Kestory's Blog

Anything for nothing

A senior NJU_CSer




What is the best advice your mother ever gave you? I was about ten. My mom had just finished creating one of her amazing meals, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Delicious. Later, as I was washing the dishes, my mom came up to me. “Sorry dinner was so awful again,” she said.

I was shocked. “What? No, it was great. I loved it.”

“Really?” she said, with mock surprise. “You always eat so quietly, never saying anything. You’ve never told me you liked my cooking, so I thought you hated it.”

“No, you’re the best cook I know.”

“Then you should tell me that,” she said. “Whenever someone does something nice for you, you should thank that person. If you don’t, then she might think she’s not appreciated and stop doing those nice things.”

Something clicked right then. From that day forward, I thanked everyone for literally everything. If you did something that even vaguely helped me, I thanked you profusely. It became a habit, something I didn’t even think about, and that’s when the magic started happening.

People liked me more. They talked to me more, shared with me, were more friendly. In my first year of high school, during the final week I came home and found a giant freezie waiting for me. “Thanks, mom,” I said instinctively.

“This isn’t from me, she said. “This is from your bus driver.” He had been driving that bus for years, and my siblings and I were the first person to ever thank him as we got dropped off. Those two simple words made a huge difference, so much so that he went out of his way to tell our mom and give us a present.

What is the best advice you’ve received? A very smart woman I worked with once told me that if I eliminated the word “but” from my professional vocabulary, I’d find greater acceptance for my ideas, and greater cooperation from my team members. She said people would have a very different perception of me if I could change this one thing.

The reason, she said, is because the word “but” negates everything that precedes it, and you cast a negative spin on anything you say when you use it.

Consider, for example, “We can do it this way, but it’ll be way too expensive given our budget,” versus “We can do it this way, and if we do, we’ll need to cut back on other important features.” The first indicates that we can’t even consider the option. The second acknowledges possibility and describes consequences.

“But” is exclusive and isolating, “and” is inclusive and welcoming.

She was absolutely right, and it’s advice I have used with great success for the past 30 years of my life.

What is the best dating advice you have ever been given? My best friend scribbled it on a napkin in my college bar 8 years ago. S = L + (RV x MV) That’s the best dating advice I ever received. Your success in dating is one part luck and another part your perceived value. Perceived value is a function of how much actual value you generate and how well you market that value. So for the mathematically inclined, Success = Luck + (real value x the marketing you do), or simply S = L + (RV x MV) That’s pretty much it. Punch in the numbers and that’s how your dating experiences will go. Want more luck? Take more shots. If something has a 1 in a hundred chance of occurring, then you are really just 100 shots away from getting it. Ask people out. Get rejected. Ask more out. Don’t hide your intentions. If you like someone, own it and show it. Want more real value? Then find ways to become more valuable as a person. Learn how to be witty. To make great conversation. Learn where the coolest restaurants are in town. Learn a musical instrument. Get physically fit. Groom well. Develop your own style. Be honest. These things and hundreds of others as well are avenues to build your value.

Want to market your value? Don’t hide your light under the proverbial bushel. If you have a funny joke, tell it! If you know a great restaurant, invite your friends. If you play guitar, play it outside the school cafeteria on a Tuesday afternoon just because you feel like it. If you are good at presentations, volunteer to make the big sales pitch at work. Whatever it is. Don’t be afraid to show off the value that you’ve worked hard to build.

What is it that nobody tells you about adult life? A really good friend of mine, Adam, hung himself last year. He was the happiest guy in the world. His father left for work in the morning and came back to find him in the hall of his family house, hung from the ceiling fan with a belt. No-one has any idea why, nor will anyone ever know why Adam did what he did. Adam’s parents have nothing to go on, no closure for why Adam did what he did, but they’re slowly learning to accept it and move on with life. Adam’s dad said something quite poignant to me at his funeral: “Know one thing. Life is terminal. It is going to end, and you have absolutely no idea when, how or why it will end. And for that reason, live each day like it’s the last.” And that’s just it… life is temporary - death is a taboo and a lot of people don’t talk about it. Whether you do, or you don’t - make the most of every day and absolutely every moment, because there’ll be a day when a person/people you love aren’t around, for whatever reason, and you’ll want to say ‘I made the most of my time with X’ rather than starting a sentence off with ‘I wish…’.

