Take the first step and continue doing one more step each day

Why is that we don’t achieve the goals that we set to ourselves like losing weight, getting fit etc. Maybe, it’s because we never take the first step towards a goal in the first place. Then those of us who take that first step usually stop right after doing it. What is missing is the determination to continue to make small steps, day after day after day. As they say the road of 10,000 miles starts with the first step, but as I mentioned it’s more important to continue making step after step.

So, start small. Make a goal, say you want to lose weight. First, understand that most diets alone don’t work. Second, if you have no physical constraints start doing intermittent fasting going from long eating window to a short one. Then as you get used to fasting start incorporating walking into your fasting routine. Walking in a fasted state helps to lose more weight and also makes you feel good.

Write down your goal on a paper or digitally. Each day document the small step your took that day, summarize your progress. You can consider sharing your goal and your progress as you make it on social media which may help you to stick to your commitment due to peer pressure.

You can consider joining a support group or starting one yourself. Having other people engaged in the same activity, seeing their progress and how they overcome difficulties along the way could motivate you and provide you with a desire to persevere and move forward towards your goal.

In short, try to do something each day that moves you towards your goal just a little bit. Remember, that doing nothing is not going to help you in any way. But incremental steps in the end sum up to a long way you’ve made. The way that is taking you to where you want to be. Yes, it’s not easy. Yes, it takes will power. Yes, it’s uncomfortable at times and frustrating, but there is no other way.

Below comes a quote from Contact movie that summarizes it good

This is the way it’s been done for billions of years. Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.

‘Contac’, 1997


A user friendly introduction to math

For people who got scared of math in a school or college when it was taught in a such a way when no curiosity is fostered it is easy to dislike math. But if you still want to give math a try or even curious about mathematics then the How To Bake Pi book by Eugenia Cheng is maybe what you need.

This book is a gentle introduction to a wide audience of the Category Theory which is a part of pure mathematics. It does not require from a reader to be a math expert, but it does require at least a certain interest in math. Each chapter of the book starts with a recipe, usually related to pastries and then proceeds at looking how that recipe could be related to some aspect of mathematics in the first part of the book and to some aspect of Category Theory in the second part of the book.

What I particularly like about this Eugenia’s book is that it talks about sets, rings, groups and categories which are advanced concepts in math, but it is able to explain them in a friendly manner, by providing real world related examples and analogies. For example, she reminded a reader about how it’s possible to use a Pythagoras’s theorem to calculate a vertical and horizontal distances that a ‘real’ taxi cab travels in a city.

What I found most interesting to myself is her layered model of mathematical thinking that consists of three parts: knowledge, understanding and belief. Where understanding is in the middle and binds together knowledge and belief. Put in her own words:

We have knowledge, which is what the outside world sees, belief, which is what we feel inside ourselves, and understanding, which holds them together.

Cheng, Eugenia. How To Bake Pi. Profile Books, 2016: p. 272

What is interesting that Eugenia Cheng has written recently a new book on Category Theory which builds upon the foundations she laid in the How To Bake Pi book. The new book is The Joy Of Abstraction and it can be seen as a textbook for Category Theory presented in a user friendly manner that very much retains the spirit of How To Bake Pi.

Physical activity alone won’t help. Change what you eat first.

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

The usual advice to eat less and move more is completely wrong and is against scientific evidence. I won’t go into detail here and you can read about it in the books by Jason Fung The Obesity Code or Gary Taubes Why We Get Fat.

What I do want to discuss is the fact that workout on its own won’t help you losing weight, since it contributes only a very small fraction of the energy that is burnt by the body when doing physical activity, especially, if you aren’t an athlete exercising twice a day every day.

If you are an average person who is not doing any sport usually and working mostly sitting in a chair then starting doing some exercise won’t make you slim. It won’t gonna happen. What you need to think of first is changing what you eat and when you eat it. Because this change can really be a drastic change in you life that can bring you weight down, help you loss excessive fat and feel better.

