How To Do It. Is the best type of a blog post

Connected world

In this post I want to thank all the people who took part in creating the Internet. And this is because thanks to the Internet I am where I am, doing the work I do and writing these words right now, which later will be read by people just like you thanks to the Internet.

What is nice about the Internet is that it allows you to make unexpected connections throughout the world with almost anyone you can imagine. You can meet your favorite sci-fi author, or maybe an inventor, the scientist you always admired or maybe reconnect with your friends and family. In addition, Internet allows you to find a job, apply for a job and do your work, surely, it depends on the type of the work, but it’s hard to imagine any type of work that doesn’t require some rudimentary access to the Internet.

How to do it yourself

This kind of long introduction brings me to the title of this post. In my opinion, the most useful, helpful and effective way of communicating on the Internet is by producing How To Do It, Fix It, Create It etc. posts. Think for example, about millions of video tutorials on YouTube, be it music, drawing, cooking, fixing machinery and what not. The same goes about written tutorials through out the web, that could potentially teach you almost everything about anything.

Personally, based on the statistics of the posts I wrote on this blog the most viewed ones were posts related to programming, Machine and Deep Learning. It’s not surprising I think, since theses posts were about How To install such an such software library, such and such book on Machine Learning, such and such tutorials on how to get things done.

I remember back in Ukraine when I had no Internet we went to a number of libraries trying to win a crossword contest held by a local newspaper. It was kind of tedious process. Nowadays, it is possible to solve any crossword fast and easy using the Internet. 

Get to the bottom of it

The main point is that writing, filming or whatever simple and short How To tutorial may be beneficial in the long run to some person out-there, who’ll be very thankful to accomplish things that were not possible without you sharing your knowledge and experience. I myself used quite a few tutorials on the Internet that helped me fix my car, fix cell phones, tablets, computers. It helped me install or remove software, find very exciting things in life, find an interesting job and be in touch with incredible people coming from around the globe. So, when next time you postpone sharing things that can make life easier to somebody, think again and get to the bottom of it and create a nice tutorial explaining how to stop procrastinating and get going.

Important ingredients in How To Do posts

Judging by the posts I wrote, that resonated with readers I think what the How To Do post should contain is a number of ingredients.

  • First of all, the topic of the post should resonate with yourself and be interesting to you.
  • Second, you shouldn’t be an expert about the topic of the post, but you should be excited about it enough to be able to learn what it requires to explain it in simple terms and clear steps.
  • Third, if the posts can make even a single person more happier by fixing his or her situation, then it’s worth investing time and effort in preparing it in the first place.

 

So, if you want to share some piece of knowledge that can help others, do not hesitate and share it. In the end, it may even help you later, when you’ll forget how to do it.

Planning can change your life

Planning may be annoying, but it works

This post about the virtue of planning before taking any action or no action. 

Do you plan your actions beforehand? Do you have any goals in life? Do you have dreams that are still dreams? Then you are not alone. Do you know, that making a habit of planning your actions may drastically improve the chances of you achieving your goals, if you have ones, or helping you to come up with some in the first place.

Planning in the self help movement

There are plenty of books and courses on self-help that promote planning, and I have to say that this thing is actually, useful and helpful in the short and long runs. The planning exercise is quite simple. 

  1. Decide what you want to achieve in near term. Think of a dream you have for a long time or some goal that is somehow at the background currently.
  2. Write down these goals on a piece of paper or using other convenient means. While doing so state the goals to be achieved in the terms of answering  Who, What, Where, When and How  to be more precise, since it helps in visualizing a possible way of action. The goal should be framed in the present tense in a positive way.
  3. Think what you can action right away to start moving towards your goals.
  4. Each day review the list of the goals your composed and revise it if needed with new goals, new details.

Here comes an example

Say the goal is to proceed with acquiring working knowledge of applied mathematics. Then I write:

Goal: advancing in Applied Mathematics

  1. Starting today I work on the book Mathematical Modeling on evenings, at least for an hour-two, while solving as many tasks for each chapter as possible.
  2. When not working through that book,  I read the book on Applied Mathematics  and solve the tasks in it too.
  3. While being outside I carry at all times another popular book on mathematics for not to waste time.
  4. I aggregate and classify useful material on applied mathematics that I come across, for it to be easily retrieved when needed.

