Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Consumerism and alienation

Came across this quote, which is really one of the reasons my children are in the Waldorf kindergarten and school system:

“The relatively new trouble with mass society is perhaps even more serious, but not because of the masses themselves, but because this society is essentially a consumers’ society where leisure time is used no longer for self-perfection or acquisition of more social status, but for more and more consumption and more and more entertainment…To believe that such a society will become more “cultured” as time goes on and education has done its work, is, I think, a fatal mistake. The point is that a consumers’ society cannot possibly know how to take care of a world and the things which belong exclusively to the space of worldly appearances, because its central attitude toward all objects, the attitude of consumption, spells ruin to everything it touches.”
― Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future

I don't think consumption itself is a problem. The problem is the attitude - if there is no thoughts about production, no consideration at all, then the result is a complete alienation towards the world. It is like existing in a prison, getting everything spoonfed.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Danish blog

I finally got around to dusting off some notes I have taken over the past year or so and got my Danish blog published. I intend to use it for Danish things that just seem pointless to blog about in English, but it is currently mostly about the local Waldorf/Rudolf Steiner School that my oldest son attends.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

What a dumb thing to say

Have you ever witnessed a stranger remark something and thought it to be a dumb thing to say?

I sometimes ponder that kind of sayings years later and realize that I was wrong: I was in fact the dumb one.

I couldn't see why it made sense at the time, either because I was not experienced enough, or because I was stuck in a certain mindset, or just didn't give it enough thought.

The world is beautiful
These days, realizations like these make me incredibly happy - the world suddenly grows more beautiful. 

And it can off-hand remarks, not intended to be deep, but just a reflection of a large sum of experiences.

For instance, one of the adults in the kindergarten my children attend once explained to me that you cannot really change the children in the kindergarten. They are who they are. But you can help them be the best version of themselves.

That really stuck with me. I think it sums up how to approach other people - we should always help them be the best version of themselves. Imagine a world where your partner, colleagues, managers, customers, students, shop assistants, everyone had the aim of helping you be the best version you could be in a given situation.

That's beautiful.

And the ability to see this is truly one of the gifts of growing older. I can understand things I couldn't understand before.

And when I get surprised by people who I believe should think better saying something that does not seem right, I try to spend my brain cycles on why they'd reach that conclusion rather than how wrong they are.

I'm finding that works really well when trying to come to terms with politics. Today I'm more interested in the politician than the party.

Internet culture
I love reading, I guess I am really a curious person. The internet is full of forums with people discussing all sorts of things, in great detail, donating their personal time to illuminate the rest of the world with their arguments and experiences, from a point of view that is hard to reproduce. For instance, I don't know how it's like to be an 18 year old girl. Or an investment banker.

But seeing things from their perspective is valuable. And I have participated myself too. Over the years, I must have written several thousands of posts here and there.

The interesting thing is that for me, replying makes the man-that's-dumb mistake harder. I don't like being wrong, so once I start a reply, somewhere an unconscious part of me starts wondering if I am really right, or whether there could perhaps be meaning somewhere in the words that seem so dumb.

In the end I often end up not clicking the submit button.

In some cases I have gone ahead, only to realize months later, to my great agony, that I was in fact the dumb one.

But when I then go back and look at the discussion thread again, I can see that often, it's not really a case of two people being stupid to each other, but more a resolvable failure of communication.

As I grow older and start condensing hard-earned truths myself, I'm starting to experience it from the other end - people who obviously think what I say is dumb because they do not appreciate the context. It can be really annoying if it's people I care about.

I need to work on my communication.

The reverse situation
In some sense, the reverse situation is much worse. I and everyone else think something sounds profound and correct and smart, only to realize, years later, that it is in fact pretty dumb.

When I do that myself, I'm somewhat happy that I can now see my mistake. But honestly, seeing other people do it makes me depressed.

Friday, February 16, 2018

When five becomes six

Janne woke me up saying she thought now was the time. But she wasn't sure. She had a few false starts, keeping her frem sleeping.

She did sound so as if this was different, though, so I started calling for help. She also called the midwives at the hospital who apparently didn't quite believe she was going to give birth yet.

Just before the help arrives, Lys woke up, so I had to comfort her. When I get up, Janne is weird - apparently she's less and less sure. But the rest of us think it's better if we just go so we arrive at the hospital 15 minutes later where the midwife examines her and concludes that she's ready to give birth as soon as the water breaks. Not long after, our fourth child is born, a son.

He's a bit blue but alright.

Unfortunately, Janne's uterus doesn't contract itself properly, so she looses too much blood, almost 1.5 liter they think, so there's a little emergency until the staff manages to get it to stop, partly by medication, partly by pushing down on her stomach.

They then kept her for a day for observation before releasing her and the child. That's now just about four weeks ago.

We're going to call him Dag - "day" in English.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Emotions and intuition

Not yet done with my layman journey into thought processing and intuition, my model is as follows: Thinking intuitively, you first acquire experience, probably mostly through trial-and-success/error, then let yourself pattern-match the situation at hand against this experience.

Now the funny thing is that, at least for me, when I need to evaluate several options, the way this pattern matching gets communicated up through the system is in many cases through emotions.

What I think is the right path makes me more calm and happy, whereas a path which I for some reason have had a bad experience with or expect to have will make me more anxious. Which actually makes sense. But it can come out in an incoherent way.


For instance, our course teacher at university in software management, an experienced and well-honed practitioner and pragmatic thinker once told us a story about a project which he ended it with a tired expression and the remark: "Just thinking about how to work with that is just almost unbearable."

