Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys melodramatic romances with love triangles. Though the back cover on my copy suggests that this story is a tragedy of lost love, it comes off as more of a romantic comedy because of the absurd characters, rampant satire, as well as irony. This book would suite anyone who enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, though I do prefer the latter.

Most of the family members are very amusing, but I do get annoyed with the two protagonists Marianne and Elinor. Both of them come off as snobby. They get portrayed as superior to the other characters in taste, morals, intelligence, talent, beauty, and manners. But, they get disgusted by everyone who breaks their unspoken rules of taste and conduct. Marianne is the worst at this, and it's satisfying to see her undergo a transformation at the end. Elinor, however, hasn't changed much even though I think she could improve her ability to communicate emotions. Her problem is that she looks down on people who display excessive emotions. But she never really addresses how her stoicism lead to her loved ones hurting her unintentionally and then said persons becoming really upset when they found out how they've hurt her.

The book doesn't get interesting until the climax because there's very little suspense or action, besides Elinors' lukewarm and Marianne's off-the-scene trysts. However, the fallout makes the book worth reading. There are incredible insights into how vanity can make someone an absolute wreck. in addition, the book shows how people can grow to love someone and change in the process of the relationship. I think it's a good counter-message to the idea of "chemistry" and "love at first sight". Also, it shows why men of integrity is much more admirable than taste and passion in a man.

In this book, sense as portrayed by Elinor is the ability to socially manuveur while avoiding disgracing yourself, offending others, and being manipulated. Whereas, sensibility as portrayed by Marianne is the ability to properly appreciate beauty and respond emotively. Sense seems to be superior to sensibility because Marianne had to change and Elinor didn't. However, I think Marianne at the end of the book had a better balance of sense and sensibility, and it shows in her ability to attract a richer suitor than her sister. Sensibility is still really important because it makes life pleasurable and worth living. And it also seems to have a transformational, or healing power over Marianne's husband.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so glad that someone recommended this book to me and I finished reading it while I am in college. This book is highly applicable for the girls in my generation who grow up with fantasy romances from movies and YA novels. They show many unrealistic matches between the rich, handsome, mysterious man and the plain, shy woman. Yet, they become bestsellers and set box office records. This goes along with Gottlieb's point that the entertainment industry is feeding on young women's fantasies and acting as enablers for their ridiculously high standards. I know I have a rigid idea of what I want in a relationship, and reading this book made me realize how close-minded I'm being. I also learned to focus my "needs" vs my "wants", look for guys I'm comfortable around vs the ones who excite me, and not to mistake "romance" for "love".

There was also a section about "alpha" men-the suave, ambitious types- that I found interesting and relevant. The main point is that alpha men typically commit to stay-at-home or part-time working mother types because they can make up for the effort that he can't put into the family and marriage due to career. That made me rethink what "dating my equal" would mean. Also, it seems that careerists need to find someone who's willing to make more of the compromises. So, I can see why Gottlieb (a successful writer) would push for more women like her to consider the supportive, considerate "beta" man type.

I thought Gottlieb's narration was highly amusing. She's somewhat neuorotic, but she has great wit and irony. Plus, her voice is counterbalanced well with the grounded rationality from Evan Marc Katz and the experts she sought. Even though Lottlieb's thoughts in the book are unbelievably irrational, she's refreshing critical about herself and it lead to many revelations for me. I never really understood why some guys think women are crazy until I read about Lottlieb's and her friends' overly judgemental attitudes and entitlement to the "perfect" lover. At the same time, I also saw those superficial traits in myself and I do think I would act similarly if I don't watch myself.

This is a great book for women who are somewhat like Gottlieb in her twenties: ambitious, career-oriented, cosmopolitan, confident in her dating value, has higher education but dumb in common sense. It really helped me figure out how I could factor career and family into my life plan.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Review: Letters to a Young Contrarian

Letters to a Young Contrarian Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hitchens really seems to enjoy being a role model in this book. He has a very charmingly insolent manner when he shares his work as a contrarian, which makes this fun to read. It's not so charming if you don't already agree with his views on religion, socialism, politics, etc. However, he does drop advice that contrarians of all sides can benefit from. Among them: how to avoid groupthink, why you should avoid identity politics, how to deal with opposition, and so on.

The one thing that annoyed me about this book was that it had many obscure socialist/classical liberal references without footnotes. At least, it was obscure for a well-read college student which appears to be his audience.

I'm too conflict-avoidant to be a contrarian, but I do love entertaining radical ideas. This book helped me by showing how I can become more resistent to social pressure and sophistry. That way, I can be more objective when judging ideas. This book is ideal for college students in my generation. It's a short read (141 pages) and it does address our powerful desire to change the world for the better. Right now, a lot of students are getting mired in identity politics and the results are just as bad as Hitchens claims they are. If I ever get into a conversation with a social justice supporter/activist, I would recommend this book to them with the hope that it will help channel their rage and passion into more productive endeavors.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Virtualizing instead of Portabilizing Apps

I just found a cool, online tool that combines two of my favorite computing concepts: portable apps and virtualization. Check it out on turbo.net. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to make their apps take up less memory, increase the startup times for apps, and try new apps without installation. With the turbo client, you can create small virtual machines called "containers" which houses the app and stores all the app data and registry keys outside the host system. The website already has many images of popular applications which you can use to build the container. If you sign up for an account, you can store an image of your containers in the turbo repository. If you also have the turbo plug-in for Google Chrome, you can also run the images right from the website. Otherwise, using the turbo client requires you to get comfortable using the command prompt. Using turbo has some advantages and disadvantages over portablizing apps and using virtual machines, which I listed below.

Pros Cons
  • try new apps without installing
  • User friendly website
  • Online hub has wide variety of popular software
  • possible and easier to virtualize complicated software such as Google Sketchup
  • Containers have low memory footprint
  • A lot easier to access host system files in containers than in virtual machines
  • Virtualizing apps seems like a simpler process than portabilizing them
  • After two runs, turbo apps have much shorter startup time than portable or installed apps
  • Running web browsers in containers is a good way to prevent viruses and hackers from infecting the host system
  • Better for apps that need constant updates (compared to portable apps on a flash drive)
  • Apps only run on computers with Turbo Client
  • Web browsers don't seem customizable (can't add plug-ins or themes)
  • Some of the apps might suddenly stop working, even though it worked perfectly well before (happened with Inkscape)
  • Windows only


Using Turbo in CMD

It's very easy to get started. For convenience, I listed all the basic commands from the turbo docs. This will allow most people to use the apps from the turbo website which are already virtualized. You can use the hub to see all the available apps and get the image name for it. To virtualize a new app with turbo, I will make a tutorial in a future post.

List all turbo commands

turbo

List options for a command

turbo help command

Run a program without saving the new container

turbo try image name

Create New Container with image and run it

Note: By default, the container will be completely isolated from the host system, so you can't access files from the host system or save files there (useful for securing web browser). If you add the merge option, you will be able to interact with the host (useful for editors and apps with plug-ins).
turbo run image name
turbo run --isolate=merge image name

Create a new container with image

turbo run image names

List all containers on computer

turbo containers

Run an existing container

turbo start container ID

Delete Containers

turbo rm container ID

Make Shortcut to Run Container

Note: The install command will create a shortcut in the start menu and add it to the host's program list. You can't move it anywhere else without losing the icon. You can add another icon by right-clicking and selecting 'Properties'. Alternatively,you can create a shortcut in file explorer and link it to the turbo command for running an existing container.
turbo install container ID

Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: God's Debris: A Thought Experiment

God's Debris: A Thought Experiment God's Debris: A Thought Experiment by Scott Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a fun, intriguing read. It's mostly because I read this like a science fiction or fantasy story, instead of as an academic thought experiment. Because of all the disclaimers in the foreword and Adam admitting that he used some hypnotic mind-tricks in the book, I don't believe that Adam meant this to be a serious philosophical discussion--to the exasperation of many intellectual zealots. However, he did suggest to find a buddy to discuss this book with. So, it seems that he did intend to get people to think in a new way which is what many fictional works do anyways. To that end, I think he did a good job. I've never heard of anyone else describe probability as the core essence of God, but that's actually the best justification of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God that I've heard in the atheist/theist discussions. He's also on-point about human brains being delusion generators, and how that sometimes lead us to mistake scientific models for reality.

