The Blessed Childhood of the Confident

I was reading “On Confidence” where it discussed about why some people don’t have the confidence to face others who might judge or oppose them, something I am certainly still struggling with. The discussion moved, interestingly, toward some thoughts about proper parenting, which I copied below as something I’d like to keep strongly in mind:

The judgement of others have been given a free pass to enter all the rooms of our minds. There is no one manning the border between them and us: the enemies are freely in us, wandering wildly and destructively through the caverns of our inner selves, ripping items off the shelves and mocking everything we are. […]

Where does such underconfidence around enemies come from? We should, as ever, begin with parents and sketch an imaginary portrait of types who could unwittingly create such tortured mindsets. However ostensibly loving these parents might have been, they are also likely to have felt a high degree of trust in the system. If the police were investigating one of their friends, their guess would be that the authorities were correct in their suspicions. […]

When it came to their own children, these underconfidence-generating parents would have applied a similar method of judgement: the issue of how much and where to love would have been to a large extent determined externally. if the world felt the baby was adorable, they probably were (and if not, then not so much). Later, if the child won a maths prize, it was a sign not just of competence at algebra but of being, far more broadly, a love-worthy person. Conversely, if the school report described the child as an easily distracted dreamer, who looked as if he would flunk his exams, that might mean the offspirng didn’t quite deserve to exist. The lovability of the child in the eyes of the parents rose and fell in accordance with the respect, interest and approval of the world.

To be on the receiving end of such parenting is a heavy burden. We, the recipients of condiitional love, have no option but to work manically to fulfil the conditions set up by parental and worldly expectations. Success isn’t simply a pleasant prize to stumble upon when we enjoy a subject or a task interests us; it is a psychological necessity, something we must secure in order to feel we have the right to be alive. We don’t have any memories of success-independent affection and therefore constantly need to recharge our batteries from the external power source of the world’s flickering and wilful interest. Unsurprisingly, when enemies come on the horizon, we are quickly in deep trouble, for we have no ability to hold in our minds the concept that they might be wrong a we right; that our achievements are not our being, and that the failure of our actions does not presuppose failure of our entire selves. Rendered defenceless by our upbringing, we have no border post between inside and out. We are at the mercy of pretty much anyone who might decide to hate us.

Contrast this with the blessed childhood of the confident. Their parents would have maintained a vigorously sceptical relationship to the system. The world might sometimes be right, but then again, on key occasions, it could be gravely and outrageously wrong. Everyone was, in their eyes, endowed with their own capacity to judge. It is not because the crowd is jeering that the accused is guilty, or vice versa. The chief of police, the lead reviewer of the Times, or the head of the Pritzker Architecture Prize might well be idiotic; these things happen. In their role as parents, the messages of the confidence-inducing were no less generous in their scepticism: ‘You are loved in and of yourself because of what you are, not what you do.

You aren’t always admirable or even likeable, but you are always deserving of affection and charity of interpretation. It doesn’t matter to me if you end up the president or the street cleaner. You will always be something more important: my child. If they don’t have the wisdom to be kind, fuck them!’. Without necessarily intending this, the parents set up a soothing voice that still plays on a loop in the recesses of the mind, especially at moments of greatest challenge. It is the voice of love.

A Rush of Information

“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is quite possibly my most favorite show in Netflix. During a particular moment of profundity in a chat with Trevor Noah, the show’s host Jerry Seinfeld said something that resonated strongly with me as I’m going through some challenges in life:

Everything you need to know, you’ll figure out when you need it.

Even if you miscalculate and make the wrong decision, you needed to know that. I always say that pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a gap. When you stub your toe on the foot of the bed, that was a gap in knowledge. And the pain is a lot of information really quick.

Happy and Uplifting Facts

Stumbled upon a list of happy and uplifting facts on Reddit. Here are some of my favorites:

Bees get sleepy after drinking nectar and occasionally take naps on flowers.


Sunflowers face the sun. When they cannot find the sun, they face each other.


Mother dolphins sing for their babies while they’re in the womb.


Your dog really does genuinely love you, it’s not just a case of depending on you for toys and food.

It’s been studied that the oxytocin levels in a dog’s brain sharply elevate when they see a human they have a positive relationship with. When exposed to the scent of their owners in an MRI machine, the dogs’ levels elevated higher than any other scent.

EDIT: For those asking, yes, cats love you too. Similar studies have been conducted on them. If your cat follows you around, purrs, wiggles the tip of their tail, or stares at you/stares into your eyes and blinks, these are telltale signs your cat adores you.


Physical activity releases dopamine so by motivating yourself to work out you will be more happy because of the actual action and from the results if you stick with it. Now if you haven’t exercised today do a few pushups or situps!


Sometimes in movies, when dogs/wolves are supposed to look mean and threatening, their tails would have to be redone with CGI because their tails won’t stop wagging from doing such a good job acting.


And the last one got me thinking:

Mr. Rogers was the same both on-camera and off-camera.

Sounds simple, yet at this point of my life I find it to be a constant challenge and effort to understand myself, so I can both be kind and genuinely true to myself regardless of the situation.

The Root of Unhappiness

The root of my unhappiness seems to be unfulfillment of my wants.

The unfulfillment is sometimes something that I can’t control. There are external factors that can cause it.

