Simplify Life

I am going to keep this journal entry brief. Most of us do a lot of superfluous things in our daily lives that we do not have to but want to for whatever reason. Perhaps we enjoy it or perhaps we are paid for it, or, for the lucky ones, both. But some of these things have benefits that are so entwined with our life that we hardly ever recognise, let alone acknowledge, their existence until they are gone. To me, writing is one such thing. It is something I love immensely, I occasionally get paid for my articles when they are published elsewhere, but it is not my day job, so to speak.

I recently also bought Launch Centre Pro because it was selling for only 40% of the regular price. I think it is worth it although I do not see myself using it anytime soon. The x-callback syntaxes are simple enough, but the core purpose of the software is where my problem lies. Over the past nine months I have been on an experiment to use technology more mindfully (a report marking my entire year is due by the end of October, so I will not describe specifics for the time being) and one of the results of that has been, rather unsurprisingly, a stark simplicity in the way I use technology. I therefore have no need for automating the modification of clipboard contents and then automating its use to invoke another application, or quickly viewing select 1Password entries, or building lists of contacts and the manners in which to reach them, or logging paid purchases to a cloud-based spreadsheet, or any of the myriad, unusually specific things Launch Centre Pro lets one accomplish. Continue reading

Comments and censorship

Over the course of this week, three things have caught my mind. First is difficulty in finalising a website, which I will talk about presently taking two case studies: Pixel & Paper, and Physics Capsule. Second is a question that has come to be one of my favourites in this era of increasing censorship: the relationship between website owners controlling comment threads and small scale censorship, specifically whether the former implies the latter. I think not, and I will explain why in a moment. Lastly, but nonetheless what I want to talk about first, is an interesting study that came out recently which used a square lattice model to study coöperation and competition among people. I have taken effort to ensure that no spoilers have crept into my brief review.

I.

A study published in the European Physical Journal B studies competition and coöperation using the snowdrift game in a lattice environment no less. The snowdrift game is a model in game theory that, simply put, involves two people at a junction in the road blocked by a snowdrift. At least one of them should clear it so both can pass on said road, and if one yields to clear it, the other must not — or need not — yield and vice versa. Alternatively, this is called a game of chicken or dove-hawk. On a more dangerous note, consider two drivers on a collision course where one must swerve and become the chicken in order for both to survive, while the other may, but does not have to, swerve. Continue reading

Weekly musings: iOS 10, VSCO and Priime apps, and Warcraft

Quite a lot has happened this week, but there are three things on which I have some thoughts to share. First is Apple’s updates at WWDC this year for the rebranded macOS, some bold changes to iOS 10 etc. Second is the rather bad update (in my opinion anyway) that the VSCO iOS app recently received; it had been my photo management app of choice for years but that may change if things remain as they are now for long and Priime, the app that works beautifully and replaced VSCO entirely during my recent trip abroad, could replace it. Is that indeed a sign of things to come? Third is the new Warcraft film which I thought was brilliant, and I cannot think of a single reason why it did not do well in the USA while it did just fine here in Asia.

WWDC 2016 and iOS 10

Apple’s live stream was broken for me, being spotty at its highest consistency and unavailable otherwise. I managed to follow it hopping between the video feed and Andrew Cunningham’s live blog over at Ars Technica. The company says iOS 10 is the biggest release yet for users (bigger than the jump from iOS 6 to 7?) and ditto for developers. The latter I can understand: extensions are everywhere, Siri SDK opens up at last, and lock screen widgets can do wonders if used right. The former, though, let’s face it: bubble effects and emoji that are “3 times bigger” are not enough. Continue reading

Drafts: On discipline, self–image and perspectives

Brian McKnight is (they say) a multi–talented musician from New York; I have never listened to his music, but I have come across something he once said, which I have found to be extremely true: “I just want people to take a step back, take a deep breath and actually look at something with a different perspective. But most people will never do that.”

As I pen this article, I see it not as a wise teacher sharing his enlightenment, but rather as a humble learner making notes of things he has found to be true: take everything with a grain of salt, or go ahead and try incorporating all this in your life and see if they help. The point it simply to understand that I am not teaching but sharing my views, which you are free to oppose, discuss, concur with, or hurl aside. You will come across quotes frequently in this article; I use them to highlight what I say. And what I hope to talk about are three: discipline, self–image and perspectives, beginning in that order, with discipline.

