August 30th, 2009
Buridan’s ass is a paradox in philosophy which refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an actor (ass in this case), placed exactly at the center of two equal choices (stacks of hay of equal size and quality), will starve to death since it cannot make any rational decision to start eating one over the other. Named after the 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan, it is mentioned in Chapter 35 (Occam’s Razor) of Ben Dupre’s book “50 philosophy ideas you really need to know“. Occam’s Razor itself suggests that in case of rival theories that explain the observed phenomenon, one should go with the simpler theory. In many facets of life, we call it the KISS principle.
In essence, Buridan’s Ass highlights the lack of tie-breaking rule in Occam’s Razor.
Of course the fallacy of the ass is to believe that it is irrational to make a choice in absence of a rational reason to favor a choice.
August 22nd, 2009
Travelogue, June 18th, 2009, Prague
I am hopelessly behind in my travelogues, so let me go back to A day in Prague. After I had a chance go to some of the suburbs and had found my way back, I ran into the Krishna devotees. Awesome, fun stuff, people dancing, singing and in general having fun. Entirely unexpected – and entirely awesome. I must have some secret admiration for people who can dance in public, how else can I explain that I followed this crowd for 3 blocks on Zitna from Stepanska to Krakovska.
Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and definitely Prague castle is one of the landmarks. In the downpour, people did not mind standing with ponchos to get entry into the castle. Not to be missed in the castle is the change of the guard. You can see the prim soldiers in blue doing the change of guard, and the feeling of general joy is present through out the castle at the time. It may be argued that the change of guard is a meaningless exercise, but that is exactly the point. Joy cannot come from very meaningful and philosophical exercises.
And what beautiful way to have a wedding than having it in the castle? This lucky couple was surrounded by dozens of people, most of whom I suspect were not the guests, but simply visitors to the castle. The wedding songs were on, and the couple must have been or at least felt like a royal couple.
August 20th, 2009
If you ask anyone about their “best friend”, usually it is someone from high school or college. Not many of the “best friends” are those from full adulthood. The reasons for this human phenomenon may be buried in simple practicality and logistics of friendship versus family life. Yet, it can be argued that human adulthood is simply not conducive to many friends. By a certain age, the psychological persona is well established, we already know enough about ourselves, and sincerity is often questionable.
Now, where I am getting at? What is up with an especially sensitive subject today, you might ask? The answer lies in the best adulthood friends. The best adulthood friends that we can hope for are books.
As I undertook a small travel, I was separated from a book that I was reading. Now, a book is different from a movie in two aspects. First and foremost, the book moves at the reader’s pace. If you want to take a nap, go for it. If you want to chew each sentence, do it. If you want to chew each word, well, you are slow, but go ahead. It is not possible to same extent in movies. You can pause, sure, but it doesn’t work that way. The second main difference between movies and books is that books are read in your own voice. You read the sentence as you think it was written. (Books on CD/Tape come somewhere in between books and movies, but I leave that to you as to where they fit.)
As I finish a book, a certain melancholy usually sets in. That is related to the impending departure of a friend, who stayed on a few weeks, and is probably a week or two overdue. Yet, you have not had a chance to talk everything and about everyone, but it is time now.
August 9th, 2009
This is in memory of Bryce Gillies, son of Randy and Warna Gillies who died on July 25th after being lost in Grand Canyon for 4 days. I am fortunate enough to be a coworker of Warna at the Bowie State University, and I am deeply sorry for this loss that she and her family have gone through.
There are no profound words of wisdom here, nor any insights into the mysteries of life and death, just a humble condolence to the family, that their son has touched lives of people that he didn’t even meet, and he is in our prayers.
One of the wonderful things that Randy mentioned in Remembrance is that one word everyone used to describe Bryce was “kind”. And when you his picture here, the kindness in Bryce’s eyes is so clear and overwhelming. One of the stories that was told was that when Bryce was in Yua, Ghana as a member of Engineers Without Borders in May 2009, he was faced with a challenging situation as the funding was decreased. He and a fellow team member sat late at night working on a new design for the project so that they could make the project succeed, as well as use less materials. Around 1 AM when they finally had a design that remarkably cut costs, they high-fived and excitedly remarked: “This is why we study.” Such simple words are an inspiration for all of us to live our lives. If we truly believe that the work that we do has an impact, and if we can make it have a greater impact, that, by itself is the reason to do it.
So long Bryce.