It's often not good to be me.

I was willing to ask someone for help, but all of the store employees were in their secret hiding places, and the other shoppers all seemed angry. If I had a different type of personality, I might impose on the other shoppers and not care about their angry reactions.

Or I might have interrupted a checker during a transaction. But as I'm trying to tell you here, I have NONE OF THE QUALITIES NECESSARY FOR FINDING COCONUT MILK. I don't know how many more ways I can say that.

I decide to do a shelf-by-shelf search, leaving out no section of the store, no matter how unlikely. I search through the donuts and the tortillas. I rifle through the radishes. "It might be frozen" I think to myself before opening every door of every refrigerated section.

After searching most of the store, I was near exhaustion - and starvation, ironically. I reached the Asian food section. I never knew that my grocery store was a racist, but there it was. My eyes gazed upon a can on the bottom shelf with mostly Japanese or possibly Chinese characters and an English title "Coconut Milk."

Now I have a new problem. I wonder if any of those words mean anything I should know, such as "Not intended for use in any of the ways your wife would like”. There were a lot of ways this could go wrong. Worse yet, there were two brands side by side. Was one of them the "right" kind and one of them the sort of thing you only buy if your luck runs out?

I choose one brand randomly and grab four cans, semi-triumphantly. I quickly locate the other items on the list and sprint for the checkout. As a precaution, I double-check my shopping list. It said FIVE cans of coconut milk, not four.

Damn! I hurried back to where I found the first four, only to discover that in the past five minutes the store employees had scampered out of their hidey holes and rearranged the entire store without anyone noticing. It was like a bad dream.

The Asian food section was now nothing but pickles and mayonnaise. Or maybe I am bad at retracing my steps. The point is that I have NONE OF THE QUALITIES NECESSARY FOR FINDING COCONUT MILK TWICE.

Eventually I find where the Asian food section has been hidden. I pay for my items and stride triumphantly out of the store, across the parking lot, only to discover that someone has stolen my car. Or maybe I forgot where I parked. Or maybe the friggin' thing was on the bottom shelf of the ever-moving Asian food section. The point is that I couldn't find it.

In past situations like this, when I needed to distract myself so I wouldn't spontaneously transform from tomato red into something green, I used to check my phone to see if I had any interesting messages. On this day, despite having both the ringer and vibration setting on, my phone had failed to warn me of two incoming calls from Shaila. The first text message read "Also get lemon juice."

The items I had already purchased would have melted in the car, should I ever find it, because temperatures hovered around 45 degrees C. And I couldn't take my groceries back into the store because I fear being arrested for shoplifting. Once I buy something, I spend the next six months driving in wide arcs around the store whenever I'm in the area just so no one will falsely accuse me of running out the door without paying.

This is one more way in which I'm not normal. I know I had a receipt. Shut up.

Eventually I found the car. I drove home and tried to convince Shaila that the lack of lemon juice was ‘Lulu’s' fault. She didn't say anything, but judging from the way she shook her head in disgust, I think she really hates that store.

Balance of stress...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, August 21, 2010 1:27 PM 4 comments
The common view is that sometimes you have stress and sometimes you don't.

The Question is, where does the stress go when you don't have it?

My theory is that stress is a universal constant. If you have less of it at any given moment, then other people must be taking on more to balance things out. For example, let's say you go on vacation. While you're on the beach, your coworkers are trying to handle their own workload plus the projects you left behind. You haven't reduced stress; you've simply transferred it to your coworkers. And if you work alone, you can frontload your stress to get ahead of deadlines, but you can't reduce the total amount.

Suppose you have a non-injury accident in your car. You're all stressed out, and the universe is temporarily out of balance. Then the tow truck shows up. He's the happiest guy you've ever seen because he's making a good profit from your misfortune. Soon the stress level at a local auto repair shop will go down because they will have a new customer. And the suppliers for that body shop will get paid, and so on down the line.

All of our institutions are set up to ensure the efficient balancing of stress across humans. Consider capitalism. Every sale of stock creates one winner and one loser. Every promotion leaves someone behind who is jealous and resentful. Every bid you win means more work.

On a monetary level, capitalism isn't a zero sum game. In principle, while the rich get richer, the poor can be getting less poor. But with wealth comes extra stress. As soon as you shed the stress of starving, you take on the stress of a higher level of responsibility. You can get rid of certain causes of stress, but you can't get rid of stress itself. The universe makes sure that new stress always finds you.