For example, if you exercise even three times a week, but still continue eating processed food full of any type of sugar, added or not, drinking soft drinks, diet or not, eating sweets, pastries etc., then no amount of exercise will ever help. You are doomed to stay overweight or obese. This is because eating these products raises Insulin hormone level which causes you body to store what you eat as fat. Then fructose which is a part of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, causes you liver to become fat, and raises Uric Acid which makes Insulin resistance even worse. So you get a double whammy here.

If instead you stopped eating sugar and starchy food in any form, then transition to eating meat, eggs, cheese and vegetables and some fruit. Do it during eating window of no more than 6 hours, then incorporating some physical exercise during you fasting hours can be a real boost to your weight loss.

So the bottom line is that you can’t outrun a bad diet. And this is true.

Intermittent Fasting is healthy. Sugar is not

It has been more than 9 months since I started to follow Intermittent Fasting regimen. I should say it was beneficial to me from lots of points of view. I lost about 31.5 pounds of weight (14.3 kg) going from 200 lb to 168.5 lb within this timeframe. I look slimmer and younger and overall I have a feeling of lightness and agility when I move.

I changed what I eat and moved away as much as I could from consuming processed food, though I do eat it a couple of times a week. I completely refrain from eating raw sugar or drinking soft drinks. I eat almost no sweets or pastries.

As for Intermittent Fasting I went from 16:8 which stands for 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours eating window to 18:6 that I do for months now. And I did 19:5 for a couple of months in a row. I also did prolonged fasts of 24, 39, 42 and 68 hours. I mostly did 42 hours fasts which I documented in this blog previously. I should say that prolonged fasts are nothing like 16:8 and they are more trickier to handle, but they result in faster and larger weight loss in comparison to classic 16:8 fast.

I also started to walk regularly throughout the week doing twice as much steps a day in comparison to pre-fast time. Over the weekends I actually do 3-4 times more steps than before I started fasting and do on average 10,000 steps or more. On weekends, I always walk in a fasted state in light clothes even in a very cold weather. In addition, initially I started doing weight training in a fasted state right after walking, but now I do it on evenings about three times a week using dumbbells and resistance bands.

What helped me to be motivated and keep on going were the books and YouTube videos that medical doctors, journalists and regular people produced on the subject of weight loss using Intermittent Fasting. These people were challenging wrong and widespread nutrional dogma of eating low fat and high carb food that caused worldwide epidemic of metabolic syndrome.

To name just a few, Gin Stephens, Jason Fung MD, Mark Mattson PhD, Robert Lustig MD, Benjamin Bikman PhD, David Perlmutter MD, Gary Taubes and others. Their books shed the light on why Intermittent Fasting worked and what were the dangers of sugar and especially fructose that was a part of it. All in all, I watched a couple of dozens of videos and read more than 15 books on the subject and a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers.

I also a member in a group of friends where we share advice on Intermittent Fasting and weight loss. My friends who followed me were able to loss 48 lb and 28 lb pounds each one respectively. I guess they are happy with the change they went through. And they are.

Well, despite all of this progress, sugar is still an addictive substance that I crave from time to time, especially after extensive workouts and other physical activity that accumulates during the day. Today, was such a day. On Saturday, I walked and ran in a fasted state for 3 km, than walked in a snow in the afternoon for about 3 km, and then had a workout with dumbbells in the evening. All in all it was quite exhausting. On Sunday, I woke up and went on walking and running in a fasted state this time for 6.2 km. Then in the afternoon I walked additional 3 km. As a result, in the evening at about 8 PM I had a craving for sugar and ate two slices of white bread with chocolate spread. All in all, about 16-20 gr of sugar (half of which is fructose).

So even though I know that sugar is unhealthy and outright dangerous, just like alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are having sugar a part of my diet for most of my life makes it quite difficult to eliminate it completely. Most of the time I am good without it, but sometimes cravings are there.

I hope, in time I’d be able to get rid of sugar and substitute it with berries or fruits rich in fiber. It isn’t an easy fight, fighting an uphill battle with sugar addiction that hundred millions if not billions of people face daily.