There were some things I disagreed with, such as his deterministic argument. My inner,latent skeptic also became defensive when the characters started talking about quantum physics. I'm definitely no expert, but my experience has shown me that laymen who confidently talk about quantum physics grossly misrepresent it. This is where reading this as science fiction lets me enjoy the book without fussing over misinformation. Other than that, my one disappointment with the book is that I didn't feel any of the hypnotic effects.

On a side note, the characters seem like the sort of people that I would love to meet and enjoying chatting with. This would've made a good origin story for my favorite character in the Dilbert animated series: the mysterious garbageman.

P.S Don't spend $9.99 on an iTunes copy when the author released it online for free: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/102627972246/most-widely-read-ebook-in-the-world



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Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Media Diet Pyramid

This image was created in the Assembly app
on iOS and edited in GIMP
I never understood why people used the cliché "you are what you eat" with food, but it does make total sense with media consumption. By this, I mean what we regularly watch, read, listen, or have conversations about. In the past five years, my mindset and world view has changed dramatically as I became more selective of the media I consume. When I was 14, I used to read books like The Secret, regularly visit websites about psionics, and consumed other New Age media. All that reinforced my beliefs that people can have psychic powers and manipulate reality with their minds. But I abandoned those beliefs after I became exposed to atheist Youtube videos and skeptics websites. My case is an extreme one, but it taught me the impact that media can have on our minds. With all the misinformation in the world, being a critical thinker is about as hard as being a healthy person in an environment filled with junk food. While people can use the FDA's food pyramid to guide their diet, there isn't a similar guideline for how often we should expose ourselves to different types of content.

So, I created one based on my opinions and the ideals of a liberal education. My goal for this media diet pyramid is to promote a media diet for optimal mental and psychological health. Unlike the actual food pyramid, I don't have any recommendations for how much of each content each person should consume, mostly because I'm still trying to find a healthy balance myself. All I can tell is that some groups seem more important and they provide the foundation for understanding other groups. The first media group here is the one I believe that people should consume the most and the last should be consumed the least.

Reality: 'The Carb Group'

The purpose of this group should be to gain a thorough understanding of the world we live and in and of oneself. This group is the most important because it affects your understanding in other areas such as rationality. Science and ,though it's not in the diagram, engineering gives some of the best explanations for various phenomena. And, they are the best tools for using the rules of reality to our advantage. I also included history and biographies in this section because they show what humans can achieve and the follies they can commit. Learning this helps me size up my own potential and limitations. Just as important as the rest, self-reflection and gaining self knowledge will reveal one's capacity to delude oneself and how to avoid this temptation. For me, it also revealed the life paths that I can pursue and find meaningful. By learning to see reality for what it is, I begin to understand what I can and want to accomplish. From that, I know what I need to learn from the other areas.

Rationality: 'The Vegetable Group'

Why should the Reality group come before the Rationality group when we use rationality to understand reality? From what I know about logic and debating, almost every argument and system of logic is based on assumptions that come from our understanding of reality. For instance, the scientific method assumes that we live in an objective world. I call this group the 'vegetable' group because most people seem to have trouble acquiring a taste for it. While I know many people who read books written by Carl Sagan and other science writers, very few would read books about mathematics or formal logic for fun. Still, this group is very important considering the number of charlatans who try to persuade people. Here, the purpose is to develop intellectual honesty and logical consistency. Mathematics (particularly statistics and probability) will help you understand the implications of theoretical models and graphs. Logic helps you judge the value of information and the validity of an argument. Reading textbooks and studies also build up the discipline to look at the source, despite how advanced it is. Economics might seem like a wild card here, but I've included it because it's useful for judging political, and sometimes moral arguments.

Humanities: 'The Fruit Group'

Humanities are 'the fruit group' to me because they are a lot easier to digest than the previous two groups. The goal of this group is to understand other people and society. Interestingly, people seem to enjoy this the most out of all the intellectual subjects. For leisure, many do watch tv shows and read books that tell a story about humans (or anthropomorphic beings). So, another side effect is that the humanities can make you a more interesting conversationalist. However, I think the greatest benefit is learning how to deal with the differences between myself and others, as well as appreciate the similarities. Literature is a great way to develop empathy because it allows you to share the experiences with a diverse group of characters, which can sometimes be applied on similar people in the world. Psychology helps me understand my own and other peoples mindset, as well as how they can be compatible or conflict. Philosophy shows certain belief systems people can have- such as Free Will vs Determinism- and what the implications of holding those beliefs are. The arts and culture show what the majority of a group appreciates and what their standards are, as well as how deviant you are from the majority. Without the humanities, I think most of us would misunderstand humankind and grow cynical. I've come across a significant number of misanthropists, and even found a human extinctionist group(the exact opposite of the ones from Artemis Fowl). I see this as a radical deficiency of the humanities because the humanities show us the nobler side of humans. Experiencing the compassion of the author or the courage of the hero is really what keeps my hope for humanity alive, despite the unfulfilled ideals in the real world.

Language: 'The Calcium Group'

Language provides the framework for understanding information from other people. A command of language is also important for communication, particularly when you need to ask the right questions. The ability to learn new subjects is limited by vocabulary and reading comprehension, so improving those two can open new sources of knowledge. The best way to do that would be to constantly look up new terms in dictionaries and encyclopedias as you encounter them. Learning the etymology of words is also useful for figuring out the definition of a word quickly and memorizing them. Luckily, websites such as The Free Dictionary include the etymology of many words under the definition. Practicing rhetoric in the form of persuasive writing or public speaking is a good way to measure how well you you understand your ideas, and if they are based on sound thinking. I have quickly found out how baseless many of my assumptions were when I struggle to defend them in writing or speech. In a world with google translate, learning a foreign language is not necessary for getting exposed to ideas from other cultures. However, learning a foreign language can be worthwhile for communicating in person as well as understanding the structure of languages.

Skills: 'The Protein Group'

Knowledge from this group allows people to provide practical value to others and earn a livelihood. In addition, it teaches self-sufficiency and it gives people an outlet for creativity. Most people my age are (hopefully!) taking in sufficient amounts of skills from college or trade school. Beyond that, skills can be divided into different categories: hacks and crafts. Hacks are skills are very quick and easy to learn, but they often make life a lot easier. Crafts require more time and effort, but they are a source of self-gratification.

Pleasure: 'The Fats Group'

Learning is most effective when it's fun, and this is what the pleasure group is for. This group helps make it easier to absorb knowledge from the other groups, but they should be taken in moderation. Too much can make you a cynic or an idler. Plus, the topics can be oddly addictive. Humor is used often enough by educators and writers to keep their audience engaged in the content. Games are another effective way to have fun while learning, and many educational websites such as Khan's academy are gamified. Even educators are thinking of incorporating games into the classroom. Politics might seem like a strange addition to this group, but it has been described as entertainment. It's effective at getting people's attention making topics relevant to their lives. Politics issues have lead me to learn more about economics, logic, history and ethics.

Exercise

Let's not forget that acquiring all that knowledge is pointless unless it's put to good use. Enter the Prometheus figure, spreading his light to those surrounded by darkness. Sharing knowledge is supposedly the most effective way to reinforce what we learned. That's pretty much why I write these blog posts. Other ways to 'exercise' include teaching/tutoring others, shooting videos on YouTube, debating, and creating a product that others can use.



