Book review: Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century by Masha Gessen

Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century by Masha Gessen
Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century
by Masha Gessen. Source: Goodreads.

This is a book about the mathematician, Grigori Perelman. Grigori Perelman is known for solving the Poincaré conjecture. Poincaré conjecture is one of the Millennium Prize Problems. Millennium Prize Problems are seven problems that are stated by Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000 including the Poincaré conjecture, P vs NP problem, etc. These are some of the hardest problems in mathematics. Most mathematicians would not expect any to be solved within their lifetime. Poincaré conjecture is the only one solved so far, in 2003 by Perelman.

Not only did he solved one of the toughest problems in mathematics, he declined to accept the Fields Medal (described as the Nobel Prize in Mathematics), European Congress of Mathematics medal, and the Millennium Prize. This book seeks to understand why.

The author traces the history of Perelman to the early Soviet Union, how the anti-establishment mentality fostered in the early Russian mathematical community. Then, the early life of Perelman, from his mother, his tutor, his involvement in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), his stay at United States, and back to Russia. He is a very ethical man, this quality is why his tutor Rukshin chose him. He returned the grant money left over, argued that this is not his to keep. This may be because in his aspergian mind, this violates his rules. He viewed the world as what it should be, and not the ugly side as in reality.

The author also suspect that Perelman has Aspergers Syndrome, and interviewed autism expert such as Sacha Baron Cohen and quote Tony Attwood. This is interesting because I myself has suspected to have aspergers by psychiatrist. I see some parallel between him and I. The exactitude of rules, inability to picture from others point of view, see politics as pointless, awkwardness, etc.

It makes me angry that some Chinese Mathematicians tried to take credit despite Perelman already solved the problem. Due to the fact that mathematics community gives the recognition to the final solver of the problem (and not the people who contributed in the pieces), i.e. the Fermat’s Last Theorem honors Andrew Wiles. They tried to frame the situation as Perelman being a “giant” contributor of the past to the solution, that is only part of the solution, and not the final solver of the problem. There are more politics going on than actual merit.

The book gives a good view on why Perelman dislikes the mathematical community and why he declined the awards. He is angry that the Princeton mathematicians does not give him tenure as professor despite showing that he deserved it. This was before he proved the Poincaré conjecture. And after he proved it, everyone flocked to give him honors and jobs, despite him already capable before proving to the world, why only now that the world approve of him?

This book has little mathematical content, mostly explaining Poincaré conjecture relating to Topology, and some terms such as Ricci Flow, surgery, etc.

Rating: 4/5

Book review: Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
Status Anxiety
by Alain de Botton. Source: Goodreads.

This book reads like a self-help book but more philosophical in nature. Like all self-help books, it may sound logical and transcendental which provokes the feeling of “This is a new way of looking at life I have never look before”, but time will tell if the philosophy is sound, at least for now, it is quite sound.

I picked up this book because I am trying to find some cure to my anxiety, and have no high hopes on this book, but this book surprised me because it gave some good advice and perspectives. The book is divided into two sections, the first gives 5 causes of status anxiety and the latter gives 5 solutions to status anxiety.

Regarding status anxiety, this is a good read too for general anxiety as most of our worries also consists of other people, our status to them, are we humiliated because of our low status. Reading this book, you will see the idiosyncracies of trying to reach high status, why it seems to matter importantly to us, how common it is in the past and present, the futility of our attempts at the end of life. This book is very relevent to our modern lives.

The causes to status anxiety are lovelesness, expectation, meritocracy, snobbery, and dependence. The solutions are philosophy, art, politics, religion, and bohemia.

The author explained it in much detail. If you were to read it, follow the thoughts, and how the premises lead to conclusions. It is not so common sense as we easily lose track in the pursuit of status. Trying to understand social phenomenon is hard, and the author did that in a way that seems logical and sound, on this topic of status anxiety.

Rating: 5/5

Interesting finds on the internet #2

This interesting find is heavy on the UK.

United Kingdom flag
United Kingdom flag. Source: The World Factbook – CIA
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) logo
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) logo. Source: BBC.
  • BBC Tomorrow’s World series – Starting from 1965, ending in 2003, explored what the future is like, very good to see what people in the past think about the future. Many of the technologies did became widespread, i.e. Internet, Mobile Phone.

