Monday, September 28

Seing is Believing ...

... or, How I Got Repeatedly Duped in Egypt.

A few years ago, I visited Egypt, along with a group of friends. We went with an organized tour and were taken by a professional guide, to see the Pyramids and the Sphynx, the National Museum of Egyptology, the Nile and a bunch of shops we weren't interested in. These shops are what I wanted to touch upon:

We saw leather shops, Egyptian parchment shops, volatile essences shops and a few other shops that our guide insisted were a good idea, but that we didn't really want to see. In all these shops, we also bought a lot of things we didn't need (parchment spelling our names or reproducing writing from the Pyramids, essential oils and so on).

It went like this: we were angry with the guide for bringing us to the last shop. He would insist we still have one to see, we would go into it determined that we wouldn't buy anything at all and we would exit the shops half an hour later, having bought new stuff and happy about it. It would take us between a few minutes and an hour to realize we had been duped again.

I tried to realize how these guys did it: how did they convince a bunch of strangers that buying that crap was a good idea and how did they do it so reliably?

Now, a few years later, I may have found an answer in reading Why You Can’t Help Believing Everything You Read.

Apparently, absorbing information is done in two separate steps:
  • First, you comprehend and believe what you hear. That is, all in one step; seeing really is believing.
  • Second, you think about it in critical terms (eventually confront the information with what you already knew or with new information) and determine it's validity.

This means that if you don't have the time (or inclination) to think about it, you just absorb it as "fact", as the way things are. This not only explains what happened to us all those years ago in Egypt (the shop keepers sat us down, and talked continuously, not giving us time to think about it), it also explains some hypnosis techniques (create more than one thread for the attention of the subject to focus on, then use one of them for your purposes), why charismatic people get their message across easier and a bunch of other things.

Now, take the time to think about this :-)

Wednesday, September 23

Saturday, September 19

What Are You Doing! What Are You Saying!
A koan for Christians

Koan from

In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a master's teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned hat the teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstances did the teacher even claim "I am the successor of So-and-so." Such a claim would prove quite the contrary.

The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship."

"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it," Shoju replied. "I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."

"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here."

The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.

Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"

Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"

Comment: Shoju was true to his teacher. So was Mu-nan. There is no contradiction.

If a teaching denies truth even while it speaks of it, how do you follow such teaching?

Sunday, September 13

Destino - A Creation of Walt Disney and Salvador Dali

Arkon 2x tele-converter

Focus and bokeh experiment with a new/old setup: I have bought an old "Arkon Auto Tele-converter 2x".

This is a focus and depth of field test with my old 50mm/F1.7 prime with the converted attached.

The only problem I have with it is that it doesn't allow the camera to set the lens aperture and for newer lenses (no aperture ring) the aperture is impossible to control.

Also, the colors are altered to a degree: they are softer and contrast is reduced. It is nothing that can't be fixed (if you want to) and it adds a dream-like quality to the shots.

Amsterdam Channel

Amsterdam Channel

Crow in Bruxelles

Crow in Bruxelles

Tuesday, September 8

Randy Pausch on Time Management

Some ideas from the talk:

  • Time is the only commodity that matters
  • Very few people equate time with money
  • The money is not important. You can earn it later. Your time - you can never get it back.
  • Time management is a mean, not an end. The end is to maximize fun.
  • Being successfull doesn't make you manage your time well. It's the other way around.
  • Doing things right is wrong focus. Do the right things instead.
  • If things are not going well, it means you're learning a lot. They will go better later.
  • If you can dream it, you can do it. (Walt Disney) If you refuse to allow yourself to dream it, you won't do it.
  • Plan on multiple levels (today, this week, this semster), but be fluid. Have a plan.
  • Break things into small steps.
  • Being a boss is about growing your people.
  • When you do lots of things, do the uglyest thing first.
  • cluttered paperwork leads to thrashing.

Face Your Fear

(via Jay)