Conclusion

All in all, creating this media diet pyramid was a fun project for me. I tried to make this pyramid applicable for most people, but I realized that my model is mostly geared towards erudite people who center their lives around gaining knowledge. More pragmatic people may move the skills group closer to the bottom while people more concerned with human relationships may do the same with the humanities. Hopefully, others can at least see this pyramid as an inspiration. My intent is to challenge people to take control of the media they consume, and make changes that will lead to a well-developed mind.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies

Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies by Bo Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the few books that I wish I bought a hard-copy of. Bennet does a decent job of describing the 300 fallacies, especially the formal ones. The examples he wrote are even-handed, so it doesn't just pick on one group that he could be ideologically against. For instance, he equally picked on both the Christian and atheist debating points. This is definitely essential reading for anyone who's interested in debates, public speaking, and controversy. It helped me see a lot of the illogical reasoning I've been relying on, and it helped me correct myself. The fallacies that I see the most in myself are "Notable Effort", "False Dilemma", and "Wishful Thinking". The most amusing one for me is the "If-by-Whisky" fallacy and the most annoying is the "reductio ad hitlerum".

Reading the book was like going through a dictionary or encyclopedia, which I don't mind. But, I can see how that would bore most people. He does try to spice it up with some witty examples, but it's about as effective as that textbook in 8th grade that tries to make grammar interesting with 'funny' practice problems. My only tip is to go through one fallacy per day, so it's kind of like the "word of the day" from a dictionary app. That way, at least most people can learn a comprehensive list of fallacies under one year.

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My Favorite Films About Economics

I do have strong opinions about macroeconomics, but I'm far from being as well-informed as I would like to be. Ideally, I would have read Milton Friedman, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Adam Smith. However, I'm limited by my resources: time, focus, and interest. Instead, I learn more about economics from the videos I watch online. These films are more likely to favor ideology or entertainment over facts. However, most of these films don't trigger the usual red flags I have for documentaries: fear-mongering, scapegoating, lack of experts, gimmicky effects, etc. Also, they do provide clear, informative, and entertaining explanations to otherwise dull or obscure concepts. Many of these films have a stance on the government's role in economics, and these stances conflict with the other films'. I'm still trying to determine which stances are the best, and therefore should support. I hope that by recollecting all the films I've watched and how they influenced me, I can come to a better understanding.

The American Dream

This film can still be seen on Youtube for free. I first encountered it on a conspiracy site when I was around 14 (thankfully, I grew out of that phase). Even so, I recently re-watched it and I still think it's worth watching. It's the film that started making me question my country's financial and political system. It has a great explanation on the history and purpose of money. It also disentangles the relationship between the Federal Bank, the rest of the banks, the US treasury, and the federal government. Overall, it's a film against central banking and an argument for the gold standard. As far as I can tell, it's historically accurate if you disregard the fantastical elements and obvious pop culture references. However, this film is the only one on this list that set off the red flags I mentioned earlier. And, it does come off as a typical conspiracy theory, especially when it linked Kennedy's assassination with central banking. I am not convinced that the gold standard should be restored, but I wouldn't be shocked to find out that there is a global banking cartel. I wouldn't recommend it for the paranoid, but it's funny and it can open up a lot of new economic questions.

Freakonomics

Besides being a film, it's also a book and podcast. It's much more light-hearted than the other films. It focuses on questions about human incentives and behavior. Some of the questions addressed include "Does your name influence your chances of success?", "Are crime rates and abortion related?", and "Can there be a system that people can't game?" It helped me understand that economics is more about human interactions than the exchange of money, so many economic concepts have a broader scope than I originally thought.

How the Economic Machine Works

This is another free video on Youtube. It explains how the economy (at least a capitalist one) works on the principle that 'one man's spending is another man's earnings'. This simple statement actually leads to a lot of important implications such as how 'consumer confidence' and stock market speculation can have dramatic impacts on macroeconomics, even if it's purely based on psychology. The video gives a good explanation of how bubbles form and burst, and why inflation and deflation occur. It shows the part that loans, credit cards, and filing for bankruptcy play. It also shows the options that governments and the federal bank have for handling an economic crisis such as adjusting the interest rates, funding welfare programs, cutting spending, and raising taxes. It also shows how relying on only one of these methods have severe consequences. This film proposes that there's a possibility of a 'beautiful deflation' where the bubble bursts, but it causes the economy to stabilize instead of spiraling into a depression/recession. According to the film, this can be achieved by a balance of aforementioned methods at the government's and federal bank's disposal. This video made me think of the part that the entire population plays in economic crises, and that the ordinary citizens who acted as speculators had as much of a role as the bankers in events like the 2008 recession. However, I'm skeptical of the possibility of a 'beautiful deflation' because I have yet to find a real-life example of one.

The Big Short

This is an obscene, but hilarious depiction of the events leading up to the 2008 housing bubble. This film follows the lives of 6 actual men who became rich off of this crisis by 'shorting' the subprime mortgage loans- meaning they made bets against those risky mortgage loans maintaining their value despite the confidence that the government and bankers had. It's another film that manages to be informative while focusing on the story-telling aspect. It explains the history behind why financial experts believe that mortgage loans are almost always low risk. The movie also has celebrities and one financial expert explaining unfamiliar financial terms in a novel way. This film is a great insider's look into the dark side of today's banking institution. At the end, it is scary that the government doesn't hold these bankers accountable for the frauds they committed. This raises the moral question about what citizens should do about this mess, especially after one of the lead characters make some dire predictions about what will happen if we let this continue.

Boom Bust Boom

This film has surprisingly little humor despite it starring a Monty Python comedian. However, Muppet lovers would not be disappointed by the songs and puppetry. This film focuses on the history of bubbles and bursts, and apparently they happen with surprising regularity. The time period covered ranges from the Tulip Mania of the 17th century to the 2008 housing crash. It explains how societies get stuck in cycles of economic 'booms and bust' due to overconfidence during times of stability and risk-aversion during times of instability. It also introduced me to another economic giant that I need to eventually read: Hyman Minsky. This film points out the limitations of the neoclassical model of economics and the problems that human irrationality can wreck in our current system. It proposes that we should create a system that accommodates human irrationality and separate speculating activities from banking. I do agree with the latter statement. However, creating a system that 'accommodates human irrationality' would mean taking away choices for consumers, usually by having policymakers draft up extra regulations. Thomas Sowell pointed out the flaws of central planning, in that a smaller group of people (even experts) are not necessarily more rational and well informed about market decisions. In fact they are more likely to be the opposite, and they can have special interests influencing them. In addition, they lack accountability for flawed policies as well as the flexibility to correct flawed policies. I'm for a government system that punishes fraud and theft, but not for one that limits people's choices under the guise of protecting them from their irrationality.

Most of these films are great for making me interested in economics and getting me to see its relevance in my life. Still, I have a lot more to learn and I realize that I need to keep an open mind. After watching some economic films, it is easy to think that I can now figure out how the financial institutions should change and how the government should act. However, I haven't looked at a wide diversity of viewpoints. I haven't touched the graphs of the rigorous math. So, I can't say I have a good understanding of economics, and I don't know how much of my time I would be willing to devote to understanding it. It's hard for me to answer, "How much do I need to know to be a well-informed citizens, as well as inform others?" Even so, learning this little about economics is enough to (hopefully) avoid stupid mistakes and not get sucked into the herd mentality that can dominate economic decisions.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Review: Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My initial motivation for reading this book was to "know thy enemy". I wanted to know the mindset of radicals on both sides of the spectrum, and why politicians pander to them just because they are the vocal minority. Alinsky is very frank about the motivations behind his actions and he gives a good insight into the psychology of a radical activist. Plus, his tactics are brilliant, entertaining, and effective.