Mathematics Applied For Good

Photo by Reuben Teo on Unsplash

If you inclined towards mathematics, but almost didn’t touch it since college years and want to get a math rush again, then following are the books that you may find captivating.

I should mention that these are books on Applied Mathematics which is of useful kind paraphrasing Richard Feynman. The books are ordered from easy to not so.

To start:

1. Applied Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction by Alain Goriely. This book is a gentle intro to applied math and Alain is capable of explaining things lucidly and as simple as required, but not too much.

2. Street-Fighting Mathematics:

The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving by Sanjoy Mahajan is more involved and requires some work on readers part, but it’s a delight to read. This book is available in open access here.

3. Next book from the same author is The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering: Mastering Complexity. It is somewhat similar to the former, but different. Again it’s open for public

4. Now, the last one is a real textbook on Applied Mathematics by J. David Logan, but nevertheless it is interesting to read and work through.

42 hours fast experience. To do or not to do?

Photo by Emre on Unsplash

It is 6th time that I am doing a prolonged fast (more then 24 hours). And it’s 4th time I am doing 42 hours fast. Below comes some observations.

  • It’s not getting any easier in comparison to previous fasts. First 26 hours are quite normal, but then the feeling of discomfort prevails. It’s not a hunger, but a feeling of an empty, glued and ‘vacuumed’ stomach.

  • The main difficulty is sleeping at night since I tend to wake up a number of times to drink and the dreams are quite annoying. Sometimes about food.

  • As for weight loss this time, it’s insignificant. But one possible explanation is that in the last 4 days I am doing about 120-150 pushups a day in addition to usual walking about 7000 steps. And yesterday while doing 42 hours fast I did 200 pushups throughout the day. So it seems like there is no weight loss. When actually, fat has lessened, but muscles have grown. Visually, I see less fat, than ever.

  • Will I continue to do extended fasts? Well, it seems like I won’t but I am for 24 hours fasts, since they are a piece of cake (oh no, carbs are even here 🙂 )

Start small

To be able to make a progress in anything there is a need to be able to set achievable goals. This is true also for weight loss. Setting grand goals that are hardly achievable can overwhelm you and even stop you from doing anything altogether.

That is why I suggest to set very small goals that you can reach with some effort. For example, instead of setting as a goal to be super muscular body builder, how about first starting to walk on a daily basis? Walking is free, easy to do and you do not need any special equipment for this.

Next, if you want to start with Intermittent Fasting don’t jump right into 48 hours fast, but start small with 12 hours eating window. Then decrease it gradually to 10, 8, 6, 4 hours.

If you want to include resistance training with rubber bands, dumbbells then start small by doing push ups in the morning or evening or both. Or maybe, start with one session a week at home, then two sessions a week etc. Gradual increase in a number of sessions is much easier than committing to a gym membership that costs you a lot of money.

So starting it small can take you quite far. As a teacher in a martial school used to tell us do it
Gradually, sequentially, continuously.

Chanukah Candles Mathematics

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE.

From Wikipedia

How Hanukkah candles are lit?

During Hanukkah festival it’s a custom to light candles on a special type of candelabrum that has eight plus one places for candles. Eight places to light a candle each day and one for an auxiliary candle (shammash in Hebrew) that is intended to light other candles.

During eight days of the holiday a candle is lit in such a way that on first day you light 1 candle, on second day 2 candles and on it goes until on the eighth day 8 candles are lit.

How many are there?

So then the natural question to ask is how many candles do I need to have to be able to light candles for eight days.

The math says sum them up,

(1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8) + 8 = …

And you get the number. Remember that additional 8 candles are there since we need to count the auxiliary candle used each day. Even though this calculation isn’t difficult to make, this may quickly change if you need to sum 1 to 100 candles.

What can you do? Is there a quick way to sum the candles? Indeed there is and if you recall your school math you could remember something about arithmetic progression. It gives you the formula below to count any number of candles or any other objects for that matter:

Sn = (a1 + an) * n / 2,

where Sn – sum of n elements, a1 – first element, an – last element, n – total number of elements.

