Sunday, 27 October 2013

Putting the cart before the horse

Our bodies are funny things really. We'd like to think that they're rational, easy to understand things but they're really not. Or maybe they rhythms they obey are still a whole level of understanding beyond our current reach. Either way, it's continually fascinating how certain processes work. 

Maybe our minds are too enslaved to the concept of causality. For example, if a person is smiling, you'd naturally assume that they were feeling particularly joyous at that moment. In other words smiling is just an external symptom that is simply expresses an internal state :

Happiness ----> Smiling

So naturally  the concept of Laughter Clubs sounded ludicrous to me initially. Like why would you randomly start laughing if you really didn't feel like it? And even more confusing, how could this forced, "artificial" laughter succeed in triggering actual happiness? But then you read about laughter clubs and not only do the participants report leaving the events feeling elated, but then you have lists of studies that suggests there might actually be benefits to the practice.

It would appear that the reaction goes both ways :

Happiness <----> Smiling

This then got me thinking about the process of trying to consciously improve oneself. Mostly everyone is on this journey, in some form or another, but this process is fraught with frustration, whether you're trying to give up smoking, lose weight or be more productive.

For me, the most irritating part of the whole thing is that generally, the different aspects of your life kind of tie into one another. So maybe you want to eat more healthily but your job is really demanding and you don't get time to cook properly. Or maybe you want to sleep more but you also have to a lot of work in your spare time for a hobby. Either way, the problems can begin to seem intractable because it looks like you'd have to overhaul your entire life in a one massive swoop.

In a sense, you wind up stuck in a phase of constantly "trying" to change instead of actually making progress and "being" that new thing. And after a while the "trying" phase itself can become entrenched which means it's now comfortable to be uncomfortable, if that makes sense.

Anyway, it strikes me that there might be another way to approach the problem. Instead of only planning out the steps between you and your goal, it might be possible to also pick out some marker that describes your future self and then start doing that thing immediately. Nevermind that you've not achieved the new state yet, this should work exactly like the laughter club thing. By doing the new, symbolic behaviour, you're no longer "trying" to change and instead you've already kind of changed, in a sense. 

And it doesn't really matter how arbitrary the marker is, it's more important that it's something physical and tangible and externally visible. These are important because if the marker is something intagible like "in the future i will always be happy", then that's just a thought. And thoughts have a way of feeding in on themselves and chasing their own tails and not getting you anywhere. Having something physical is easier because our bodies are physical and because an external thing would be easier to evaluate to know for yourself if you're doing that thing or not.

So here's my plan, I've been trying several things over the months to be more productive so for the next month I'm planning to change it up a bit. For the next month, I will endeavor to be clean shaven for the entire 30 days. I think shaving will be a good, yet sufficiently arbitrary marker for several reasons. Firstly it's a nice, physical thing that is easy to evaluate. Also, from personal experience over the past few months, it's generally the easiest thing to let slip if things start getting hectic which then has me roaming around like Mr. Crusoe. 

Also there's no need to get fanatical about it, as such I think it's okay if i don't go more than three days without a shave. The marker is chosen more for how integrated it is into the rest of your life and how much of a change it will cause if habits surrounding the marker are altered in any way. Not to mention that my particular shaving habits require almost half an hour to get a good shave.

I'll count this as my first official experiment on this blog, in the style of David Cain of the Raptitude blog. The experiment will commence on the 1st of November and I'll post the results after the end of the month. 

Lemme know if this makes sense to anyone and if you're trying your own versions of the experiment then leave me a comment. :)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Money and Freedom

I've always found that life has no shortage of difficult questions to tackle. Stuff like :

"Who am I?",
"What do I want?",
"What's the meaning of it all?"

..."How do I get my hair to look awesome everyday?"

But eventually, and this is especially true once you have to start paying your own bills, eventually you start to consider what it would take to become super, duper rich. Like diving into pools of gems kinda rich. Or maybe that'd hurt too much... gummy bears with emerald centres maybe? For diving into obviously, not to eat; what's wrong with you!

And then maybe a year or two passes and you're like, "Okay fine, not so rich also. Just one chotta sa superbike and some cool jackets and that babe Emma Watson as a girlfriend yaar, not soo much also." If this is your story too then not to worry, Uncle Joel has the answer. Nevermind all those people telling you you're an irrational dreamer... and that you need to stop speaking in that silly accent.