What I think about the church

I realised that most parents, eventhough they are not religious, want their child/ children to be in church. Maybe they think that church builds good characters in their children, is a place to learn socialization, or plainly just better than sitting at home on Sunday. But, they themselves dislikes going to church.

I went to church since quite young. I always felt anxious and does not fit in in church, but I thought this is just me. Until recently, in a therapy session for my family, I searched deep in my feeling, and I told the therapist that I felt that church people are fake. My dad, who also don’t go to church anymore finally said that he dislikes church, and he thinks that people in church are fake, with the fake smile and warmth. This gives me a shock, I thought it was just me who thinks this way.

What makes my dad and I think this way? Is it because I have inherited the personality of my dad? Or have I learnt the “bad” habit of my dad of not going to church? Or there is some truth to this feeling?

Are churches inclusive enough? Susan Cain had said in a book that churches in United States favors extroverts because extroversion is the ideal in United States. This sparks a question in me, is religion really one that stands the test of time, unchanging, or able to be changed according to its inhabitants? Is religion man made and nothing more than the imagination of man, able to shape it to the usefulness of the time period or location? Would the church change into a rock concert style worship to cater to the young people? This constantly changing theme, for me, undermines the foundation of the truth, it makes it seems like it is just a tool.

If a person is not “popular” or fit into the culture of the time or location, he/ she will not fit into the church, because church is the reflection of the society. This creates a paradox where the outcasts and people who needs religion the most are shun by religion itself. Take people with Down Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, Autism, shy, introverts.

After years of being a traditional religion, some christians tries to modernize christianity. Their youth leaders tries to be modern. Take an example of a youth leader in college, they will consume illegal drugs or drink beers just to be cool, afterall this is the cultural mandate, you need to bring christianity to fit the culture. If the group you are in swears a lot, you would be uncool not to swear, if they engage in free sexual activities and use languages that demeans woman, you would too, because if you are not “horny”, you are not a man. I have seen many guys who tries to talk about their sexual encounters like a bragging rights, including christians. Of course, they would not say it in church, but everyone knows what is happening behind the scenes.

Trying to be modern and not traditional leads to another weird phenomenon, the bro culture. The bro culture is something like this, you would be totally open in front of each other, including doing stupid stuff, to show that you are totally comfortable in front of each other. This is to shed the pretension in the traditional church. So, if you are a quiet person, the youth leader will hate you, because you are not “bro” enough. You need to do stupid things like the chicken dance, or use weird languages, 180 degrees change in tone of your voice every few seconds to show that you all will blend into a unrecognizable mix, like a family. If you are in a group of guy christians, you would of course talk about girls or beers or anything that makes you macho. Girls will continue gossips about what that certain church goer did last few nights.

People who does not join the bro culture or not “open” enough by doing stupid stuffs will be brand as not religious enough or even came from satan himself because these people does not partake in “fellowship” of the bros.

So, why do I dislike going to church? After hearing about people doing all the supposedly sinful stuffs and see the same people piously attending church, it does underminds my faith. I have come to believe that people come to church because of socialization.

A glimpse into my cold family

In a therapy session, my mum says that she felt no warmth in this family. I knew for a long time that there are some problems in this family, but I just cannot prove it, I always thought that it exists in my mind, not in my parents. Now, here is a clear evidence that I am not in a delusion or some teenage angst.

There is also one revelation that I found, that my parents don’t talk to each other a lot, except via Whatsapp. I always thought that they have behind the scenes communications, but even this behind the scenes are cold. I don’t know why my parents stopped talking to each other. This may be due to miscommunications in the past, or buzyness. Or, it could be related to my dad not being aware of ways to be more human and show some warmth, just like someone with asperger. I read that Aspergers usually have angry partners, because their partners don’t feel the warmth as aspie don’t communicate like others. They don’t know how to show love the normal way.

Needless to say, my relationship with my parents are very rocky to begin with. My teenage outbursts have seemed unreasonable to everyone, but they don’t know that in a family raised as mine, you would go crazy too. My parents tried very hard to show that this is a normal family, by not discussing the issues. This had gone so well that I do not know they do think there are problems until we are in a family therapy.