Planing in Software and QA Engineering

During my years at the college of engineering I had a short conversation with a doctor in Electronics Engineering who was a scientist and engineer. We talked about the differences of scientific and engineering approaches. Then he said that simply put scientist are interested in the edge cases where theory may not work and fail, while engineers are quite opposite and interested in things that work most of the time without failing. This crucial difference also applicable to the field of Software development and testing.

  • Software engineers being engineers are mostly concerned with the cases when software should work, while tending to put less emphasis on the edge cases or more precisely, boundary conditions and unexpected events.
  • Software testing engineers or tester on the other hand, are just like scientist more interested in checking unusual cases, when the software possibly could fail, break or behave unexpectedly.

How is that related to planning you may ask? Planning in software or hardware worlds allows you make less mistakes before actually carrying out the work. Thoroughly thinking about requirements with stakeholders, be it waterfall or scrum way of accomplishing projects, is invaluable instrument.

Just like in the example for achieving good understanding of  applied mathematics, planning in Software helps by framing the purpose of each functionality to be implemented in the form of Who, What, Where, When and How questions.

 

The solution is quite simple

  1. Decide what you want to achieve
  2. Clearly describe it on a piece of paper  with as much details as possible
  3. Each day review you goals and take action to move towards them
  4. Then you’ll surprise yourself

Fixing a broken zipper slider. Fill your boots

slider_bigger

Do it yourself

This post is a little be unexpected, but nevertheless it may be useful to some of the readers of this blog.

The issue is that last weekend while having fun with my family outdoors I was skillful enough to brake the zipper slider of one of my beloved winter boots. Even though the boots weren’t new and showed early signs of wear and tear replacing them with a new pair of similar ones would cost me about 115 CAD. I knew that throwing the old boots only because of a broken slider wasn’t an option, so I resorted to trying to reattach it myself without first watching how to do it on the YoutTube. The result wasn’t encouraging, so I watched a couple of videos there, the most useful, I’ve attached at the bottom of the post. Following the video advice I ended up with a zipper slider in a really broken state as in the image above.

A fork stuck in the road

Having found myself and the boots in this awkward situation, the options were to buy a couple of new zipper sliders of varying sizes. The issue was I wasn’t sure what slider to chose on the Internet, since there were quite a few, and frankly speaking, I’m not a shoemaker expert. I was curious enough to notice that some descriptions for sliders had a Vislon term in them. So I searched for it and hooray a number of posts clarified that a zipper is more then meets the eye, and there are some things to know about them before any purchase.

Zipper sciences

Zippers have a number of distinct physical parameters:

  • Type
  • Size
  • Markings or absence of which
  • Lock mechanism

Below comes a more detailed description of each parameter.

Types

It turns out that there are two kind of zippers: Vislon and Coil. While the Vislon zipper has distinguishable teeth, the Coil more resembles a coil, hence its name.

zippers_shape

 

Sizes

As for the sizes, zippers are numbered starting from #1 to #10. The sizes are measured in inches or millimeters.  When the size is measured in a following fashion as it’s shown in the image below

size_zippers

To find a mapping from zipper number to zipper size, and vice versa, in inches/mm search the Internet.

Roughly it’s

Markings

If you think that determining the size of your zipper is easy, it’s yes or no.

Best case scenario – good markings

There are zippers, such as YKK that have proper markings on the back side of the zipper slider. Where the number, for example 5, stands for the zipper size number and CN or VS/V post-fixes stand for the zipper type. CN stands for Coil type and V/VS stands for Vislon type. In the image below it’s size number 5, Coil type YKK zipper slider.

ykk_marking

So – so scenario – some markings in unexpected places

Some zippers have no apparent markings, but upon thorough investigation it can be found at the front side of the slider like on the image below, which has size number 8 shown (though it resembles a letter B in this case)

marking_on_the_side

 

No markings – use your engineering skills, i.e. the ruler

Since the slider on my boots was a stealth one, it had no markings, I resorted to measuring the size using a good old ruler. And it measured to about 6.5-7 mm which could be size #6 or #7.