ONE: ON DISCIPLINE

For years I have fought to fully understand the meaning of the word discipline. Many people throw it around, tell you to be disciplined, but I have never once been told by anyone what discipline really is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience”. Continue reading

The Joy of Missing Out

I had never really made the connection before this, but Sherlock Holmes practices a form of the so–called Joy of Missing Out. I’ll come to that in a moment; first we need to understand what JoMO is and, parenthetically, what FoMO is.

The Fear of Missing Out, or FoMO, was added to the Oxford English dictionary in August of 2013. It is defined as anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. I think we can do away with that last clause: FoMO is not restricted to social media alone and is as rampant offline as it is on the web. Continue reading

Starbucks is awesome

I may appear to be late in realising this, but you can rest assured I’m not. I only wrote it down today, I realised it a long, long time back. Instead of heading to the Institute on day 2 of my research period, I decided to spend the day working at Starbucks. Continue reading

The utter nonsense of the first draft

Anyone who has ever written a substantial piece of text knows how hard it can be to put together well. The most important word in the last sentence was the last one: well. A chimpanzee can put together a substantial chunk of text — even a meaningful one. In fact, this is called the infinite monkey theorem and states that a monkey can almost surely type all of Shakespeare’s work if given enough (read, infinite) time during which it taps at random letters on a keyboard.

Equating Shakespeare to a chimpanzee is not the best way to begin any article, but that blame (or credit, depending on whether or not you’re Christopher Marlowe) goes to Frenchman Émile Borel. Neither is the monkey here a monkey, nor are the mathematicians who designed this thing full of life because a monkey is so much better than the randomly typing machine they proposed. (At least a monkey was more believable — back in the 1913s.) But I digress. Continue reading

Looking forward to 2015

Every year passes like a rigmarole and we look forward to the next. It is almost mechanical, but that was never how it was supposed to be. It starts with gusto and somewhere down the line everyone loses enthusiasm and it all becomes about counting the days to the next new year, yet another start.

I am not saying we should make 2015 different. Maybe we should, you should. But that is another story for another day.

As I pen this, I am reflecting on the how much of our lives we lead thinking about what others think about us. And when everyone does that, the earth just seems like a more considerate place, but it is not.

Your dog, almost certainly, is a better person than you.

This is nothing more than being fashionably selfish. To think, not of others and their needs, but other’s views about ourselves. Since it all comes right back to us, it really is a mere manifestation of selfishness.

There’s a reason why a dog is man’s best friend: there is more your dog can teach you than any person, book or religious scripture on Earth. His undying enthusiasm for you, his love, his affection, and how it never drops and only ever grows in leaps and bounds — humans can never have the same feelings. The fact is simple: your dog, almost certainly, is a better person than you.

In 2015, it is important to prioritise without shunning; to decide what is important without pushing aside the less important. Continue reading

On Physics and Hinduism

At the entrance to the Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN) stands a 2 metre tall statue of the Hindu deity, Nataraja (see above). To the unaware, it looks like something out of place: something that does not belong in one of the world’s largest scientific research institutions. But it is only one instance of the compatibility between physics and Hinduism. Continue reading

The soft bigotry of low expectations

I will throw this out there, so never blame me if it seems sudden or unplanned. As I sit here at my desk, a strange mass of words comes to me: the soft bigotry of low expectations.

What does it mean? Often, what we hear in our minds is nothing more than what we have once heard aurally. I set out to find the origin of this — almost weird — phrase, and I managed to track it down to a little speech that the former U.S. president, George W. Bush, had delivered at a National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) convention.

So what did Mr Bush — or his speechwriter — mean by this? He was speaking in reference to the education system and these words gave rise to several opinions, all based on similar lines. Continue reading

Air pollution

On one of my recent travels, as I was driving over lush, green mountains I happened to spot a pillar of thick smoke rising in the distance. On approaching it I was horrified to find a line of bushes on fire.

It was clearly a raging fire that had died down by the time I came near it, but one look at it would make anybody guilty of even driving a car. The pollution, the black soot, the suffocating heat — they were all sickening.

And behind the orange flames and heat waves rising from the ground on a gloomy, 18°C morning, I spotted the worst of the lot: forest rangers. Continue reading

Thoughts on Minimalism as a lifestyle

Minimalism is a big word. And it is not what you think it means.

A lot of people I know have caught onto minimalism from my religious adaptation of the philosophy how much ever they may want to deny where it stems from.

Minimalism is not about having little; minimalist design is not about having only what is necessary. Quite the contrary: minimalism is about having lots but presented with careful thought so it does not appear overwhelming. Minimalism is serving you ample food while not making you feel overfed.

To all those who follow a minimalist principle, the least I can do is urge you to read Edward de Bono’s book, “Simplicity”. Continue reading