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Noise

30 Sep

This post is a reflection on a conversation I had with a friend of mine.

There’s a lot of noise out there.

An ear receives a sound wave, which our brain then maps to something in our memory, perhaps a word or a feeling.  Most of the time though, our ears aren’t just receiving one wave at a time.  In fact, I’d wager that our ears are constantly bombarded with waves from different sources (or the superposition of these waves).  As I write this, I’m hearing a professor lecture in a nearby classroom, the gentle taps of my fingers on the keyboard, the faint him of the air conditioning, the occasional shuffling of paper… and the list goes on and on.  Yet despite all of this noise, if someone was to walk up to me and start a conversation, I would be perfectly capable of interpreting their sound.  This is a testament to the design of the way our ears and brain work.  The assumption is that people care most about the loudest signal, so our brain naturally gives the most weight and processing to the loudest sound.

Ideally though, if you’re really trying to focus on understanding a sound, you want to isolate the sound from the noise.  When you go to a symphony, you’re asked to be silent.  When you go to a movie, the only sound is coming from the speakers.  In a lecture, the professor is the only one speaking.  This is so because in order to maximize the ability of our brain to interpret a sound, it needs to be completely focused on just that sound.  Noise disrupts out focus, which weakens the brain’s ability to interpret, and therefore the depth of our understanding of the sound.

So why all this talk about ears and sound?  Well, I’ll get there.  But first, I want to talk about the eyes.

There’s so much to see in the world.  Every moment our eyes are open, our eyes are receiving signals from different wavelengths of light rays, which are interpreted as colors.  These colors are then sent to our brain, which maps clusters of colors to objects we are familiar with.  But unlike sound, we have more control of what our eyes focus on.  Our eyes don’t fixate on the ‘loudest signal’ like our ears do.

Despite this difference, when we really want to understand an object seen by our eyes, we try to isolate that particular object.  The walls around a painting at an art gallery are white.  A movie theater is completely dark except for the screen.  We isolate these objects so that we force ourselves to focus in on the object we’re trying to understand.  Because we have more control of our eyes, we need to exercise discipline to focus on particular objects.  In this way,we are note overwhelmed and are more able to understand what we’re looking at on a deeper level.

In our new technology enabled society, we have access to an infinite amount of information.  This is great.  As Thomas Friedman talked about in his book The World is Flat, the playing field is essentially even for anyone in the world with an internet connection.

While access to this information is beneficial to society in so many ways, it is also detrimental.  With so much information at our fingertips, it’s vey easy to be overwhelmed.  It’s hard to know what information we should care about.  It’s hard to know which information we should spend time processing, and which information we should ignore.

I find that most people are glued to this access to information.  Walking around campus, almost every person is either holding their phone, or has their hand in their pocket ready to pull out their phone in an instant.  In study rooms, classes, and dorm rooms, almost all students have their laptops open.  And even more, they’ll have their e-mail, facebook, twitter, and various other hubs of information open simultaneously, as if they can read e-mails and articles at the same time as looking at the photos from last weekends frat party.  The existence and success of twitter is testament to the belief that we now prefer shorter chunks of information.

We can look at information in the same way we do sound and images above.  There’s so much information being literally ‘pushed’ down to our devices.  How can we focus on the information that matters, and the information that doesn’t matter?  How do we avoid becoming a society of people who know a little bit about a lot, as opposed to a lot about a little?

Perhaps we have to set aside time each day where we can engage in an activity that requires deep analysis uninterrupted.  Or perhaps the need to specialize isn’t as important as it used to be.

The internet is a great asset, but needs to be used wisely.  Stop and think about it when you get a chance.

Sunday

29 Aug

It’s Sunday

The lord’s day

and the clock reads eleven.

The virgin Mary guides me

to the big rock candy mountain,

a destination of fate

of love

of–

something devine.

