29 November 2011

Thought of the day: Taking a break from yourself

I was thinking that too much of our anxiety comes from living with ourselves 24/7 -- constantly being connected to our worries and feelings.  Maybe what we need is to take a break from ourselves.  Is that why people meditate?

26 November 2011

Claire Danes the intelligent and self-aware actress

I find this happens to me over and over again. I crush on some Hollywood star and rush around the web reading all about them. Tina Fey [1], Jennifer Garner [2], and now Claire Danes [3]. All incredibly poised, thoughtful, intelligent actresses. In any industry, there are some exceptional people. Part of me is the ridiculous fan who wants to know the gossip about their lives, but the other part is the person who wants to know what they've learned about life and what they think of their art.

How many actresses use words like "avuncular" and "apoplectic"? Claire Danes! Okay, maybe the intellectual elitist in me is overly excited but that is pretty unique. It's not just the big words; her overall intelligence is striking in interviews. Critics, interviewers, and film industry colleagues have frequently marveled at her "maturity." I'm not sure that's the best word for it. She seems to be deep, thoughtful, intense, serious, and intellectual ("I want to read the great books and talk about ideas"). This kind of personality is uncommon among adults; Danes was already like this as a child. When she was nine, she thought about becoming a psychologist or therapist (in case she didn't make it as an actor). I think she's one of those rare people with a very high emotional IQ, sensitive and empathetic yet grounded by her intellect. She picks things up way faster than the average person. Check out this interview at the age of 18. She herself remarks that she's "always felt ancient."

Claire Danes seems pretty damn cool. And now I need to go out and find some friends who are just as awesome -- real people I can hang out with.

[1] Tina Fey is a media darling and willing to be brutally honest and insightful in interviews, so there is lots of good material. I like the part about having "a great house."
[2] I always thought it was amazing how Jennifer Garner would ask J.J. Abrams about his directing choices in the DVD commentary. A real student of the theater. I wrote a gushing review of her work on Alias.
[3] I didn't really know much about Claire Danes. My only exposure to her was when my high school English teacher showed Romeo and Juliet in class. Only recently did I take notice of her, in the Showtime cable TV series Homeland (which rocks).

25 November 2011

Favorite TV shows as of 2011

I thought I'd quickly jot down my favorite TV shows by genre.

Drama
Battlestar Galactica, Homeland, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Comedy
30 Rock (seasons 1-2), Scrubs (seasons 1-4)

Genre
Alias (action/espionage/drama, season 1), Chuck (action/espionage/comedy, seasons 1-2), Firefly (western/comedy/drama)

Procedural 
Bones (seasons 1-2)

Note: I realize my categories are a little subjective.  You could call Battlestar Galactica a military science fiction show, Homeland a spy show, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer a fantasy vampire show.  So they could also be called genre shows.  But these three shows use the genre merely as a context to drive intelligent storytelling and provoke strong emotions in the characters.  So I still call them dramas.

23 November 2011

Quote of the day: Arnold Schwarzenegger on achieving goals unapologetically

During the last week, I got hooked on the TV show Homeland, a psychological thriller starring Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin. The acting on the show is outstanding and in particular, I feel a strong personal reaction to Danes's work. Poking around on the New York Times website [1], I found a profile on Ms. Danes and I liked the following quote:
My line about Arnold is that he doesn't get in his own way. He is not apologetic about achieving his goals. And when you have that attitude, it's amazing what one can accomplish. He wanted to give me relationship advice. I was having trouble with a female friend, and he said, be really forthright and do not accommodate her needs excessively. I took his advice [pause] and we're not friends anymore. So there you go.
[1] I've learned that you can only find interesting material on celebrities if you go to serious journalistic websites like the New York Times. Talk show appearances by celebrities are the worst. It's a bunch of air-headed, flirtatious talk.

19 November 2011

Unexpected conversations in the medical library

I had heard about a new exhibit in the medical library. It's based upon the collection of a famous American neurosurgeon who lived around the turn of the 20th century. I visited at the spur of the moment, since I had just finished a workshop in the same building. There were hundreds of jars containing brains and brain tumors, even a technical document by the architectural firm that designed the exhibit. When I was about to leave the exhibit, a woman approached me and asked me if she could answer questions about the exhibit. She had been giving a tour while I was looking around.

