A Ghurka rifleman escaped from a Japanese prison in south Burma and walked six hundred miles alone through the jungles to freedom. The journey took him five months, but he never asked the way and he never lost the way. For one thing he could not speak Burmese and for another he regarded all Burmese as traitors. He used a map and when he reached India he showed it to the Intelligence officers, who wanted to know all about his odyssey.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill I already typed the above quote into the post, then realized I had already used it before. Whatever, just goes to show, I’m no stranger to failure. I was reminded of this quote because recently I prepared a demo for a project that didn’t push through. At first I was annoyed at the wasted effort, but I realized that I had wisely taken the demo project as an opportunity to learn/sharpen some skills.
I found myself poring over the Wikipedia entry for the Ship of Theseus the other day. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a thought experiment along the lines of “if a given ship’s parts are replaced at every port it visits, and eventually none of the parts are from the original ship, is it still the same ship?” The thought experiment questions the meaning of identity of a whole composed of many individual parts, such as a ship, or even a human.
I’m not much for public performance. But sometimes I think about doing some stuff that involves some level of public performance. My examples for this post are: game streaming public speaking standup comedy Public speaking and standup comedy are basically the same, and might be interesting to do (standup seems more fun). Like many people, I used to have a mild fear of speaking in front of a bunch of people/strangers, but as I’ve gotten older and cared less about what other people think, this kind of faded away.
A friend was worried and jittery about an event he’d been preparing for a while now. He just wanted it to be over and things to not go wrong. I told him not to worry, that he’s already done the best preparation he could and that no matter what things will surely work out. It’s easy to fall into the trap of anxiety, overthinking things that might go wrong, or things that might not go according to plan, and so on.
After yesterday’s post about Konmari, I thought about some stuff that brings me joy, some of them despite my better judgment: learning new things. This is a bit uncommon I guess, so it makes me a bit of a nerd. Luckily nerds are cool now, or something. Okay, this is super positive I guess. being argumentative. I love a good debate. However, since the 2016 election season, I’ve cut back on this significantly.
I don’t know much about this Konmari thing. I think it’s been around for a while, but got a boost recently due to a Netflix special. I think I agree with it in principle, or at least what I know of it from secondary social media commentary. Minimalism is a worthwhile goal, and so is getting rid of things that do nothing for you other than take up space. Some people aren’t reacting well to the idea of throwing away books though:
Here I am writing about Duolingo and keeping up streaks, then just a few days later, this happens: Ah crap I broke a 97 day Duolingo streak D: — Roy Tang (@roytang) January 6, 2019 There’s a problem with Duolingo’s streak notifications that I’m not sure how to solve. It send you a daily reminder at around the same time you did the work the previous day. If you’re unable to do it at that time, there are no further reminders later in the day.
Happy new year! Last year I posted some year-end statistics. That seems like a good way to recap the year, so let’s do it again. Random statistics from 2018: Work, Learning and Self Improvement: Hours worked: 1,163 (up around 50% from last year) Programming languages/frameworks learned: I’ll say 4. I’m counting: C++ which I revisited this year after more than a decade of not using it Go, which I used for the templating in the Hugo blog Flask, which I had dabbled in before but only used in a full-scale project this year Laravel, which I also used in a couple of projects this year Books read: 4.
New year’s resolutions are hard to maintain, so much so that people will make jokes about opening a gym that only runs during January, since most gym NYRs run out of steam by then. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve found regarding acquiring new behaviors comes from the first motivational books I ever read - The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino, which for some reason we had a copy of in our house when I was young.
New year’s resolutions are hard to maintain, so much so that people will make jokes about opening a gym that only runs during January, since most gym NYRs run out of steam by then. One of the best pieces of advise I’ve read on this is “Don’t break the chain”, most often anecdotally attributed to Jerry Seinfeld. This advice means that for a recurring activity, once you get a streak or chain going, as much as possible you should avoid breaking the chain.
