Wednesday, December 31, 2014

- Reading Bingo 2014 Complete -

I just finished Random House Reading Bingo Challenge 2014 - right on the very last day of 2014:

Book Summaries

Xenocide (More Than 500 Pages) - Ender spends a second book (of three books) attempting to help an alien planet. Even though this was a hefty book, this and "Children of the Mind" should've really been one. Not the first time an author's decide to chop a book into two due purely for length.

Treasure Island (Forgotten Classic) - Standard pirate story. Until I realized this was the original pirate story. So much hype for Long John Silver but he felt a weak antagonist.

The Shining (Became a Movie) - This is the second Stephen King book I read, and the second where bad magicky things happen. This time in a hotel. I guess that's his style.

Goings (Published this Year) - Increasingly incoherent ravings of an egomaniac about really mundane things like shopping.

59 Seconds (Number in Title) - Slick psychological toolbox that make yourself more happy, creative, persuasive, etc in under a minute

The Call of the Wild (By Someone Under Thirty) - Out of the dozen books I breezed through in the last few days, this one stuck in my head. The main dog doesn't speak a single word (since he's a dog), but you feel his mind becoming increasingly feral. Can't believe Jack London wrote this around my age.

Children of the Mind (With Non-Human Characters) - another example of how good sci-fi can become gibberish metaphysics when drawn out. See: Hyperion, Battlestar Galactica

The Importance of Being Earnest (Funny Book) - I don't get old British humour. I don't get the fixation on Ernest-the-name either. It's not that great of a name. Apologies to all Ernests out there.

The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold (Female Author) - the growing-up-in-suburbia plot jumps around a lot with Lucy Gold narrating. Hard to follow until you realize it's Lucy Gold's fault.

The Big Sleep (Mystery) - standard hardboiled detective story with pretty women, gun violence, tailing cars and heavy rain.

Pygmalion (One Word Title) - Cinderella story if Cinderella had a backbone, the prince was kinda a jerk, and the glass slippers was good grammar. Like Cinderella, this also got turned into a movie. I watched "My Fair Lady" as a kid so the story was already familiar.

Tao and the Art of Being a Badass (Short Stories) - Exhibit A of why you shouldn't trust a single anonymous redditor saying a particular book changed their life. The book is a series of obviously-good-traits backed by a single anecdote of how that trait is hot.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Free Square) - a day in the life of bounty hunter on a desolate Earth. I think rogue robots would be much more intelligent than depicted, but their personalities felt spot on. I say "felt" because I have no idea what a real robotic personality would be like.

Ender in Exile (Different Continent) - aka Ender kicking ass on random planets. It's too bad he died in the previous book; let's write another one about his back story for the fans !

Our Final Invention (Non-Fiction) - really convinced about how dangerous human-level AI is. Like species extinction dangerous. Read it and be worried.

A Song for Lya (First Book by a Fav Author) - Whereas "A Song of Ice and Fire" is set in some medieval backdrop, "A Song for Lya" is set in the future where interplanetary travel is possible. Our psionic human protagonists investigates a local cult and makes you question life.

Mindfulness in Plain English (Heard About Online) - /r/meditation recommendation. For everyone that's wanted to get into meditation without the religious aspects. The most helpful guide I've read. That's for free, anyway.

What If? (Bestseller) - xkcd's author takes in ridiculous questions, crunches the numbers and answers them. Now I know how much energy is needed to destroy the moon.

Brain Rules (Based on True Story) - We don't know much about the brain, but this author summarizes what we do know and makes it fun to read. Stuff like sleep and exercise being good for your brain - that's fairly common sense. But it's nice to see studies to back that up.

The Bad Beginning (Bottom of Reading Pile) - My first encounter with Lemony Snicket and came out feeling depressed. I guess that's the point of his series of unfortunate events. There wouldn't be much story if those kids just remained awesome without stuff thrown at them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Book my Friend Loves) - Locke is a younger, less cool, fantasy-setting version of Captain Jack Sparrow. With his own crew. And outwits against overwhelming odds. This one's been sitting on my reading list for around ten years now.

