Sunday, November 19, 2006

"My mother loves to get married repeatedly"

I just finished watching an episode titled "Ibuku Tukang Kawin" (meaning "My mother is a person who loves to get married repeatedly") of the series "Pintu Hidayah" (meaning "Door of guidance"). Today episode is very interesting.

This series is what I call an Islamic series. The typical story begin by showing how sinful the antagonist is. We will see him/her doing extremely cruel things, sometimes so cruel as if (s)he does it simply because (s)he is evil. At least one pious person will try to make him/her repent with no result. Only after (s)he suffered many bad events because of his/her sin, or after (s)he saw how pious other people despite of everything that happen to them, (s)he will repent. At the end of the story, a person will give a short Islamic preach on the relevant sin.

I find the choice of title a bit.. brave. Some audiences might randomly think of a title "Bapakku Tukang Kawin" (meaning "My father is a person who loves to get married repeatedly") instead of "Ibuku Tukang Kawin". That new title is dangerously close to the concept of a father getting married to multiple wives, which is allowed by Islamic law. In addition, the preaching on this episode said that "only 1 out 1000 step-father will love his step-children so do not remarried just for the sake of children". It will be awkward if the preacher have to say "only 1 out of 1000 step-mother will love her step-children" given how prevalent such situation is..

One little twist in audiences mind could make them demonize the idea of marrying multiple females..

Friday, November 17, 2006

Safest way to donate to "Yayasan Jantung Indonesia"

Friday is slow work day for business in certain field in Indonesia..

I have been visited twice by a representative of Yayasan Jantung Indonesia, a supposedly non-profit organization that promote healthy life to fight heart disease.

I refused to contribute to their cause twice simply because they asked me to fill in my credit card number on a form. Based on my families bad experience in claiming unauthorized charges, I don't think I will ever write my credit card number on a form without guarantee who have access to that form. They didn't even willing to send receipt copy of the problematic transaction, without us promising to pay regardless of condition of receipt.. I digress..

I did ask the "sales" person for alternative way to contribute, but they said there is no other way. I, being a sceptical creature, do not believe him. I googled for Yayasan Jantung Indonesia and found their contact number. I called the number up and, as expected, they have a bank account that can receive contribution.

No, I'm not going to post the account number because:
1. I might be a con artist tricking you to transfer money to my account.
2. Maybe I got the number wrong, probably because I was tricked.

If you're like me, that is you don't want to give out credit card information, you should directly call their contact number to ask for their account number yourself.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Origin of preference

The results of most studies about origin of preference tend to bias towards biological origin. This doesn't necessarily mean that people behind the studies are not neutral. Most of the successfully identified origin are biological because good research design on identifying biological origin may yield conclusive evidences, where as identification of non-biological origin requires complicated disentanglement of confounding factors. The difficulty is worse when the non-biological origin is too abstract or not well defined such as "free will", culture or even seemingly simple things such as personality, comfortability, etc.

It is worth to mention of an approach to identify the origin of preference, which is using evolutionary psychology framework. It basically states that natural selection makes surviving humans have a certain kind of preference. For such case, it's arguable that origin of that particular preference is biological since evolution mostly change biological trait. On the other hand, from evolution perspective, the reason that a particular biological trait is more likely to survive, is how fit the trait with environment. In short, there is a component of nurtural origin too.

btw, evolution approach is usable to analyze complex preferences (such as why some people tolerate more uncertainty or what kind of condition induced toleration of uncertainty) when we don't know the cause-effect relationship of origin of preference.

At the end, it doesn't really make sense to make distinction between natural (biological) origin of preference and nurtural (non-biological) origin of preference is not that important since they influence each other. Exhanging level of abstraction (from quark to neural network to physical movement) is as best a mental exercise. Nevertheless, it's satisfy my need to see the world in black and white, buahahaha :-).

The following are specific preferences whose origin is quite well defined:
1. Food preferences are very biological. Although the exact biological mechanism of food preferences may not be fully known, but there is no doubt that hormone is very influential in shaping food preferences and food regulation.
2. Drugs (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and the so called drugs like cannabis and LSD, cocaine and amphetamines, morphine and heroine, and benzodiazepines [valium]) preferences are surprisingly a balanced mix of biological and non-biological origin..
3. Sexual preferences are biological. But sexual fetishes are both biological and non-biological.
4. Mating preferences, mostly derived using evolutionary psychology, is mostly biological. This biological cause is inferred from the consistency of mating preferences across cultures, even in isolated societies.

For complex or high level preferences such as preference in ideology, see the witty but not exactly comprehensive version of origin of preference.

Leave a comment of what you would like me to expand further.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tool to be an informed voter

Commenting on The Future of Voting from Dilbert Blog, I'd like to talk about Scott's suggestion for making voters more informed. He suggested a website that summarized arguments of issues. The summarization is structured so that points and counterpoints can be added easily with links to proper sources or evidences. He also suggested a ranking system so that the better arguments are more visible.

I have thought about creating a website implementing such tool ever since I have difficulty following arguments in a mailing list about evolution. Too bad I don't have that much leisure time anymore to play with various projects. But I did find some things I'd like to share:

1. Many people already thought about such tool, one even show a prototype on issue of abortion. But I cannot find it anymore, sorry..