Looking back, it was a serendipitous conversation. I didn't expect to run into an artist who was working on the exhibit and who taught photography at the art school I had attended (she doesn't teach there anymore). She was an exceptional conversationalist. She was receptive, open-minded, and kept the focus of the conversation on me for the first ten minutes. Can you think of anyone who does that? I can't.

I asked her why put so much effort into this exhibit. She said that a lot of medical collections like this have been thrown away. So it's important to preserve this particular collection.

I also asked her a lot of questions about photography. She told me that if you are a good wet lab printer, you'll be a good digital printer. The terminology is the same. She showed me some prints she made for the exhibit and I couldn't tell the difference from the silver nitrate prints (the gold standard for film). The quality is that good.

She made some interesting remarks about art education. I told her about how frustrated I felt when learning how to draw. I always felt like my work wasn't very good. She said that her friends in art education find that even children are expressing the same "I'm-not-good-enough" attitude by fifth grade. She also mentioned that today's children are constantly presented with processed 2D images on a screen, to the point that they don't know how to think spatially before. Drawing is the process of observing a 3D scene, interpreting it, and rendering it on a 2D surface. This makes me think that more kids should learn drawing.

We spent a long time talking and I'm grateful that she took the time to enlighten me.

18 November 2011

Ramit Sethi, empathy, the value of mistakes, and the perfect mentor

In the last five years, I've noticed the rise of what I call "internet personalities." Just like Oprah on TV, there are people who give advice on the best ways to manage your life. Their advice is aimed at the highly educated, tech savvy audience. A few examples of internet personalities: Tim Ferriss of the Four Hour Work Week, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, etc. They build up a big audience on the internet, write a book and market the hell out of it to get it on the New York Times Bestseller list, and then repeat.

Recently, I've been reading Ramit Sethi's blog, which has the outrageous title, "I Will Teach You To Be Rich." Ramit's goal is to teach young (relatively well-educated) people how to manage their lives. The world is changing so fast, we are bombarded with information, and we are overwhelmed by choices. Our parents can't help us because frankly, they don't know anything. Ramit's particular angle is to use his educational background in behavioral psychology to reach young people.

You can find lots of life management advice scattered across the internet, but that is a time-consuming way to learn. Ramit packages his advice in a way that is accessible and shows empathy for young people. I find that our so-called elders can be pretty arrogant and dismissive of young people's concerns. They don't understand what we go through. Ramit does. He expresses sympathyand then yells at his audience (something along the lines of "wake up, what you're doing is stupid, stop doing that and do this.") This strange combination of empathy, admonishment, and enthusiasm is somehow endearing and persuasive.

Ramit started his blog in personal finance, but now he has turned to the greater challenge of leading people to their "dream job." I've talked to various middle-aged people about the career search and they are uniformly dismissive of the anxiety us young people have about the job search. Some of these people are really nice but it's clear that in the back of their minds, they think that the anxiety is really cowardice. I suppose that's easy to think when they were able to get their first couple jobs without any significant roadbumps. Ramit actually takes the time to talk about the psychological barriers we face when embarking on a job search: "I'm not qualified", "I don't like networking", "I don't want to rule out jobs because I'm closing doors," etc. Our "old-fogey" elders would find this kind of stuff is stupid, but Ramit takes the time to explain why these barriers don't make sense.

For example, one thing I always wondered about is why do people (even students from Ivy League schools) have so much trouble finding jobs. Ramit explains that they are wasting time on ineffective techniques like polishing their resume or shotgunning their resume on monster.com. They should really be networking to find jobs they are excited about. It seems paradoxical that eliminating choiceis the right way, but it works because when you focus on just a few jobs and companies, you can research the hell out of these places and tailor your approach to the specific job title/company, rather than submitting a generic resume that is sure to be rejected.

Ramit recently talked about "the top seven mistakes for finding a dream job." I like how he focused on mistakes as opposed to telling you what to do. I frequently find that it's more valuable to find out what not to do rather than what to do. It's much easier for me to remember people's mistakes and avoid them (my mind is screaming "no, no, no"). If someone tells me to do something that I don't want to do, I just feel annoyed (my mind is going "nag, nag, nag").