So the problem is this, how do I live comfortable and securely and get (mostly) everything I want while also being able to enjoy those comforts? No point in working for some 30 years till the big bucks start rolling in to start enjoying life. By then all I'll be in the mood for at the end of the day is a Scrubs marathon on my intra-eyeball, retina-resolution, embedded viewing system (with HD).

And as such, the problem I have with today's career landscape is the overwhelming feeling of having to run just to stay still. Planning, investments, loans, property investment, "skill upgrading",... just the sound of it is exhausting. Worst of all is that even if you play that game, you're still super vulnerable to waking up penniless one day if the "Invisible Hand of the Market" decides to give you the finger.

So here's my idea. Get your friends together (even if it's just you and your Teddy), and form your own little country. No not in a seditionist sense, what's up with you today! No, I mean in an economic sense. Like you pool all your resources and like give each other responsibilities and draw up a constitution (No farting on the couch!) and generally get "civil society" set up. Back in the real world though, please by all means continue to pay your taxes and stuff, except that now you and your amigos have to actually start to think about like 'How do we grow our country', 'What resources do we have', 'How do we get Zach Braff to do a Kickstarter fundraiser to get us International Aid?'

Obviously you and your friends would still go to work and get paid a salary, except now you'll are coming home in the evening and counting the money that your lil' country made from the services you provided to another nation or corporation or whatever. Of course this money is pretty worthless within your own nation state, since you and your buddies haven't really needed a currency system yet. So what do you do, you go out and buy stuff from the guys who actually use that currency. Ordinarily it'd be some permutation of beer, meat, cornflakes and milk but then maybe one of your buddies is an economics student. Then you'll might also consider buying some seeds and maybe growing vegetables out on the porch, which helps you spend less of your salaries foreign exchange.

So it's been a couple of months and things are going really well. But by this point, something starts to happen. Some other friends (maybe not super close but you'll maybe hi-fived each other once when that cute girl at the college fashion show sort of smiled in your general direction) start to notice that you guys in your little nation over there seem a lot more chilled out of late. And that you seem to have more beer lying around than they do. So they ask if they can join your club as well and that look, they have all this nice equipment they'd be willing to bring in to the country like a washing machine and a microwave that their rich parents bought for them.

Things start to get interesting now, because your country is starting to attract a lot of different skill sets. Now, you have people actually growing wheat in their balconies and baking some bread with it. Some other people might be really handy with tools, and make some DIY windmill power generators out of masking tape, cling foil and dreams. Of course in the beginning it wasn't hard to keep track of who owed how much to the community cuz it was just a handful of people. Now however, you have the sneaking suspicion that someone's eating more of their share of the pizza's and not cleaning up the cartons afterward. Not to mention there are all those "modest" types who won't bother asking you to pay them back even if they've loaned you a week's worth of groceries, we need to keep track of it somehow.

Well we could just have a new currency. And for simplicity we adopt a new currency with the same value as the salary foreign exchange that's still coming in. But then what would be the point, we'd be right back where we started and all the old tensions would re-appear. As soon as you have the old currencies then suddenly everything's back to square one because now nobody wants to actually produce anything anymore, now it's all about investing in derivative sub-prime equity-reimbursed buy-back mortage diversified freakin' bubble gum bonds. No, we need something better...

...There is a kind of freedom to be had in this self-employed mindset, but it vanishes so frustratingly easily. One thing is clear though is that the success of the experiment all hinges on the way the currency gets constructed.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Germany - first impressions

It's been about three months since I've been living in Germany, so it might be a little late for a "first impressions" post. Time has certainly has flown but anyway, let's start this shit up...

So by the way, I've been living and working in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony which is a smallish town near Hannover. One advantage of a smaller town is that both the serenity of the outskirts as well as the excitement of the city are both within a 15 minute bus ride of each other. Car exhibitions, flea markets and pubs are just as easily accessible as a hike through the forest.