It has always been awkward to show warmth to each other in this family. We would feel awkward eating together, showing kindness to each other. If somehow my parents are in hospital, I would just stay at home, doing my own stuff, while my relatives busy themselves over my parents. There seems to be a disconnect between us. Why is this? Is it my problem?

There are problems that had happened in the past, that my parents do not try to mend, or do not know how. The past events had led to freeze communications, over time, it had become norm. Occasionally, I see some evidence that there is indeed problems through these breezy times, like I would not care if my parents had been very sick. I do not even know how to say a sentence of kindness to them anymore.

Perhaps I could bring you to my past. I was raised at my hometown by my grandparents. My parents worked in the city. Why this decision? Is it a norm to give your children to your parents to be raised instead of own self? In the therapy, my dad confessed that since young, they did not talk about any personal issues they faced with us, and I of course, do not confide in them. I believe this somewhat leads to my current predicament. They believe that adult issues should not be bothered by children. But, often times, children do know that there are problems in the family, but the parents just keep their lips tight, this has a backfiring potential where the children would imagine worse things.

Now, to my brother. He had spoken 0 times with my parents and I over the years. He is in a much worse situation than I am. My brother will have outbursts too, breaking things, making loud slamming noises with the door, terrorizing the family. I can sense that my brother has a deep sense of resentment towards my parents.

Hong Kong 4 days 3 nights trip 2015

The 4 days 3 nights trip is from 28/8/2015 to 31/8/2015. This is the first time my mum and I went oversea, together with my aunt, three person in all.

We visited the Hong Kong Disneyland.

Merry-go-round at Hong Kong Disneyland
Merry-go-round at Hong Kong Disneyland
Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland
Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland
Bunch of Mickey mouse soft toys inside Hong Kong Disneyland shop
Bunch of Mickey mouse soft toys inside Hong Kong Disneyland shop
Hong Kong Disneyland castle in the evening
Hong Kong Disneyland castle in the evening
Aunt with a big bag of Hong Kong Disneyland purchases
Aunt with a big bag of Hong Kong Disneyland purchases

The next day, we went to Ngong Ping using cable car. Ngong Ping is in Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

Ngong Ping Village entrance
Ngong Ping Village entrance
Ngong Ping Tau Fu Fa 山水豆腐花
Ngong Ping Tau Fu Fa 山水豆腐花
Misty atmosphere at Ngong Ping
Misty atmosphere at Ngong Ping
High rises, apartments in Hong Kong
High rises, apartments in Hong Kong
Drinks in Hong Kong restaurant
Drinks in Hong Kong restaurant
Kowloon Park map
Kowloon Park map

Kowloon Park contains the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars with a lot of cartoon and comic sculptures.

On On and Guy Guy and Cloud at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
On On and Guy Guy and Cloud at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
Hero Wah and kid cartoon at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
Hero Wah and kid cartoon at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
Sculpture at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
Sculpture at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
McDull at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
McDull at the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park

You can see people doing Tai Chi in the Kowloon Park.

Aunt and Mum walking in Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
Aunt and Mum walking in Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park
Kowloon Park Aviary sign
Kowloon Park Aviary sign

The Kowloon Park pond is very serene.

Kowloon Park pond
Kowloon Park pond
Kowloon Park pond
Kowloon Park pond

After 4 days, we depart from Hong Kong back to Malaysia.

Mum at Hong Kong International Airport
Mum at Hong Kong International Airport
Departing from Hong Kong International Airport
Departing from Hong Kong International Airport

I just became a Goodreads librarian

I was just approved as a Goodreads Librarian. There are around 70k Goodreads Librarian out of 55 million Goodreads members as of February 2017. Goodreads Librarian is not someone hired by Goodreads but is just a volunteer that can help them edit book details error and miscellaneous cataloging. There are some power to Goodreads Librarian, but not much.

Goodreads took a long time to confirm me as a librarian, below is the email from them telling me my librarian status.

Goodreads librarian status approval email
Goodreads librarian status approval email

I now have this Goodreads Librarian title at my profile page. This is as far as I can get to be a librarian.

Goodreads Librarian label at Goodreads profile
Goodreads Librarian label at Goodreads profile

I initially want to join as a Goodreads Librarian because I find some mistakes in the details of some books and I want to edit, for example, the book is in a series but is not indicated, etc.