And he calls

at momentary perfection

completing the illusion

For,

I finally realize

like the precious stones

my own identity

is nothing,

without polish and discovery.

Ray of Light

24 Aug

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It happened today.

Through a mist of people she came;
like a dream she was before me.

and I can’t recall any words,
only eyes of melted-honey,
and her natural magnetism–
Oh, the life in her slender face!

Her candor wins me one-thousand times over.

Collegiate Dreams

23 Aug

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And we return,
and we begin again,
minds flickering what our future lay–

The nervous boy holding on to his past,
grappling his year’s supplies,
starved of esteem and demand–
Will it ever come?

The girl, bluer than the ocean,
weeping tears of unconscious hope,
angry at the world’s unjustness–
Her obsession, like any, will certainly pass.

And I — ripe with the knowledge they seek,
billow in solitude;
mind flickering what my future lay.

And in the natural course of things…

12 Aug

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As summer comes to an end, new transitions begin.  Out goes the summer job, the traveling abroad, the couch potatoing and old friends. In comes a new school semester, new people and new ideas.  Some things are hard to let go of, others we are happy to rid ourselves of.  Some will embrace new challenges and opportunities, while others will worry about the unknown.

It’s important that we don’t mindlessly transition.  There is a huge opportunity during transition points to learn from the past and alter our course going forward.  Just take a few minutes and reflect on questions like the following…

  1. Did I have goals? Did I meet my goals?
  2. What have I learned from my experiences?
  3. How has my direction changed? How should I change my direction?

As you reflect on your past and make plans for the future, you can start viewing your life as a story.  A good story is all about transitions.  From poverty to riches, from criminal to hero, or from depression to happiness, we revel in the protagonist’s transitions.

So what’s your next chapter?

Insight:

11 Aug

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If you’re not constantly improving your trade, constantly striving to make your company’s stock price move higher — constantly making revisions so as to maximize shareholder value, then, you are not running a business at all.

And to the person it is no different;  constant revision is required in becoming a fulfilled man. We must let go of the things holding us back: old relationships, friendships, old mentalities — and push on! There is always something new to be learned, someone new for us to meet. Don’t be content — embrace change! — and think of yourself as an employee in the ever-changing business of life.

A Passage into the Creative? Steve Jobs speaks out.

7 Aug

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The Apple posterboy was recently asked about  his stance on moderated drug use; he had some interesting things to say.

Job’s comment here: http://digg.com/search?s=steve+jobs+marijuana

I could’ve guessed Steve Jobs smoked marijuana…

how do you think he came up with Visualizer?

Why college is the best time to experiment

26 Jul

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College can be a fantastic opportunity.  I wish that everyone realized this.  For this post, I’m primarily talking to people who don’t have to worry about paying their tuition (either their parents are paying for it, or they have scholarships).  On the other hand, if you are paying for your own school, I give you nothing but mad respect.

Anyways, if you do happen to fall into the first category, I do hope you are taking advantage of this incredible situation.  You’re living for free.  You have very few obligations outside of school work.  School work doesn’t take up all of your time (if it does, I’m sorry to hear that, but you must be killing yourself).  You don’t have to deal with maintaining a home, working a full-time job, being responsible for other human beings, etc… Basically, it’s great.

There will never be a time quite like this for the rest of your life.  If you don’t take advantage of this precious, FREE time, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say you’re losing out on a huge opportunity.  You’ve got nothing to lose, you’re in safe ground.  If you go out and try 100 new things, and fail at every single one of them, so what?  You’re still in school, living your life, getting a great education.  No harm done.

Therefore, I challenge all of you to do something with this time.  Try to become a master juggler, learn to speak a Khoisan language, start a business selling hand-sewed mittens, or write a novel about an insect on an epic adventure.  Just do something, anything!  This is your chance to learn about who you are as a person, what you enjoy, and form new friendships with interesting people.