It's a pretty awesome change being able to hear the wind through the trees and birds chirping outside the window and stuff. I haven't read the book yet but i feel (just a little) like I'm Henry David Thoreau in Walden. :)


Pretty much one of the first things I noticed after arriving in Germany was how nice everyone generally is. For instance you'll be standing at the bus stop or passing someone on the street and they'll generally wish you a cheery 'Hallo'. At the supermarkets or at restaurants and things the service people are generally quite happy and conversational, it takes some getting used to. Also service people in general tend to be quite young here and seem to be waiting tables or tending bar to generate income for something else. Perhaps school tuition or even just extra pocket money.

This age and "motivation" factor has some interesting side effects, like that they are very honest and open about their place of work. So for example, a friend was telling me he was at a store and they didn't have the specific brand of what he was looking for. So when he asked the cashier where else he might look, she directed him to another store even though it is a direct competitor! And all of this is considered pretty unremarkable here whereas other establishments might very well fire the cashier for "driving away business"

Speaking of culture more generally, it's also quite amazing to me how much of Germany has permeated into pop-culture all over the world. Right from pre-school the very word 'Kindergarten' is a German word that literally translates to 'Garden for Children'. Grimm's fairy tales as well are basically Germanic folktales that have been watered down over time to make them more palatable for a younger audience. You can check out a summary of some of the original (more gruesome) versions here.

Even depictions of Gingerbread houses then are very Germanic looking...

House-spotting in South-Germany

And the list just goes on and on.


Even linguistically there's so much cross pollination that it almost goes unnoticed. Words like 'Kitsch' and 'Foosball' or even 'Gesundheit' are so commonly used that they sometimes don't even register as being German. There's apparently lots of other German words that are directly used in English, forget the ones that are derived from German. You can check out some of them here.

I also had the opportunity to attend a German language course recently and it was quite a fascinating experience. It seems to me that learning even a little bit of a foreign language gives you direct insight into the collective psyche of a whole people and culture. For instance, German as a language has a comparatively small number of words compared to languages like English. Perhaps the German reputation for straight talk springs from this since even when they speak English, they don't bother with very niche words while making a point.

Plus learning a language can be quite good fun because of all the little gems that you stumble across. For example nouns in German all have a very strict gender which is expressed by their prefixes. So 'der' for masculine, 'die' (pronounced 'dee') for feminine and 'das' for neuter. Which then makes it quite amusing to note that sausages in general have a feminine prefix whereas things like Donuts have a masculine prefix. (Note : No one said these gems were particularly sophisticated)

Public Amenities

Another thing that's extremely striking is how well organized and comprehensive all the public utilities are. For example public transport just continues to leave me speechless. In the time I've been here I've seen the bus service disrupted just once, and that too because of sudden snowfall. Even if a bus is delayed or doesn't run at a particular time that's the exception, not something to be expected.

Equally impressive is how connected the bus system is to the train system in the sense that if you have a train leaving at a particular time there's very likely a bus that will take you to the station with five minutes to spare. So in a sense these separate systems don't leave you to work out how they fit together. As further proof, there's an app that provides you with live bus schedules. I could give the bus stop outside my house as the start point and the hostel in the other city as the destination and the system gives you all the intermediate bus and train stops to get to the station, take your train and then reach your room.

Even interacting with government offices is made so painless. When I first arrived, there is a registration form that needs filling out and by force of habit I expected it to take about half a day. But after arriving at the Rathaus (Town Hall) it was a five minute wait for a 15 minute procedure (that included the guy welcoming me to Hildesheim and handing me a welcome kit that contained a map, a schedule of upcoming city events and a coupon for the public swimming pool) and I was out of there! Honestly it's stuff like that that constituted the biggest culture shock.

Another thing that took the longest while to get over is the fact that drinking water is immediately drinkable. I mean, I love India and all but one does not simply drink water straight out of the tap!

Boromir knows what I'm talking about...

Perhaps stuff like this could just be attributed to the climate and the engineering pressure it puts on everyone. Like if it's snowing for half the year then you'd better be damn sure everything's well engineered because if it isn't then you're screwed son. But still, it is pretty impressive. Like how do you get water to flow over an entire country and have it be pure enough to drink! I'm still not completely over it actually, come to think of it...

Living and Working

For a large percentage of people around the world, one's day job constitutes a large portion of the day. But in Germany atleast, 'work-life' balance is considered extremely important and people don't generally work weekends or long hours. Most awesomely, insane hours aren't worn as badges of honour in the workplace. Instead they're recognized as being regrettable and temporary inconveniences because there was something that happened that nobody foresaw.