Paired with a book about the "dismal science" (economics), Rules for Radicals is a must-read of political activists and grassroots community organizers. I'd recommend reading this with a book from Thomas Sowell because these two authors fill in each other's gaps. After reading Alinsky, I realized why Sowell complains about economists failing to persuade politicians despite having greater insight. From Sowell, I learned why politicians are inept at improving economic situations. Alinsky explains how politics is a zero-sum game with power, and the implication is that the people who disagree with you are enemies. This mentality helps the activist group force people into fulfilling their demands, but-as Sowell points out- the activists often create new problems. For instance, the trade unions at Kodak fought and gained higher wages (see http://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/rbfs-b...). But this creates a surplus of job applicants (see Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell), which lead to discrimination against blacks and then Alinsky getting involved. Alinsky recounts the success of that involvement and many others, but I do suspect that his involvements have not lead to stable improvements in the black community. The black, Mexican, and Native American populations have often resorted to activism, and they are much worse off than previously marginalized groups who didn't resort to activism such as the Asian, Jewish, Irish, and Italian immigrants. I think Alinsky's tactics are necessary for getting political representation and battling against special interests. But, it must be paired with an understanding of economic principles in order to fix the root problem.

Still, this book is indicative of all the problems that I see in modern radicals. From reading the book, my impression of Alinsky is a manipulative scumbag who preys on disenfranchised groups and continues the cycle of people abusing power. And he does all of this with that familiar cloak of self-righteousness. For example, he had one anecdote where he incited the Back on the Yard group to aggressively demand healthcare services from an organization that was completely willing to do it anyways. He claims that it's necessary for his group to feel like they have power, but a sneaking suspicion in me asks "for what?'. Even then, I think this book is worth four stars because it's so informative and Alinsky is an entertaining author.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Hacking Programs into Portable Apps

I have tried making portable apps using third-party software, and I have gotten nowhere. Setting up virtual machines for Windows is a nightmare if you don't have the install disks, plus they run too slowly to download a lot of the programs online. The SFX makers and extractor tools didn't work well for me. In addition, there's the mind-numbing frustration of trying to follow the documentation for developers on PortableApps.com. Luckily, I ran into this post by the travelling librarian who used a batch file to run a program. It deletes the temporary file it left on her computer after the program closes. It was a super simple way to make a portable app, and I modified the code so that it removed other traces of the program from my computer (at least the ones I could find). Then, I found INSHAME's post. Although his methods didn't work for me, it taught me many of the locations where I need to get rid of program data. The method I ended up created was something I found easy because I have coding experience. It doesn't require any software besides Notepad, but Notepad++ is highly recommended. It works for a great variety of simple programs, but I did include an entire section about programs that should not be portabilized. Keep this in mind as you work through the steps. 14 steps might seem a little much, but many of the steps can be skipped if the programs doesn't install information on all of the different locations that I've considered. This is a dirty method of making portable apps because I'm not doing any clean install and I might not find all the traces left on my computer. However, it works well for me. As a side benefit, I gained a better understanding of how portable apps worked and I've finally found an excuse to learn batch scripting.

Prereqs

  • Familiarity with terminal commands and batch files
  • Familiarity with basic programming concepts like IF conditionals
  • Debugging skills and willingness to learn

Batch File Tips

  • the colon (:) will display the following text in the terminal
  • double colons (::) are comments
  • keep folder and file names in quotations so the terminal reads it properly
  • Add PAUSE to stop program until a key is pressed. Helpful when debugging

Don't Try To Portabilize

  • Programs that need over 1 GB of space. They'll take up too much space on the flash drive unless you have lots of storage.
  • Programs that install folders all over the place on your machine. If the app has to restore and backup all those folders everytime the program runs, it will quickly wear out the flash drive by using up write cycles. Plus, it takes more work to portabilize.
  • Programs that use up a lot of disk space when running. You can check that on the task manager. If the program uses a lot of disk space, it will quickly wear out a flash drive by using up write cycles. Virtual machines are one example of this.
  • Programs with .NET dependencies. You won't be able to run it on other computers without that .NET version.
  • Programs with different installers for different windows versions. You'd have to create separate portable apps for each versions if you want to run it on many other machines.
  • Programs that store necessary data on temp files. Check by opening RUN and type in %temp%. Maybe try deleting the file and running your program again. Apparently, only poorly written programs save important info there. Furthermore, it's difficult to separate the necessary vs unnecessary info and those files accumulate a lot of data. This makes it a burden to just store all the file contents with your portable program.
  • Programs that need constant updates. Again, that uses up write cycles.

Steps:

  1. Download and install the the 32-bit program, as normal. Save it on an easily accessible place such as on the Desktop
  2. In the program folder, create a new .bat file. Copy and paste in the code template at the bottom of this post.
  3. In the same folder, create a new folder called 'appinfo'
  4. Click Windows+R to open RUN, and type in regedit to open the registry manager. Under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE, look for any registry keys that was created by the installer. If you find one, export the registry key path and save as a .reg file in the program folder. Add the .reg file after "REG IMPORT" on the .bat file and uncomment that line. Also, copy and paste the registry key path from the registry to the line "REG Delete".
  5. Run the program once by clicking the .exe file. Exit afterwards.
  6. Refresh or reopen registry manager. Look in the same places. Copy and Paste any new program-related paths after "REG DELETE" on the .bat file
  7. Using Run, type in %localappdata%. Then, try to judge if the data in those folder are valuable. Usually, folders containing logs can be safely deleted. Just type in "%LOCALAPPDATA%/program_folder" after "RMDIR /q /s". Otherwise copy and paste the folder name into the two conditionals in the .bat file. Then, move these folders to the appinfo folder on your flash drive.
  8. Repeat the step above for %temp%,%appdata%, and %userprofile%.
  9. Look up the .exe file that starts the program in the program folder. Copy and paste the name after "START /wait" on .bat file
  10. Modify the text after ":" to change the message that gets displayed on the terminal
  11. Save the .bat file and test it out by running it. Debug if necessary.
  12. Optional: Integrate it onto a portable launcher by following the steps on my post "Integrating Portable Apps into Launcher"
  13. Optional: Use compression tools such as PortableApps.com AppCompactor to save space.
  14. Move the entire folder onto a flashdrive. Try testing it out on many different computers

Portable App template


: This script will launch (Insert Program Name).
 : When (Insert Program Name) is closed, it will delete temp 
 : directories and registry keys if any
 : For this script to work, this script must be in the same directory as
:the program folder which contains the executables that run this program

@ECHO OFF
 ECHO Please leave this window open.
 ECHO IGNORE ANY "Profile Storage Space" MESSAGES YOU SEE!
 ECHO.
 PAUSE
 CD /d %~dp0
:: The line above changes directory to directory of batch file

::Below Lines restore any files or registry keys that are usually installed on computer when program runs 
::ECHO Restoring previous registry keys and important files
CD appinfo
::REG IMPORT file.reg
::uncomment and modify above line if the installer adds the registry paths
:: IF EXIST "%LOCALAPPDATA%\program_folder" (
::  ROBOCOPY "program_folder" "%LOCALAPPDATA%\program_folder" /E /IS /MOVE
::) ELSE (
::  MKDIR "%LOCALAPPDATA%\program_folder"
::  ROBOCOPY "program_folder" "%LOCALAPPDATA%\program_folder" /E /IS /MOVE
::)
 
ECHO Now launching (Insert Program Name)...
 CD /d %~dp0
 CD (Insert Program folder name)
 START /wait (Insert Application.exe file)

::ECHO Deleting Registry keys and Temp folders
::Copy and paste any registry key paths created by the .exe file
 REG DELETE Registry_path /f
::only uncomment and modify if folders are unimportant
::RMDIR /q /s "%LOCALAPPDATA%\folder_name"
 
::Below lines for moving files onto drive. Starts when app closes
::ECHO Backing up files
CD /d %~dp0
CD appinfo
:: IF EXIST "program_folder" (
::  ROBOCOPY "%LOCALAPPDATA%\program_folder" "program_folder" /E /IS /MOVE
::) ELSE (
::  MKDIR "program_folder"
::  ROBOCOPY "%LOCALAPPDATA%\program_folder" "program_folder" /E /IS /MOVE 
:: )
::uncomment and modify above line if app stores data in %localappdata%


ECHO.
 ECHO.
 PAUSE
 CLS
 EXIT

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Integrating Portable Apps into Launcher





I've talked about my love of portable apps in my Portable App Spree post. They are quick to download, can run on many different computers through a flash drive, take up little space, and they don't slow down your computer like most bloatware. PortableApps.com has a great library of portable apps that you can install and they have a convenient launcher. However, there are more portable apps outside of PortableApps.com and they don't automatically show up in the launcher after installing it on the flash drive. If you read through the PortableApp.com documentation, you can make any app compatible with their launcher by rearranging directories and filling out .ini files. When I tried it, it took me hours and I still couldn't get the Launcher Generator to accept the apps. Luckily, I found a much easier method to make just about any portable app show up in the launcher. It takes 10 minutes and it may require some familiarity with batch files. In general, this should work for any launcher program.