Ramit is a guy who is really putting his psychology skills to work and I admire him for that. Personally, I think mentoring and giving advice is very hard [1]. The perfect, ideal mentor would give you the exact advice you needed at exactly the right time and avoid burdening you with irrelevant or anxiety-provoking thoughts. That is hard. An example of what is not good mentoring: your mother shrieking in your ear about how you'll be robbed by gypsies if you travel to Europe. Maybe those guys and gals in artificial intelligence should program the perfect mentor.

[1] This reminds me of a post I wrote about the book A River Runs Through It.

17 November 2011

Link of the day: Khan's Academy

Lately, I've tired of TED talks. They were bold and exciting when they first appeared online (3-5 years ago?), but now people just seem to be selling their ideas whether they are merely good or truly brilliant. It's important to have inspirational meetings, but I think they should also be authentic and realistic.

There is one recent TED talk that I do like very much. Salman Khan, a former hedge fund analyst, spoke about how video can re-invent education. Originally, Khan recorded videos to help tutor his cousins in math. He posted the videos on YouTube and left them publicly available, in case someone else might find them useful. His cousins told him that they preferred their "virtual" cousin on video than the real thing! They found the video less intimidating because they could stop and repeat it without appearing stupid; they could learn at their own pace.  Other people discovered Khan's videos and gave him so much positive feedback that he quit his finance job and started producing videos all the time. (Khan does all the math and science videos, and he hired experts to do the videos on humanities subjects.  The scope of this project is astounding: 2000+ videos.)

That alone would have been an outstanding accomplishment, but Khan didn't stop there.  He tried to track learning outcomes.  He associated each video with a particular concept and made tree diagrams showing which concepts were prerequisites for other concepts.  Khan calls this a "knowledge map."  Students can work on modules.  When they get enough problems from the module correct, they can move onto another module.  When they master the prequisite modules, they can move on to a more advanced module, and so on.


This systematic tracking of the student's progress is invaluable to a teacher in charge of 30 students.  The teacher can see how the class is doing.  Moreover, if a student is struggling with a particular module, the teacher can find another student who mastered it and have that student teach the other one.  Peer learning!  (I discussed this topic in an earlier post about a Harvard professor struggling to teach first-year physics.)  Now, at least one school district (in Los Altos, California) is trying out Khan's system in the classroom.

When the system was used in the classroom, it showed that different people find different concepts easy and different concepts hard.  In Khan's words:
Because every time we've done this, in every classroom we've done, over and over again, if you go five days into it, there's a group of kids who've raced ahead and there's a group of kids who are a little bit slower. And in a traditional model, if you did a snapshot assessment, you say, "These are the gifted kids, these are the slow kids. Maybe they should be tracked differently. Maybe we should put them in different classes." But when you let every student work at their own pace -- and we see it over and over and over again -- you see students who took a little bit extra time on one concept or the other, but once they get through that concept, they just race ahead. And so the same kids that you thought were slow six weeks ago, you now would think are gifted. And we're seeing it over and over and over again. And it makes you really wonder how much all of the labels maybe a lot of us have benefitted from were really just due to a coincidence of time.
I found this very interesting.  I'm guessing that a lot of teachers and coaches know that student learning is much more complicated than "gifted" and not gifted.  It's nice that Khan can actually provide hard evidence establishing this fact.

Khan's work is amazing and inspiring. I do have a few questions. Using technology to tailor education is not a new idea. Why did Khan succeed? Is it because students are more comfortable with technology compared to students of the past? Why is video better than a textbook? A textbook is also non-intimidating and self-paced.  Maybe it's because Khan is a great tutor who is both a talented teacher and entertainer?  (I briefly viewed one of his videos and he seemed funny and charismatic.)  In an ideal world, each student would have a one-on-one tutor.  This isn't realistic.  However, if we have a great tutor like Khan and he makes free videos available to anyone on almost every possible math and science topic from kindergarten to high school, this tutoring database is a pretty good, though imperfect solution.  It's reminiscent of an idea in artificial intelligence.  You can have a computer that isn't smart in the human sense, but if you program it with an astronomical amount of information, it can be very useful.

