An Interesting Feature about Google Maps

If you are reading this blog, you probably know what google is.  It is the search (advertising) company who’s name has become a verb, i.e. “I googled and found the meaning of ‘ergo'”.  Besides providing search services, it also provides the popular gmail, calendar, google docs, and map services etc.

Dynamic Scaling

Recently, I discovered that on google maps, as you tour the globe fairly smoothly without leaving your desk, the little scale legend at the bottom left corner dynamically changes.  The scale tells us how large or small the map actually represents.  So if you are looking at some region, and it displays the scale marker is one inch length and the number reads 500mi, it means that one inch length on the map at that scale represents 500miles in real life.

This means that with a fixed-sized scale, two regions of different sizes would appear to be of different sizes accordingly.  With a dynamic scale, as I mentioned earlier, two regions of different sizes may appear to be of a similar or identical size when in fact they are not.

Why Do That?

Why are they doing this?  I don’t know.  This could be a feature to allow users to remain focus on finding useful information without having to dabble with zooming in and out of a region unnecessarily.  However, this also gives a false impression as far as the actual comparative size between regions are concerned.

Another reason could be technical.  The map data stored in the google servers could be optimized at different scales, and hence the easy way to represent the maps would be to adopt the native scaling stored in the database.  This reason however, does not quite cut it.  Given the engineering strength of Google’s R&D, normalising the scale of the stored map data before representing them visually should not be a problem.

So why are they doing it?  Maybe someone can clue us in.  But you can try it out and see for yourself.

So are they lying?

Technically, google is not lying about anything at all.  Afterall, it dynamically adjusts the scales and displays it rather prominently on screen.  What is perhaps disturbing (for me) is that everything is so seamless, the scaling is virtually undetectable unless you notice the change in the scales.

Lying and Business / Work

A number one reason many people gives when asked why they do not undertake the five precepts is Work.  “I’m in Sales.”, “I’m in Marketing”, “I’m a Buyer”, “I’m in HR”, “I’m …. ”

I like to analyse this using a simple table.

Truthful Lying
Success [ A ] [ B ]
No Success [ C ] [ D ]

In the above table, there are four scenarios, A, B, C, D. “A” represents someone being successful while being truthful, while “D” represents someone who is unsuccessful while lying.

Let’s look at B & D.  Both B & D lies at work.  This is the category we are tempted to follow, believing that it leads to success, or at least success with securing our job.  Is it true that there are people who find success at work while lying?  Yes, it seem to be the case.  We always hear of anecdoctal stories of some back-stabbing co-worker who lied his or her way around deals and up the corporate ladder.  But is it true that everyone who lies will succeed?  If we really think about it, we know that it is not true as well.  While some succeed (B), some will fail (D).  So it is not true that lying guarantees success.

Next, let’s look at A & B.  These are the ones who succeed.  This is the category most are trying to be in.  Is it true that all those who succeed lied their way through?  I doubt so.  I believe there are those who used their skills, intelligence and competence to succeed without having to resort to lying.  From my experience, it takes some courage to be honest at work.  But it pays off.  You earn your superior’s trust and your peer’s respect.  Your customer knows that they can … well, trust you when they engage your services or buy your product.  Looking at A & B, if you can succeed without lying, why should you lie at all?

Now, one might ask.  What about case C?  What if your honesty does not pay off and you do not succeed.  Well, between you and me, I would rather go away without success, knowing that I can sleep at night, with my conscience clear than failing *and* worrying about integrity (case D).

So my friend, will you dish out the Truth at work?

Sending an Engineer, an Accountant and a Lawyer to Fix a Burnt Lamp

In a fictitious company, “OverKillRUs”, a ceiling light just went dead, and so an engineer, an accountant and a lawyer was sent in to take a look. The engineer took a look and said “This is a 100W bi-pin lamp that runs on balast housing.  The ballast and starter looks ok, it is the fluorescent tube that is burnt out, we need to replace it”.

The accountant took the tube in hand, checked his notebook for inventory and started punching in some numbers.  After some time, he declared “This tube was bought 3 years and 5 months ago, and if amortized over its intended five years would have brought in an … … and therefore, considering everything, we should replace this tube with a cheaper tube so as to defray the overall maintenance cost.”

At that, the lawyer quipped “I say, we sue the manufacturer!”

The above is based on an email joke that I read a long time ago.  It was funny then and even funnier now, as I believe I must have inevitably upgraded it a bit.  Funny how things get remembered over time.  But that is not the point in this post.  Today, I just want to write something short about mental conditioning.

After becoming a monk, when I recalled the above email joke, I read it differently, with
slightly more connection with mental conditioning.  While the above is a joke, the principle is rather true in real life.  We often see how nurses or doctors look at everything with caution, noting how germs and bacteria may be present, while some teachers may act like everyone else is a student or a kid, waiting for a lesson to be dished out.

Other times, it may be a gambler who see all numbers as part of a winning sequence, or a green tree-hugger who sees everything in terms of carbon footprint.  This is all because of the mental conditioning that we go through daily, consciously or unconsciously.

Religion can also be a form of mental conditioning, enabling or crippling us, depending on your views, to see things in a new perspective.  So, depending on your beliefs, scoring As can be because we worked hard, or because we worked hard enough, or harder than the average person, or because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas guided us, or even through some divine intervention.  Or it may be because you are really that good.

By now, we should be quite convinced that mental conditioning affects how we may perceive relationships, things and events around us.  It affects how we perceive this world.

Although I am a Buddhist monk, or perhaps even more so because I am a Buddhist monk, I won’t go so far as to negate other belief systems nor discredit the beliefs.  Instead, I want to focus on the impact of such mental conditioning.  I am more concerned with the result of it.

If we learn a certain teaching or adopt a certain set of belief, and it leads towards more contempt towards others, more anger, more hatred or disdain towards others and their beliefs (either because they and their beliefs are different or viewed as wrong), and leads one to act in ways that is harmful towards others and oneself, then we should perhaps relook at either a) the teaching / belief, or b) the way it is being taught, or c) the way we are adopting it.  I am assuming that we all want to have peace, happiness and harmony unanimously and that teachings or beliefs that are targeted at destroying others, oneself or both are not in the consideration here.  Sometimes such teachings are masqueraded as being peaceful when it really is not, and through the above review, we would have to reconsider it under (a).

If the above review find that it leads toward more want, more coveting, more greed, more grasping, more craving and so on, and it leads one to act in ways that is harmful towards others and oneself, then again, we should perhaps relook at either a) the teaching / belief, or b) the way it is being taught, or c) the way we are adopting it.

If such review find that it leads toward more ignorance, more uncertainty, more guessing, more blind-believing or blind faith, more unquestioning submission through dogmatic indoctrination, and it leads one to act in ways that is harmful towards others and oneself, then again, we should perhaps relook at either a) the teaching / belief, or b) the way it is being taught, or c) the way we are adopting it.

So I say, since we are conditioning ourselves anyway, instead of conditioning ourselves to believe that buying that condo or car is going to make us happ(ier)y, adopt a “mental conditioning” that help us develop kindness and empathy (or sympathy at least) towards others.  And don’t stop there, adopt more mental habits or conditionings that are helpful to our mental health, such as learning to want to smile at others, or wanting to be happy.

Try today, retrain your mind!


AnguttaraNikaya 3.65   PTS: A i 188 Thai III.66
Kalama Sutta: The Instruction to the Kalamas