The wants, however, definitely come from within me. They are something I can control. The less I want things, the less I face unhappiness.

This gets confusing because it feels to me that what brings happiness is fulfillment of my wants. So if I reduce my wants to avoid unhappiness, I have fewer source of happiness as well.

So perhaps the clue is to decouple wants and happiness. I read in a book once that it is efforts toward mastery that brings true happiness. Maybe that is the key. Maybe I should spend more time there, instead of giving too much time to wants.

Lastly, perhaps another true source of happiness is being grateful for what I already have. If I can do this, I feel it can naturally reduce wants as well.

So, going forward, this is what I want to focus on:
– Reducing my wants, by
– Getting happiness from mastering things, and
– Getting happiness from being grateful.

Top 15 Sci-fi Books, According to a Redditor

Someone on Reddit claimed that they have been reading nothing but science fiction for the past 6 years, and made this list as a recommendation:

  1. The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell)
  2. Hyperion Series (Dan Simmons)
  3. The Stand (Steven King)
  4. I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)
  5. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  6. The Forge of God (Greg Bear)
  7. The Forever War (Joe Haldeman)
  8. Not Alone (Craig Falconer)
  9. The Sirens of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)
  10. Nightfall (Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg)
  11. Old Man’s War (John Scalzi)
  12. Childhood’s End (Arthur C. Clarke)
  13. Spin (Robert Charles Wilson)
  14. Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein)
  15. Footfall (Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle)

There is more summary of each book, and honorable mentions, in the Reddit thread.

Bricolage

Merriam-Webster’s definition:

noun bri·​co·​lage | \ ˌbrē-kō-ˈläzh  , ˌbri-\

construction (as of a sculpture or a structure of ideas) achieved by using whatever comes to hand


According to French social anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, the artist “shapes the beautiful and useful out of the dump heap of human life.” Lévi-Strauss compared this artistic process to the work of a handyman who solves technical or mechanical problems with whatever materials are available. He referred to that process of making do as bricolage, a term derived from the French verb bricoler (meaning “to putter about”) and related to bricoleur, the French name for a jack-of-all-trades. 

What Does Bump of Chicken Even Mean?

Bump of Chicken logo.

Linguists geeking out about the name of one of my favorite bands was not something I knew I needed:

Somehow this bothered me in a way that other J-pop band names like “Porno Graffiti”, “Golden Bomber”, or even “Funky Monkey Babys” didn’t. These latter seem to me to follow some sort of intuitive English syntax, but “Bump of Chicken”??

Of course I grew up with 1960’s band names like “Strawberry Alarm Clock,” “Iron Butterfly”, “Led Zeppelin” and “Procol Harum”, but again, these seem in some way syntactically correct in a way that Bump of Chicken does not.

The comment section should not be missed as well.

Interestingly, during high school (with Indonesian as the native language), it was pretty common for us to use the English word chicken to describe a cowardly person, so the band’s explanation of their name to mean “counterattack from the weak man” would’ve been rather easily understood there.

A Digit That Should Have Been A Zero

A fascinating story about a pair of programmers at Google, Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat:

On Sanjay’s monitor, a thick column of 1s and 0s appeared, each row representing an indexed word. Sanjay pointed: a digit that should have been a 0 was a 1. When Jeff and Sanjay put all the missorted words together, they saw a pattern—the same sort of glitch in every word. Their machines’ memory chips had somehow been corrupted.

Sanjay looked at Jeff. For months, Google had been experiencing an increasing number of hardware failures. The problem was that, as Google grew, its computing infrastructure also expanded. Computer hardware rarely failed, until you had enough of it—then it failed all the time. Wires wore down, hard drives fell apart, motherboards overheated. Many machines never worked in the first place; some would unaccountably grow slower. Strange environmental factors came into play. When a supernova explodes, the blast wave creates high-energy particles that scatter in every direction; scientists believe there is a minute chance that one of the errant particles, known as a cosmic ray, can hit a computer chip on Earth, flipping a 0 to a 1. The world’s most robust computer systems, at NASA, financial firms, and the like, used special hardware that could tolerate single bit-flips. But Google, which was still operating like a startup, bought cheaper computers that lacked that feature. The company had reached an inflection point. Its computing cluster had grown so big that even unlikely hardware failures were inevitable.

from “The Friendship That Made Google Huge”

J002E3

For about a month in 2002, J002E was discovered and thought to be an asteroid. It was found to be orbiting Earth, which was unusual because the only large object to do that is, well, the Moon.

Then NASA did some measurements and concluded that it was a man-made object. J002E3, it turned out, was the third stage of the Saturn V rocket from November 1969. The rocket helped launch Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, and Richard Gordon on the Moon landing mission of Apollo 12. When he reached the Moon’s surface, Conrad famously said: “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”

Read more about the history of J002E3 here.

Multitasking Considered Harmful?

Psychology professor Anthony Wagner:

In about half of the studies, the heavy media multitaskers are significantly underperforming on tasks of working memory and sustained attention. The other half are null results; there’s no significant difference. It strikes me as pretty clear that there is a negative relationship between media multitasking and memory performance – that high media multitasking is associated with poor performance on cognitive memory tasks. There’s not a single published paper that shows a significant positive relationship between working memory capacity and multitasking.