Mariama - Grains of Wisdom

the only lies that exist are the ones you choose to believe

Gestern an einem Feld voller Kornblumen vorbeigefahren und heute nochmal zurückgekommen. 📸

You may need to have some irrational inner talks with yourself to help you get to a rational place. The key is not to wallow and get stuck on repeat too much.
– somewhere

The meaning of life is 42. The ascii code 42 is “*”, which is a wildcard in regex. Thus, the meaning of life is whatever you want it to be :)

Charlotte Jane, Refuge

There’s a darkness inside
I can see it on your face
How d’you feel?
What’s been on your mind?
I’m just trying to help you
But you don’t want my refuge
… you’ll never learn to fly
If you push it to the side

– Charlotte Jane, Refuge

This is an incredibly skillful and intriguiing cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven by a guy on a street in Vienna. His name is Valter Tessaris an Italian

He has more recordings on YouTube:

Very good explanation of various techniques to use in composition of music. The lady is very modest, but plays “Happy birthday” so well.

When you have connected with your audience, when you have connected with another human being on a deep level through what it is you are sharing, you have made something real hapen at that moment. And it’s memorable. And it’s something that is very precious.

– Linda Apple Monson, TEDx talk on Overcoming stage fright,

Music makes you feel feelings. Lyrics make you think thoughts. Songs make you feel thoughts.

– Ben Levin citing Yip Harburg in Adam Neely’s YouTube video here:

A man wishing to be unhappy finds many ways to prove his course.

– Hundred Eyes (Marco Polo series, S2:E3)

Is Success Luck or Hard Work?

Video by Veritasium.

Very nice explanation of something I always knew well: huge part of our successes and generally ending up where we end up (be it well off, or not so well off) is due to coincidence. You can call it luck, or just a chance.

This is true in many professions too. For instance getting a professorship and generally success in academic environment is only partially due to one’s skill, I claim that besides that, perhaps the single most important factor is the choice of the mentor. Partly already an MSc. thesis advisor, but most importantly PhD. advisor. Germans call that fittingly “Doktorvater”.

In essence, we shall be aware of the role luck plays in our lives. Partly this should tone down the implicit feeling of entitlement many have - it all could have been very different if not for a series of small events here and there. Sometimes they are very hard to even identify.

So you cannot “get lucky”, right? Because that is the precise definition of luck:


  1. events that are beyond control and seem subject to chance; fortune

The free dictionary

But the thing is, luck can partly be engineered. You cannot predict what exactly will happen to you in life, but you certainly can increase your chances of getting lucky. We call this sometimes “serendipity”:


  1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
  2. good fortune; luck.

The free dictionary

The keyword is aptitude. So how can one engineer a bit of luck? Change your context! There are geographical and social localtions where opportunities are more abundant than elsewhere. Moving to a larger, more vibrant city is an obvious one. If you want to eventually bump into somebody who can help you to move where you want to be, what is the likelihood of that happening in a remote village of 600 people? And conversely, what is the likelihood that the same will happen in New York? Another idea is to constantly build one’s social networking. Knowing many people, even if casually as in being on a talking basis extends ones abilities. If you mess with the world a lot, you’ll develop needs to find out about something, or to get somewhere, for instance getting your next job. A broad social network is useful for this. You pull it and it tends to respond. You still need to be qualified for the next job, sure, but the network can tell you that such a job even exists. Job boards are always only second-best option to employers. Smart people tend to have smart friends. Is it fair? Perhaps not. Does it work like this? Sure.

Other interesting tidbits from the video

I really like the initial remarks on egocentric bias: how people remember what they did, but obviously do not what others did (because they don’t see it). In turn, we overestimate our share of anything: amount of chores we do at home, contribution to professional successes at work, but also the blame for the amount of arguments we have. Very to the point.

@academicalnerd What’s with you? You went silent. Not that I care too much, but a small bit yes :-). I hope you are doing well.

The world breaks everyone (musings)

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering …

— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics, via Wikipedia on Kintsugi. C.f., also here

The world will break you

Hypothesis: Each of us has a blind spot in the gear we use to live our lives. Either you do not mess with the world enough and thus lead a somewhat dull life, or eventually you will meet you nemesis: you get badly stuck (trauma-level stuck).

As children we learn to live our lives. We observe our parents, our broader relatives, people around. We absorb their ways of problem solving, relationship management, way to introspect, seeing ourselves in the world. We tend to think others are like us. We live our lives and it works well. Actually very well most of the time. We get confirmed that our ways of seeing the world are right.