Generally speaking, Germany seems a primary example of what is possible in a country that is just plain prosperous. From an individual's perspective, time moves a lot slower and things aren't always running at break-neck pace. While crossing the street (at a zebra crossing, of course) drivers actually stop to let you pass. If you ask for directions people don't just point you in the right direction, they also tell you that it's a helluva long walk and that you might as well wait for the next bus (true story).

People also seem to wait longer before making large commitments to start a family or even to settle into stable jobs and maybe they'll travel or do whatever for a bit until then. Even their extra-career pursuits are also a lot deeper, I guess because there's more time to do things like build remote-control airplanes or cycle or hike or get pilot's licenses or garden or bake or whatever. There's also a lot more public art around like street performers and guitarists and things, even graffiti is more developed as an art form. Random stuff like the picture below are fairly common...

Picture courtesy

Then from a societal / governmental perspective, having a prosperous nation at your disposal means that you have space to actually take care of people. So quality standards can be imposed on products more thoroughly, and consumer rights can be upheld more honestly. Police staff and ambulances services can be more well funded. Even crime rates themselves are less of a problem; at clothing stores they don't make you leave your bags at the door. Not to say that shoplifting never happens but I guess it's just not as much of a problem.

Roads are also better maintained, with cyclists getting their own lanes or even their own roads in some places. And as if that wasn't enough, the sign posts for pedestrian signals actually have handles where a cyclist can hold on till the light turns green. I mean, that's insaaannee! o.0

Relections on India

All of this might seem like I'm hating on India but that's not it at all. If anything, I feel like exposure to the way that other people live their lives has deepened my understanding of my own roots and background. At the same time there's also tremendous insight to be had into the real meaning of phrases like 'development' and 'quality of life'.

For example people generally say that overpopulation is India's primary problem but larger cities like Stuttgart or Nuremberg can be quite crowded without any breakdown in public systems. And people also say that maybe government administration is easier in Germany because perhaps the people are more homogeneous. But that's not true either; German culture shows a tremendous amount of variation between North and South and then again between the Eastern and Western parts of Germany. And even port cities like Hamburg are generally quite safe
even with the confluence of cultures there.

As far as India goes, I haven't the slightest clue about how one might go about tackling some the issues we're currently wrestling with. I hope to write more about this at some point but for now I feel like I've gotten a new perspective on stories that end with "...and there was prosperity throughout the land and peace reigned for a hundred years" and jazz like that. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Why work?

So I read this article a while ago called "Will smart technology create a world without work?" about how automation is killing jobs. At one point, the writer was talking about how even something as automation unfriendly as driving a vehicle could someday be the new norm. And while pondering the implications of this new situation, he asks :
If automation can unseat bus drivers, urban deliverymen, long-haul truckers, even cabbies, is any job safe? Vardi (introduced earlier in the article) poses an equally scary question: "Are we prepared for an economy in which 50 percent of people aren't working?"
But something about that question strikes me as being slightly off. The proper emphasis, to me, would be : "What if 50 percent of people didn't need to work?" 

Let that sink in a minute...

I for one think that that would be the most awesome thing ever, but that doesn't matter for now. What's important is that soon we'll be given an opportunity to rethink everything we think we know about words like "work", "play", "duty", "responsibility" and "fulfillment". I mean, if we reach a stage where we've effectively secured our free time for all of us, what would that mean for society? What would it be like to live in such times? Literally everything would change because a lot of the old motivations for doing things would be completely thrown out the window. If people's daily sustenance were secure would they then tend to gluttony and excess, or would they use that freedom to do all their "someday" projects? Would the education system become less competitive because you're actually there to learn and not just "secure a good future"? Maybe no one'd care anymore because they'd be too busy watching robot ultimate-fighter matches...

Well I, for one, don't have the faintest clue. But I remain an optimist and believe that in the absence of unnecessary competition, humanity's better nature will finally have a chance to flower. There's a lot I hope to write about this and related topics in the future but for now I want to specifically speak to two commonly used arguments against trying to free humanity from drudgery. 

"If everything can be perfectly manufactured, why would anybody do anything anymore!"