For n elements the formula is

Sn = (1 + n) * n / 2

So in our particular case of Hanukkah it will be

S8 = (1 + 8) * 8 / 2 = 9 * 4 = 36 + 8 = 44 (again don’t forget auxiliary candles)

While this formula is correct one may wonder how do you derive it? What is the intuition? You always can resort to mathematical induction to prove why it works correctly. We leave it for you as an exercise (a free Book Of Proof by Richard Hammack could be helpful). But there is a visual way to understand how this formula was derived.

On the shoulders of giants

It is a folk legend that when one of the greatest mathematicians Carl Friedrich Gauss attended a school a teacher asked pupils to count numbers from 1 to 100 to calm them down. It says that Gauss came up very quickly with the answer 5050.

And the explanation is that he did this trick.

1, … 100 = 101

2, … 99 = 101

3, … 98 = 101

4, … 97 = 101

… …

97, … 4 = 101

98, … 3 = 101

99, … 2 = 101

100, … 1 = 101

He placed numbers form 1 to 100 in such a way that first sequence was ascending from 1 to 100, and the second was descending from 100 to 1. Then if you look at the sum of each pairs it makes 101. There are 100 such pairs, so when you multiply them you get

101 * 100 = 10100

But we counted each pair twice, so there is a need to divide this number by two.

101 * 100 / 2 = 5050

You may think at this point, well Gauss was a genius so he came up with this explanation, but it still feels like I do not get it fully. And I agree. It is still not fully clear how he came up with this trick. So let’s try to look at it more visually.

Visual aids to the rescue

If you look at candles that are lit on each day of Hanukkah from above we’ll see something like on the figure below.

You’ll see that this figure resembles a lot a right triangle. So it’s good to think about this in this way for a moment.

Now, you may recall that to get an area of a rectangular you multiply its two sides

Area = a * b

Well, rectangular is build out of two right triangles isn’t it? So if you look carefully at the figure below you’ll see what Gauss possibly thought.

You have 8 candles on one side of the rectangular. Then you have 9 candles on the other side of the rectangular. The area of this rectangular is

Area = 8 * 9 = 72,

but since we are only interested in half of the rectangular then let’s divide it by two.

72 / 2 = 36.

And don’t forget about adding 8 auxiliary candles.

So we get

36 + 8 = 44

Let there be light

That’s it folks. Let the light of the candles enlighten us in math.

Take care.

Real examples of inventions. Inventions are all around us.

Some definitions

This post is another one in the series of posts about Inventions and Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (abbreviated in Russian as TRIZ). First, I’d like to call it Inventiveness Theory for short and I’ll use it interchangeably with TRIZ. Because I find it very strange that the Russian acronym ТРИЗ was translated into English as TRIZ and used throughout. Also the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving sounds very cryptic and confusing to an English speaker to say the least.

Why do I write these posts?

The main urge to right these posts is to share the excitement I have about how Inventiveness Theory can help ordinary people to fell like they have tools to be creative in ways that they could hardly imagine, since inventions and inventors are covered with the mythology of divine inspirations and thousands of trial and error attempts before being able to come up with an invention. Inventiveness Theory shows that it’s not exactly the case and its tools and methodology can direct you to invention using algorithmic approach.

Inventiveness is in every engineering field

In the previous post I provided examples of how Inventiveness Theory uses standard solutions to problems that have similar structure. In this post I’d like to show inventiveness is used in every human endeavor. For example, it’s difficult to think of any progress in engineering, physics, mathematics, chemistry without engineers and scientist constantly resolving contradictions and this way making inventions. If you recall Inventiveness Theory defines invention as a resolution of a contradiction that the problem presents.

When Genrikh Altshuller and Rafael Shapiro first wrote about TRIZ in 1956 article1 most of the examples they provided for the applications of this approach were from mechanical engineering. Later Altshuller and his students worked on more advanced version of Inventiveness Theory which was applied to electrical engineering, chemistry and other fields. Only in recent decades TRIZ was applied to electronics, software engineering and other disciplines.

