More beautiful than you’d thought

Two videos today. The first one: Real Beauty Sketches (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk).

We all get used to the good parts of ourselves and often get trapped in the parts that we don’t like about ourselves. However, others may not view you the same way as you do. Things you hate may be the favorite of another. In a different eye you are more beautiful than you think you are.

And the second one: Information management as an organization on Yabroad.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3IogtSHVR0).

I didn’t know I could make a video relatively smoothly with much confidence. But I made it. It sounds not bad. I’m confident when talking about things I know and familiar of. I’m not afraid of getting my voice heard. On those occasions when I’m reluctant to speak out, it’s not because of I’m afraid I have a horrible voice or my English is not interpretable. But now I know my voice is more than OK and so is my English. I just need a little confidence on the contents when I start to speak. I may do more of these in the future, but probably with a script before rolling the camera. 🙂

 

The unconsciousness rules our lives

When my girlfriend asks me if I had vegetables for dinner, my usual answer would be “no, but I had fruits”, upon hearing this she always teases me that I cannot differentiate fruits from vegetables. Well, yes and no – of course I can distinguish them in my conscious mind; but in my unconscious mind, I can’t.  That is, although I know that they are different, deep under my consciousness my animal instinct always categorize food as either meat or nonmeat – thus tricking me into treating fruits and vegetables as interchangeable.

Phenomena like this seem trivial but they happen again and again in our daily life, often without being noticed. Psychologists think our brain is a two-tier system that works like two entire railway systems. These two generally operates independently of each other but they are also connected at various points. The more fundamental tier is our unconscious mind, which deals with our basic animal functions like sensing and safely responding to the external world; on top of the unconscious lies the consciousness, which deals with our rational thoughts and set us apart from other animals. In our daily life it is actually the unconscious that processes more information. Scientists estimate that the human sensory system sends to the brain about eleven million bits of information per second, while we can only handle somewhere between 16 and 50 bits per second. The rest go unnoticed and are processed by the unconscious to produce a much simpler abstraction of information so that our conscious mind is not overwhelmed.

As a result of this two-tier brain system, when something happens, the reality we perceive is not really what we have sensed, but rather what the sensory system detects plus what we think happened. Here’s the catch. Our unconscious mind may trick our conscious mind into thinking about what may have never happened. For example, when listeners in one study hears “it was found that the *eel was on the axle”, where the asterisk stands for a cough/noise covering the sound, listeners thinks they hear “wheel”. If “axle” is changed into “table” they hear “meal”; and with “orange” as the last word listeners hear “peal”. So in a way our brain “invents” reality rather than “senses” it.

This also happens to our memory system. Even though sometimes we think we remember things, the memories may not be accurate. There has been an example of a victim remembering the wrong person as the rapist, even though she saw the rapist’s face under good light condition. She committed the mistake the first time when the police asked her to identify the rapist from several potential criminals and she chose the one that best matched the rapist from her memory. And after that she kept reinforcing the idea that the one she had identified was really the criminal. The problem is that the real criminal never appeared in the lineups, thus resulting her to remember what she wants to believe in – the decision she made when forced (by herself) to identify someone as the criminal.

However, our unconsciousness is not all that bad. It helps us to tell if a person is happy or angry without thinking about it. It also helps us to be social. When we communicate, we always give away nonverbal cues, and we are quite good at deciphering these hints. For example, even if we mute the sound and cover the subtitles when watching a movie, we will still be able to get a relatively accurate clue about what is really going on. Moreover, animals are even better at reading our nonverbal cues. That is probably why sometimes we think our pets actually understand our words – in reality they don’t, but they are good (in particular dogs are better than us) at understand our social signals like emotions.

The unconscious also helps us categorizing things, keeps us in faith of groups we belong to and share the group’s compassion in the face of enemies. Furthermore, it keeps us confident about ourselves. In fact we are often overly confident and overestimate ourselves. Our desire of feeling good about ourselves leads us to have unconsciously biased behaviors. For example, researchers found that in the US people with the same surname are more likely to get married. That is, Browns are more likely to marry Browns; and Smiths are more likely to marry Smiths. The researchers explained that even something as seemingly meaningless as our names could make us feel good and form an opinion in favor of ourselves. This may also explain why in Apple many senior managers have Steve as their first names; and in Amazon many Jeffs hold senior positions.

Another study show that 94% of college professors think their work is above average. Obviously at least 44, or almost half of them overestimate themselves. This human character is a blessing rather than a flaw, since evolution designed the human brain not to accurately understand itself but to help us survive. Feeling good helps our ancestors to endure hunger, coldness and diseases. Even today, this still works. Take the placebo effect for example, patients that are given sugar pills but are told the pills are effective to treat their diseases feel significantly better – sugar pills with a different label actually cures or alleviate pains. They do not in any way alleviate pains in the physical level, but rather, it is our unconsciousness that tricks and treats us.