As they say, life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here, we should dance.

What’s it like to have a 150 IQ? Is life easier? Two years ago I had a chance to have a chat with this charming 30 something young man. He told me he is one of the people who have the highest IQ in Toronto. I cannot recall exactly the number, but it was over 160.

He also told me his brother is also very smart. The brother is in the top 5 in Toronto.

Guess what these two men were doing at that point.

The brother was working in a convenience store at a gas station. My friend was doing an entry level job. He told me he can learn anything within a few days. However, he gets bored easily and cannot figure out what he wants to do in life.

Is being too smart a blessing or a curse?

Being smart doesn’t make your life easier. Intelligence is like a tool. It all depends on how you use it.

Nationalism teaches you to take pride in sh*ts you haven’t done and hate people you had never met.

To my younger generation

My kids (11 and 8) have started learning chess. Is it a good idea to beat them sometimes to discourage them? Here’s what I do. Before we play, I ask my daughter if she wants to play “the teaching way” or straight. “The teaching way” means that after each of her moves, I help her analyze it and suggest improvements and point out any errors that I see. Such games tend to be very closely matched since, after all, it ends up being her+me against just me.

But she also enjoys playing straight sometimes, and then what’s fair is fair.

I think it’s absolutely a bad idea to let a kid win falsely to boost their confidence - it’s false confidence. But I also don’t agree with a hardcore “never let them win until they force it”. I have found my hybrid “teaching way” to allow me to teach her the game more quickly.

I should point out that she’s a lot smarter than I am and so I’m only hastening the time of my own doom. :-)

What is the best thing to do with your life? My brother calls. “I have a situation” he says. My heart stops. “My kids will be in the school African Play” he explains. “My wife and I will be away due to a trip planned long ago. There will be no one there to see them.” I pause. I am so busy at work; this would require mid-week plane travel and canceling two days full of meetings. I tell him I cannot make it. He says he understands. We hang up. Then it hits me. My niece and nephew are growing so fast. When will I have the fortune of another African Play emergency? I call him back. I tell him I’m coming. I schedule the trip. I cancel my meetings. I run to the airport. I arrive the night before to read them a story and tuck them in. The next day I am sitting in the audience so grateful that I made this decision, mostly for myself and the pleasure of seeing them (they are really adorable.) And I wonder if they will even remember, if it will matter in the long run that I’m here. I scan the audience and see all the kids jumping and running, kinetic, excited. Except for my nephew, who is standing still. He is looking right at me and smiling, his four year old face in an ocean of children. I will never forget the way he was looking at me. The best thing we can do in life is to be there for the people that we love.

What is it like to have a cool dad?

  • This happened last year Dad: How did your exams go? My brother: Really really bad. Dad: I don’t believe you. Brother: No, really. I think I’m going to fail. Dad: So? Brother: I’m going to FAIL! I have never failed an exam before. Dad: I’ll bet you won’t fail. If I lose the bet, I’ll buy you a Bullet (Motorcycle). My brother didn’t fail.
  • When my brother and I were young, our parents would wake us up on random Saturday mornings, get us ready and we’d all sit in the car. Then my father would ask “where to?”. We’d drive off aimlessly for days together. I’ve traveled most of south India like this and that’s the most fun I’ve had.
  • When I legally became an adult, my father gave me a little bit of his scotch and said “ I wanted you to have your first drink with me, before you started drinking with your friends”
  • My father and I would drive off to someplace where no one would bother us and read. He’d read his book and I’d read mine. He’d tell me what he read and I’d tell him what I read on the way home. We did this ever since I was about 6 years old.
  • When I turned 25 my father told me “ We know you can make wise decisions. We just wanted you to know that you can decide to marry whomever you want. Caste, language, job, nationality and race don’t matter to us as long as you’re sure”.

To sum it up, it’s pretty fantastic to have a cool dad. Really fantastic.