I think that doing online homework is becoming more popular as teachers realize that there is simply not enough time in the classroom to do everything.  There are a lot of things students can do on their own with a "computerized" tutor.  By "outsourcing" this teaching and doing it outside the classroom, the human teacher has more time to teach things that are hard for computers.  Like having students discuss problems together.  Or showing how many seemingly disparate concepts unify into a larger concept.  Or doing hands-on science experiments.  I know that for first-year physics courses, some universities assign online homework several times a week.  This forces students to read the book and work on problems at home so that the lecturer can spend time explaining concepts rather than writing 20 equations on the blackboard.

What Salman Khan is doing is incredible work and I wish him the very best.

16 November 2011

Link of the day: How to be a good conversationalist

I recently read an outstanding post about "The Art of Conversation: How to Avoid Conversational Narcissism. The authors deconstruct how conversations work. A good conversation has give and take. You try to grab the other person's attention sometimes and other times you support that person. I found this post really useful because my social skills aren't the best. Between being glued to the computer and writing electronic messages, I don't have enough social contact to practice. It's good to be reminded of what we should and shouldn't do in conversations.

According to researcher Charles Derber, one can answer a statement with either a shift-response or a support-response. An example of a shift-response would be changing topics to put the focus on yourself. An example of a support-response is to ask a followup question related to what the person said. A good conversationalist will answer with more support-responses whereas a conversational narcissist will keep throwing out shift-responses until the other person gives in. Conversational narcissism can be even more subtle. The narcissist can withhold support-responses or providing minimal acknowledgement ("uh huh") until the other person feels like they are being boring and allows the narcissist to take the floor.  My discussion is abstract, so read the post to see some good examples.

The point is not to rail about the conversational narcissists you've wasted your time on, but to recognize how easy it is to be a narcissist yourself. We should be careful about our speech and strive towards sharing a good conversation.

15 November 2011

Link of the day: Steve Jobs the tweaker

Steve Jobs's passing prompted a deluge of news articles from all corners of the world, it seemed. I was never happy about the cult of Apple. The company makes good products but there is far too much hype. Why do people pay so much attention to computing products when the world is dealing with economic crises and environmental destruction? Computing technology make some things more efficient, but also saddle us with information overload, invasion of privacy, security problems, and too much email. The world is definitely changing, but is it becoming better? I don't know the answer to that question, but I also don't blindly believe that more technology is always good.

One of my favorite writers, Malcolm Gladwell, argued in, The New Yorker, that Steve Jobs wasn't an innovator, he was a tweaker. He had really good taste in ideas and had an incredible talent for transforming good technology into a beautifully designed status symbol. But he was not some kind of Einstein who came up with ideas that no one had even remotely thought about. I don't denigrate Jobs's accomplishments, but I don't think they should be the object of worship either.

14 November 2011

Link of the day: Bill Gates tries to save the world through vaccines

I find it demoralizing to read about the plight of the world economy, skyrocketing health care costs, and disregard for environmental and climate issues.  It makes me think that the only solution is to reduce the world's population.  Suddenly, those evil antagonists in movies who want to destroy everything don't seem so bad. Fortunately, I read this Forbes article about how Bill Gates is trying to reduce the world's population by distributing vaccines to Africa. If that didn't make sense to you, Gates felt the same way at first:
So in 1997, when he and Melinda first ventured into public health... they focused on birth control... The logic was crisp and Bill Gates-friendly. Health = resources ÷ people. And since resources, as Gates noted, are relatively fixed, the answer lay in population control. Thus, vaccines made no sense to him: Why save kids only to consign them to life in overcrowded countries where they risked starving to death or being killed in civil war?
The problem was that people were having huge families because so many children died in infancy. Vaccines drastically reduce the child mortality rate so that families can plan. The end result is a suppression of population growth. It's not obvious to me that this is true, but if Bill Gates did his homework and is spending millions of dollars to distribute vaccine, I'm inclined to believe in it. The cool thing is that Gates is putting his business skills to use. By guaranteeing a market for vaccines in developing countries, drug companies are competing to supply the product and this is driving the cost of vaccines down. Clever man!

13 November 2011

Link of the day: Nun activism

Activism is important, but I've always found public protesting uncomfortable.  So I was happy today to read about nuns who lobby major corporations about social issues.  Check out the New York Times article "Nuns Who Won’t Stop Nudging".
Eventually, they developed a strategy combining moral philosophy and public shaming. Once they took aim at a company, they bought the minimum number of shares that would allow them to submit resolutions at that company’s annual shareholder meeting. (Securities laws require shareholders to own at least $2,000 of stock before submitting resolutions.) That gave them a nuclear option, in the event the company’s executives refused to meet with them.