Devil Inside (Scares You) - Meh. I've read stuff on /r/nosleep that was scarier. Standard demon possession story in an urban setting.

Breakdown of Will (More than 10 Years Old) - potentially the driest book I've ever read for fun, but his idea of how willpower works was interesting. Explains why breaking tasks into smaller chunks helps getting it done.

Speaker for the Dead (Second Book in Series) - the first of three books where Ender tries to save a planet. The author believes this was his better book, but I - and likely many others - preferred Ender's Game.

Kanban and Scrum (Blue Cover) - read it for work. Talks about differences between two agile software development methods. Good read if you want to know exactly that. Otherwise no point reading.

If you're looking for recommendations, pick "Call of the Wild" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" for fiction; and "59 Seconds" and "Brain Rules" for non-fiction.


1) If you are taking on this challenge next year, I recommend picking out the books first. Took me several hours to find the right books for the right square. I haphazardly read about a dozen books throughout the year, hammered into into a square and then looked up the rest.

2) I can't read French. Well, I can. Basic stuff. But when it came to reading "L'Aviateur" - my original pick for First Book by a Fav Author - I realized I was missing out on all the nuances. It's impossible to truly understand what you're reading while you're trying to translate half the book. So I put "L'Aviateur" down and picked up an English book instead.

3) I need uninterrupted quiet time to read effectively. Sounds obvious, but I let myself get interrupted by parents, friends, phone and didn't make much headway until it was night time.

Finally, I likely won't take this challenge again. While it was fun breaking personal records, my reading list is already long enough without introducing new books for arbitrary genres.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” – Aristotle

I don't think Aristotle had Asian parents

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

- 10 ideas -

  1. Car Link In rush hour traffic, cars can link onto each other when both front and back cars agree. This can easily save hundreds of hours of doing nothing in traffic. Outside of rush hour, it will give ten seconds of warning before detaching again.
  2. Forecast Platform Platform to make predictions on any topic. Everyone's predictions are saved permanently and the most accurate forecasters are featured.
  3. Eye Tracking Input Use eye-tracking software to simulate both mouse and keyboard. Right-blink for click and left-blink to bring up keyboard. Use a Swype-like keyboard for faster keyboard entry. Useful for handicapped folks.
  4. Sundial Watch Watch that simulates a sundial. Has a portable lightsource attached.
  5. Mobile-Controlled Home doors, windows, lights and stairs can all be controlled from your mobile device
  6. Price Per Hour Fun Enter in activity or object and calculate the best bang for your buck. Parameters could be personalized.
  7. Vocalize Takes in a book and turns it into audio. Voice and pacing can be adjusted. For those that prefer to listen over read
  8. Lecture Attender Programmable voice recorder you can stick in lecture halls. Turns on and record remotely. Send voice data back to your computer. Speech-to-text software automatically transcribes into lecture notes. Never attend another lecture!
  9. Destination Randomizer Takes all reachable destinations on the map and gives you a random destination to travel to
  10. Activity Alert Set mobile alerts on whether your accounts have been accessed. Be notified where your Google accounts been opened and what actions have been taken in the last hour.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

- 10 ideas -

  1. Government Kickstarter The government lists a bunch of public projects - e.g. transit, roads - and crowdsources some of the funding
  2. Life Restart takes your career info and geolocates all your friends and acquaintances - suggests places where you could restart your life with minimal hassle
  3. Charitable Experiences fundraiser where you pay double the usual cost for something fun (e.g. horseback riding) and you take a less fortunate person with you
  4. Pressurized Toilets Rather than waste all that water for toilet flushing, have a pressurized system like on airplanes.
  5. Internet Diagnostics Devices that connects to your modem and router and alerts you via text message (SMS) if Internet is broken.
  6. Outdoor In Ceilings and walls that detect the weather outside and reflect it inside. Clouds that hover above you and rain dripping along the wall.
  7. Trick Explainer Take a video of a magic trick. App analyzes each component and explains how the trick is done.
  8. What will kill me here? Geolocates and analyzes crime stats, accident stats and mortality stats and tell you what to be careful of.
  9. What laws affect me? Type in what you want to do. After geolocation and crawling of local laws, the app will present you a list of rules you should be wary of
  10. Invisible Capture Measures and analyzes all the different invisible waves around you