Steps:

  1. If you haven't already, download and install the launcher of your choice onto your flash drive. I'm using PortableApps.com's PA.c platform
  2. Download the portable program as normal and unzip/install it onto the main directory of your flash drive
  3. Create a new folder on the flashdrive called "Portable Insert-Program-Name"
  4. Move the program file into this new folder
  5. Move the "Portable Insert-Program-Name" folder into the PortableApp folder
  6. Open the program file and check if the file that starts the program is a .bat or .exe file
  7. For .exe Files

  8. Simply move the .exe file to the main directory of your "Portable Insert-Program-Name" folder. Reload launcher to see icon.
  9. For .bat files

  10. Download a .bat to .exe converter. Here's the one I recommend: http://www.f2ko.de/en/b2e.php. It has a portable version and it easily integrates into the launcher using the .exe method. Just delete the setup .exe file and move the .exe file in the Portable folder to the main directory.
  11. Optional: create an icon by searching up an image and using an image to .ico converter. Save the .ico file to your "Portable Insert-Program-Name" folder. I used the one here:http://image.online-convert.com/convert-to-ico
  12. Start the Bat_to_Exe_Converter and enter in the .bat file that start the program. Save it to the main directory of your "Portable Insert-Program-Name" folder. If you want, you can add your icon under Version Information
  13. Go to Editor and add "CD (insert program folder name)" before the line that's similar to "start startup_file.exe". This will change the directory so your computer can find the .exe file which starts the program
  14. Click compile and check that the program is in the launcher by reloading


So far, this method works for all of the portable apps I found online that aren't listed on the PortableApps.com website. There were some times that for unknown reasons, the .exe file from the converter didn't start up. However, recompiling the batch file fixes the issue. The only other issue that I've encountered is that one .exe file from the batch method sets off an anti-malware software. So, you should keep the original .bat file just in-case. In the end, I love seeing all my apps neatly organized in one place and ready to use. This method is something that anyone can do. In a later post, I will describe another simple method that I made up for making any program into a portable app. Maybe "any" program is a stretch, but it has worked for every one that I've tried.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Review: The Secret Lives of INTPs

The Secret Lives of INTPs The Secret Lives of INTPs by Anna Moss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is just as fun and informative as The Secret Life of INTJs. However, it was more whimsical and went of into more tangents. I'm guessing that the author made an attempt to make the latter book more structured to target the INTJ audience. Still, I enjoyed the whimsical parts as well. I especially liked the descriptions of the MBTI-based fantasy land, the author's family life, and the oddball speculations of the future of INTPs. Reading the book made it easier to see that INTJs and INTPs are more similar than what the cognitive functions theory suggests, so the author did a good job of convincing me to abandon that theory.

The profiles of historical and fictional people were really fascinating. Some of them really clarified some of the behaviors of INTP characters which I found baffling. For instance, I didn't understand why Mary Shelly's Frankenstein kept procrastinating or refusing to do certain tasks even though the lives of his loved ones were at stake. The author carefully explained the typical INTP mentality and value system, so I could understand the rationale behind Frankenstein's actions. The author also did a good job of using MBTI type to explain why certain INTPs such as Thomas Jefferson strongly and publicly held certain beliefs, only to live against them. I found it to be a more clear justification than the usual historical explanation: he did it because everybody else was doing it.

It's still full of grammar mistakes and is poorly edited, but I really enjoyed reading the book. INTPs are a small proportion of the population and they don't inspire the same respect (fear?) that INTJs do in literature and cinema. However, this books shows a lot of the benefits that this unique personality brings.

View all my reviews

Understanding Scientific Papers (Part 2)

My revenge on bad scientific writers
Image is from http://www.thescientificcartoonist.com
I described the basics to reading a scientific paper in Understanding a Scientific Paper Part 1, but there are still more tricks to understanding a scientific paper. They are clearly not written for the general public, and academese is an unavoidable hurdle. Once you unravel this arcane language, you'll soon see that most of the babble on paper is a euphemism for things in the vulgar, material world. After reading one paper, I spent weeks wondering what was the "background, ultraviolet radiation" that interfered with photometers during the day. Then, my professor pointed out that it was sunlight. Learning to understand scientific papers requires you to think in a new way, and I have found some tips helpful for making this process easier.

Some Useful Tips

  • Have a Research Goal
  • The usual research goal is conducting a similar experiment. But it could also be writing a book, writing a blog post, inventing an instrument, make a lifestyle change, or learning about cutting edge technology. Whatever the goal is, this will help inspire interest and give you focus while you are reading. The research goal also gives you an application for your newly acquired knowledge, making you an active learner with better retention. Because you are taking knowledge from the abstract context of the paper to the practical level, your comprehension will improve.

  • Print Hard Copies and Annotate
  • The research goal should dictate what notes you will take. I prefer to use something conspicuous like a red pen.

  • Highlight Spelled-out Abbreviations
  • This will help you keep track of the countless abbreviations that follow. Scientists love to abbreviate, and they do it very often.

  • Read Multiple papers in the same area of research
  • Some papers explain different parts of the research better than others, which is helpful when you can not understand one paper at all. In addition, scientific papers often reference and compare their methods to other researcher's methods. Sometimes they use a theory from other researchers, but they barely explain it. So, reading the other papers will help you follow those discussions. A good source of further reading material is the References at the end of the paper.

  • Make Mnemonics to remember basic scientific facts
  • Knowing your basic scientific concepts can make it easier to visualize and understand what's happening in the experiment. For instance, the aeronomy papers I'm reading often talk about instruments taking measurements in the upper-mesosphere and thermosphere. To imagine where these instruments are, I made up a mnemonic for the atmospheric layers in order of descending altitude: "Emus Train My Scarlet Tiger". This stands for Exosphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere, Stratosphere, Troposphere. Now, I know that the instruments are flying in the second and third highest layers of the atmosphere. That's higher than airplane and weather balloon flights, so you'd need a rocket to get that high! Just by knowing this little mnemonic, I can imagine where the experiment is taking place.

  • Reread and persist
  • Sometimes, you make new connections after the second or third time. This happens especially after you read other sources or look up new definitions.

  • Try to explain it to others
  • Just like having a research goal, having to teach others forces you to bring all those abstract ideas down to a practical level. There's also that cliche that you remember 90% of what you teach. You can do this by having conversations, writing blog posts, making an infographic, or making your own Dummy's guide. Just be sure that you don't end up over-simplifying concepts or "dumbing down" the information. From my experience, the most complex concepts and still be accurately communicated to the average person as long as you elaborate enough and include appropriate comparisons. There may be technical details that you omit because they aren't relevant to understanding the purpose and implications of the research.

    Conclusion

    For me, reading scientific papers has been an intellectually humbling experience. It also made me more capable of independent thinking. Because of this, I think that proponents of scientific literacy should encourage students to read scientific papers from the databases instead of second-hand from scientific articles or pop science books. Students can benefit by overcoming their intimidation of science, and they can make more informed decisions about their health, environmental policies, and scientific funding. At the very least, it's one way to show off your education to friends and family members.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2016

    Estimate Compile Time on Computer

    Windows gives a time estimate for downloads, but not for backups or any other compiling process. For me, having a time estimate is convenient because it helps me schedule downloads and allows me to check on my computer less often. Lately, I have been trying to convert a virtual hard drive on Virtualbox to another format. It takes hours, and my patience gets shorter every time I try to check on it every 30 minutes. Luckily I've found a very simple method for estimating compiling time. Now, you can easily calculate how long it will take a backup to complete, convert a file to another format, import a file into a program, and anything else you can think of.