Can you effectively raise a child without yelling? Jimmy Carter once said that he never lost his temper. The interviewer challenged him; “You mean you were never angry with your children?!” Carter replied, “I didn’t say I wasn’t angry. I said I never lost my temper. There’s a difference.” My wife taught me not to yell at our children, except in the rare circumstance that they were about to put themselves in danger. When they walk into a dangerous street, then yell! And they will notice and respond, because they never hear yells. One time I caught my (then) 5-year-old daughter writing on a table top. I said to her, sternly (but not yelling), “what are you doing!?” She looked up at my face, burst into tears, and ran to her mother. “Mommy! Daddy just yelled at me!”

This example illustrates what we learned. When you don’t yell, your children become sensitized to facial expressions, to body language, to tone and emphasis. And that is an invaluable skill for them to have.

What are statements that 5-year-olds make? My kid is four. My wife one day ordered him to stand by the wall since he made a mistake.

That night, his mom was reading a story for him. He pointed out that she wrongly pronounced a word. My wife said: “Order me to stand by the wall, since I made a mistake.”

My son said: “No, you don’t have to, because I can teach you.”


Does true love exist? It did for me. She lived miles away from me back home in India. Even though I am married and have a lovely wife taking care of me and my kiddo, she would still make it a point to call me up every single day to find out if I had eaten my dinner on time and whether I was doing well. My mobile phone shows ‘829’ contacts. And every single time I got into a crisis or was down in the dumps for any reason, her’s would be the number which got dialed from my phone. She never told me whether she was sick, down with fever or in pain but she ensured to be there whenever I needed her.

Strangely last Wednesday she didn’t call. Feeling something amiss I called her and she was her jovial self and told me she got a bit busy shopping with her husband and hence forgot to call me. Same thing happened for the next 2 days with no calls from her and I too didn’t bother to call.

On Friday I came to know, she had lied. She was not busy shopping but she was suffering and in pain for the past few days. The pain was so intense that she couldn’t even talk and hence did not call me. She passed away on Friday.

“She did not want you to worry unnecessarily” was the reply I got from my dad when I asked him why no one bothered to tell me before when she was suffering but alive.

Today with tears in my eyes, I am deleting that one contact, from my phone directory, to whom I was the world and wondering if true love ever existed, then I had just lost it, last Friday.

I miss you mom :(

Life: What is the sweetest thing that someone has ever said to you? When my 92 years old dementia mother looked at me and said: ‘I don’t remember who you are but I feel that I love you so much!’ My heart stopped beating for few seconds and I cried … She just passed away 6 months ago but she is always alive inside of me! No love & sweetest thing could compare to the love from our mothers!

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you? My mother used to wrestle with me when I was a kid.

She is a single parent. My dad died when I was pretty young, so I felt like I didn’t have a fatherly figure in my life.

When I was about 8, I used to hear stories about kids wrestling with their dads and it would always sadden me. One night before bedtime, I timidly told her about it.

The next morning, I woke up to see her standing near me, with hands in a punching position and a smile on her face, as if to say,“Let’s do this.”

My eyes lit up. We started wrestling.

At first, she let my little self give her a few punches but after that she pretty much pinned me down so I couldn’t move.

We wrestled a few times again and every time the challenge would be for me to break out of her lock. The day I finally broke it, she told me I had done well.

After that we stopped wrestling. I didn’t feel the need to anymore.

She’s been my mother and my father.

What is the most heartbreaking thing your child has told you? My husband died suddenly when my son was 5 years old. I sat him down the next day to explain to him that daddy had died. I had to do it in a calm, almost practical tone because I didn’t want him to cry. I felt that he was too young for his heart to be broken that way. He took it all in calmly. Then he said to me, “Mommy, I want a new heart, this one hurts.” I learned that day how much physical effort it takes to stop oneself from crying.


As a professor how do you recognize that one student is wiser/smarter than others? After 40,000 hours in the classroom and roughly 40,000 students, i’d have to say that very bright students distinguish themselves in three important ways: They teach themselves well. They teach others something valuable. They have a kind and helpful attitude to those who may not be as intelligent.

Which personality traits often lead to failure? There is an old story about two Greek islanders vying to become the strongest man on the island.

One trainee bought a newborn calf. The other laughed at him. How could a calf help his rival train? But every day the wise trainee lifted it. Every day the calf got a little bigger and heavier but he could still lift it because it was only a little bit heavier than the previous day. After a year the wise trainee saw the calf was now a bull but he could still lift it.