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

- 10 ideas -

  1. Stave off Starvation Locates the nearest food bank, events with free food, shelter and so forth.
  2. Career Brancher Fill in your current skills and find similar careers. Good for people that are laid off or just need a change in scenery.
  3. Smile a Day User-submitted content that makes you smile. Detects what you found amusing and presents similar content in the future.
  4. Safely Home Charts out crimes in your vicinity. Gives you the safest walking route home, even if it's longer
  5. Google Expert If a person isn't able to find the answer they're looking for, they can request an expert. Google will parse the query and send it to relevant experts.
  6. Out-of-Office Social Media Need a break from blogs/Twitter/Facebook but don't want people worrying? This app will leave an "out-of-office" status on all your outlets and automatically respond to people asking when you'll be back
  7. Mass-Clone Creates many similar profiles of yourself on social media, attempts to friend your current friend-list and randomly generates random updates in order to prevent accurate profiling on yourself.
  8. Personality Mapper Enter in how someone acts/reacts and see what type of personality they are. Choose from Meyers-Briggs, DISC or some other personality test. Gives you a sense of how to work with a person
  9. Conflict Mediation Practice Virtual reality environment where you can simulate conflicts with zero repercussions. Practice your conflict mediation and problem solving in high-stress situations
  10. Limit breaker Put in all your trackable routines. It will graph your deadlifts, lap times, meditation durations and so on. It will show you your current limit and congratulate you whenever you surpass it to set a new limit.

Monday, July 15, 2013

- 10 ideas: after weekend edition -

Otherwise known as "come up with as many ideas as possible while half asleep". Time to get back on track.

  1. Notepad Keychain When my notepad got stuck onto my key ring, I thought it would be convenient to have a portable notepad (and utensil) I'd never lose. Hook a notepad and a small pen onto your key ring.
  2. Fuel Tank for Humans A suitcase containing daily nutrients that can hook into you intravenously. For those too busy to stop to eat.
  3. Airlift Express Stuck in traffic? Pay this helicopter company to airlift you to your destination.
  4. Meditation Bubble Sound-proof, air-permeable bubble with a lid. When you enter the bubble, you can change the bubble from opaque to transparent or vice versa. Meditation timer optional.
  5. U.N. Subsidized Relocation Give a generous relocation fee to businesses in developed country to move to less developed countries. The goal is to kickstart economies across the world and get closer to global parity.
  6. Real-Life Portal Turrets They do detect movement. They have laser sight. They speak out in creepy voices. The only thing they don't do is shoot live ammo, because that's probably illegal. Shoot water instead. Or catsup.
  7. Global Treasure Hunt a multinational company (e.g. Google) sets up a global treasure hunt as a marketing campaign. The first clue starts at their headquarters, and people have to solve subsequent clues to get to the next destination. Since flights are expensive, an online forum can be used to organize global treasure-hunting teams.
  8. Laser War Laser Quest with smarter armor detection system and more sophisticated weaponry. Light-rifles, light-machine guns, light-grenades. Armor that gives you a health bar. Damage dependant on where you got hit. Health bar regenerates at a slow rate. You're out when you hit 0% health.
  9. Humane Mouse Trap Ramps on all side lead to the cheese in the middle. Cheese gives way to the pit trap below. Pit trap is in the shape of a slippery vial so cannot crawl out. Release rodent outside, or flush down the toilet.
  10. Foldable Courts When practising tennis, batting or so on, you end up with a lot of balls on one side. If the side of the field could be lifted, you could send the balls back to yourself.
  11. News-Sensitive Globe A regular spinning globe that can detect trending topics around the world. Big news will create bright, large ripples whereas smaller news are literally just a blip.
  12. Charging Desk With wireless charging becoming more popular, lose all the power cords and let your desk wirelessly fill up your smartphone and laptop. Functional and stylish.