I’m not interested in your excuses, and frankly no one will feel sorry for you when you look back on your years in university, wishing you tried new things.  So if you haven’t done this so far, now’s your chance, you still have a lot of time left.  And if you’ve already been doing this, great!  In fact, we’d love to hear about it.

So next time you’re at school and you’ve got some free time, think twice before you jump on Hulu and watch a few episodes of your favorite show, think twice before you study 10 hours when you only needed to study 4, think twice before… it’s too late.

We don’t need no… ed-u-cation

2 Jun

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Learning is a funny concept. In this day and age, Americans are expected to complete a minimum of 13 years of school. Tens of millions of students choose to extend their education for another 4 to 11 years. We believe that an educated society is a more moral society, a more productive society, a better society. And we’re right. However, I’m here to tell you that while we learn a good amount from classes, reading, homework, and from our peers, the ultimate learning experience is jumping straight int he deep end and getting your hands dirty. That’s right, I’m talking about a job.

Last Monday, I started my internship at Apple Inc., a mobile devices company in Cupertino, CA, famous for such products as the Apple Computer, Macintosh, iPod, iTouch, iPhone, Macbooks, and most recently, the iPad. Unfortunately, it turns out that Apple is a very secretive company. I am not allowed to talk about what I’m working on or what team I’m working for. So, I will talk about everything else.

Working at Apple as a rising sophomore is daunting. I feel as though I am lightyears behind my peers in terms of knowledge. I have to ask questions all the time. Things that would take a regular employee a few minutes sometimes take me a few hours. I spend most of my time listening to conversation without the slightest notion of what is being talked about.

Each morning I return to work, I feel a tiny bit more confident than the last. I imagine by the end of the Summer, I will have learned more than I did all year at school.

It is interesting to meet all the different people working here at Apple. My roommates and I combined come from the following cities: Dallas, Austin, Pittsburgh, Hawaii, Canada, and Boston. We have a lot of different perspectives, which is really cool to experience.

Cupertino is a suburb plain and simple. Neighborhoods are ubiquitous, shopping centers, grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants, and all that good stuff. The main difference between Cupertino and other suburbs is the quantity of tech companies in the area. It is after all located in Silicon Valley. In a walk to the grocery store I passed by Apple, HP, Symantec, and half a dozen other smaller software companies. The focus on technology in this part of the country cannot be escaped. Restaurants embrace products such as Yelp and Foursquare. Coffee shops are filled with young techies jabbering about the latest news on TechCrunch and Hacker News.

While the omni-presence of technology is awesome, it can get overwhelming after looking at a computer screen for X many hours a day. Luckily, the beach is less than an hour away, a short drive through the mountains. The city of San Francisco is 45 minutes to the north. The beautiful campus and area of Palo Alto just a short 15 minutes to the west. All in all, a great location.

As I mentioned, my last few weeks have been really busy, but I have been doing some homework on the markets. More normal posts to come the next time I get a chance to write. As they say in silicon valley, exit(0).

One Cave to Rule Them All

15 May

Man Cave Skeleton

Just yesterday I finished up my last exam of the year. Shortly after, my father arrived to help me pack-up and move out of the dorm. I’ll admit, deconstructing “the cave” was a hard thing  for me to do. A lot of work had gone into it. A lot of great memories had been shared there. Ups, downs, strides, travails, frolic, drama — The Man Cave saw it all.

Despite my nostalgia, I want to officially announce that The Man Cave lives on! College is not somewhere we have to be to make this happen. Our habitat has simply relocated. This summer I will be blogging from my hometown, which is near Dallas. Mike will be contributing from a little bit farther West ;).

Also, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful start to the summer season. I look forward to starting production of my film, traveling, and, of course, devoting as much time as possible to The Man Cave.

OH!, and a quick aside. The Man Cave now is on YTMND. Check our page here: http://mancave.ytmnd.com/ Uhh.. its pretty B.A… cough…cough

stay cool,
Dan