Sports are designed to create as many losers as winners. The relief of victory is exactly matched by new stress in the losers. Think about it.

Entertainment, such as a movie or TV show, is generally designed to generate stress in the viewer and then release it at the end. The total amount of stress balances out.

You can see this continuous rebalancing of stress in your own life. Every time you put some huge, impossible, stressful problem behind you, another appears as if from nowhere. The new source of stress might be a "good" one, as in planning for a wedding, or wondering how you will perform in a new job. But stress it is, nonetheless.

Moreover, in times when chance alone does not provide you with enough stress to replace what you had, you'll do some dumbass thing to increase your own stress level. You'll sign up for skydiving lessons, walk through the bad part of town, or insult your boss. Stress must be served.

Conservation of stress is another clue that we live in a programmed existence, subject to certain rules and limits established by the author of our reality.
I say that because it is exactly how you would program such a world if you were the author. You wouldn't let the characters in your world rest, as that would be somewhat pointless. You would make sure the environment provided a steady flow of stress so the characters could feel alive, and could fully exercise their personalities.

For every coincidence, many near misses?

Posted by Tandarin Nike Sunday, August 15, 2010 1:42 AM 2 comments
If you are in a group of people, and you ask one of them their birthday, you can be relatively confident that they will not have been born on the same date as you. With 365 days in the year (not counting leap years), even if you were born at a popular time of year, the odds are stacked against you. And regardless of the size of group you are in, if you go up to someone and ask their birthday, it probably won’t be yours.

On the other hand, if you are in an adequately large group, by the time you’ve asked 200 people, chances are that one of them will be the same as you. However, if you have a group of just thirty, the chances are that two of them will share the same birthday.

That’s how statistics work – the more you constrain an event (in this case by insisting that it should be your birthday rather than some third person’s that is repeated), the less likely it becomes.

And just as you can test the birthday hypothesis, you will no doubt be able to identify any number of occurrences in your own life that seem to defy the odds, coincidences that seem just too unlikely to be real.

Weeks back before the holy month here in Bahrain, I walked into a restaurant in Hoora, and saw immediately someone with whom I lived once in Mumbai. Quite a coincidence. As the night went on, the links stacked up – mutual acquaintances crossing paths as if every story wanted to come full circle.

Of course, while it is extremely unlikely that I would have seen him specifically, my chances of sooner or later seeing someone I knew were pretty good. And having seen someone, someone who by definition has some link between their life and mine, it’s not so astonishing that in our reflections on old acquaintances there should be some connections.

Bahrain is a popular city – for the same set of reasons as the reasons that I am here. I go to the same sorts of restaurants as my friends from India – and in Mumbai that’s a small enough collection, so it’s not so surprising that a visitor should stumble into one of my haunts.

And so it goes on, having gotten over astonishment one can rationalize, and find that in general while something may be quite a coincidence, it also feels inevitable that a coincidence of that sort will happen sooner or later.

Of course, alternatively you can put it down to fate, or God, or the Trelfamadorians – as always, the prover has all the options he needs. And as the ‘real’ odds defy analysis, you’ll do well to dissuade someone once convinced.

It is not the coincidence, however, that I find most interesting. Rather, it is the statistical implication that for every chance meeting, there are a hundred near misses – for every time I am in the restaurant at the same time as someone, there should be many more occasions when they are in just before, or just after me, or we do not see each other, or they’re just up the street, or they’re where I would normally be on that night and so on and so forth.

The implication is that life is a constant whirl of barely missed opportunities to strengthen ties, revisit friendships, share old stories. And in some respects this realization inspires a sense of loss, the conviction that I have been so close to so many significant moments.

And it seems that we are on the cusp of what could be a change to all this. As smartphones proliferate, we are more and more equipped with the technology that allows us in principle to be located anywhere in the world: and for this information to be shared with others.

Can you imagine, simply pulling your iPhone out of your pocket and seeing the dots that are every friend, chance acquaintance, drinking buddy and family member who you have (or at least who have bought into Facebook) buzzing around, their lifelines tracking perilously close to yours. And instead of bumping into Venkat by accident, I would have known he was around – could have watched him arrive in Hoora, noticed his new car, and at some point my phone would buzz and say to me,

Venkat is within 200 yards. To go and see Venkat, leave your flat, turn left, walk to the corner, cross the street, enter the mall. Venkat is on the third bar stool to the right. You have found Venkat.