      Steps

    1. Start the program
    2. Look up program in Task Manager
    3. Wait a couple of minutes and record the highest and lowest speeds under Disk (units: Mb/s)
    4. Find the size of the data you are compiling. You can do this by looking up the file in File Explorer
    5. If necessary, convert size of data to MB (1GB = 1024 MB)
    6. Divide the size of data by the highest and lowest speeds. This will give you the maximum and minimum estimates in seconds
    7. Take the average of the two times, then convert to hours. Now you have the average estimate
    That's all there is to it! The last time I used this estimate, the actual time was close to the estimate. I just tried this method and the range of compiling time estimates was 20 minutes. The compiling finished just two minutes shy of the maximum estimate. So, it's probably best to schedule any compiling processes around the high estimates you get.

    Thursday, June 30, 2016

    Understanding a Scientific Paper (Part 1)

    This image is from The Scientific Cartoonist
    http://www.thescientificcartoonist.com
    Scientific papers are the most arcane pieces of literature I've ever encountered. They make Nietzsche and Rousseau look like child's play. I had to read more than ten different papers over the course of three months before I understood any of them. Now, I think everyone should go through this trial, so they challenge their minds to understand new and abstract concepts. Scientific literature, unlike liberal education, makes you understand the objective world on a deeper level, and I would argue that it's more intellectually rigorous. Besides that, I also believe that we have a civic duty to become scientifically literate. We need to be responsible consumers and voters. Reading articles from scientific news outlets isn't enough for me because most articles lack enough detail for me learn about the theory and methodology. Also, some outlets such as Yahoo! Science are ad-ridden and poorly edited. And, the studies can be misrepresented or fraudulent. This isn't an article about judging the validity of a paper, which is a useful skill for reading papers from open access journals. Nor is it an article on finding scientific papers; getting around the steep paywall is a topic for another post. This is about learning how to think like a researcher.

    Recommended Prerequisites

    • Natural Science:University Physics and Calculus
    • This is especially important if you are interested in astronomy, aeronomy, or even chemistry. It will allow you to have some understanding of the formulas and graphs. In addition, you will frequently see some basic terms such as "vector", "momentum", "derivative", etc. If you haven't taken the AP or college classes yet, Khan Academy and other online courses are a great resource. Just make sure you are taking University Physics which is calculus-based, not algebra-based "College Physics". Make sure you have learned differential, integral, and multi-variable calculus. If you want to read some of the more advanced literature, mechanics will also be useful.
    • Life Science: Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology
    • This applies to medical, as well as biology papers. I've been able to understand most of the biology papers with only a high school education in those three subjects.
    • Social Sciences: Statistics and Probability
    • These prerequisites are not necessary for comprehension, but they're vital for judging the validity of the paper. The social sciences have a reputation for producing studies with less reproducible results and are more prone to researcher bias, so you will need to be aware of any statistical manipulation. Economics is more rigorous, so I would recommend learning Differential and Integral Calculus as well.

    Parts of Research Paper

    The outline described here is based on the papers I've read in the natural sciences. Other studies studies might have a different format. After reading each section, you should have learned about a certain aspect of the research. I've including some questions that can act as comprehension checkpoints.
    • Abstract
    • This is similar to the blurb on the cover of a novel. It's supposed to give you a brief idea of what the paper is about, and this is where you decide if the article is worth reading.
      Ask yourself, "What are these researchers studying? What contribution have they made to their field? Is this paper relevant to me?".
    • Introduction
    • This is where you can learn the background information about the paper's field of research. It may include an explanation for the phenomena, examples of past experiments done, and the typical instruments used. If you are entirely unfamiliar with this field, you should read the introductions of multiple papers before proceeding into the next section.
      Ask yourself, "What do the experts currently know about this topic? What is the phenomena? What causes the phenomena?
    • Observations/Data
    • This is where you'll see most of the graphs and tables for this experiment. Besides the figures, the paragraphs will tell you under what conditions this data was collected. The paragraphs often describe interesting events that affect the shape of the graphs, so look out for that. There may also be separate sections devoted to the instrument used, the method of data analysis, and the model chosen for comparing the experimental data.
      Ask yourself, "What's the dependent and independent variable? Why did the researchers study these variables? Did the researchers find a correlation? Where in the graph is the event described in the paragraphs?
    • Discussions
    • Here, the researchers interpret their results. Researchers will identify prominent trends and relationships. They may also compare their results to previous experiments or speculate about the causes behind their findings.
      Ask yourself, "What did the researchers discover? What were the likely causes behind their findings?"
    • Conclusion
    • This is the summary of the study. In addition, the researchers discuss the significance of their findings and how it would impact their field. They may also give suggestions for future studies in this field.
      Ask yourself, "What impact does this study have on its field? this How will future researchers build top of their work? References This is the list of all the sources cited in the paper. You should use to learn more about a theory or past experiment that's briefly mentioned. On online versions, you can click the doi number which is linked to where the source is published. Ask yourself, "Is there anything in the paper that the author barely explained, but I need to learn more? Does it have a citation?

    Looking up Unknown Terms

    Throughout your reading, you will definitely encounter a lot of jargon that can't easily be clarified with a Google search. While Wikipedia is likely to have an article on most of these terms, it has a weak editing system and it can be inaccurate. So, it should only be a last resort. Here are the best references I've found. Each one addresses a particular need, and I listed them in order from most general to most specialized.
    • The Free Dictionary
    • This site is best for getting a quick definition on basic concepts e.g gravity waves, ordinate, tidal force, etc. I prefer this dictionary over others such as Merriam-Webster because it includes graphics and it has the widest range of scientific terms in my experience.
    • The Encyclopedia Britannica
    • This source will give you a good background on the paper's subject matter or the instruments used. It has many factual, well-organized, and easily understandable articles with plenty of graphics. It's a good place to become familiar with the scientific concepts before getting exposed to the academic language. Searchable topics include nuclear fission, Fabry-Perot interferometer, and chaos theory.
    • Wolfram's Mathworld
    • This is the go-to place for mathematical equations and definitions. It will give you the formal definition, properties, explanations for variables, derivations, and applications.You can look up series, knots, theorems, etc. It's difficult to understand for people with a limited background in math, but at least each article included links to each concept that the topic is built upon.
    • Scholarpedia
    • This online encyclopedia has peer-reviewed articles by the scientific community. So, it's the scientists' attempt to make highly specialized knowledge accessible to the public. It's not so good for looking up general terms used in science that you can look-up using The Free Dictionary. However, it's the best source for finding esoteric theories and phenomena such as the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability or Hydromagnetic-Dynamo Theory. If the term is named after a scientist or will probably never be mentioned in a pop science discussion, you are more likely to find it in this source. Strangely, it doesn't bother to include articles about widely known scientific ideas such as climate change or string theory.
    By now, you should know how to fill any gaps of knowledge when reading a scientific paper. This post covered what background knowledge you need, what you are supposed to learn from each section of the paper, and what resource materials you can use to further your understanding. This post turned out much longer than I expected, so I will have to continue on in the next post. In Part 2, I will give additional advice that will help make this process easier.

    Saturday, June 25, 2016

    Fast, Compact Ubuntu Virtual Machine

    (No GUI)

    Virtualization is a great way for Windows users to explore Linux distros without having to dual-boot or replace your OS completely. However, the downsides are that your computer will run much more slowly under the burden of two running OS's. The virtual machine also takes up a lot of space on your disk drive if you "dynamically allocate" the space. Meaning, you let the virtual drive grow as the demands on the virtual machine increase. Even Puppy Linux, one of the most lightweight distros, is very sluggish in the virtual machine. After much experimentation, the best workaround I found was to install just Ubuntu minimal in Virtualbox. It comes with no pre-installed apps, so I ended up saving a lot of space and RAM. The drawback is that it doesn't come with a GUI, so I'm stuck with only a terminal. However, this is ideal for people only want a Linux development environment. The major benefit is that I can easily switch between using the host and guest without either one becoming unbearably slow.