How to be a Goodreads Librarian?

You need to have 50 books in your book shelve, then apply at here. It took a long time for them to approve.

What can Goodreads Librarian do?

  • Edit book details.
  • Combine the same book.
  • Add book picture.
  • Add book series.
  • Add book award.

What rules Goodreads Librarian follows?

Consult the Goodreads librarian manual, a very lengthy manual, consult it if you have problems.

How to contact a Goodreads Librarian?

You can ask librarian to add books, edit page numbers, edit or add book series, language and translation issues, awards, etc at the Goodreads Librarians group.

How to see top librarian in this country/ time period?

Go here.

Im a new librarian, what should I do now?

I don’t have much good suggestion, maybe try to do what you want when signing up for Goodreads Librarian, such as edit the book details that is still in error. Or, go to the Goodreads Librarians group and look for Looking for a Project? section.

Response to I don’t need Dropbox anymore, and it’s all Google’s fault article

The article basically says that the author switched from Dropbox to Google Photos because Google Photos is better for storing photos. This is true. Google Photos is an app specifically for photos. However, what the author missed is that there are other people who use Dropbox other than storing photos, but files as well, and that, cannot be done in Google Photos.

What I use Dropbox for is for storing files of all kinds. That is not to say I dislike Google Photos. I also use Google Photos to store my photos and videos, mainly from my camera. I set it to automatically upload to Google Photos after snapping my photos or videos. Google Photos is free if you allow Google to store the photos at a lower quality, but human eyes can’t differentiate the difference in quality anyway, so it is not a loss. They also let you store information such as what device you took your photos in, where was the photo taken. Also, they have integrated machine learning to recognize faces in your photos and tag every different person in your photos and group them. They also will alert you if there are special pattern in your photos such as a weekend away at a vacation, they will suggest you group them into an album.

I bought the 1TB plan for Dropbox, that is 1000GB of online storage, many times over my overall usage, currently, at 27GB. I use it as a backup of my files. Also, to sync files across devices. This means when I am in office, I can use the same files as on my home computer. If you accidentally deleted any files, you could also recover them.

Different app has its own strengths and weaknesses. You use it depending on your needs. I use Dropbox to store files, backup, and sync. Google Photos to store photos and videos, backup, and sync. I use Google Keep to store my random notes and scribblings. I use Trello for my To Do lists. I use Google Calendar to set my daily schedule.

Interesting finds on the internet #1

 

Family photos

Family dinner at Dae Jang Gum Korean Restaurant, SS4 (near Kelana Jaya LRT) on 24/5/2015
Family dinner at Dae Jang Gum Korean Restaurant, SS4 (near Kelana Jaya LRT) on 24/5/2015.
Extended family dinner at Chillis, One Utama on 18/7/2015
Extended family dinner at Chillis, One Utama on 18/7/2015.
Family dinner at The Ship, Damansara Utama on 24/9/2015
Family dinner at The Ship, Damansara Utama on 24/9/2015.
Family attending wedding on 1/11/2015
Family attending wedding on 1/11/2015.
Family lunch with relative at Bei King Restaurant, Ayer Tawar (hometown) on 28/3/2016
Family lunch with relative at Bei King Restaurant, Ayer Tawar (hometown) on 28/3/2016.
Family dinner celebrating Father's day at ROCKU Yakiniku at One Utama on 19/6/2016
Family dinner celebrating Father’s day at ROCKU Yakiniku at One Utama on 19/6/2016.
Family dinner at Dae Jang Geum Korean Restaurant, Seksyen 14 (near Digital Mall) on 21/8/2016
Family dinner at Dae Jang Geum Korean Restaurant, Seksyen 14 (near Digital Mall) on 21/8/2016.
Family eating banana leaf at The Lotus Family Restaurant on 28/8/2016
Family eating banana leaf at The Lotus Family Restaurant on 28/8/2016.
Family at Universal Studios Singapore on 30/8/2016
Family at Universal Studios Singapore on 30/8/2016.
Family lunch at Khuntai Thai restaurant on 5/2/2017
Family lunch at Khuntai Thai restaurant on 5/2/2017.