Locking mechanism

Some zipper sliders have a retractable pin or other means to lock the slider in place to prevent it from sliding. Other zippers can’t have this functionality and are plain non-locking sliders. My broken slider had the pin configuration as in the image below.

lock_pin

 

An ideal solution

Having watched on the YouTube a couple of video tutorials on how to reattach a slider or attach a new one, I got that it wasn’t gonna be an easy task. So I searched a little bit more and found a kind of ideal solution.

As you would expect the robust solution should be adjustable and easy to install zipper slider. The good news are that there is such a thing already in three sizes to rule them all. It’s a FixnZip.

This FixnZip consists of two metal parts that are easily install-able and work just like it should provided you had a correct size for the boots in hand. Actually, it is applicable to jacket, bags and other kinds of zippers. 

So in the end having the small size FixnZip for 25 CAD saved me about 90 CAD spared on not buying a new pair of boots. The lesson is do it yourself, and be happy.

shoes

 

References

On importance of a good pen

A pen is here to stay. Isn’t it?

Now days, that using computer programs to document various everyday activities from to-do lists to studies, one can ask whether there is still a need to have a pen in your arsenal. What’s the value of having such a heavy companion that requires paper to be functional and can’t be that easily corrected or deleted as a text in a word processor? It seems like there is no obvious answer that satisfies everyone, but definitely there’s one for me. Personally, I like to use a pen for writing to feel how I actually produce words in an antiquated analog way, instead of using discrete machines, except for this post. Text written with a pen does not require electricity to be useful, though it requires light to be seen. 

A pen to stick to

Having stated my affection to pens I personally recommend to stick with a pen that is durable, has a long lasting refill and has a beautiful embodiment. I think about fifteen years ago I found such a pen in the form of one of Parker’s low end models that are quite inexpensive, but deliver on refill longevity and durability. The pan in hand was Parker Jotter Originals Ballpoint Pen since 1954.

It’s slim and thin for touch, it’s small in size and its refill lasts almost forever even if you document lectures on history at the university. To these days I have one, but I actually prefer an older brother of this one.

A fountain pen, won’t last long enough

Generally speaking pen refills have a number of main types which are

  • Fountain using a refillable liquid ink
  • Ballpoint uses oil based ink
  • Rollerball uses water based ink

It was funny to actually try to write with a fountain pen such as, low end similar to Sonnet Stainless Steel.

What’s nice about a fountain pen is that it feels like writing in XIX century, but with the style come a number of drawbacks. The quality of written text  depends on the angle of the pen tip to the paper. A fountain ink is easily solvable by water drops which is unfortunate and the ink doesn’t last long enough, to say the least.

Is there anything else?

The true love of mine is another low end Parker pen which is a thicker version of the Jotter Originals one, and it’s Parker IM. It’s a little bit heavier than Jotter, but actually it feels nicer to handle it. It’s thicker and doesn’t press very hard against the fingers. And it has fancier finish than the Jotter. All in all this is the pen I value the most.

 

Does it really matter what pen it is?

In my opinion, what is the make and model of a pen doesn’t matter that much, but consider this.

  • The pens described in this post are reusable ones that are durable and can be used for dozen of years if not longer in comparison to plastic ones that get thrown to the garbage most of the time.
  • The refills that they use come in metal containers that can be recyclable or can degrade naturally unlike plastic ones, that again most of the time thrown into garbage.
  • Lastly, they may provide you with a real satisfaction from the writing process unlike the simpler plastic ones that merely do the task in hand.

Thoughts on physics and artificial intelligence on 2019 New Year’s eve

Make the New Year happy, because you can

It seems to me the New Year will be interesting and exciting as it always seems this way on new year’s eve. What makes me think so though is a number of books I read recently. One of the book is a collection of interviews with prominent people in the field that is known as Artificial Intelligence. The other book is about the particle physics being stuck with high hopes in String theory and why it may be a root cause of not seeing no new physics discovered so far in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) except for Higgs boson.  