2. One major problem with the existing tools is how to assimilate all existing information in a glance, or even assimilating only relevant information in a glance.

3. Presenting relevant information is difficult. Because stating/coding the request of we consider relevant, is complicated. It's complicated because either:
a. we must know the structure of relevancy in the issue, which automatically means that we already know a great deal about relationship between arguments on this issue, which defeat the purpose of having this tool in the first place.
b. we give relevant keyword or state the relationship between relevant keyword and pieces of arguments we're trying to retrieve. But this result might not be what the coder intended.

4. The problem of point 2 is also related to difficulty in coding arguments into the tool. Relationship between various points and arguments must be coded well to increase tool performance in displaying relevant arguments, and it's difficult to code it well. Additionaly, increasing complexity of arguments will greatly increase coding effort required, because we need to verify that the new argument:
a. has not been coded yet.
b. does not create inconsistency.

5. The study of knowledge representation is useful, but not that useful for this project. It's not that useful because many study of practical use in knowledge representation are on implementation of computer's knowledge representation only. Study on human's knowledge representation - which might give hints on how to make coding information into tool easy or how to make retrieving information from tool easy - is still limited.

btw, for point 3b, I think it's plausible to use google search result to generate list of related relevancy from relevant keyword we entered, where the list will be used to find the relevant arguments instead of using the keyword we entered. Or we can just google the tool's database (I'm serious).

Or we can just google the internet since google try to optimize it's search engine to analyze websites in the world (read: the aggregate of all human knowledge) to generate relevant result. (I'm also not joking here)

In anyway, I bet people working for google know a lot about this things. It's my dream to work for google. :-)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A case of social engineering in collectivist society

In a mailing list I joined (subcription is by other member's reference only, sorry), there is an article about meatless day. The poster persuades readers to observe this day, while offering them a reminder service. In short, she asked people's cell phone number and email address so she can remind them of meatless day.

You probably ask, "who would give away his email address or cell number to such a stupid request? Don't people have any common sense?". The answer is "it depends on the community's culture". In community with high collectivism, giving away such information still fit the so called common sense. On the other hand, in a more individualistic community there is more concern on "why you need to know" and "mind your own business" thus such request is unlikely to be responded.

Regardless of whether she had any bad intention, such as to sell contact numbers to spammer and telemarketers, this is an example of social engineering.

I accidentally separated a stray cat from it's mother

A couple of days ago, a small young cat entered my work place. Since my work place is disorganized and very dirty, noone really think that the cat should be removed. In addition, since I set an example of not bothering the cat, my subordinates did not really dare to do anything to this cat.

Thus it can freely roam at all over the place, meowing pitifully with its weak sounds. It seemed to be looking for it's mother, which was another reason I let it stay.

After a couple of days, the cat start becoming a nuisance with it's constant meowing. I hinted to my subordinates that the cat should be removed. They started aggresively hunt the cat, but alas, the cat is already familiar to this area thus can always escape.

Yesterday evening, while closing the place I work at, a cat pass in front of me while meowing. It seems to be looking for something. Such behavior is unusual for cats living around this place. I put two and two together, and speculate that this new cat must be it's mother. Too bad the young cat is locked inside..

Today, we are finally able to capture the cat and kick it out of the street.

I am wondering, if I should have kicked it outside from the beginning so that it can meet his mother. Now, it might never meet it's mother anymore..

Anyway, I will post a photo of this young cat later, this terminal does not have the necessary equipment..

Friday, November 10, 2006

On Scott's mind 1: Finding causality

I just read "On the origin of preference" which extended the arguments in comment section of Econ101: Preference, questioning the origin of preference. Check out their blogs! His writing about Indonesia is consistently of high quality.

Using the question of "what is the origin of preference", I will show you how Scott Adams preference influences his approach to this question. :-)

Due to his obsession with occam's razor, he will try to find the simplest explanation on the origin of preference. The wittier it is, the more likely he will choose that explanation. He will also use evolution argument if possible since "survival of the fittest" is arguably a robust and flexible argument, that is evolution argument can support anything as long as you can explain how this anything gives human more chance to successfully reproduce. If the explanation is mocking humanity, it will be considered better.

Also consider that "What is the origin of preference" is open to various interpretation, where one of the interpretation might be answerable in a concise and witty manner.

Considering all of the above, I think he will answer that the origin of preference is cognitive dissonance. Here is how he might argue:

Given that we are allowed to twist the meaning of "preference" a bit, there is no constraint on whether preference influence decision or decision influence preference. Hell, we can even ignore the fact that cognitive dissonance has a complicated relationship with preference. Given this latitude, we can say that cognitive dissonance causes people to prefer anything they did. If the same person did an opposite thing, he would prefer the opposite thing too.

Also consider preference seems to change over time and events. If things happened and someone was forced to do things they didn't prefer, they would slowly have a preference at doing that things.

This kind of answer indignify humanity, which is something scott likes to do.

This answer also has an evolutionary argument component. Note that people whose cognitive dissonance does not change their preference, are more likely to die of boredom because they do things they don't prefer. If they die of boredom, they have less chance to reproduce. On the other hand, people whose cognitive dissonance changes their preference, will have more chance to reproduce since they are less likely to die of boredom.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A case of unclear road signs

As an example of my previous post on driving tips, I'll talk about a intersection I go through daily.

