Herd Mentality

What do herds do?


First there are big mouths and groupthink.


Then there is chasing each others tails.


This could lead to literally going off a cliff. 


Typically, like wolves, they hunt viciously in packs.


When they are stalked, they run scared leaving the weakest to serve as prey. 


When hunted, they are separated and slaughtered. 

Sometimes they stampede and can run over anything in their path.

Occasionally, they even devour their own young to keep the herd fed. 


Herds serve a survival function in nature, but when the herd is dumb, as if often the case, they die off and are left extinct. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Malware To Malevolent People

So in virus protection on the computer, there are 2 common ways antivirus software works:


1) Signature Detection – There are known patterns of viruses and the antivirus software looks for a match against one of these. 


2) Behavior Detection – There are known patterns of normal behavior on the computer, and the antivirus software looks for deviations from this. 


Each has certain weaknesses:


– With signature detection, if there is a zero-day exploit (i.e. a virus that is new and therefore which has no known signature) then it will not be caught by a blacklist of known viruses.


– While with behavior detection, some viruses that are designed to look like normal network or application behavior will not be caught by heuristic/algorithm-based detection methods. 


For defense-in-depth then, we can see why employing a combination of both methods would work best to protect from malware. 


It’s interesting that these same techniques for recognizing bad computer actors can be used for identifying bad or dangerous people. 


We can look for known signatures/patterns of evil, abusive, and violent behaviors and identify those people according to their bad actions.


Similarly, we generally know what “normal” looks like (within a range of standard deviations, of course) and people who behave outside those bounds could be considered as potentially dangerous to themselves or others. 


Yes, we can’t jump to conclusions with people — we don’t want to misjudge anyone or be overly harsh with them, but at the same time, we are human beings and we have a survival instinct. 


So whether we’re dealing with malware or malevolent individuals, looking at patterns of bad actors and significant deviations from the normal are helpful in protecting your data and your person. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Life Cycles For Carnivores

I thought this was interesting-funny in terms of the the food life cycles for us carnivores:


For meat, it’s:

“From farm to fork.”


And for seafood, it’s:

“From boat to throat.”


Either way, we end up eating it. 


Just plain hungry or only the strong survive. 


Vegetarians and vegans can ignore this post. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Make People And Time Count

make-time-count-jpeg

So there was an article in Slate about how kids think these days.


And it’s a reflection of the adults, of course. 


When 10,000 middle and high school students from 33 schools across the country were asked, what’s more important–80% chose high achievement or happiness as their top priority vs just 20% who picked caring for others.


The kids who chose their happiness and achievement over helping others tended to score low on empathy and were at greater risk of being “cruel, disrespectful, and dishonest.”

Bottom line is that these are our values that we impart when we recognize and reward our children for things like good grades and extra-curriculars, but not for helping or caring about others. 


Pretty much, I think parents worry that their kids should be able to support and care for themselves, because that’s what’s considered our primary responsibility as parents–to make sure the next generation survives and can go on physically and materially once we are gone. 


In a way, it’s Darwinism and survival of the species and of the fittest. 


The problem is survival of our physical manifestation is not equivalent to the thriving of the spiritual being inside all of us. 


It’s not enough to live, but we have to live a good and descent life.


Our bodies wither and die, but our souls learn, grow, and go on to the afterlife. 


Yesterday, I had this freakish accident, going through the turnstiles on the Metro in Washington, DC.


The person before me went right through the gates as they opened, but when I put my pass down and went through, the gates had a glitz and closed suddenly right on my legs (and my artificial hips) and I went tumbling forward hard to the floor. 


Amazingly, two wonderful bystanders (not the Metro employees who didn’t even flinch or care) came rushing over to me, and literally lifted me up by the arms and handed me my wallet and glasses which had fallen to the side. 


One of the people that helped was especially nice to me, and he asked me how I was and really seemed to care that I was alright–imagine that a complete stranger in the Metro! 


The two people who stopped to help could’ve literally hopped right over me to rush for the train at the end of the day like everyone else, but they didn’t.


To them, caring was more important than their own time. 