Most of these are carried over from the 2017 checklist. Maybe an annual thing, eh? In no particular order: Greet your loved ones and friends and anyone else you hold dear. Maybe even those you disagree with Ponder why people give so much significance to the transition between an arbitrarily-chosen pair of 24 hour periods Take stock and reflect on the past year Think about what you’d like to learn this year or how you want to improve Count your blessings for the past year and be grateful Change your passwords Buy a new toothbrush Make a New Year’s joke (“If you must use fireworks of any kind tonight, at least try to limit your injuries to the left leg only.
I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but here’s some suggestions if you’re into that sort of thing: learn a new language talk to strangers more often visit 12 museums (one per month) step away from your devices once a week (increase the duration every time) read at least 12 non-fiction books read at least 12 physical books write a poem; maybe write 12 poems walk in the rain travel somewhere alone learn to draw stop a fight walk two thousand kilometers make more puns find something you can change in your local community and try to change it figure out what it means to be happy start twelve new side projects finish one side project once a week, throw out a few things you no longer need These aren’t things I’m committing to, but they are examples of the sort of NYRs I’d be likely to take on.
If you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution, why not try learning a new language? Since late 2014, I’ve been using Duolingo to teach myself new languages. Learning a new language not only helps when you’re travelling, but it unlocks different ways of forming thoughts in your brain, helping cognitive development (I may have made up that last part with absolutely no basis except my own speculation.) The first language I tried to study using Duolingo was Spanish, mainly because back then we had an upcoming trip to Europe (including Barcelona) planned in 2015 so the Spanish would have helped.
Via a blog post by Dave Martin, I read about Steven Pressfield’s quotes on “The Resistance” that keeps us from doing our work: The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows that we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got. (Side note: I’ve put his books on an Amazon wishlist.
The aforementioned quote is attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve been thinking about this lately as I try to plan for what’s ahead and what I want. I think one has to be able to decide what one wants independently of what other people are doing. As a concrete example, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “Oh, this other person in my field did X and now they are making so much money, should I take that path as well?
Aside from my hobbyist readings (keeping up with gaming and comics news, etc), my usual reading diet used to consist of current events and tech news, primarily through apps like Flipboard and Feedly, secondarily through social media like Reddit and Twitter. Recently though I’ve started following more sources and blogs that are focused on more… “cultural” affairs. When I started doing #sketchdaily a couple of years ago, I started following more artists.
“The price for being the best is always… having to be the best.” Terry Pratchet, Lords and Ladies This is one of my favorite quotes. For context: in the story, one of the characters has a special talent that he can shoe anything anyone gives him (like when you put horseshoes on a horse). And Granny Weatherwax tells him that the price he pays for that talent is that when someone brings him something to shoe, no matter how wild or ridiculous the request, he has to do it.
I remember a conversation I often had with a friend, the first team lead I ever worked with. Many times she would be putting in extra hours for days at a time and I would say to her “Put that off until tomorrow, it’s time to go home.” and she would reply along the lines of “But I still have so much work to do.” and my usual rejoinder would be “Are you expecting to finish all of that work tonight?
When making difficult or life-changing decisions, there are two levels of decision making we go through. One level is the rational, conscious mind. The mind is the part that considers all the options, weighs the pros and cons, and compares the metrics against your personal goals. The second level is subconscious and instinctive, sometimes called the human heart (not to be confused with the organ that pumps blood). The heart makes decisions using instincts and biases honed from your own life experiences and baser needs such as fear, anger, or self-preservation.
According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, you need 10,000 hours of continuous sustained practice to become an expert. There are 168 hours in a week. If you never sleep and you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 60 weeks. (Around 14 months) If you sleep 8 hours a day, you only have 112 hours in a week. If you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 90 weeks.
"Let go or be dragged" Zen proverb A few days back I read something on a Hacker News thread that kind of resonated with me: I’m not going to claim to be the most workaholic person ever – I’ve certainly known a lot of people who work far harder than me. But I do recognize that I have this problem of emotional attachment to a project, especially if I’m the main person responsible for it.
This book was on sale on Amazon Kindle a while back, I figured I’d give it a whirl. Some years ago I had read one of the author’s previous books, The Four Hour Workweek, and I wasn’t too impressed. It was interesting at least, but a lot of the advice seemed either difficult to apply to my personal situation or involved doing stuff I wasn’t really interested in (i.e. sales and marketing and whatnot).