In the meantime the unwise trainee had tried every day to lift a bull.

He had failed every time.

What are the best answers for “Why should I hire you”? This was asked for an analytics position in a major bank at US. The question was “We believe that people who get poor grades in college will have higher tendency to perform poorly in the corporate set up too and therefore, we don’t hire people with poor grades.Given your poor grades, why should we hire you?”

I answered, “Your hypothesis is assumption based and not data driven. Even if your hypothesis is true, you need people like me who would serve as data points to test your hypothesis statistically.”

Got hired.

Here’s a Chinese joke: if Japan ever took the whole China in WWII, Japanese people would be speaking Chinese now.

Do Americans ever tell Chinese people, “If it wasn’t for us, you’d be speaking Japanese”? In history, China was conquered by foreign army twice, the first time was by the Mongolians, and the second time was by Manchurians. Results are Kublai Khan used Chinese in official documents and Manchurian people now are totally assimilated by Han Chinese and their own language was on the brink of extinction.

What are some of the best responses to “Sell me this pen/pencil” in a job interview? “No offense, but you probably can’t afford it. Even if you could, you don’t need a fancy one like this. There’s plenty of fine pens you can buy at Staples.”

(Between the second and third line I put it in the inside pocket of my jacket)

Interviewer: Tell me something about you that we can’t get from your resume Me: I’m a very popular person in our class. Interviewer: How popular? Me: (Without stopping to think for a minute): 8th popular person in class. Interviewer: (Little puzzled with the answer) 8th popular?
Me: Yes. There are 7 girls in our class.

Some sentences


In the midst of winter, I finally realized there lay within me an invincible summer.

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.

“Give a man a mask and he will show his true face” - Oscar Wilde

Do you know what the difference is between a rich man and a poor man? If you take all the money away from the rich man, he will make it all back and more in less time than it took him to make it in the first place.

Life hack

“You don’t have to do extraordinary things.” “Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.” “This will make your life extraordinary.” If your job requires you to deal with people frequently, chances are you may encounter very angry and short tempered people. One way to manipulate their behavior is by putting a mirror behind you at the counter. This way people who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and it will make them lower their irrational behavior significantly. “Waiter Rule”: The most telling thing about a person’s personality is how they treat the waiter or the receptionist or someone else who brings them zero benefits. This shows their true characters. treat people the way you want to be treated There’s a cartoon I watched as a kid where the hero gets thrown in jail high up in a tower. There’s an old man there who has been in the jail all his life. The hero demands to be let out and the gate opens. The hero walks out. The old man looks at the open door and then turns to the audience and mutters: “You mean all I had to do was ask?” I laughed at this when I was a kid but reflecting on my life, I’ve had countless moments where I was that old man. A crush of three years who I never talked to, questions in meetings that I never voiced and promotions that I never pushed for.

Over the last five years, I’ve experimented with doing what the hero in the tower did and ask for what I want. And in many cases, just like in the cartoon, the door really opened. This is from little things like requesting no olives in my salad to larger demands like having 20% time at work to pursue self directed initiatives.

As long as you’re sincere and reasonably competent, you will be amazed how far simply asking for things will take you. Whenever someone makes blanket statements about the human condition, that person is almost always talking about himself. If someone says “men have needs and if those needs aren’t met he will cheat,” he is not talking about men in general, he is talking about himself. He is saying “I have needs, and if you do not meet those needs, I will cheat.” If you want people to like you, ask them to do favors for you.


Would you defend your atheism even with your life? Of course not. Gosh, really? If someone point a gun at my head and ask me to convert, I’ll convert to whatever religion. Sure, Allah, God, Buddha… Zeus, Odin, Cthulhu, flying spaghetti monster, you name it, I bend my knee and say my prayers, just… don’t point that gun at me please. If I live in an oppressive theological state, I’ll go to churches and participate masses, and … animal sacrifice? Sure, as long as you don’t sacrifice me. Atheism (or in my case agnostic) is not a belief, it’s not some ideal to uphold, it’s just… How could I put these: Say, you really LOVE your hair, you love its color, you love its length, it defines who you are, you’re known as John the golden haired man. You won’t dye it, you won’t cut it… Me, I’m bald. I don’t have hair, I don’t care to have hair, not having hair is great, saves a lot of time and shampoo money. But if someone ask me I need to put on this toupee or that wig or I’ll get killed or put to jail, sure, it’s a hassle, but sure I’ll put on the wig. I don’t give a fuck either way.