This intersection is big and crowded. The one way road I usually ride to reach this intersection has 3 lanes. Next to this road is a 2 lanes road that become a bridge when reaching the intersection. Next to it is another one way road with 2 lanes, going the opposite direction from the first road. Since the second road described above become a bridge when reaching the intersection, it's possible to do a U turn from the first road, going under the second road, to the third road. So there are 3 roads next to each other at one side of the intersection, out of 4 sides.

The roads position on the opposite side of the intersection mirrors the 3 roads position above.

The left and right side of the intersection (from the orientation when I reach this intersection) each has 2 one way roads, with 3 lanes each.

Now, the road I ride to reach this intersection has two traffic lights. The first one indicating the rule for going straight, the second one indicating the rule for turning right (turning right, not doing U turn). There is a police station under the bridge road from the opposite side of the intersection.

The big question is, can I do a U turn disregarding the traffic light? Consider some additional facts. Polices sometime exist in that station, sometime don't. When they exist, they always never look at the direction I come from. When they don't exist, sometime a few cars will do U turns when the light is read, sometime they don't. Consider also that the roads perpendicular to the road I come from, will be forced to use 2 lanes (instead of 3 lanes) if cars coming from the road I travel force a U turn, disregarding traffic light.

btw, I hope that bad grade I got from a course I insisted to take, really worth it.. since I took that class to improve my description skill..

Anyway, given the above conditions, is it allowed to do a U turn disregarding traffic light? It turns out that such U turn is allowed even though the intersection is crowded and the U turn will disrupt the path perpendicular to the road I travelled. Strange isn't it?

This blog passes the color blind test

The reason I stop using excessive coloring in my blog is to ensure it is still readable and navigable by color blind people of all type. Since in the worst case color blind people can only see brightness differences, I set my background to a darker color and writing to a lighter color. And then I use this site to see how is my blog viewed by people with various type of color blindness.

And here is the new coloring of my blog.

Note: All the fonts are sizable to accomodate visually impaired people. But I'm not sure whether blogspot is optimized for the hearing impaired..

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On "dilbert" label

One of the few persons whose blog I subscribed to is Scott Adams'. He is the creator of Dilbert comic which is a satirical comic on corporate management. His view of corporate management can be summarized in 2 books: The Dilbert Principle and Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook.

His blog made me realize that Scott's mind is very similar to one of my best friend. Both of them able to entertain possible but extremely satirical yet simple hypothesis. Their view on issues such as free will, religion, democracy, morality, ethics, and human relationships, are very similar, both in their arguments and sarcastic tone. Their differences are only what they choose to believe.

For example let's look what I can infer from his latest blog "The Stuff in My Head" alone.

They are both believer of indoctrination effectiveness, not necessarily by the government, but also by institution and corporation. Therefore they believe democracy is only an illusion. And if I may add, a necessary illusion especially in countries whose power distance cultural dimension is low. This is an issue of cross-cultural psychology which deserves a new blog post.

Anyway, since they don't have much compelling desire to dignify their own existence - as indicated by how readily the make fun of themselves and humans -, they are very tolerant on considering different hypothesis that might ridiculed themselves. Semantic aside - which is impossible to set aside but let's continue for the sake of discussion -, they don't believe they have free will.

They also have a kind of resentment towards people in general.. well not exactly resentment but more like a sense of hopelessness at human in general. They also feel this strange combination of resentment and sympathy to people who have high unwaranteed self-esteem. They have this strange mixed feelings because they believe such people are inevitable yet they feel this itch when such mistakes left uncorrected. But they might finally sort that feeling out, it's difficult to tell.

..when Scott Adams die, I bet my friend can write his blog on behalf of him and no one will ever know :-) I will periodically talk about Scott's line of thinking based on my understanding of my friend.

Anyway, all posts about Scott Adams and Dilbert will be labeled "dilbert". And since almost all "dilbert" related posts will interest slashdot audience, they were likely to be labeled "slashdot" too.

What this blog is

I try to find an effective but scalable category/label for my blogs. I expect my blogs to have many overlapping categories thus too many ad hoc categories will create way too many labels with questionable effectiveness. Therefore I must plan the category/label-ing a bit before commiting myself to a category scheme.

Another problem is my insistment on making labels a consistent characteristic of posts. In other words posts of the same label should have similar topic, depth, tone, prerequisites knowledge, etc. The purpose is obvious, to maximize readers experience such that they can read only what they want and like by reading/feeding from labels they choose.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

On "cross-cultural psychology and economy" label

First I will talk about cross-cultural psychology.

Understanding other culture is very very difficult. The following story will illustrate it.

Back in university, I took a course in cross-cultural psychology. After around 3 months, we had a cultural sensitivity training. We role-played into being 2 groups, a country of collectivist and individualist. Each of our group were given a purpose we must negotiate on, given each of our country condition. We may negotiate in any way we like. However, our behavior while negotiating must follow the cultural characteristic of our assigned country.

The students were disproportionaly American, so playing individualist roles are easy. But we (well, most of us.. :-p) really sucks in playing collectivist roles. The students who are into collectivist roles do not establish enough rapport, communicate too directly without using available context, always monetize the negotiation terms, too confrontative, etc. In short, they fail in almost every aspects, even the supposedly easy behavior aspect of not using eye contact too much.