Since, I have an experience in software development and software testing I’d like to provide most of my examples from these fields. But, I’ll also provide examples from electronics, physics and mathematics. It turns out there could be no science or engineering as we know it without creativity.

Computer Science


If we look at Computer Science history we’ll see that it evolved from invention to invention. First, there were mechanical calculators, then came electro-mechanical ones using relays, then electronic computers using lamps. Then with an advent of the semiconductors computers were made with hundreds of transistors later to be replaced with microchips having billions of transistors in one single microcircuit.


Software too had an interesting evolution moving from machine language programming to invention of compilers that allowed a more abstract approach to programming to high level programming languages like Java, Python etc. that allowed programmers to reason almost in a human language while righting programs.

Each of these evolutions wouldn’t be possible without a chain of inventions that scientist and engineers made along the way. For example, let’s take Data Structures and Algorithms topics that any programmer learns to some degree. Sorting algorithms like bubble sort or merge sort are an example of inventions when a problem of sorting data is resolved by various creatives ways, like swapping as in bubble sort or divide and conquer as in merge sort approaches.

What is interesting is that in TRIZ there are a number of ways to resolve a physical contradiction2 which are

  • In space
  • In time
  • In structure
  • By condition

And in Computer Science computational complexity is also measured in space by memory storage requirements and in time it takes for an algorithm to run.

Real example

One concrete example of a contradiction in software engineering is how to be able to update software without the need to rebuild it which requires extensive resources and procedures once it is deployed in production. The contradiction here is that software should have certain parameters to function, but there is a need for these parameters to be changed when required. This particular problem was resolved in structure by extracting parameter values into a dedicated configuration file. This file is loaded by the main program on start up and can be even reloaded on the fly. This approach allows to update the parameters as required without a need to invest additional development time and rebuilding the software.


  1. Altshuller, Genrikh, Shapiro, Rafael. “On Psychology of Inventive Creativity”. Questions of Psychology, no. 6, 1956, p. 37-49.
  2. Petrov, Vadimir. TRIZ Basics: Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. Self publishing, Kindle edition 2019, p. 368.

The same trick used all over again. Using standard solutions.

In this post I continue to talk about how the methods from the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (abbreviated as TRIZ in Russian) can be used by anyone to solve day to day challenges.

This time, again we’ll look at the problem I had in my house and how it was resolved using inventive approach.

Inventive situation

The door lock handle that you see at the top of this post is a typical one that is used across North America, particularly, in Canada. The side of the lock that has a handle resides inside the house. The main issue I had with it was that it was very difficult if not impossible to understand what position handle was in. Is it locked or unlocked, especially in evenings when the lighting conditions are poor. Just look at the image below and tell me whether you can see the handle at all?

As you saw the handle blends with the circular base it attached to and is hardly visible if at all.

As in the previous post where there issue was to find who had stolen a tire valve cap the contradiction is that a cap and in this case a handle has the same color as the base of the lock and is poorly discernable to understand what the sate of the lock is.

You possibly guessed that as in the previous case we possibly can play with the shape of the handle, its color or something else. Again, Ideal Final Result in this inventive situation is for the handle to notify by itself that it’s locked or unlocked. And as you, probably, guessed correctly we can use the same solution as before, namely, we can color it in a white color with wite-out.

And this is what I did at first as can be seen in the image below

This wasn’t a bad idea, but I thought I can do even better, especially at night, since the white color doesn’t glow in the dark. But a luminous tape does. So that was what I did, I used such a tape. When the lights are on it absorbs light and later it emits it and this way the tape glows. This allows you to see at a glance whether the door is locked or unlocked as can be seen below

As you’ve noticed the solution to this problem looks very much like the one before. And actually, in TRIZ there are typical problems and non-typical problems. When you see that a problem at hand is a typical problem it means that there are already existing solutions that you can use out of the box to solve it. In TRIZ one such toolbox is Standard Inventive Solutions also known as Standards. This can be seen in the diagram taken from Vladimir Petrov’s book TRIZ Basics.

Petrov, Vladimir. TRIZ Basics: Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, 2018