The power of the right books

In his book Architects of Intelligence: The truth about AI from the people building it Martin Ford has done something interesting by combining a numbers of interviews, more than a dozen, with people who are focused on Artificial Intelligence progress in various levels. In it you may find Geoff Hinton the founding father of Deep Learning and his colleagues Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun who need no special advertising (hint, search in Google). There are also a row of interviews with people like Jeff Dean and Ray Kurzweil from Google Brain that are interesting to read too.

The main point of the book is that those people were asked more or less the same questions, including how they came into field of Artificial Intelligence, what they think about Deep Learning and whether it will alone lead to Artificial General Intelligence. Will the recent advances in machine learning jeopardize jobs and what to do about that. What is interesting to see is that each person interviewed naturally had a different answer to these questions, so it helps to get a balanced view on what is the state of the art of Deep and Machine Learning in 2018.

Things that require new explanations

In her book Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray Sabine Hossenfelder a particle physicist discusses an interesting matter of various biases that affect theoretical physicists that set out to devise a theory that intended to explain laws of physics. For example, String Theory is discussed extensively in the book since this theory though it’s very elegant, beautiful and full of  naturalness completely failed due to the absence of any predictions that the theory envisioned. Indeed, no new particles except for Higgs boson, were found in the Large Hadron Collider and it feels like there is a time to abandon String Theory which isn’t working and check other theories that won’t be plagued with ad hoc assumptions of naturalness and apparent, and very likely deceiving, beauty of the nature. If you are interested why there was found nothing new in the particle physics in recent decades, you may find Sabine’s explanations insightful. And maybe just, maybe you’ll discover that you too like me have biases that affect our perception of the nature. 

 

So make the upcoming year as you wish it to be

Remember that as intelligent creatures we are chanced to possess a capability to set goals and achieve them when we plan and act on plans with an enthusiasm and a perseverance (and Google search).

Happy New Year!

 

 

How often to post on a blog?

[Update 2018-03-28]

Only today I’ve posted on a blog that there is no breakthrough in Deep Learning field so far in 2018. Boy, how was I wrong. Welcome this exciting paper born out of collaboration of David Ha (Google Brain) and Jurgen Schmidhuber (one of the creators of LSTM, RNN neural network). 

This paper finally implements what Yann LeCun mentions in all his recent talks. An agent that acts on its internal Model of the world.

World Models

John Sonmez advises to post each week on a blog for blog to gain momentum and grow. I surely agree with this statement since I saw it actually worked. But as it happens I haven’t posted anything for about two months now. There were a couple of topics I wanted to write a post, but never did. In the upcoming days I’ll try to write on the topics that will spark my curiosity and that may be of interest to the readers of this blog.

It seems drumming will be one of the topics, then physics, such as how cloaking devices may work. There may be a piece on aviation with regard to stealth aircraft. Certainly, programming is also one of the topics that I like. Deep Purple, sorry, Deep Learning is progressing steadily, but no huge breakthroughs are visible despite optimistic forecasts made by various commentators in the field.

In addition, science fiction movies and stories reviews may be a possible topic for a blog post or even a sci-fi story written by me. Recently, I saw a number of movies that had an interesting sci-fi idea at their core, but in my opinion the idea wasn’t elaborated as it could. I mean movies, such as Downsizing which missed the point completely and more successful one, but nevertheless under-delivering Annihilation

That’s it for today. Stay tuned and if you want provide topics you want me to report on which are within fields mentioned above.

What do you think?
What is the right frequency of posts in a blog? 

How to achieve a goal?

Set a goal

Set any  goal that does not contradict known laws of physics, though remember that not all laws are known to us. 

Create a plan

Write a quick plan for a goal. Detailed or not it doesn’t matter since it will be refined in time.

Remember this while acting on a plan

A goal will be achieved by a plan while moving towards it

  • Gradually
  • Consistently
  • Constantly

It is a great force

Acting in this way is like being a force of nature.