And these total failures still happened after months of studying the theory of cross-cultural psychology!

btw, talking about eye contact, this one Swedish woman in the collectivist group has one of the most beatiful wide eye I have ever seen. I kind of regretted not talking to you much. I wonder if you will ever read my blog.. Drop me a note please.

Back to topic.
You might argue that even if emulating people of other culture is difficult, understanding them is easy. So the question is, is it really easy?

I will answer with another story.

Once on a holiday I returned to Indonesia. Obviously I meet up with my old friends. We have a lunch in a mall talking nothing about everything. We were talking for at least 3 hours when finally we start talking about religion. We talked about different denomination of a religion. We talked, talked, and talked when suddenly a realization hit me.

Well, the realization is more like sinking instead of hitting me. Although I did suddenly realize it, it was the conversations that slowly showed me my realization is really accurate.

The realization is that I had been acting very confrontative, unlike the me in the past who were more deferential. I had been living in US for so long that I changed, and somehow I do not realized I changed despite of all cross-cultural training I had. It was very strange to hear my friends talking very deferentially, especially after thinking that I used to be like that.

Now, if somehow I was changed into being more individualist without knowing, it can means that I don't really know the characteristic of being individualist.

Considering the difficulty of appreciating and understanding cultural differences, I try to share what I know and experienced, hoping that it can help you to be more sensitive. Additionally, feedbacks from you will also enhanced my understanding of the culture I live in. So please feel free to give feedback.

In matters of cross-cultural economy, people of different culture have different values, which in turn cause them to act differently while being economic agents. Therefore economic discussion should consider the culture of the agents.


All blog entries described above will be labeled "cross-cultural psychology and economy".

A quote from "Virgin": "Saya Masih Perawan".

The intended readers of this post are liberals. You have been warned.

I had just turned on my tv and saw the last minutes of the movie "Virgin" (2004), made in Indonesia. It's the first time I see this movie.

The movie title's alone is enough to cause controversy in Indonesia, a country with the largest moslem population in the world. The content is said to be even more controversial (
due to it's vulgar depiction of sex and ..cursing. Many groups deemed it immoral enough that it was pulled from circulation within 2 weeks (correct me if I'm wrong).

Anyway, I'm particularly interested in the last scenes of this movie. A high school girl is standing on a platform talking about something (I didn't pay attention). Many people such as fellow students and some adults watch her. After she finish talking, she pause. But everybody seems waiting her to say something. Finally, after an undramatic moment of pause, the girl said "Saya masih perawan" (I'm still virgin). Hearing that, everybody cheers. They hug her. They congratulate her. She seems happy.

Depending on your cultural background, you might find the above scenes to be disturbing. But if you find my comment to be the one that is disturbing instead, stop reading. This is a post for a specific kind of audience.


The glorification of virginity in this movie is so extreme that it feels very ..comical(?). I'm not saying that virginity is worthless, but it's not easy to imagine yourself feeling happy and congratulating someone for being able to stay virgin. It's very.. surreal, like you're living in an alternate world where everybody still look the same, but they are actually different.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Driving tips

These tips are indentified from my experience of driving in Jakarta. They may or may not apply in you area of residence, so adopt accordingly. For driving guidelines, see this.


1. When in doubt whether you can ignore a red light, ask a police officer if present, or people on the street. Do not be pressured to violate the red light by honks behind you.

2. If your machine die in the middle of road, do not panic. Ignore all the honking. You can handle your problem faster if you're calm.

3. If the car in front of you has manual transmission and the driver almost never step on brake in a traffic jam, then she is a good driver. Stay behind her since her car is less likely to suddenly stop without warning.

4. Before turning or changing lane, try to remember the position and movement of other cars behind you. Because once you change your orientation, some cars will enter your blindspot area.

5. If you're not sure when to do the dreaded U turn with all those cars moving so fast, slowly but steadily do the turn. If you move far enough, one of that moving fast car will chicken out and give you the lane.

6. When in doubt, honks twice lightly, each no more than half second. Honking is not necessarily mean you're angry. It may be use to warn others of your position or even to thank them. Honking twice lightly is rarely misunderstood as a declaration of anger.

7. Open the window and wave your hand if you want to do an extreme change of lane. Afterwards, show other drivers a thumbs up to thank them.

8. If you don't want to deaccelerate and let other car enter your lane, honks and turn on you front light briefly. WARNING: In some countries, turning on your front light briefly means the opposite, that is you let others to enter your lane.

9. When road signs are not clear enough (like whether you can turn left disregarding red light) but other drivers (more than 2 drivers) still do it, follow the herd without hesitation. The key is without hesitation! Hesitation gives impression that you're not sure of your innocence thus the police will eat you.

10. When road signs contradicts each other, you are not automatically protected if you pick the wrong one, especially if the contradiction is not..100%. You will know when you see it. Anyway, you should ask people nearby of what to do. If noone around, you must look at the bigger picture and try to guess the intention of the road sign's creator. It is not difficult if you have assimilated the "culture" of driving in that area. Good luck!

11. Point 9 and 10 might depends on the present of police officer. Whether that's true or not, you might never know for the rest of your life. What's important is, what you learn yesterday might not apply today due to police officer's presence. So, especially after facing point 10, you must ask others in your office - who are more experienced in that area - whether you can actually do.. that.