How splendid to never need to have a near miss again. But then, isn’t there something beautiful about the grand coincidence. The anecdote is as lasting as the meeting, the feeling of beating the odds simply to have a drink is invigorating, the prospect that behind any door, around any corner lurks a chance meeting is a wonderful thing.

I’m not sure I want that taken away. How wounding to be chasing somebody’s dot on you screen, only for them to turn off their signal. How wearing to be assailed by the hundreds of people you never knew were near you at every time of day and night.

I’m not sure that the world is ready to have all it’s movements placed online quite yet – but some are, and may it bring them happiness. And may we never reach a time when the only people you can bump into by accident are the people who you are ignoring on Facebook…

Check your personal year...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, August 7, 2010 5:18 AM 5 comments
Here's how the meaning of each personal year (i.e. each phase of your 9 year cycle) is calculated.

It's quite simple.

It is your BIRTHDAY plus the MONTH you were born plus the CURRENT YEAR.

For instance my birthday is Jan 27, and I want to see what the trends are for the year 2010. The calculation would be 1 (for Jan) + 9 (thats 2+7) = 10. This equals 1.

I then reduce the year 2010 to 3 (2+0+1+0=3).

1 and 3 equals 4, so my Personal year for 2010 is 4.

Interpretations of these Numbers

Personal Year 1:

Planting Seeds, Rebirth, Beginning of An Era

This is the beginning of a new nine year cycle. Things that have concerned you for the past decade no longer matter at all, in fact you may find your priorities have changed altogether. Disappointments from the past simply don't matter anymore. Any work that you do during this year sets the tone and foundation for the next nine. This is the time to decide what your goals are and act on them. A personal year 1 also often brings new vitality and physical strength.

Personal Year 2:

Nurturing, Development, Waiting For The Right Moment

This is a time during which the seeds of change you have planted during a year 1 cycle start to grow. Ideas or attempts to change can be compared to seeds that are nurtured in darkness and just pushing their tendrils up through the soil. A year 2 is all about patience. It is a year that you should spend finding new allies and kindred spirits and making any necessary personal changes that might be acting as obstacles to your success. Many people find the year 2 to be challenging as it is often filled with obstacles and delays but by the end any trials you experience will only refine your best qualities.

Personal Year 3:

Blossoming, Expansion, Personal and Business Success

This is a very happy year during which you see your efforts begin to show fruit. You can expect delightful surprises and gratification in many areas of your life including business, career, friends and love. You exude such enthusiasm for life that others may find you irresistible. Usually during a year 3 you also find that the burden of responsibility is somehow lifted off your shoulders. The only drawback of this year is that it presents you with so many great opportunities that you might be tempted to take on more than you can handle.

Personal Year 4:

Maintenance, Work, Self Control and Responsibility

This is a year of hard work and discipline in which you will be struggling to keep up with all the promises you made during year 3. Many find a year 4 to be very frustrating as responsibilities increase. A common metaphor used to describe this year is "one step forward and two steps back." Although it might seem that you are not making much headway, the whole point of a year four is to create a firm foundation that can support the maturing of your life goals over the next couple of years.

Personal Year 5:

Independence, Freedom, Connecting To Others

This year positive opportunities may present themselves on all fronts. Many of the obstacles from previous years seem to slip away. Your hard work is rewarded with more personal freedom and a break from restrictive routines. Travel, adventure or additional education might be part of the overall picture. This year is also good for pursuing new employment opportunities or making new friends. You could also change residence. A drawback of this year is that it can make you feel like not working much or bring a tendency to shirk responsibility.

Personal Year 6:

Finding A Soul Mate, Love, Family and Home

A personal year 6 intensifies feelings in existing relationships and enables you to make new emotional connections. Many people find a soul mate during this phase. You are most likely to get married or engaged during this harmonious year. Although this can be a wonderful experience it can also be sobering, as it often presents a choice: to make a commitment or not. You may also prefer to spend more time with family or an intimate circle of friends. A friend that you meet during this cycle is likely to become a friend for life.

Personal Year 7:

Reflection, Learning, Self Analysis

Even if you have a reputation as an extrovert, a year 7 is likely to put you in the mood to be alone. You may feel like pursuing your interests, travelling or finding a way to escape from business pressures. A year 7 is like a coccooning stage for the psyche, in which you analyze, reflect and try to shed any behaviors, relationships or patterns that may be preventing your personal growth. This year also favors any kind of self-improvement including surgical operations, seeking counseling, therapy or seeking higher education.