Unsurprisingly, most companies decided they would rather let the nuns in the door than confront religious dissenters in public.

11 November 2011

Some quotation marks

I'm trying out a new Blogger template, one of the standard ones from Google.  I wanted to customize it with my own blockquote style.

Here are a couple images for quotes:

Also reduced size:

10 November 2011

Where does the future of American innovation lie?

Our department chair send out a personal email telling us to attend a special event.  A prominent former head of a major government agency was visiting and the chair, being a personal friend, persuaded him to come talk to grad students and postdocs about careers.

As expected, he was opinionated but sincere and charismatic.  He thought that American innovation will come from startups, not government or academia.  In his opinion, government is paralyzed by interpersonal politics and it is so difficult to get grants in academia (average age of first NIH grant is 43).  Scientists, especially postdocs, are encouraged to do incremental work, rather than something revolutionary.

I asked a question about why it seemed like all the startups were internet software companies.  He said it has to do with scale.  It is much easier to be an internet startup than a startup that has to build something (e.g. clean energy).  The internet startup only has to pay for office space, computers, and salaries.  Since their product is available on internet, there is a huge multiplication factor, as everyone has a computer and a smartphone.  A clean energy startup could take ten years to become profitable.  The key to building a successful startup is that you need to beat a well-established company by an order-of-magnitude, whether that is price or efficiency.

He talked a little about his experience working in government.  He was rather frustrated with how much money is wasted in space science and exploration.  The problem is that the American public doesn't believe anyone should die in exploration or war.  They have to spend money to ensure the safety of astronauts to an extreme degree.  That's why he eventually quit.  Because the stress of being responsible for space shuttle launches was overwhelming.

Yet, he though highly of people who worked in government.  He told us rather emphatically, "If the president asks you to work for him, you should say yes!"  As the discussion wound down, he said "Let me end by telling this story... " (Such a polished, prepared guy that he had a heart-warming story for the end.)  He went to USSR in 1991 to talk with the Soviet space agency.  While he was there, the coup d'├ętat started.  There was shooting and tanks everywhere.  He became alarmed and tried to contact the American embassy.  They said they couldn't help because people were shooting into the windows of the building.  He tried to contact the White House and ask the president what to do.  Meanwhile, he found the pilot and asked him if he could fly them out.  The pilot said that if he took everyone, including all the staff, they wouldn't have enough fuel to get to Helsinki.  He asked the pilot to take out the seats and they found that this reduction of weight would be sufficient.  Eventually, he was told that the president would appreciate it if he stayed as a show of support for democracy.  He apprised his staff of the situation and told them it was their personal choice whether to go or stay.  Everyone stayed.  Then he asked the Soviet space agency director if they were still going to hold their discussion.  The director acted like it was any other day and they got the deal done.  If you're not a complete cynic, I would call that a beautiful patriotic moment.

What is good writing?

Good writing has a specific audience in mind and tries to relate to that audience.

Good writing is interesting and engaging. When I read good writing, I come away feeling like I learned something new or read something beautiful. It's fun to read (I think it's possible to make even boring scientific papers at least a little fun to read.)

Good writing provides details, enough to be interesting and instructive, but not details that are irrelevant or inappropriate for the audience. You don't want to overwhelm the reader.

Good writing has a logical flow and a structure that makes it easy for the reader to follow.

Good writing is concise and precise (not the same thing). You want to use just enough words to convey your meaning. You want to be clear in conveying your thoughts (especially important in scientific writing). If you are having trouble writing a sentence and have the choice between being more concise or being more precise, I would always choose precision, because the content of your writing is more important than the style.

Good writing has music and personality in it. Maybe there are a few exceptions, like writing an instruction manual, but I think it's possible to incorporate "music" and "personality" into research papers. It's very hard to be interested in writing that is dry and abstract. I'm no expert on this, but there are ways to make your writing more dynamic. You can vary the lengths of your sentences and the constructions of your sentences. In classical music, you notice that the tempo of the music changes, or the key switches from major to minor. You can do similar things in writing.