12. In massive trafic jam, rules will almost always be flexible. A police officer will tolerate or even allow you to break any rule, as long as you do not make the jam worse.

13. Public transportation vehicles are notorious for sudden turning and stopping. Be careful near them.

14. When asking for direction, ask more than one person since you might meet someone who try to be helpful although he doesn't really know. Additionally, although you don't have to, you should step down from your car to let them feel respected. Note: I know, it's kind of strange, but that's the way many "low class" indonesian's feel.

15. The orientation and position of road name sign alone, do not consistently indicate which name belong to which street (where as in US for example, a road name sign will be faced in paralel with the length of the street, on the side of that road.). Although road name sign in Indonesia is rather inconsistent, it tends to be put perpendicularly to the length of the street.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Driving framework

The last couple of days I have been tutoring my brother on the art of driving. Since I failed to find any decent tips of driving in the internet, I was forced to make the tips up and create guideline along the way. Now I want to share those. In this post, I'll talk about guideline first.

Without further ado, here it is:

There are 3 components of driving environment: static, dynamic, and context dependent components. Static components is road. Dynamic components are everything that can change such as cars and pedestrians. Context dependent components are everything that depends on the situation..

If you are not familiar with the static component of an area, be cautious. You may assume that the static components always follow certain guidelines, such as a dead end will be marked however rudiment the mark is. But remember that some guidelines may not be reliable, for example a lack of continuous line in a wide road of a road pairs, do not imply a one way road. So again, be cautious.

At night, extra caution is necessary. What seems to be a smooth well-paved road may be damaged somewhere in the middle. Follow the tail of another car if available. If the driver in front is familiar with that road, all is well. If she doesn't , let her eat that damaged road or road bump so you can avoid them.

It goes without saying that you shouldn't pass another car on unfamiliar road at night. An unexpected road bump while passing another car might fly you and your car to heaven.

Back to theory, the dynamic component is the result of human interactions such as drivers and pedestrian. To account for dynamic component, you must consider not only human uncertainty, but also physical limitation.

In considering human uncertainty, be prepared that a pedestrian might suddenly step back in the middle of a road while crossing (I was in a taxi who hit such road crosser..). Also be prepared that a driver might decide to suddenly take a left turn, or right turn, or even suddenly stop. These things happen.

Luckily such erratic behaviors may be made sense by.. the static component! For a driver to suddenly turn left, most likely there is a road going left. For a driver to suddenly stop, most likely there is a change of road up there or there is an intersection. So, if you know in advance what the road will be up there, anticipate other drivers behavior by, for example, always slow down at intersection.

However unexpected a driver is, a car cannot suddenly stop immediately to halt or suddenly reach a certain speed or suddenly turns, because of physical limitation. Physical limitation are engine power per weight and momentum per breaks, which in turn define how fast can a car accelerate and deaccelerate. For example, due to engine power per weight, you know you have the time to safely move to the front of a huge truck since it can't possibly accelerate fast enough to hit you. On the other hand, because of momentum per breaks, you know you can't take a lane because that particular car cannot possibly stop in time.

If ability to measure such effect is sharpen, you will be able to see more opening while driving and accurately assess potential danger.

The third component, which is context dependent component, depends on the area. This component is very interesting because it's a complex adaptive system where the agents have collectivist culture (who are more sensitive to high context communication), but miraculously manage to avoid fatal traffic jam (local minima) and exchange role flawlessly while being a member of an arbitrary group (formed around congestion centers). In other words, the driving environment in Indonesia is analogous a collectivist society which limit is pushed to the extreme without breaking.

I might blog about it in the future.

Anyway, in practice, context dependent component basically requires you to observe and learn interaction between cars and pedestrians. Try to experience different situations so you finally know for certain: when you can finally do the difficult U turn with all that cars moving so fast and somehow that speeding car know that he is the one who should stop, or when you deserved that new lane without pissing people of in a traffic jam. Once you know such moments, congratulations! You have been successfuly assimilated into the system.

Afterward, you can slowly push the limit to your advantage without disrupting the system..

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Decision to greet in collectivist society

I pity the job a security officer not because of his low salary or long hours, but because of the constant self-humiliation he often inflicts on himself. Allow me to elaborate what I mean by self-humiliation.

Greeting exchanges between people and security officers are common. To ensure a flawless exchange of greeting, a security officer must first watch the other party's body language indicating an intention to greet. Since his reaction may not be fast enough, he must do the motion of greeting in advance to easily coincide his own greeting with the other's greeting. Everybody won't feel awkward and continue their life..

The problem is not everybody want to greet a security officer. Even if they want, they might be too busy or tired to greet. Additionally, their distance and position might be too far or restricted. Another possibility is that they thought the security officer does not want to greet thus they don't want to risk greeting without reciprocation. Consequently, in many situations, people might decide to not greet and a security officer must correctly identify their decisions.

If he mistakenly think the other wants to greet - and he starts the motion of greeting to make the greeting coincide -, he will feel humiliated since his greeting will not be reciprocated. Meanwhile, if he mistakenly think that the other doesn't want to greet, he will not be able to coincide their greeting exchange on time thus humiliate the other. As the consequence, the other might not want to greet him in the future.