As we move through it, the world poses new and new challenges. You sort out your work life, career, family stuff, relationships, we fail, sometimes more, sometimes less, we succeed a lot too, we go on. We hone our abilities to live.

Then cracks start to appear. But we know how to move on, we are professionals of our lives. We step on the gas pedal and push through because we know how to do this. More of the good stuff will solve it, right?

Until not. I postulate that beyond certain intensity of “living” eventually, we get stuck. You hit a wall. That’s when the world will break you. It is not a question of if, but when.

Those that will not break it kills

I tend to think that it is inevitable that you eventually crash. It is futile to try to avoid it. You are fooling yourself if you think you can.

What matters is what you do during and after the crash. Will you break, or will it kill you? Getting killed metaphorically means to remain stuck and unhappy for the rest of your days (or at least long-term). If you break and have an ability to put yourself back together, though, you not only survive, but you get stronger along the fracture lines. Those who can have the ability to renew, reinvent themselves. Perhaps even more than once. It just hurts a lot. Always. That’s life.

Get ready

So what can we do to get ready for the crash? Remember, you can’t avoid it, you only can get ready for what comes afterwards. What can we do to prepare our children for their own crash day which will eventually come?

If we knew, we wouldn’t get into crashes in the first place, right? We wouldn’t have a blind spot. But the definition of a blind spot is just that: it’s there and you don’t even know about it. And when somebody tells you, you ignore them, because you know better anyway. Until it’s too late. Life.

But perhaps there are clues about things which can be done to get ready.

If you are a part of inertial system, you cannot say anything about whether it moves, or not. You need and external observer for that.

Being introspective helps. Avoidance kills. Especially avoidance of your own emotions. Seeking external observers helps even more. Letting people in helps. Keeping people out leads to a kill more often than not (I believe). Acceptance helps. Especially that of oneself. Single-mindedness and pushing through tends to kill too. Rich and vibrant social fabric of friendships helps. Isolation tends to do the opposite. Resilience helps. Knowing that failure is part of life helps. Perfectionism and high standards tends towards the opposite. Optimism helps a lot. Negative thinking most of the time not so much.

Self-healing is a difficult thing. Yet, exciting.

I also think this whole story will have further repercussions and reverberations in the upcoming debate with and in German govt which seems to be interested in this vaccine too. Certainly it’s not a very good marketing there. Let’s see what the German regulator says…

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Not that I care too much, but this is interesting.

  1. few weeks ago (in a desperate PR action) the govt of Slovakia bought 2Mio doses of Sputnik V vaccine.
  2. instead of directly distributing it, the govt asked the national testing institute for medicines (or whatever is the name) to approve it
  3. the institute finally delivered a report stating that a) the docs to the vaccine is severely incomplete, b) the Russian producer refuses to answer further questions both from the institute and from EMA and c) they noticed that the vaccine batches across countries significantly differ in what they are and how they are handled. Most importantly d) the batch used for Lancet study of efficacy is different than the one Slovakia bought so it’s unclear what are the real performance properties of this stuff. In turn, the institute recommended to use the vaccine only at significant risk as they are not equipped to evaluate this more thoroughly (only EMA is).
  4. in turn, the Russian producer (after speaking to the now ex-PM of Slovakia) alleged this as fake news and
  5. requested return of the whole delivery on the ridiculous ground that in a breach of sales contract the vaccine was put to test by a 3rd party lab.

Source of the latest points:

Well. Personally, I totally agree with the view that the conditions and scrutiny for admitting this vaccine shall be the same as for other producers, but Russian producer thinks otherwise and thereby withholds important information. They obviously try to force other countries to use this on the basis of plain belief that it works as marketed. And these antics about requesting it to be sent back, well… If they fully refund it too, I guess it should be OK. We learned something new about vaccine politics here though.

Attachment project

A project aiming at tackling the attachment disturbances in people. I think this is indeed very valuable and important.

Let’s end the pain and suffering caused by attachment disorders

When we heal our own pain, we can heal the next generation after us. > Pain from an attachment disorder is passed on through the family line > until someone is ready to heal it.

Issues are intergenerational, and can often be shared across several > generations of families.

My own thoughts over the last months are indeed along these lines. Most suffering in relationships is caused by people being messed up from their childhood by their family circumstances, typically by the messed up psychology of their parents. This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of suffering in relationships. People don’t even know what it is, on their own, they just think it’s that everybody is screwed up. They are not. It’s each of us who needs some healing. Sometimes. The thing is, these are perfectly fixable issues. One just needs to be open to listening to this stuff, identify what’s the issue, understand what’s at stake and fix themselves. It’s easier to say than do.

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