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Posts about life (old posts, page 1)

Effortful things

That dense book you want to read but has been lying on your desk while you procrastinate on twitter. You know you'll have to tune everything else out, and read slowly, word by word, trying to understand and make sense.

That vague blog post idea swirling in your head while you look at cat pictures, one after another. Distilling your thoughts and putting them down for general consumption is a lot of thinking and effort away.

That ${cool_programming_thing} that a talk got you excited about so long ago. But, watching talks and intending to start using it is all you do about it. You know its going to take a fair amount of reading, thinking and time, before you can really use it well.

Like all those squats and lifts you dread, these things are building your muscle. The thing about building muscle – it needs effort and feels like so much hard work.

You can't build muscles effortlessly. Go do those effortful things! Only if you care about those muscles, anyway.

Level-up Tools

Thanks to a friend I got an upgrade to our still-being-setup kitchen. I now have a non-stick pan along with a few more new additions. I would previously use a bowl that people usually use to boil milk etc. for making whatever I did. The non-stick pan feels so great! It has made it a lot simpler to make some of the things I used to, because its non-stick. And it has vastly expanded the possibilities of things I can make, by virtue of being flat and wide based. The pan is such a great addition to my kitchen paraphernalia, and it adds a new dimension to the kind of things I can make. I'm not here to write a user review for it, though.

What are such tools in other things that you do, that drastically changed the way you did something, or added a new dimension to the kinds of things you could do, tools that make you feel like you have a new super-power? Learning to write Python (after starting off with C) seemed to give me so much power allowing me to focus on the problem, rather than fussing over the low level details. Sasha mentions in this post how using a Spaced Repetition System like Anki drastically improved her efficiency because she could focus on thinking about higher level things rather than trying to recall or search for what method or function to use to do something.

What are some such level-up tools for you? Is there a systematic approach to discovering tools?

Book Review: 5 Love Languages

  • Author Gary Chapman
  • ISBN 080241270X
  • Read 2016-01-13
  • Rating 5/5

I first heard of this book in a discussion on relationships amongst friends from RC. The discussion was quite interesting and the book received more than a couple of strong recommendations. So, I decided to pick it up.

Very simply, the book is codified common sense explaining what Love is. Gary Chapman, the author, started with the question "What makes you feel loved" and found that the answers could be grouped into the following 5 categories:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Receiving gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch,

which he calls the languages of love. He also proposes that people have a primary language of love, and a failure to speak to a person in their primary language would make them feel unloved.

The book is filled with anecdotes to explain what each of these languages means and how to speak them, along with practical advice and exercises to learn to speak each of these languages. Though the book has been written with couples in mind, the fundamental ideas in this book can be applied to any relationships. I feel like it has been helping me connect a few dots, ever since I've started reading it.

It has been totally worth my time to read this book. A highly recommended read!

Below are some of my notes. Feel free to suggest improvements (for readability and otherwise) on the notes.


Learning about Spaced Repetition, SuperMemo, Org-drill, et al.

I have been reading a bunch of articles on the SuperMemo site (including the original thesis of P. A. Wozniack, the creator of SuperMemo). I initially started off trying to understand the algorithms SM2,5 and 8 which org-drill implements, but reading the articles has given me a lot of general background and theory on how memory works, and why SuperMemo is as effective as it is (for those who stick with it). This blog post is an attempt to summarize and capture what I have read in all those articles, and not get lost in them. I would recommend reading the thesis and the suggested reading there, yourself, but if you really don't want to – this blog post + the summary in here, and here would be a good alternative.