    Installation

    1. Download the Ubuntu minimal iso image here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/MinimalCD
    2. Download and install Virtualbox here: https://www.virtualbox.org/
    3. Open Virtualbox and click New
    4. Set RAM to 500 to 600 MB
    5. Select Create a Virtual Hard Disk Now
    6. Select any hard disk file type, then select Fixed Size
    7. After the hard disk is built, start your virtual machine
    8. Insert iso image into virtual machine by looking through the task bar and clicking Devices>>Optical Drives>>Choose Disk Image
    9. After the machine boots up, Select Command-line Install
    10. Here's a guide to help you through the Ubuntu installation: How to Install A Minimal (And Non-Bloated) Ubuntu On Your Old Laptop

    Installing Guest Additions and Expansion Pack

    The Guest Additions and Expansion Pack are supposed to add more functionality to the guest OS, but I haven't seen much difference after installing it. Nevertheless, here's how you install both without a GUI on the virtual machine
    1. Download and install the extension pack as normal from the virtualbox website

    2. Once your guest is running and you are in the terminal, download the guest additions iso by entering this code:
    3. wget “link to download virtualbox guest additions"
      You can get the virtualbox guest additions link by copying and pasting from the virtualbox website
    4. Install DKMS by entering the following code:
      sudo apt-get install dkms
      If DKMS is not availiable, use this command:
      sudo rcvboxadd setup
    5. Fully Update guest system by typing:
      sudo apt-get update
    6. Make a mount point for an iso file by entering this:
      sudo mkdir /media/iso 
    7. Mount iso file by entering this:
      sudo mount -o loop /path/iso_file /media/iso
      Your iso image should be in the same directory that you're in, so you just need to enter the file name. You can find it by entering
      ls
    8. Change directory to where iso file is mounted
      cd /media/iso 
    9. Execute:
      sudo sh ./iso_file 
    10. Restart machine to see the changes

    Final Tips

    If you want to install different GUIs, I would recommend that you take a snapshot of your virtual machine which acts as a backup. Then, you can create clones of the virtual machine and test out different GUIs on each clone. If you do want to try other Linux distros, save yourself some time and download the pre-built virtualbox images that you can find online. There's also a portable version of virtualbox availiable, but I would recommend against it because it tends to be slower and running the virtual machine from a USB wears it down quickly. Now that you have an easily accessible linux enviroment on your computer, you can have the best of both worlds. You can use the Ubuntu guest to run Linux native programs, compile kernels, download malware without having it affect the rest of your computer. Enjoy!

    References

    How to Install A Minimal (And Non-Bloated) Ubuntu On Your Old Laptop
    How to Mount an ISO File
    Virtualbox Manual

    Review: Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy

    Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This book is a must read for any layman who wants to understand how capitalism works, why communism has not worked, and why socialism failed in places like India. Sowell explains many obscure economic concepts in a way that an average seventh grader can understand. Most of the math in the book is basic arithmetic, and there aren't any graphs. However, the book does have a lot of histories and case studies to back up its assertions.

    Reading this book is also a great way to become a better critical thinker. Sowell constantly reminds people to think about the hidden costs and better alternatives behind every decision. He also shows how there are innumerable factors affecting and are affected by economic outcomes. It's humbling, and it helps me stop myself from assuming that I or anyone else can make better choices on behalf of others. He also refutes the pet views of both sides of the political spectrum, so both types of people will get exposed to new arguments.

    Sowell favors the Chicago School of Economics, but he fully justifies his position. So, it's not a biased book even if it's not neutral to Keynesian economics. In fact, he highlights a lot of the places where both sides agree. At over 600 pages, the book has enough information on the basics of Economics. However, I do wish that Sowell covered socialism in modern Europe more.

    View all my reviews

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Basic CMD Commands and Windows Shortcuts

    When you have to use the command prompt to make changes to your system or run a program, knowing just a handful of commands will save you headaches in the long run. Keyboard shortcuts

    Command How-to on Windows 10
    Add new path to System Path

    (Lets you use executables without changing directory)
    1. Press Windows Button
    2. Type and select "advanced system settings"
    3. Click "Enviroment Variables"
    4. Under "System Variables", double-click Path
    5. Click "New" and enter path name
    Change directory cd pathname
    End Program Ctrl+c
    Exit CMD exit
    Last Command up arrow
    List files in directory dir
    Open Administrative CMD
    1. Press Windows Button
    2. Type "cmd"
    3. Ctrl+Shift+Enter
    Rename Folders or Files F2
    Run Windows Key + R
    Scroll up Ctrl+ Alt + up arrow
    Scroll down Ctrl+ Alt + down arrow
    Show Hidden Icons Windows Key+ B
    Show toolbar
    1. Press Windows Key+B
    2. Press Shift+Tab
    Select object in taskbar 1.Windows Key+ T (click T multiple times to change selection)
    2.Enter (to open selection)

    Sunday, June 12, 2016

    Review: Curse of the High IQ

    Curse of the High IQ Curse of the High IQ by Aaron Clarey
    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    I like Clarey's other works such as Bachelor Pad Economics and Enjoy the Decline. This book isn't meant to be a self-help book like the other two. But, it still should have been more data-heavy and rigorous because that's what the audience, high IQ people, are used to. Instead, most of his assertions are based on anecdotes and little factual support. I was hoping for some more statistical analysis, excerpts from studies, or historical profiles. For his chapter on education, he could have pointed out specific detrimental educational policies, of which there are many. For his chapter on career, he could have included the IQ ranges of various occupations and college majors and talked about the implications of that.
    Clarey is very cynical in his writing, which ironically allows him to give the best advice for young people to avoid mistakes in his other books. Here, it leads him to make overblown assumptions. For example, he assumes that most high IQ people will not be able to find peers at work because of his experiences. His IQ might have caused problems with his finance major co-workers, who aren't exactly the cream of the crop. However, I doubt the same problem would exist with doctors, engineers, or statisticians. And it definitely wouldn't exist if you work for a company like Google, which screens out applicants with interview questions that cleverly get around the ban on IQ tests.
    This is more of a feel-good book than an informative book for high IQ people. The problems he outlines may be legitimate, but it's going to need better research to support it. Plus, these problems seem like things that high IQ people are completely capable of getting around to achieve their goals. Einstein's the one that said, "I never let schooling get in the way of my education."



    View all my reviews

    Saturday, June 11, 2016

    Review: Bachelor Pad Economics

    Bachelor Pad Economics Bachelor Pad Economics by Aaron Clarey
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Bachelorettes can also benefit from this book. Though I wouldn't recommend it if you are easily offended and can't handle cursing. Sometimes, Clarey does cross a line such as by suggesting men to give backhanded compliments to their significant other. He also gives mixed messages when he claims "women want, nay, crave to be led", then says some wives can be better leaders.

    Overall, this book is a great source of advice from career choice to death. The guiding principles in the Philosophy chapter provide the much-needed clarity for young people to focus on the most important things in life. I learned a lot of new financial concepts, but I'm going to have to fact-check his heavily conservative economic analysis. Still, this book is great for people who want to achieve financial freedom and wannabe entrepreneurs. It will tell you how to plan your life, so you aren't beholden to your boss or go into massive debt. He also sets standards for men and women that I agree with. I'm all for both men and women working on being physically attractive, fiscally responsible, and non-abusive. I also like how he models a marriage after Captain Kirk and Spock. Throughout the book, he is very up-front which is perfect for young fools who need a quick dose of reality.

    View all my reviews

    Review: The Art and Power of Being a Lady

    The Art and Power of Being a Lady The Art and Power of Being a Lady by Noelle Cleary
    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    This book isn't much help for women, like myself, who are trying to appreciate and adopt feminine qualities. I do like that the book creates an ideal for modern women to strive for, and it tries to revive only the beneficial societal expectations that women upheld in the past. I also agree with its general attitude towards style and social responsibility.