Personal Year 8:

Health, Wealth and Abundance

This is a potent year that usually gives all aspects of your life a big positive boost but it especially favors your career and money matters. This is a good year to buy a new home, find a new job or put a business plan into action. While you are in a year 8 others find you more attractive and charismatic and many people find themselves thrust into a position of great authority or power during 8's influence. If you focus on making money, you more than likely will during this prosperous cycle.

Personal Year 9:

Death, Taking Personal Inventory, The End of an Era

The number 9 year is one of completion and marks the beginning of the ending of everything you have managed to accomplish during the last decade. This is an uncomfortable year for many individuals, especially if they are unable to embrace change. You may feel restless and things that used to interest you may be replaced by new desires. If you are not able to let go of the past willingly, a situation may manifest that forces you to change. This is the year you reap what you sow.

Being happy.....

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, August 5, 2010 10:11 AM 4 comments
How many people nowadays are truly, honestly happy, with their happiness shining through every moment of their lives, not only for themselves, but especially for others?

Nowadays, happiness seems to be measured by the amount of material possessions, the quality of marriage and professional life, and the well-being of the children. Of course these can be excellent sources of happiness. But the question remains: what exactly is the core of happiness truly about?

Perhaps someone who is truly happy is someone who is at peace with the contradictions he’s confronted with, within himself and the world. Everything that is, is at its heart as it should be and can only be accepted as being as it is.

Good, bad, light, dark, male, female, warm, cold, all these are aspects of a reality which, at its heart, is utterly incomprehensible; aspects which cannot be derived from each other, but which are inevitably and vitally entwined. Life is always what it Is and, much more often than not, not what we would like it to be.

That does not mean Man is a completely helpless victim of some all-pervading, predetermined fate. No, it means that each moment we are given the choice to accept the things we already have at that moment, or to keep grieving over how things might have been. Even if we are utterly poor outwardly and physically disabled, we are still alive, so each day we are still given the chance to rejoice the graceful creativity and immense abundance of Life, erupting out of each moment.

The things you have are what they are, and it’s up to you to find the fertile seeds of inner growth within them, no matter how dark they might appear to be. Yet, difficult as it may often be to reconcile us with whatever Life has to offer, reconciliation also means an acceptance of our imperfections.

Man falls and falls and falls, yet each time he has been given the chance to get up again and have another chance. Perhaps we should more often celebrate the chances we get after each mistake and stop complaining about the pain of our fall. Making mistakes, being imperfect is alright, because it is as it Is; our innate nature compels us to be flawed and make mistakes forever again because they are the vital ploughs going through the hardened, dark soil under our feet, so air and rain could penetrate its obscure depths.

Contemporary humanity tends to strive after perfection in an attempt to eliminate our flaws and failures, our sickness and suffering, yet this attempt leads to an artificial world full of newly created tensions in which modern man is haunted by his more natural, imperfect side. He often fails to see that flaws, inner pain and suffering are like life-giving rains on the parched plains of his soul; they only appear as arid winds because he rejected and never really acknowledged their existence in the first place.

Without these flaws creeping through the deep fissures within the fertile Earth, no seeds would be given the chance to germinate and grow into the beautiful flower hidden within its unknown essence. To a great extent, a soil is only as dark and dry as we allow it to be. Tasting the fearful mists of our innate struggles means cultivating a healing perspective in the long term, a perspective in which Man is not forced anymore to strive after perfection, but a perspective which teaches him he’s a vessel of human contradictions, necessary for his inner growth, his inner meaning and even his very survival.

Flaws are perhaps our deepest and most humbling resources to understand what Life is about; they might even be the good lord’s best attempt to pour Himself out of this jar, this soul each one of us was given.

Perhaps happiness entails becoming friends with one’s own flaws and the realization that one has merely just begun this journey of a thousand miles. Instead of being unhappy with the idea that he has not reached perfection yet, Man should rather start seeing his imperfection as a gift, because an imperfect soul is a flower impatiently waiting for the first spring sun so she can open herself up to the world and grow, and grow!

How wonderful would it be to be born in this world as a naturally imperfect human being amidst other imperfect human beings, rather than a “perfect” human being striving after even more perfection to compete with the rest of humanity, which always appears to consist of other, even more perfect human beings.

How could there ever be peace in such an artificial world?