Well technically yes, it would be possible at some point to go into a store and buy a perfect table, say. Heck, you might be able to print one in your own home, perfectly matched to your floor so that it's absolutely horizontal. But to imagine that people will stop making tables just because they don't need to is preposterous. Rather, now that they don't have to do it, it just becomes that more valuable when someone does put their time into making a table. And he might just give it away for free, just happy in the joy of making something. Or if there was some currency in this economy, that table would command a much higher price than one off the assembly line.
In a related line, another argument is :

"Wouldn't everyone just get bored?"


For me, this would be the most interesting part of the whole thought experiment. As Alan Watts would ask "What would you do if money was no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?" Imagine a society centered around each individual finding the answer to that question, imagine what that would be like. And thinking about it, does anyone look at an infant and wonder how it never gets bored? Well it would stop to eat and sleep and poo and stuff, but more or less all a baby really "needs" to do is to play. And that's what would happen, I fondly imagine life would be a game again.

But I could be wrong, and everybody might get really really bored and start collecting and displaying the results of their nose-mining expeditions. And those samples would be arranged not only chronologically but by shape, size, colour and viscosity or whatever. Maybe there would then be experts in the field who would arise. Perhaps exhibitions and fairs where nose-miners and aficionados the world over gather to discuss the cutting edge of the game. And perhaps some experimental art project would spring up asking people to mail in samples, along with a note about what they were thinking about while they excavated it. Then they could be arranged in a giant mural, covering the side of the building, with the notes made accessible to visitors via an interactive display. 

...That'd be sorta beautiful I think, in a strange way. Something about how "We're all in this together", kinda thing. 

Meanwhile, for anyone who's not particularly happy with their job at the moment, here's a little something that might be of use to you. 


Leave me a comment... What's on your "someday" list? 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

On "Being Smart"

So I'm reading this article that's ostensibly about Andrew Mason leaving as CEO of Groupon and the lead quote jumped out at me :
What we’re finding is that 'being smart' isn’t really a job qualification."
And again, further on in the article :
Most of us millennials... kind of grew up thinking we were more “idea guys.” Remember that IBM commercial where people were lying on the floor in a server room “ideating”? That’s us. Ideas, man. Big ideas. That implementation bullsh*t? Not so much.
Mind. Blown.

Which brings us to the present. Right now I find myself in Germany (in a small town called Hildesheim to be precise) and further away from familiar settings than I have been in a long while. Lemme say that nothing lets you know the exact extent of your capabilities than not being able to do simple, basic, everyday stuff for yourself. Like being worried about accidentally destroying your (limited stock of) thermal wear by running the wrong washing machine program, or repeatedly burning rice even in an allegedly idiot-proof rice cooker.

Side bar : Don't believe the various YouTube videos btw... maybe it's just with Basmati rice, but rice to water ratio is 1:3 in a rice cooker, not 1:1. Also, with a little help from the neighbour, my clothes are now sparkly fresh once more. Booyeah!

*Cue 'I get by with a little help from my friends' *

A couple of years ago at my parents' 25th anniversary I gave a little speech and, among other things, remarked that one of the greatest privileges I owe my folks is the space they provided me in which to think and explore and learn and grow as an individual. And even though I'd decided then that it was time to stop "Ideating" and start actually doing stuff, the past year has continued to have a certain comfortableness to it. So the gradual route having not worked, hopefully my time here in Germany will be enough of a stint over at the deep end of the pool.

There's a bunch of things I'd like to get done while I'm here. For starters I'd like to attain some kind of basic German conversational ability. I'd also like to atleast get a start on some of the several projects I've had in the pipeline since forever. Overall I'd just like to soak up as much of Europe as possible while I'm here and just get a little practice looking after myself. At the very least I'll finally be able to say I can cook up something more than just eggs.

On an unrelated note, I'm washing the dishes the other day (this being before someone explained the dishwasher) when suddenly "Can't go back" by The Weepies starts playing. Tell me that's not some crazy coincidence...

The Weepies - Can't Go Back Now from nettwerkmusic on Vimeo.

Anyway, here's to an exciting few months. I hope to check in regularly with updates so that similarly afflicted armchair philosophers can take heart. But now, some dinner I think... *digs in to omlette*

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Beauty vs Truth : A Case Study

It started, innocently enough, with a picture...