So, to be a perfect corteous security officer, he must always does the greeting motion in advance, regardless of risks that other does not reciprocate.

This is a big matter in a collectivist culture since unreciprocated greeting by a person of middle status will lead to humiliation. Anyway, unreciprocated greeting with a person of higher status is considered normal.

*Updated: Spelling, grammars, and structure*

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Undeserved bragging right of physical prowess

There maybe sometime in your life where a jock type guy brag to you about his physical prowess. He might say that he can do 200 push-ups, 500 sit-ups, or 800 squat-jumps.

I hate to break the news but such "achievement" is not yet something to ga-ga (oooh, aaaah) over. The difficulty of those exercise depends on the time used to finish them. 200 push-ups in half hour is easier than 50 push-ups in 1 minute.

..well, it's actually not that simple. You might say that the bottle neck of 60 push-ups in 1 minute is the performance of anerobic metabolism, which is the metabolism able to generate large amount of energy in little time.

For more push-ups with longer time such as 1000 push-ups in 30 minutes, what matter is the performance of both anerobic metabolism and aerobic metabolism, where the aerobic metabolism will burn waste of anerobic metabolism. If anerobic metabolism cannot keep up with the cleaning anerobic metabolism's waste, it will be the limit.

For, let say 5000 push-ups within 4 hours, you the bottleneck is in the endurace of the muscle fibre. You don't want to do that. Muscle injury takes time to heal.

I had wanted to play badminton professionally, so I know a bit of this stuff. :-)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Preparing relationships before undertaking any high pressure job/ambition

Although I know it, until recently I had never really appreciated that pressures of work and life can inhibit relationships building. The pressure may be inevitable due to certain facts of life or it may be that you choose to take that pressure. Choosing to take that pressure may be motivated by your ambition, or other people ambitions and interest. Either way, there might be some times in our life where relationship is simply not a priority.

Since many relationships - such as ordinary hang out friends - require maintainance (periodic phone call, short messages, or visit), we might lost relationships we built due to pressure of work and life. Consequently by the time we begin to pay attention to relationship, you might need to start from almost zero. It sucks.

Luckily, not all relationships require periodic maintainance. Some relationships, once established, can be left for years and invoked when needed with little time/effort. Therefore a person who, for example, are planning to pursue a certain ambition or wanting to take a very demanding job, should prepare his/her relationship life by cultivating such relationship with certain kind of people.

People of this kind - with whom you can build a relationship that can stand the test of time without periodic maintainance - are precious. They are the people who understand that facts of life might cause us to not maintainance the relationship. They are are the people who still remember what we and they had been through, although we seemed to abandon the relationship. They are the people who still appreciate our relationship, or at least the footprint of our relationship, although we don't means anything to them anymore.

Find them, and build relationships with them, whether it's just a friendship or something deeper. When you have the time, build a long meaningful relationship with them.

Dating before friendship or dating after friendship

Some people are more comfortable to establish a friend relationship before dating someone. Usually they want to know the partner more before starting to invest big amount of time and heart. Other reason is to identify possible freaks and perverts before their life become interlinked. Yet another reason is that they consider dating as a privilege that must be earned by someone who is worthy.

On the other side, some people are comfortable to date a complete stranger, ..well not a complete stranger, but you got the idea. If it works out, then they can start working to progress into a more intimate relationship. It if doesn't work that well, they can just be friends. If it really doesn't work out, you ignore him/her or even avoid him/her if necessary. Slap in a court order if it's really necessary :-)

If you want to approach someone, it is important to know in what category does your interest believe in, ie: dating before friendship or friendship before dating. Failure to know that will fail the relationship.

If someone believe in dating after friendship, and you declare an interest on him/her and persuade him/her to date while you're not in a friendly term with him/her, you will be rejected without any more chance of future date.

If someone believe in dating before friendship, and you develop a friendly relationship too slowly hoping that you will eventually date him/her, (s)he might decided too early that you're not worth the trouble to know because of the steps must be taken to. This is especially true for people whose life are too hectics to waste on people like you.

Summary-ing the above and adding some of my own experience, indicators of what a person believe in are:
1. Age and time constraint. Older people tend to believe in dating before friendship since they appreciate their life time more than younger ones, and they might want to get married as soon as possible.
2. Busy-ness and free time. Busy people tend to believe in dating before friendship due to reason in point 1 above.
3. Number of friends. More friends means more choice of possible intimate relationship thus less likely to take risk of "heavy commiting" too fast. Since "heavy commiting" too fast is a characteristic of dating before friendship, people with more friends tend to believe in dating after friendship.

Anyway, please correct me if I'm wrong, or tell me some more indicators I missed.

Yeah, it's so complicated. Life sucks.

Which one is better? HP 12C or TI BA II Plus

This is an old post of mine, defending the virtue of HP 12C over TI BA II Plus. Hewlett Packard 12C and Texas Instrument BA II Plus are both the only type of calculator allowed in CFA exam.

One of the most significant differences between those two is the procedure to enter operation such as addition, substraction, multiplication, and division. HP 12C use what mathematician call postfix notation, where TI BA II Plus use infix notation.

The following example will illustrate both notations.
Example of problem to be solved: 2 x ( 3 + 5 ) =

The buttons to be pressed on infix calculator (TI BA II Plus) are:
"2","X","(","3","+","5",")","=". For a total of 8 buttons pressed.
Note that the button pressed are buttons pressed in so called "normal" calculator.