As we evolve along the long history, our animal instincts have been kept or even further developed while our rational thinking progresses. The conscious part is what tells us apart from animals. However, animals can survive with little or without much consciousness; while no animals can survive without unconsciousness, neither can humans. Understanding the unconsciousness means more than just survival, but also means better coordination with the conscious, better understanding of ourselves as humans, and really following our hearts.

The book Subliminal: how your unconscious mind rules your behavior is quite fascinating. It provides an extensive range of psychological experiments to support the idea, and explains theories in a great sense of humor. Below are some excerpts and notes from the book.

When the author tries to prove to his mother that a tortoise is primitive by waving his hands to it and it ignores him, his mother argues: “Your kids ignore you, and you don’t call them primitive creatures.”

Smiths are more likely to marry Smiths: people have a basic desire to feel good about themselves, and therefore we have a tendency to be unconsciously biased in favor of traits similar to our own, even such seemingly meaningless traits as our names.

The Pepsi paradox: Pepsi tastes better than Coke in blind tests; while people still prefer Coke when they have a choice. Wine tastes better with higher price labels. Stockings with a particular scent sells better. Detergent with yellow and blue box is more effective. Many of our basic assumptions about ourselves and the society are false.

The human sensory system sends the brain about eleven million bits of information per second, while we can only handle between sixteen and fifty bits per second.

The human mental system is a two-tier system comprised of an unconscious tier and a conscious tier. The unconscious tier is more fundamental. It developed early our evolution, to deal with basic necessities of function and survival, sensing and responding to the external world. Most nonhuman species can survive with little or no conscious thought, but no animal can exist without unconsciousness. Scientists estimate that we are conscious of only about 5% of our cognitive function, the other 95% goes beyond our awareness.

If a animation is shown in front of one eye and a static picture is shown in front of the other, you will only be aware of the animation, even if the static picture is pornographic (but you will probably make a correct guess if you’re forced to). PS. in academia they sometimes take “highly arousing erotic images” from the International Affective Picture System, which contains a range of pictures from sexually explicit material to mutilated bodies to pleasant images of children and wildlife.

Cycling to work

I booked a flight to Warsaw one day after midsummer and discovered later no bus connection is available to the airport on that day. And after searching the cycling route to the airport I decided to cycle there this Saturday, since it’s just 22 km away. Last Saturday I started cycling again to get some exercise; I tried to find the airport but failed in the middle, I rode in the wrong direction for around 5 km without knowing that… Yesterday it was raining the whole day so it was not possible to cycle. To get more exercise I decided to go to work by bike — and to avoid too much exercise I chose the shorter route, for 7 km of which there’s no cycling path and I have to ride on Road/Highway 51. The road is under construction so the speed limit is around 50 kph — not too dangerous. There was not so much traffic, at least in my direction. And in 1h20m I arrived at Ericsson, saving 20 minutes compared to my previous route.

The previous weekend was also nice. On Friday I went to the best Chinese restaurant with my colleagues. The Peking Duck was quite nice and all of us loved it. I’ll probably go there again with other colleagues later on. On Saturday we had a grill party. The food was nice but the discussion was better. It seems that none of us is content with our current situation. I believe this is good, especially we are planning a change. On Sunday three of us had lunch and dinner again, again the discussion was great. It is nice to discuss with someone with the same technical background. Very fruitful weekend indeed.

Mi casa es su casa

Yesterday we had dinner at a colleague’s house. He has a house similar to my parents used to have: a two story building with both front yard and backyard. “Mi casa es su casa”, he says. And we acted like that. We sat in his sofa and played with his Playstation. I even played. Although I know I suck at games, but it doesn’t stop me enjoying having fun with friends. When we were playing Guitar Hero, I tried the drums, simply because I had some limited experience with them when I was in primary school 15 years ago. But it turned out too difficult for me; I was missing literally every note — either too fast or too slow. I guess previous experiences didn’t help much…

While we were playing video games, three ladies were busy preparing dinner. It might not be something to be bragged about, but it indeed felt great. It’s like staying at home and I never need to cook, someone always keep my stomach full. Same thing happened yesterday — we almost exploded… Also after dinner no one needs to wash the dishes, there’s a machine for that!

After dinner and a little bit rest we headed home, and a colleague drove us back home although he lives in the oposite direction. It’s very nice to have such awesome colleagues and friends. “We should do this often, or even everyday”, I proposed to the colleague who cooked. She looked happy and said “I’m very happy you like it; I like cooking very much!”

I know it’s impossible to do it often; but I’m still quite surprised that there is actually someone who loves cooking in this world.

Nothing is useless

Spring is already in Helsinki; I shot these beautiful flowers on the bus when going to work:

At work Aimmy invites us to have some cake during afternoon coffee break. The cake was very delicious and she’s really good at cooking yummy food. She has already made muffins twice before this; and we are all expected to taste some original Thai food, probably next week.