Friday, July 12, 2013

- 10 ideas: double edition -

Even though research shows that missing a single day doesn't hurt in forming a new habit, it still weighs on my mind. So new challenge today: twice the ideas in half the time.

  1. Biosphere Supermarket Create a micro-climate where you can grow non-native fruits and veggies, then sell these fresh produce at a marked up price. Fresh durian, please!
  2. Crowd-Sourced Investigators traditional newspaper is dying. The biggest value - in my eyes - is the investigative piece. Crowd-source an investigative piece. Investigators' names are hidden until the report is out; a successful investigation gives an investigator creds. Depending on how much funds a piece earns, you can demand an investigator(s) with a certain level of creds
  3. Disposal Tubes Tubes for trash, recycling and compost run through every house in a neighbourhood. Where gravity fails, a wind tunnel suctions the refuse into the treatment plant. Filters to prevent people or pets being sucked in. Saves truck fuel and garbage bags.
  4. Give Me This Now! Demand any purchasable item from anywhere in the world. Pay for transportation cost plus a courier fee. Transportation cost may be high if flights are involved, but guaranteed to take less than 24 hours.
  5. Dream Prompter Measures once you exited REM sleep and nudges you awake. Provides a tablet interface for you to write and draw everything you can remember.
  6. Hygiene 101 Not every parent teaches their kids hygienes. They should include best practices for hygiene in school.
  7. How [adjective] is this [noun]? Use Mechnical Turk to rate movies, shows and books on humour, sadness, steaminess, gruesomeness and so forth. Compile statistics and throw a pretty interface over it.
  8. How do I care for this? Take a snapshot of an animal or plant. Get the living needs of that animal or plant. Directions to the closest animal shelter also included if animal.
  9. Neighbourhood Help Along the lines of Neighbourhood Watch, you could label your house as a mechanic, chef or so on if you're willing to provide your services for passing neighbours. Good way to find out and meet the ones close to you.
  10. mStethoscope a stethoscope that plugs into your mobile device. Sound data goes into the mobile app and offers diagnostics.
  11. Packet Analyzer Wireshark can show you every packet going in and out, but there are so many packets and it's not easy for an average person to understand. Packet Analyzer will take that data, filter out noise and categorize the rest so you can see if there's any suspicious activity.
  12. @Me Crawls through Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all other social networks to find out any mention of you. Egotism in one neat package.
  13. One Password KeyPass stores all your passwords for you so you don't have to remember. Very secure, but not convenient. One Password hooks into the browser and logs you into any site when you enter your master password. This way, you can use random passwords for each site but only have to remember one. The solution to password reuse.
  14. Cloud VM One major issue I have with Chromebook is that I can't play League of Legends on there. That problem would be solved if the browser can run a Windows virtual machine. The gaming example is actually an edge-case to how amazing a browser-based virtual machine would be.
  15. Globalize Expands your company across the world. Well-connected and well-learnt about different policies. Knows the right people to bribe in other countries.
  16. Free Food Test Kit with the epidemic of fake foods in Mainland China, the government should hand out free food test kits and get citizens to report the sketchy vendors.
  17. Animal Identifier by sound, tracks or pictures. "By sound" would work like Shazam. Tracks and pictures could be done through Google's gigantic neural net.
  18. Speech Sharpener Perform a speech in front of your webcam. Get automated feedback on vocal variety, posture and so on. You can also review the video of your speech. Paid version will give you real feedback from professional speakers.
  19. Outfit Completer Post a piece of clothing and see what matches it. Can sort by price or style. Can also post just your measurements for suggestions on what to wear. Good for the fashionably handicapped like myself.
  20. Sky Alert Geolocates you and gives you a 24-hour advance alert if something awesome will happen in the night sky (e.g. meteorites, eclipses).

That took a little over an hour - phew!