  • Memory works by repetition. Each time you recall a fact, the time it takes for the memory to fade increases. Spaced repetition is the idea of repeating items, just when you are about to forget them – trying to optimize the time spent on learning, as well as the retention of learned material.
  • Prioritization of the items we need to learn is key to being able to stick to Spaced repetition. Beginners tend to be over-enthusiastic about the technique and fill up their system with stuff that they don't really care about. Applicability of the knowledge you are trying to gain, is a good test for whether or not it goes into your system.
  • Each version of SuperMemo comes with a slightly modified (on most occassions, improved!) algorithm. SM2, SM5, … refer to these algorithms. Org-drill currently supports only sm2,5 and 8. It may be worth looking at sm15/16 and seeing if it can be implemented and is worth doing. In any case, using any of these is way better than not using Spaced repetition at all.
  • Understanding what we are trying to learn goes a long way in helping memory. It is, therefore, good to start with basic material. People have been surprised by how easily the advanced stuff fell into place, once they had the basics covered.
  • Keep items in the system simple. Stick to the minimum information principle. Keeping it simple, doesn't mean you leave out on learning the complex stuff; instead break it into simpler components. Simpler items has the following advantages:
    • Simple is easier to remember.
    • Simpler items are easier to schedule. You get more resolution to figure out what the problem areas are.
    • Simple makes brings in redundancy automatically. And redundancy is good for memory, just like it is for managing hardware failure.
  • Keep learning fun! Don't make review sessions a chore. Think about the material you are reviewing. Edit/delete/improve items based on your reviews, then and there. Stay active.
  • It is useful to add a link to the source of the items added to your system, considering that you wish to use the system over a long period of time (ideally, the rest of your life!)
  • Prioritize, add examples, appeal to your emotional state, link to existing knowledge, use images. Anything else that works for you! Use all of these techniques, that work well and you probably already use in everyday life, in the items you add to your system, to make them easier to recall.
  • Being physically fit and healthy is important for being so mentally. Exercise, sleep, eat well, avoid caffeine.
  • Try incremental reading, as an input source of items into your memory system.

Recurse Center, 2014-06-25

  • I like how some of the people here are taking check-ins so seriously. A bunch of people posted messages on Zulip, informing that they would not be able to make it to check-ins, and seemed quite sorry about it.
  • Check-ins are indeed useful. At the end of every day, I review my work wondering what I did, and sometimes end up pushing myself harder, to have something reasonable to talk about during the check-ins!
  • Yesterday, I read up about FFTs and ended up playing around with fft in scipy, and played around with audacity, etc. Nothing concrete, really.
  • There was a "goals" workshop by Stacey, where she talked about how to get the most out of this batch of Hacker School, and then we split into groups of 3, and presented our goal-statements to each other, and gave our impressions of each others' goals.
  • I didn't really have a goal, but the exercise seemed to help, anyway.
  • Also, I think it is making me nervous to treat Hacker School as super-important. It is important to make the best use of every hour, every minute here, but at the same time, I shouldn't be constantly worrying about whether or not, whatever I'm doing is the best use of my time here.
  • I think I would like to form some good habits, and make a few good friends, more than finish projects and build something uber-cool. Of course, it would be great to build awesome stuff (and may be the only reasonable way to form habits, and make friends) but I shouldn't worry too much about time running out. Never Graduate!


It was a pleasant Saturday evening in the middle of the winter. Christmas was just round the corner and love in the air. The sun was just setting and everything outside his window was given a fresh coat of snow, tickled by the red, quickly fading light. Not that he noticed. He stared blankly out of the window, looking at nothing in particular. He had just woken up from his afternoon nap; but he'd buy it if you told him he'd been sleeping for a year…

You could see the icy river crawling ahead, from his window. People walking over the bridge, a few camera flashes going off, people stopping over and looking far ahead into the horizon – collecting their thoughts, couples walking hand-in-hand enjoying each others' company; You could see it all, from up there! But, as they say, you only see what you look for. And he, couldn't see any of this. His looked out of his window and saw none of this.

He is walking down the same bridge. He didn't know where he was going; his head at least. His legs did; as always. He was walking down in his regular yellow shirt and black jeans, that you could mistake for a uniform, if you followed him for a few days. Extremely under-dressed for the chilly night, one would say. He kept walking down the main street, lined with shops brightly lit up for the festive season. The pavement bustled with with people walking with a spring in their step – the spring that the festive season and all the love in the air brought to you. Not that he noticed it, or had any of it in his step.

Soon, he's walking through the park. The park that was built to celebrate time, ticking away furiously. Or to celebrate the time everyone in the world had, to enjoy themselves. He walked past the skating rink, with lots of people having the time of their life, ice skating; and a lot more, awaiting their turn. The first timers, old and young, making up for their inexperience, with their excitement; holding onto whatever they can, to finish each round, to start the next! The veterans, taking the center-stage and showing off their moves! He was barely aware of their presence and just walked on, past all the action.

The music festival; he walked past it too, like the crowd didn't exist, the noise didn't, the music didn't; like there was nothing happening! The fountain "felt" no different. The cold breeze, did sprinkle the water to quite a distance and everybody kept a safe distance to avoid the chilling shower, except for the kids, who found it amusing to run into the shower for a split second and run back madly. How could he walk just by it, and not feel a thing!