09 November 2011

Hermit crab metaphor for writing scientific introduction

I've been taking a writing workshop for the past few weeks.  The instructor taught us something really cool.  The introduction to a scientific paper can be thought of as a hermit crab finding its shell.  Swales and Feak [1] call this "moves in introductions."
  1. Establish a research territory.
  2. Find a niche.
  3. Occupy the niche.
I thought this metaphor was really cute and colorful.  I'll think of hermit crabs the next time I read or write an introduction.

[1] Swales, John M. and Christine B. Feak. Academic Writing for Graduate Students, The University of Michigan Press (2004)

08 November 2011

Magazines for travel reading

I recently endured a six hour flight and this time I didn't bring my Nintendo. Maybe I'm growing out of my video game habit. I've been trying to read more; I like this new reading habit. Being slightly claustrophobic, I hate doing work on a cramped airplane. So, no work or video games. Something new I'm trying is reading magazines. I'd like to read a magazine directed towards thinkers as opposed to a populist news magazine like Time or Newsweek. The major literary magazines in America seem to be The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harper's Magazine. I've tried reading The New Yorker and I don't really like it. I prefer non-fiction and there are too many creative pieces in it. I tried The Atlantic and that was good. Maybe I'll pick up Harper's Magazine next. I've also read some interesting things in The New York Review of Books and The American Scholar. My favorite technology magazine is Technology Review

07 November 2011

Link of the day: "The Once and Future Way to Run"

I enjoyed this New York Times article investigating what is the best -- most natural and injury free -- way to run.

The author purports that the best way to run goes back to the roots of human civilization when we ran barefoot.  The key is to land lightly on your forefoot and not on your heel.  Here are some quotes from the article.
The “one best way” isn’t about footwear. It’s about form. Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe — or lack of shoe — will make a difference.
Back at the lab, Lieberman found that barefoot runners land with almost zero initial impact shock. Heel-strikers, by comparison, collide with the ground with a force equal to as much as three times their body weight.

06 November 2011

Physics as a subject for a kids comic book and how to get kids interested in science

For several years now, I've wanted to write a physics comic book with the goal of getting kids interested in science. The problem is that I just don't have a good idea how to do it. I need a really great idea because a comic book has to compete with TV, video games, internet, and all the other entertainment children are exposed to in the modern world.

I'm starting to feel like physics is simply not a good subject for a kids comic book. Anything that is abstract like physics will be difficult to pick up quickly and therefore you need to be able to play with it, experiment. Programming is abstract but lots of kids pick it up because you can write code and run it immediately. You can quickly progress to the point where you can make images fly across the screen. You know if the program works, because either the image flies across the screen or it doesn't. Instant feedback. That is fun, exciting, and addictive (in a good way). When you do a physics problem and you get an answer, it's very difficult to know if your answer is correct or if it makes sense. You could do a real physics experiment, but physics experiments are notoriously difficult to do right and require special equipment. I was always amazed in high school at how much equipment we needed to do simple experiments let measuring the velocity of an object moving along a track. When you do a chemistry experiment, you mix two solutions and the color changes. You can see or feel the result qualitatively. Physics experiments require too much precision; you actually have to measure the exact numbers to see if you're doing it right.

I'm starting to think that if you want to get kids interested in science and engineering without much equipment, the appropriate subjects are programming and math. I've already discussed programming. You can come up with all sorts of interesting math problems at all different levels. You can get a sense of whether your answer is correct by plugging in numbers. For geometric problems, you can often solve them by drawing pictures. Best of all, you don't have to worry about equipment failing in your experiments. Mathematics isn't constrained by the physical world, so there are lots of different ideas you can talk about, whereas in physics you are stuck discussing Newton's laws, Maxwell's equations, etc. For older kids who want to do something hands-on, I would recommend electronics. The parts are small and you don't need to go a machine shop.

05 November 2011

Quote of the day: Depression is sometimes a disease of the strong

Here's an interesting quote I read in the June 2011 issue of Fear.less, a web magazine devoted to interviews with people about fear. The quote comes from Australian comedian Marty Wilson.
But depression is actually a disease of the strong, I think. If people don’t have a mental breakdown, they remain fixated in the cycle of "I must get through this. I must push on. I must do this. I must do that." It’s the depression that allows one to break through that cycle and admit to others that you need help.
I think depression is different for everyone, but I agree that this characterization of depression is true for many people.