Maybe I got the 20% yesterday, but it made me realize AGAIN how terrific some people are and they truly make time count–by making people count–like unfortunately many others may never ever bother to. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Doing It On One Leg

Always finding people with new and creative ways to work out (and torture their bodies).



The gentleman does the stairs on one leg…



Down not so bad (but keeping your balance probably a little challenging). 



Up, one after the other, pretty impressive. 



And he did this routine again and again.



The fitness craze is taking shape…hopefully eclipsing the sedentary and gross carb diets people have adopted over the years.



Carbs, as good as they may taste (although I think you don’t even really taste them as people shovel it in), should be banned or at least greatly limited as an addictive harmful substance.



And sitting all day at a desk, not what otherwise healthy people were meant to do, also big no-no.



We can’t let ourselves become a society of shlubs getting fat, tired, and unhealthy–it’s part of a trend of depressive and destructive personal and social behavior. 



I really think we need a Western fitness revolution–not body-worshiping–just a good healthy balanced lifestyle where we become planetary survivors again and not a bunch of virtual couch potatoes that want to make you puke. 😉



(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)

The Happiness Meter

The Happiness Meter

Ever realize that no matter how hard you strive for happiness, it almost always seems just as elusive.

There are many explanations for this:

Of course, it could also be that just because you think something will make you happy, doesn’t mean it will. Often, the fantasy does not live up to the reality, and so rather than achieve happiness, we end up disappointed.

Another explanation, from economics, is the law of diminishing marginal utility that tells us that more of a good thing, does not make us incrementally happier, rather the benefit and satisfaction that we receive from each additional unit of consumption is lower. Let’s face it, the 5th mouthful of chocolate cream pie is not as satisfying at the first, second, or third. And at a certain point, you actually will want to puke!

The Wall Street Journal had a brilliant piece on this that explained this from an evolutionary perspective–fitter organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce, so every time we make a positive decision in our life, rather than find happiness, our “happiness meter” resets to zero, forcing us to make the next positive move in our life to make us better, if not necessarily happier. In other words, keeping us unhappy, forces us into perpetual striving.

So while happiness has been correlated with our genetic makeup, life events, and values (New York Times) or even exercise, altruism, and supportive relationships (CNN), real happiness comes from living a life of meaning, where we find satisfaction in the journey itself, and not rely only on the destination.

For example, Buddhists understand that life is suffering and that we need to escape the hamster wheel of jealousy, aimless external desire, and quenchless ambition and instead seek to do good and find inner contentment.

One colleague (ex-army) of mine used to say, “everyday that I am not in Iraq and Afghanistan is a good day” and perhaps we need to think in those terms too, as we all know things can always be worse, so we would do well to find happiness not just in what we have or achieve, but in thanksgiving for what we are spared as well. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Pleasure At Pain

Pleasure At Pain

Why do people laugh and feel pleasure at other people’s pain and misfortune?

The Wall Street Journal (20 August 2013) reviews the book, The Joy of Pain, on this topic.

Schadenfreude is the German word for feeling pleasure at the calamity of others.

And we see people laugh, point, and otherwise gloat when others are hurting physically, emotionally, financially, and so on.

When they fail and you succeed, you feel strong, powerful, self-confidant, and that you were right–and they were wrong!

Feelings of pleasure at other people’s pain is partially evolutionary–survival of the fittest.

It is also a function of our personal greed and competitiveness–where we measure ourselves not by how well we are doing, but rather relative to how others around us are faring.

So for example, we may be rich and have everything we need, but if someone else has even a little more than us, we still are left feeling lacking inside.

Thus, we envy others’ good fortune and take pleasure in their misfortune.

In a sense, our success is only complete when we feel that we have surpassed everyone else, like in a sport competition–there is only one ultimate winner and world champion.

So when we see the competition stumble, falter, and go down, our hands go up with the stroke of the win!

Anyway, we deserve to win and they deserve to lose–so justice is served and that makes us feel just dandy.

How about a different way–we work together to expand the living standard for all, and we feel genuinely glad for others’ success and real empathy for their pain, and they too for us–and we go beyond our pure humanity to something more angelic. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution for Lukas Vermeer)