The lakefront. That is where his legs always brought him in the end. The brilliantly lit skyline was a delight to watch, but I don't believe he saw any of it. He just stared into it, blankly. He kept staring, as the night got chillier and the surroundings kept getting more and more deserted. Seconds ticked away, minutes and hours passed by! He stayed on, staring ahead. It didn't matter how much below zero the mercury had gone. This wasn't the first night he was spending staring into the nothingness. It turned out to be the coldest night, in a decade. But that didn't matter to him. Nothing did. Nothing has, for a while now; Ever since he turned cold.

Just one day

The ripples on the quiet lake,
twinkling stars on a moonless night,
and his lonely, crazy, thoughts,
yet again, his faithful companions
on another of those countless nights,
searching for meaning, awaiting the dawn.

the night crawled by, as he drifted afloat,
memories of the past and dreams of the future,
until approaching footsteps, brought him back
did the chill of the wind, get to his head?
or was his guarded secret, not his anymore?

Before his thoughts, collect, he could,
his friend, from far away lands unknown,
was there with him, to share his thoughts,
to hear the wind hum the tunes of yore,
while the stars and the lake, as a duo, danced.

They watch the sun rise, from atop the hillock,
basking in the warmth, and see the town wake up,
lose themselves in the woods below,
on their way back, rest by the lake shore,
watching it, silently, shine in the daylight,
letting it wet their feet and clear his head.

Together, they cook themselves, a delicious meal,
n enjoy it, with some of the choicest old wine.
Catch-up on things, and yearn for more, discuss
all the many things, under the sun, and over,
without a clue, as to how much time flew by.

Riding away, as fast as they could, they reach,
just in time, as the sun set, over the seas,
perched on bicycles, in mirrored positions, with
resonating thoughts, the horizon, they watch
the sun set, the beach light up, and the fair begin.

They ate and drank, sung and danced and
just had a good time, for the rest of the night,
indulging, in all that the fair could offer.
the night was long, but if wouldn't go on forever,
pretty well, they knew, they day was to end.

the twinkling stars they watched, yet again,
but to the sea's song, on the still warm sand
slowly, but steadily, into sleep he drifted,
only to be awake, moments later, with the
bright sun coming harshly down upon him,
lighting up the lake, like a carpet of jewels.

all he had, once again, were just his thoughts,
the lake, and not the sea, by his side,
with fading impressions of an impossible dream
after all, wasn't it just too much action,
for just one day, for a life engulfed by ennui?

One some day, he told himself, and walked away.

Inspired by a friend.

Hand in Glove

the time, together spent,
the memories cherished,
all the love, concern and care
may they stay with us, for life.

as high and far as you like
may you fly, like you own the sky
while I fumble, with my flying guide
I see the world, through your eyes

may you run, with all your might
as if, fighting for life, you are.
struggling to walk, I stumble and fall,
but get up each time, inspired to run.

may you, in all that we shared
find strength to go on, if en-route
our paths diverged; you may have to wait,
but you shall see me, on the other side!

Thanks to Chaitu, I re-read Love Unvoiced a few times and realized, I was trying to say too much. Here's another poem, with one part of what I wanted to say. I will not be writing newer poems, to say the other stuff. Perform your own Fourier analysis.

Love Unvoiced

Hard, I tried, to stay mum,
and keep it all within.
But, not much longer can I stand,
I give in, and here's my song

wherever you are, anywhere you go,
whatever you do, or choose not to,
whatever you think and however you feel,
my love for you, it shall only grow.

Sweet, is the attachment,
but let it not keep you from flying.
the clear open sky, it's all yours
fly! fly! fly!

see all that you want to,
and do all that you'd like to.
to your hearts content, fly!
without a care in the world, fly!

for, if ever, you wish to rest,
now you know, where to return
right here, I shall be,
with love, just a little more.

Mute, I chose to be, but, boy!
does it need to be told. All over me,
it's written; and you, sure, read me!
Love you, for being the more loving one!

Who I am

I'm not the body that dies
on missing a beat or one breath.
I'm not the mind, so fickle,
I'm in heaven one moment, and next in hell.

I'm the moments I live,
not the ones, in which I just exist.
I'm the dreams I dream,
those fulfilled, and not just yet.

I am the occasions I grace
and those, missed, where I am.
I am the words I spoke,
those I wrote, and those I will.

I am all that I create,
and the stuff that I catalyse.
I am the love I receive,
and all of it that I spread.

Don't cry, when I die,
for I never really will.