I think what he meant to say was that going along that path would be long-winded and tedious. But what I actually understood from this was much simpler: his intuition had decided this was the wrong path and sent him a bunch of negative emotions instead of an honest, objective assessment. We didn't get facts, we got a tired expression.

Intuition can be right, and I certainly believe it was in his case, but bad at communication so you may end up with the wrong set of arguments for why. Which is not surprising if intuition is a complicated, haphazard pattern-matching process.

Now if the arguments are ideas, you can use logic to examine them and quickly discard those that are bogus, but it's much harder to work with emotions.

Emotional decision-making

While I believe that intuition is really powerful, much more powerful than logic when it comes to coming up with ideas and making decisions, emotions are certainly not something you want to be in control of decision making.

Emotions tend to make us, well, emotional.

There is a purpose to emotions. Hunger makes us look for food, excitement makes us focus and endure hardship, indifference or lazyness makes us conserve energy, fear makes us careful, affection makes us bond and mate, and hate and anger makes us defend ourselves and punish destructive antisocial behaviour.

But these are primitive mechanisms. You can see a house cat take a liking to the occupants of the house or a dog get angry at someone passing by too close to the territory. A person following only emotions is like an animal.

Emotions are simply not sophisticated enough devices. Following them makes for shortsighted decisions, although, ironically, they may serve a long-term goal - love for instance is certainly necessary for the survival of the human species.


So while I'm still a firm believer of the power of intuition, I think it's important to be able to detach from the emotional aspect to get anywhere. So not get emotional, but instead listen to the conclusion and try to figure out if it is guided by experience or if it is simply an artifact of who you are.

This is to me a three-way paradox. Intuition can provide the answers but not explain them, emotions can communicate the answers but at the risk of leading straight into an emotional and uncooperative dead end, logic cannot provide the answers but perhaps offset the emotions and help dig up an explanation from the intuitive depths.

I don't think you can be an effective thinker without emotions, despite emotions being in some sense the antithesis of thinking.

As a side note, I think I should clarify that detaching oneself from an emotion is a tool to use in certain situations. Much of the joy being a human comes from immersing oneself in emotions. It's just that when it comes to making important decisions, it may be better to set aside the immediate joy, or fear for that matter, and look into the future. Even if you hate that person, is it really a good idea to act on it? Or even if you love that person, is it truly best for you to act on it? Maybe your fears are unfounded?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Tonight, as I was dual-wielding my 1-year old daughter Lys as she was supposed to fall asleep, yes, I was holding both of her hands, at her request, I suppose it gives that extra 60% of comfort or something, I got thinking about the transformative experience it is to have small children.

I think that the experience eventually wears off, although I would assume some residuals are always left. But I can't say for sure yet. Lys will be 2 years old this February but she isn't our latest child, unless you only count born children.

For me, the transformation is mostly about accept, of my own situation and that of my children.

For instance, I can't control even basic necessities in my life - like sleep. Not if I am to take care of my children. The moment I might need sleep the most, I may not sleep well for next week if one of them is ill. That's just the way it is.

But that part is sort of trivial. Much more interesting is the uncontrollable human situation.


An example is hurting people. Let me start with myself: as I held my daughters hands tonight, it struck me that I'm inadvertently hurting my children all the time. Why?

Well, it's just impossible not to. Physically, it's like a human in an elephant house in a zoo, the difference in size is just so big that the small party is going to take a hit sometimes. I going to trample a toe or scratch an arm when I swing them around giggling.

But also emotionally, it's just so hard to understand where small children are, and I don't always have the time or concentration or mood to even try to be there. And as is obvious with three children, sometimes someone has to let it go. We can discuss and think about priorities and what's the greater good when we find ourselves in a conflict, but in the end someone must chose a path. That's just the way it is.

Being mean

But it gets worse. There are so many ways to hurt other people, to be mean to them. I have yet to see a child who doesn't occasionally try out most of the obvious ones. And despite my children being, in my opinion, generally lovely, lively and relatively reasonable, they have too.

I try not to let them get away with it, but I don't control them. You can't control other people, and my children are definitely, albeit still in a small manner, people. Nor should I. Talk is cheap, leading by example is not. They need to understand and choose for themselves.

So, as I parent, I will watch them be mean to each other and to other children and vice versa. That's just the way it is.


For me, the transformative part comes about because of force. Before being a parent, there are many aspects in life where I could maintain an idea of how things should be, possibly an illusion, but still. But it's no longer about me, only, and I find myself being forced into accepting things that I don't, at the outset, like.

In this accept, I've started to see some things that I haven't understood before, not only in small people.

You can't accept something without putting preconceived notions or what I think of as morality aside. Morality, even if well-founded, like the pretty obvious idea that you should never hurt others, is really one-sided in its emotional nature. Once morality enters, it calls for an immediate action, clouding cool judgement. So X hit Y. Shame on X!

Now my examples may have been somewhat dramatic, but honestly I don't think those are terribly deep. I may witness a child of mine being mean, but I'm not going to like it and will try to find a reason behind and do something about that.

What I have accepted is that this is human nature. And this accept of the human nature has opened some doors for me in much deeper territory.

I'm finding it easier to read about politics (and send an occasional email to a party), to understand and learn from the Waldorf kindergarten and school that we've ended up sending our children to, to work with people.

How much is visible from the outside, I don't know, probably I'm just tired and grumpy. But it feels different.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some ways to get probabilities wrong

An interesting set of paradoxes in probability.

Some of them are somewhat mind-boggling.

It's too bad school doesn't generally teaches us enough to get the intuition right.