So, I won’t defend atheism with my life, or 10 minutes of my life.

What makes a man decide to marry? I’m not a man, so I asked one:

Me: Husband, what made you marry? Husband: Which time? Me: What do you mean which time? You’ve only been married once. Husband: That you know of Me: Knock it off. This is serious, this is for Quora. Husband: Why, does she want to marry me too? Me: Quora certainly does not want to marry you. Husband: Well I don’t want to marry her either.
Me: Fine. You’re not going to marry Quora. So what did make you marry? Husband: You know why. Me: I know I think I know why, but maybe I was wrong. Husband: No one else would have me. Me: That’s what I thought. Husband: No one else would have you either. Me: Quora didn’t ask about that.
Husband: We’re perfect because no one else would put up with either of us. Me: Well that’s for damn sure.

Which restaurants of the world provide you with the best views?

Not sure if the International Space Station is considered a restaurant, but having dined in her Cupola (shhh… we probably weren’t supposed to take food in there!), I would have to say that it had one of the best views “out of this world!”  The restaurant’s food was pretty average, but the ambiance was stellar.

Your phone has 1% of battery left, and you are (trapped) inside a sealed environment with enough air to last you 1 day. What will you do?

Yeah, you didn’t specify which phone I had. So, jokes on you, I have a Nokia 3310, 1% of battery will last at least about 156 minutes. (A Nokia 3310 can last up to 260h, multiply that by 60 (minutes) (=15600 min) now do a simple rule of three, so (15600X1)/100 = 156 MINUTES With 156 minutes in my hands, I would call the cops, the firefighters, the paramedics…EVERYONE I guess that would take about 10–15 minutes. With my 141 minutes left of phone life I would play the snake game or, if I’m really anxious , I would call my best friend/mom. Then just wait until everyone arrives and voilà.

What is the biggest mind blow ever? In a regular deck of 5252 playing cards, the number of possible sequences of cards when shuffled is 52!52! (5252 factorial, ie: 52×51×50×⋯3×2×152×51×50×⋯3×2×1) That means that even though playing cards have been shuffled all day, every day, since playing cards were invented in the 1300s, there probably hasn’t been the same sequence of cards in a deck reshuffled again YET. How many possibilities of sequences are there? 8×10678×1067. And if someone shuffled a deck of cards once per second since the beginning of the universe (about 14 billion years ago), they would have only shuffled the deck about 10181018 times. …every time you shuffle a deck of cards, chances are you’re making history.

Have you ever seen a teacher get completely roasted by a student in high school? My friend in my Physical Education class kept running around the field like this every time we took a timed run.

This pissed the teacher off beyond belief. My friend tried to justify his running style by explaining its aerodynamic advantages. The teacher finally had it with the kid and said “IF YOU FIND ONE PICTURE OF ANY SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL RUNNER RUNNING LIKE THAT, I WILL LET EVERYONE IN THIS CLASS RUN LIKE THAT FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR!” My friend went home and brought this in the next day.

The teacher was a man of his word, and everyone ran like that just to piss him off for the rest of the year. (That’s Usain Bolt btw)

How can I make myself get out of bed more quickly?

The money shredder alarm clock. Put the $100 bill in the night before and place it in the hallway. If you don’t turn it off, the money turns into cute little bits of packing paper.

What countries would have the least tension if merged together?

I think that Switzerland and Lichtenstein would have the least tension.

The border. Switzerland basically does the foreign policy of Lichtenstein, Switzerland gives consular protection to citizens of Lichtenstein, Switzerland represents Lichtenstein in various treaty negotiations, they have common patents, they share a language and culture, they are both neutral, and they are also close together.

^^ This tweet briskly caused the stock market to lose $136 billion in value, until Associated Press regained control of their account and confirmed it was fake news. The changes weren’t lasting, but it must have been scary.