And a comment...
"Why couldn't all of you just stand in this order : \/ \/ /\ \/ /\ \/ \/
Instead of : \/ \/ \/ /\ \/ \/ /\

The lack of symmetry disturbs me to no end
[sic], I am forced to assume that the arrangement is
\/ \/ \/ /\ \/ \/ \/

Yes the lack of  symmetry is rather vexing, now that it's been pointed out. But as good as my calves look in a dress, surely there must be some simpler way to resolve this travesty...

But despair not, there is hope yet! We can always turn to the Data Analytics field to save us. Btw, 'Data Analytics' (also called Data Mining or Business Intelligence), is something that is pretty much indispensable for businesses these days and might soon become a crucial skill-set for individuals as well. No need to be intimidated though, it's a relatively simple concept:
"Analysis of data is a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision making."

Let's get to it then. The first thing to do when approaching a problem is to form a hypothesis. Here obviously, the hypothesis we'll go with is:
"All images must contain symmetry".
Let's take another look at our data set :

Now that simply won't do. It's too vague, our hypothesis, and is clearly mistaken. Not only are the people not gender-symmetric, they're not arranged by height, weight, skin colour, muscle tone, style of attire or even how wide their smiles are either. No matter, we can simply ignore these factors as not being relevant and concentrate on any single aspect. In this case our new hypothesis now reads:
 "All images of people must be composed in such a way that their arrangement contains gender symmetry". 
By the way, it hardly matters that we've now zero-ed in rather arbitrarily on a relatively unimportant aspect of the picture, atleast we're making good progress. We'll have this hypothesis proven yet no sweat!

Next we need to set some ground rules. This is important because without any constraints we'd just run mad with power and start turning elephants into mole-hills and horses will be riding flying-pigs! So we shall have some rules and we shall christen them *hushed tones* The Methodology...

So with our sample data for example, we could just rearrange the people but as the original commenter points out, that would be illegal because :

"...since the picture is already taken, you need least effort transformations (in your head) to enforce symmetry... Rearranging people requires more effort than a single gender transformation..."

Well he's right but it's not very helpful because "least head effort" is a rather vague term. For the sake of the argument, let's quantify it and say that the easier it is to Photoshop something, the easier it is to imagine. By this scale, our commenter is proven correct; My lazy Photoshopping aside, it would be harder to swap people around to enforce symmetry than it would be to apply gender transformations to the stud in the middle and the belle on the left.

And again, one gender transformation is less expensive than two.

But again it seems our original commenter hasn't really considered every option. After all, considering photoshop as the reference, there's a much easier solution. All we'd have to do to enforce gender-symmetry is crop the picture at the ends...

Or if you want a cleaner image without people's shoulders sticking out at the edge of the frame, we could crop another one which would leave us with :

Quick side note : In data analysis the cropping we just did is called 'Removing Outliers' or (more pejoratively) 'Cherry Picking of Data'. This is an important tool in *hushed tones* The Methodology because sometimes data points aren't really relevant to your experiment. So for example if you're doing a study on the effects of smoking on life expectancy and one guy is a hundred and two and still puffing that'd be a huge finding! But then if it turns out he has a secret lab that's cloning replacement lungs for him every few years, you can safely ditch him as a data point. However not all things are so clean-cut, and there's a very fine line that separates "Removing Outliers" from "Cherry Picking".

And there we have it, our hypothesis is now quite firmly proven and no one's junk had to be re-wired or anything! *Wild Cheering* But before we pat ourselves on the back we must ask, what exactly have we accomplished here? We had a hypothesis and we proved it, but we haven't exactly learned anything new. Also typically, after a hypothesis is proven, you can use that as a base for other hypotheses but here there's really nothing useful that you could extrapolate. So the dirty secret is that really all we did was to twist data to suit theories, rather than theories to suit reality.

More generally speaking in our everyday lives as well, it would be beautiful if things just always worked as you think they should. But sadly that girl at the bar won't magically realize you've been standing there for the last hour, hopelessly slack-jawed. Likewise, you don't just trip over success while out for a walk and things like good health appear to require conscious effort. Ultimately one must give the truth it's due and hope for the best rather than turn the data into a kind of Rorschach blot on which to imprint ones expectations. And who knows, you might find that reality has a beauty all of it's own... :)