The buttons to be pressed on postfix calculator (HP 12C) are:
"2","Enter","3","Enter","5","+","X". For a total of 6 buttons pressed.

HP 12C is superior than TI BA II Plus for the following reasons:
1. In HP 12C, you dont have to remember the number of open or close parantheses outstanding because parantheses are not needed.
2. Consequently, mistakes in inputing paranthesis are eliminated.
3. The number of buttons to be pressed for an equation can be less.

The only barrier in choosing HP 12C over TI BA II Plus is that people are usually more used to the infix notation. But in my opinion, once you master the postfix notation, you will definitely choose it over infix notation.

Below is the link to a HP 12C if you decide to buy it. No, I'm not gonna give you the link to the more inferior calculator :-).

A wedding ceremony

Since I was requested to write the proceeding of a wedding, I thought I should just blog it so many people can benefit.

The ceremony was held on 7 pm at a place where traffic jam is almost non-existent. On other consideration, almost no public transportation reached this place.

Since it was dark, I can't estimated the size of the building where the wedding is held. One thing for sure, there were plenty of parking lots.

There were 2 wedding receptions at the same time, each share half of the main hall inside a building. The reception I attended occupied space around 50 metres x 40 metres (Disclaimer: I am very likely to be waaay off since I suck at estimating distance), but I believed the decoration and lighting makes the room look smaller than it was. The ambience is quite cozy.

I think I was late for around 15 minutes. But as expected, many people were late too. Even the groom and bride were late for around 30 minutes. Although the entrance of both groom and bride into a wedding hall in Indonesia, is usually made to be grandiose, this one was somewhat uneventful. I think lack of music and formal announcement welcoming the couple were the cause.

The groom was grinning as usual, with his trademarked grin. He still looked like the last time I saw him around 4-5 years ago. Maybe a bit chubbier... I think. The bride... I didn't personally know the bride. She seemed like an outgoing person. She seemed to be the active one in talking to his groom. They seemed tired but happt.

The ceremony was standard. There was one highlight when the MC teased them by asking how they met, what made them love each other, have their parents ever caught them kissing, etc. They took the teasing pretty well, and with a reasonable grace if I may add.

The audiences didn't really care about the party, as expected from your typical Indonesian wedding reception. Oh yeah, it was a standing ceremony. The food was quite good but the placement of empty plates really sucks. They put them near a wall on a table such that people must queue to get them, before quequeing again for the food. The wedding organizer need to take a course in Operational Management 101..

What else to report... a bestfriend of mine stepped on the bride's gown, unintentionally. Noone seemed to realized it, except me :-).

That's all I guess unless someone wants to know a specific thing..

NB. Anyway, due to a certain event a certain someone owed me a certain favor. I am waiting... :-)

*Update on grammar, spelling, structure, etc. Update on the favor: maybe one day I'll ask another favor*

An inspiring desire to study

A picture worth a thousand words. But a picture without context will be lost..

This picture was taken from a car, at around 7.15 AM, on 13th October 2006, in Jakarta, Indonesia. (With a Zire 72 if you really want to know why it's so ugly :-)).

The road they're on is not exactly a safe neighbourhood, although not necessarily unsafe either since an elite real estate area is located nearby. The traffic is pretty light, unlike usual days.

I was there, so I can see things that are uncaptured by this photograph. The person behind the motorcycle was a young boy whose age was at most 10 years. He was reading a handwritten note which is likely to be his or his friend's since the writing style was very childlike. His concentration was so intense such that his eyes never leave the book while I was seeing him. He let the momentum of the motorcycle rocks his body back and forth.

It was very dangerous. Yet, his desire to study is very inspiring.

Nice gold necklace you have there

Today, I was queueing in a bank for almost 3 hours, an unusually long queue. This is caused by a backlog of people who cannot go to the bank for 5 days due to Idul Fitri, and the closing of all branches except some major branches of this bank.

Anyway, this one man in front of me was wearing a gold necklace. Considering how he dressed and the unparticularity of the necklace, he seemed to wear the necklace for flaunting his wealth.

Too bad that his gold necklace turned out to be an imitation. It was obvious because his skin developed a major rash around the necklace. Since gold is one of the most inert metal in the world, gold cannot cause rash.

He was soo busted.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cycle of time may reduce effectiveness of goal setting

Goal setting is important and I think everybody can agree with that. Milestone setting is as important as goal setting because it keep you on track towards the goal you set and it alerts you on your progress. And most people will agree that the more milestone you create, the more controlled your progress towards the goal.

The time to finish goal and milestone are set by human thus they will be based on a time indication considered convenient by human. For example, it's unlikely for me to set 9.37PM past 18 seconds as the time to complete this blog. It's more likely if I set 9.30PM as the time because it's more convenient.

As the consequence, the cycle of time we use such as seconds, days, weeks, months, years, can potentially reduce the effectiveness of goal setting because we tend to overcontract or overstretch the time required to finish a goal, or a milestone.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Self-esteem: lying to others or lying to yourself

Despite of my posts such as this and this, there is one very important advantage in boosting self-esteem, regardless of whether the self-esteem is well-grounded by any evidences. The advantage is: You will look confidence, and confidence attract people.