    However, my main issue with the book is that it bases its advice on survey responses from women held to no standard. The women qualify just by answering "yes" to "Are you a lady?" Obviously, claiming to be a lady does not make you one. In addition, the survey respondents included students and single mothers. Many college students are still trying to form their identities, so I doubt the average one would know how to act with the maturity and self-assurance expected from a lady. While some single mothers could qualify as ladies, single motherhood is an indication of unladylike behaviour in the past. Without screening out the single mothers who haven't become more responsible, the survey results seem unreliable. Instead, the authors should have consulted successful women.

    Besides that, the book had little substance. Too much of it is common sense like don't swear in front of children. In addition, the book doesn't educate on topics that a lady should know. For instance, the chapter on style could have explained aesthetic principles and some art theory. The chapter on social responsibility could have taught readers how to evaluate non-profit organizations so that your money isn't wasted on ineffective ones. I also wished that the book had a section on marriage dynamics, conversation, old age, and managing finances (instead of just repeating how important it is).



    View all my reviews

    Friday, June 10, 2016

    Making Smarter Purchases with Trade Studies

    Trade studies are a useful tool that every layman can learn from the engineers. It gives you a standardized way to judge multiple options based on multiple factors. Using a trade study is also a lot more quick and thorough than making pro/con lists for all of your options. It's great for major decisions such as choosing a car, college, house, or job offer. For me, the best thing about trade studies is that it takes your subjective preferences into account, without letting them override your decision. If I learned about them earlier, I could've saved myself from many impulsive purchases.

    How it works

    I developed my own template and system for conducting a trade study using Google sheets. You only need a basic understanding of spreadsheets to use it. The first sheet is where you fill in the information about each option from your research. The 'spec sheet links' rows are where you put the references for each option, so you can easily refer to them. The following rows are where you put the important factors for your decision. You can add more factors in the next rows. When filling out the information for each option, do not include units besides $ and %. This is because the other sheets need numerical values in those cells to perform comparisons. Instead, specify units in column A.
    The "Criteria Sheet" is where you fill in your benchmarks for each factor. Note that whatever value you put under the 'above' and 'below' columns are noninclusive in the grading functions. For instance, $1000 is under the 'above' column in the 'unideal' category. But, a $1000 product is going to score as ideal. Also, note that you don't have to fill in all the "below" columns if "lower is better" and vice versa if "higher is better". For non-numerical qualities like location, you can list everything that fits under each category in one column.
    For the "Trade Study Matrix", you are going to have to modify some of the grading functions after copying and pasting. I tried to make it easier by including a little search function that will give you the variables you need to plug in based on the criteria name. For nonnumerical qualities, you need to define ranges on the "Criteria Sheet", then replace rangename_1 and rangename_2. The weights tell you how important each factor is with the higher weight being more important. In my system, the weights are on a scale of 1 to 5. But you can easily modify it.
    The template should save you the hassle of programming your own trade study. If you want to download it, I recommend the "Get on Google Drive" link because I haven't tested it in the other formats.

    Get template:

    Get on Google Drive
    Download Link for Open Document Spreadsheet
    Download Link for Excel

    Thursday, June 9, 2016

    What I Learned as a College Freshman (Part 4: Writing Better)

    Surprise! I wrote an extra post for the "What I Learned as a College Freshman" series because I realized that college taught me another valuable skill: writing. Writing isn't just about impressing your audience or voicing your opinions. It allows you to organize your thoughts into a coherent statement, so you know if your thoughts follow any logic outside your head. I have briefly talked about academic writing in Part One, but there's a lot more tips that can help streamline the writing process.

    • Make Notes As You Research
    • You will save a lot of time if you have a neat pile of supporting evidence before you begin writing. These notes will be your best source of inspiration when you are brainstorming ideas. For articles, print a hard copy so you can highlight and annotate. For books, write the locations of important material plus comments on index cards. 5x8 inch will give you sufficient space to work with.

    • Buy a Guidebook
    • One of my biggest shocks in college was that many of the writing rules I learned in high school no longer applied. I can write a paragraph with one word. I can use "I" in my writing! With these restrictions gone, what's acceptable writing is thrown into question. A guidebook can help you balance the need to sound professional with the need to sound human. A good guidebook has quality writing examples that you can model. It must cover the opener of the paper all the way to the closer. You should definitely buy a hard copy, so that it's readily accessible and you can bookmark useful pages. Writing with Style: Conversations on the art of writing by John Trimble is a great resource for college students.

    • Rational > Original
    • New insights are great, but they're harder to defend. Sometimes, they are based on circumstantial evidence in the text. Always defer to the evidence, so you have a strong case. You don't need originality to be interesting; you need to be compelling.

    • Attack Your Opposition After You Have a Strong Argument
    • Discrediting the opposition isn't necessary, even for an A-quality paper. It can improve your paper, but not if it takes away your focus from defending your side. At times, overzealous attacks seem to hide the lack of a reasonable argument. You can see this in real-life when self-righteous people condemn others without knowing much about them.

    • Have Many Backup Plans
    • Despite your scrupulous notes, the first topic you write on can still lead to a dead end. You might become bored with the subject, or you realize that the evidence does not cohere. To make a transition easier, you need backups. While researching, organize your notes under different potential paper topics. When brainstorming, make outlines for different ideas. This will prevent you from becoming ideologically attached to one stance, and as a result, continue wasting time on a failing idea. A side benefit is that you'll also be able to see multiple viewpoints. You might be able to merge ideas or incorporate different ones into your paper, which will strengthen it.

    • Weak Connections between Ideas Cause Transition Problems
    • If you have trouble finding the right transition word, this means that you can't identify the relationship between two sentences. You fix this by separating ideas that can stand alone. Ideally, each sentence depends on the claims of previous sentences. This can also apply to paragraphs, where one exists to justify assumption and the other to make a claim based on that assumption.

    • Take Many Short Breaks
    • Especially when you get writer's block. It will save you lots of headaches and keep you mentally fresh. Of course, this would mean that you would need to start writing long before the deadline so that you have this luxury.

    • Avoid Flowery Language in Body Paragraphs
    • At best, it comes off as fluff- distracting and unnecessary. At worst, it's sophistry or what Thomas Sowell would call "verbal virtuosity". It hinders your reader from understanding your argument and objectively evaluating it. Like overzealously attacking your opponents, flowery language can appear to hide the absence of a reasonable argument. Only indulge in it in your title, the hook of your introduction, or your conclusion. These three locations are far enough from your arguments. Even then, beware that flowery language can still morph into emotional appeals and claims beyond the scope of the paper.

    • Peer Review is not Necessary
    • It's helpful for testing how understandable your paper is. Not so much for its logical validity. After you master writing straightforward sentences, it's not as useful. It's because other college students are still developing their prefrontal cortexes, so they're not the best judges of reason. For that, it's better to seek your professor's help. You can also do it more quickly yourself by identifying all your key assumptions and fact-checking them. In addition, it helps to imagine that your reader is ideologically opposed to your stance. That will get you to make your argument as airtight as possible.

    • Goal of Editing: Becoming More Blunt and Concise
    • Readers should instantly understand your sentences as they read. To that end, your final job is to use the simplest and fewest words possible. Get the shortest sentence possible without losing any of the content. Here's a sentence that needs editing, "The romance between Romeo and Juliet was fated to end in tragedy from the beginning". "Romeo and Juliet’s relationship was doomed from the beginning," is much less cumbersome.

    As you write more, you'll see a lot more holes in your arguments. As you become a more rational thinker, your writing will improve. Public schools in the United States don't take this approach. In Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell points out how teachers only encourage students to make emotionally-driven arguments by making students comment on controversial topics before they are sufficently informed. High School classes rarely teach students how to judge the credibility of each source, and extrapolate the implications of the claims made. In my experience, there are some efforts to teach these skills in college. However, college education places more emphasis on independent learning. So, we students bear the responsibility to improve our writing and thinking.