(Image credit: r/ProgrammerHumor) I’ve been meaning to add SSL to this blog ever since I first heard of Let’s Encrypt last year. Unfortunately, support on my otherwise awesome webhost was not yet first-class and seemed complicated at the time, so I kept putting it off. But recently I was testing something unrelated and found out that I needed to have SSL on my server in order for OAuth2 to work, so I grudgingly got to it.
I decided to try learning some 3d modeling. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been following this beginner Blender tutorial where I had to make donuts. (Link to the tutorial series on Youtube.) Here’s my output!(click for full size) This image took around 40 minutes to render. I had to do 2000 samples per tile which is why it was so slow. I was getting too much noise/graininess at lower sampling rates.
I’m not super big on New Year’s Resolutions anymore. (I seldom even do the 1920×1440 joke these days.) I mean, I’m all about productivity and improvement and changing for the better, but I’ve found that very specific resolutions don’t often work for me. Mostly because I have very little focus (obviously something that an be improved). New Year's resolutions: Read, write, watch, play, create, destroy, win, learn, improve, chill, move forward
I had been looking into a software performance problem for a few hours now and had decided to call it quits for the day. I turned off the lights and climbed into bed, hoping to get to sleep early for a change. I hadn't been in bed five minutes when I thought about something I hadn't tried yet. I picked up the tablet that was beside my bed and did a few google searches and soon I was back on my desktop trying out some parameters I hadn't tried yet.
In no particular order: Greet your loved ones and friends and anyone else you hold dear. Maybe even those you disagree with Ponder why people give so much significance to the transition between an arbitrarily-chosen pair of 24 hour periods Take stock and reflect on the past year Think about what you’d like to learn this year or how you want to improve Count your blessings for the past year and be grateful Change your passwords Buy a new toothbrush Make a New Year’s joke (“My New Year’s Resolution is 1440×900!
When Hanamichi Sakuragi from the manga Slam Dunk tries to get into the basketball club, he insists he’s a genius who doesn’t need to practice the basics and instead wants to go immediately to doing spectacular things like Slam Dunks. Sadly, the vast majority of us cannot claim to be geniuses at anything, and we are forced to undergo a bit of hard work if we want to learn a new skill.
If a friend found out your work was horrible, would you want to know? Or would your feelings be hurt? If your coworkers think you’re doing something wrong, would you prefer that they keep quiet or that they call you out? As a leader, do you prefer to have sycophants who sing your praises or people who are willing to tell you that you have no clothes? Is your ego more important than doing a good job or self-improvement?
A feedback loop happens in a system when you are able to use an output of that system to influence the inputs, which in turn influences the outputs and repeats the cycle In engineering, feedback loops are useful to generate steady-state outputs. We had an entire subject dedicated to feedback loop controllers back in college. I enjoyed the topic so much I took the subject twice! An example of the use of feedback loops would be a thermostat that has a sensor to detect the current temperature.
I’ve picked up quite a few daily habits since the start of the year. To name a few: I’ve been doing daily sketches, I’ve been going on a daily walking routine, learning Spanish on Duolingo, I have a quick stretching/exercise routine I do in the mornings, etc. (I’m also supposed to be writing daily, but this has proven more difficult to keep doing consistently… ) I like those daily habits that can be easily tracked with technology.
During my the first semester of my second year in University, I failed four out of five classes I was taking due to slacking off a lot. Those same classes were only available during the first semester of each year, which meant I could not retake them during the second semester or over the summer to catch up. So effectively, I had fallen one year behind everyone I knew. When I got the news, it was devastating.
Above average – a level of competency at a given subject such that: You are good enough that average people look at your work and tell you “You’ve got a lot of talent!” You are good enough that you know there’s a huge gap between you and those who are truly excellent. I was wondering the other day whether being above average was a curse. It’s like being good enough to be in movies, but never good enough to be the star.
the four agreements, don miguel ruiz book – a code for life and personal development ** agreement 1 ** Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. ** agreement 2 ** Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you.