Although, this phenomenon can be explained from an evolutionary perspective, I won't bother to talk about it for now.

What matter is that you can create confidence out of nothing. You don't have to be pretty, or have potention muscle, or have potential body shape, or smart, to be confident. Everybody can be confident.

I'm not saying that confidence is a bad characteristic to be attracted to. What I'm saying is that in the matter of confidence, the playing field is somewhat equal. And that's my friend, is a boon for us if we sucks at everything in our life.

Now, if you can boost your self-esteem regardless whether you deserve such a high opinion of your self, then you will automatically be confident and it will show in your actions. Chicks and guys will dig you, probably thinking that you're some hotshot. And in this approach, the only person you lie to is your ownself, that is by believing that you are more than you actually are.

Compared the above approach to the next approach. You can be honest to your self, realizing that you're just a normal decent guy/gal, but you pretend to be a confidence and very important powerful guy/gal. It will works. Chicks and guys will dig you, but you have just lie to other people.

In My Humble Opinion, lying to yourself is easier than lying to other people. Therefore a person with an unjustifiable self-esteem, will be easier to attract people compared to a person who is honest to him/herself.

So, we can conclude that self-esteem might deserve such a high rating.

The invulnerable self-esteem

I have stated that self-esteem is a fragile creature that depends on the stability of it's environment to stay intact. But there is an unusual way to create a high self-esteem that does not depend on environment. The method is what I call a nihilist method.

Some people discover the nihilist method because their educational background or mental exploration, lead them to an appreciation that self-esteem might be an arbitrary construct without any intrinsic meaning. They key word here is appreciation, not understanding. Someone might understand or know the diversity of cultures in the world, but (s)he might not appreciate it.

Anyway, in short, they will think that it really truely irrelevant what they think about themselves, and they mean it.

Education background and mental exploration that lead to such appreciation are:
1. Theoretical physics
Explanation: Exploration of high level of abstraction will eventually make you wonder whether there is any intrinsic meaning to.. anything)

2. Philosophy

3. Or simply too much time to daydream :-)

Ironically, by treating self-esteem as a meaningless construct, they can gain a high and stable self-esteem. Another choice of avenue is that they will totally disregard self-esteem in their life.

An example of famous people whose self-esteem might be of this type is Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator. Given his ability to entertain different hypothesis, it is not a far stretch to say that he appreciated this possible construction of self-esteem at some point or another.

There are quite many people holding this kind of self-esteem.

Knowing your ownself is better than boosting self-esteem

A person having a high self-esteem without evidences supporting his/her competence, is a fragile person (as discussed here).

Even if evidences exist, a high self-esteem can still be fragile due to changes in what considered important. Case in point is being good at sport. If you're still in high school, the fact that you can dunk can really boost your self-esteem. But once you enter the working world, your godlike sport skill does not really matter anymore.

Therefore a high self-esteem must not become a purpose by itself. Knowing your ownself must be the purpose. What you must achieve in life is an understanding of your ownself, or "knowing your own self".

Self-esteem and knowing your own self is related but different. A good progress in knowing your own self does not necessarily lead to higher self-esteem. An honest assessment of your own self might reveal that you suck at certain things thus might lower you self-esteem.

"Knowing your own self" is still not free from pitfall. I will post the series of "Knowing your own self is overrated" :-)

Self-esteem is overrated

Topic of self-esteem can easily extends to many posts, but for now I will exposed the general idea of self-esteem.

Instead of explicitly defining self esteem or self worth, I can explain self-esteem by describing it's relationship with a person's subjective appraisal of herself. It's the factor influencing whether someone subjective appraisal of herself is considered positive or negative.

A more concise definition of self-esteem can be found here. Quoting from there: self-esteem includes a person's subjective appraisal of himself or herself as intrinsically positive or negative to some degree (Sedikides & Gregg, 2003).


Self-esteem is considered very important especially in American culture. The themes of many popular literature/media and popular self-help books evolved around the importance of self-esteem, as indicated from corny phrases such as "You can do it" or "I know you can". People with high self esteem is depicted to be "complete" or perfect, attractive or cool, etc. Many developmental problems are attributed to lack of self-esteem so that an positive self-esteem automatically eliminated problems.

Interestingly, you can see that many of those movies encourage a "You can do" attitude without any reasonable basis. For example, a boy whose track record in baseball sucks, somehow due to a "You can do" attitude, can hit a home run in a critical moment for his team. It's unreasonable yet such attitude is encouraged.

This type of encouragement causes a high but fragile self-esteem. The boy might have a high self-esteem believing that he's good at base ball, but without any evidences in the past supporting such believe, his self-esteem is easily shattered once he fail to hit in one critical moment.

After such incident, other people or himself will try to instill to himself more self-esteem by undermining such failure. Such method will work. But his self-esteem will be more and more fragile making failure much more hurting. It will hurt so much that the boy might start relying on maladaptive behavior (such as cognitive dissonance, or bullying) to cope.

This unreasonable emphasize in self-esteem regardless of reality, is a big problem in the US, and becoming a problem in countries strongly influenced by US culture. A psychological experiment that measures US students and Japan students' assessment of theirself, indicates that US students significantly overestimate themselves.

*Updated: Spelling, grammar, and structure, not yet*