Yesterday I volunteered to set up a website for the project I’m currently working on. It seems that even my PHP skills will be useful for my career. Some skills developed from hobbies come quite handy when doing serious business. Everything, any experience or lessons are likely to be used sometime later…

I moved my desk to a different position in the room and now I’m enjoying the new layout. Last night I watched Hangover from my bed instead of siting in my uncomfortable chair, thanks to the new layout. 27 inch display looks OK and wireless keyboard acts as remote — a real big remote. Now off to watch Hangover 2. 🙂

Otaniemi from 80m above

Today I had a meeting in Otaniemi and finally managed to visit the possibly the highest building in this area: the water tower. It’s quite a nice view up there. The water tower is build on top of a small hill around 30m high; and the tower itself is about 50m — that makes it standing 80m from the sea level and on top of which it gives a perfect bird view to the whole Otaniemi area.

It’s said that with totally cloudless weather, one can even see as far as Tallinn, which sits around 80km away in the south. That’s pretty amazing!

There is one seagull nest on the roof and there are some eggs waiting to be hatched in it. We saw the seagull circling above us. Fortunately it wasn’t so aggressive to try to attack us, yet.

By the way, the water tower is designed by Alvar Aalto, after which Aalto University is named.

A look upwards to the tower:

Off back home early. It was a nice day!

Opinions

Positive thoughts today:

  1. I made a few slides this morning and found myself to be more efficient in preparing slides that expected. Also I managed to find the company template and icons for making computer networking slides. They make life much easier. And, Ericsson icons looks nicer than Cisco ones. They give a cleaner look and are easier to change the color and to scale.
  2. During lunch we discussed about alcohol, and I was told that good Vodka does not taste anything. This relieves me since the Russian Vodka I bought last year doesn’t have any taste and someone told me it might have been made from industrial alcohol and water. Nice to know that, even though I don’t drink.
  3. I’ve been listening to Johnathan Lee’s songs during work. His songs are very toughing. The more I listen to them, the more I like them.
  4. Saw a provoking African proverb on Google+: “If  you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.”
  5. It’s nice to have others sharing some of my feelings: guys never know what girls are thinking. (Picture link shared by Mohit and Nalin.) See picture here: http://thedoghousediaries.com/3291

Giving name to a Finnish baby

Today was a good day, thanks to the following things:

  1. It was nice to talk with a colleague from Ericsson Beijing. I got to know what’s going on in China through someone else’s eyes. Also I know how it looks to work in Beijing and how a different job may feel like. She said working in Operations is quite stressful and may require a lot of night shifts, which is not good for anyone’s health. One of her colleagues in Japan had worked night shifts continuously for 90 days… I feel lucky to work in a job that is less likely to cause health problems, although sometimes I do want a bit more pressure.
  2. During lunch we were chatting and one topic came out when discussing giving names to babies. It turns out that Finns give names to their babies secretly for the first three month after the baby is born. That’s probably due to religious reasons, i.e., the devils can not claim the baby if it doesn’t bear a name. It’s also funny that Finns wait until the baby is born to give it a name, simply because they want to make sure the baby’s image matches the name. Hmm, how can you possibly do that? How do you know how “Jussi” should look like? Well, Finns simply do.
  3. I succeeded to revert my Galaxy Tab back to stock version, there wasn’t any noticeable damage to it. It’s nice to have a working tablet that a brick.
  4. I got a clearer view of the short-term goal of the project I’m currently working on.
  5. There are a lot of spam comments in my website, luckily the Akismet plugin successfully blocked all of them. Akismet is free of charge and it works like magic.
  6. Yesterday I managed to update my WordPress Responsive Theme to the latest version, and managed to fix the “number of comments title wrongly aligned” issue.

GitHub couples

I’m feeling good today because of theses things:

  1. My mobile phone ran out of battery and the alarm clock didn’t ring this morning, but I still managed to get up just in time and caught the bus at the last minute — and arrived at the company at my usual time.
  2. My manager told me it looks positive to renew my contract and hopefully it will be one and half years. He also says he tries to get it done before the summer vacation, which makes my life a lot easier. Also he says it’s possible to save my holidays till winter. So I’ll be back in China for some time in winter this year.
  3. A very old lady managed to stop and got on the bus even though she waved her hand a bit late to the bus driver. The bus driver was polite and that what I like about Finland: people generally don’t get angry.
  4. Here’s one very funny and geeky picture I saw from xda-developers. In case the link gets invalidated later, the picture reads: “So, where did you two meet?” “Windows users: at the office” “Mac users: at Starbucks” “Linux users: GitHub”.

 

Positive Thinking

I found one of the most fascinating talks in TED is given by Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work. I’ve watched it for several times and each time I see it, I find it even more inspiring. Following Shawn’s suggestion, I’m trying to list three things that make me happy everyday. Here it goes:

  1. I’m happy that I woke up late and had sufficient sleep.
  2. Immediately after I woke up I went to have lunch with my friends. The food was great and it is always nice to be with friends. And now we are going to have dinner together again. 🙂
  3. The weather is great. I’m very grateful for that.
  4. My neighbor is back from a one-month travel and gives me a pack of chocolate. It’s also nice to hear her travel experiences.
  5. See the following picture: