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.

My room at Bayu Puteri Apartment

Welcome to my world where I spent most of my time. I am living in my parents house, and I have this one small room for myself. I have been living here for around 8 years. My room is small but it provides me with a comfortable resting and working place.

This bed came from Ikea and occupies about 1/4 of my room. Beside the bed is the curtain, if you open it, you will stare down 14 floors. This is an old picture, taken 4 years ago in 2012.

My desk and chair circa 22/7/2012
My desk and chair circa 22/7/2012.

This is a more recent picture in 2016. Still the same red curtain!

My bed and red curtain circa 18/2/2015
My bed and red curtain circa 18/2/2015.

I recently bought a sunlight proof curtain because every night I sleep, the walkway light shone into my room and disturbs my sleep.

My bed and sunlight proof curtain circa 16/2/2017
My bed and sunlight proof curtain circa 16/2/2017.

My desk is quite big, and it occupies 1/2 of my room. I tries to keep my desk as neat as possible. The monitor is very big. On top of the desk, is my books and waste papers. I try to keep a “blanket” on them to avoid dust.

My desk and computer circa 5/4/2016
My desk and computer circa 5/4/2016.

My wardrobe contains my shirts, pants, etc.

My wardrobe circa 18/2/2017
My wardrobe circa 18/2/2017.

As the Chinese saying goes, “麻雀虽小,五脏俱全” (translation: The sparrow may be small but all its vital organs are there), my room is small, but it has all the important stuffs I need. This is where I studied for my SPM, STPM, did my coding, programming, read my books, etc.

What is the three body problem in the “The Three-body Problem” novel?

This post contains spoiler!

Liu Ci Xin’s The Three-Body Problem (Chinese: 三体) is a Chinese novel that won many book awards. The leader of the free world read it on his buzy schedule. It is the first novel of the trilogy, Remembrance of Earth’s Past (Chinese: 地球往事). I like this book because it incorporates many science concepts in the story. It is a hard science fiction novel in the likes of Arthur C. Clarke’s novels. I read it in the Chinese version.

As seen from the title of the novel itself, the three body problem is a central problem in the novel. The three body problem is actually a real physics problem. It studies the interaction of three bodies and tries to predict their movements. Imagine three things floating in the emptiness of space, it can be anything. They interacts through their own gravity. To predict their future movement, we need to know their starting velocities and masses. A small change in initial condition may affects future movements a lot. This is a very hard problem, as three body interaction is very complex. The calculation is beyond what we know or knowing at all. Three body interaction is very chaotic.

Three-body problem simulation (2D)
Three-body problem simulation (2D). Source: Reddit

The three body problem is only revealed half way through the book. There is a star system with alien life. The aliens are called Trisolarans (三体人). They are so-called because the planet they live in, Trisolaris revolves around three stars. Instead of only one star (the sun) like our solar system, they have three stars. The interaction of the three stars is unpredictable. Sometimes, the way they move causes destruction of lives on the planet. Civilizations come and go. There is a period of stability then followed by a period of destruction. The period is unpredictable, and can lasts only few days, or few millennium.

Civilizations of Trisolaris have tried to find patterns. They tried to predict the periods of peace and destruction and found no pattern. So far, the longest surviving civilization has reached beyond the space age. They are not able to predict the movements of the three stars, despite their advanced technologies. Staying on the three star system is very dangerous. The civilization faces extinction any time. This is the three body problem of the Trisolarans.

Switch from Bluehost to DigitalOcean

This website shaunlgs.com is hosted at Bluehost for around 2 years. Initially I chose this web hosting company because it is recommended by WordPress and the hosting fee is cheap, around 3 USD per month. But, it is too slow for my liking. Even though my monthly views is only 1000+, I would like my readers to have a fast website experience. My contract with Bluehost will end this July.

Last week, my website went super slow and down for one day, the idea of switching was already in the air, I pondered switching to WordPress.com custom domain or DigitalOcean. I heard of DigitalOcean by checking who.is on some websites that are fast and hosting blog, example: ayulin.net.

So I was playing around, and found that DigitalOcean has some attractive qualities that I like.

First, it bills by the hour. The bill will accumulate, and you pay on the first day of each month. Unlike Bluehost, you don’t have to pay for years of hosting in advance, you could have money for one month and still start. For Bluehost, the plan for 1 month is too expensive, and you are forced to buy the 3 years package. My plan at DigitalOcean is 20 USD per month, or 0.03 USD per hour. They will bill you by the hour, until 20 USD is reached, then it will stop billing. This is so that, when you are off, they will not bill you, so you can pay less than 20 USD per month, but I don’t plan to turn off for any time, I don’t want down time, so I prepare to pay 20 USD per month.

“No — you only need to pay for 1 hour of usage. Spinning up a new 512MB server just to test something for a couple of minutes will only cost you $0.0074” – DigitalOcean

Secondly, it is virtual private server (VPS). Previously, I was using Bluehost with shared hosting. Shared hosting is like renting an apartment with several bloggers, VPS is like renting the whole apartment for yourself, and dedicated is like owning the apartment itself. VPS is virtual private server, so, you are virtually separated from others, but still you get your allocated resources without other blogger on the same hardware making your site slow.

Thirdly, the website itself is fast. DigitalOcean website is fast, while Bluehost’s website is slow. How does a web hosting company has slow website trying to sell websites?

Fourthly, I like the stats on display, I can see how many bandwidth people are using, how many traffic, how much CPU usage, etc. Bluehost has these stats too.

Fifthly, DigitalOcean tells you upfront how much you are getting. For my plan, I get a 2GB Memory, 2 Core Processor, 40GB SSD Disk computer and 3TB transfer. For Bluehost, they just tell you that is unlimited, but it is hardly true, my computer is so slow! 3TB is a lot!

Sixthly, I like the concept of droplet. A droplet is the term used for plan at DigitalOcean. It is like a droplet of resources you can use in the “Digital” ocean.

Lastly, DigitalOcean gives you a lot of customization room. The server is whole for you to adjust and tweak. They give you a blank slate, you even have to install your own LAMP stack (Apache, MySQL, PHP), while Bluehost already installed these for you. This is attractive to developers. I was given the Ubuntu server and I have to do things from scratch.

So far, in my first week of DigitalOcean, it is very fast compared to previously with Bluehost. Writing and editing becomes easier now, most importantly, my viewers can have a better experience.

How to find good books to read next

If you are a book lover, you would like this article. I am going to tell you how I find books that go into my to read list. Since our time on earth is limited, and there are so many books to choose from, we would be wise to pick the better quality books to fill our literary diet. Assuming we could read 1 book per week, which is not a bad rate considering our busy lives, we could read 52 books a year, and 52 * 80 = 4160 books in our life time, if we live to 100 years old and start at age 20. The books could be the bible, comic books, scholarly tome, escapist book.

First, is the bookstore. You could go walk around in a bookstore, looking around for what is on the shelves, or on the top selling books shelves. If you want to be convenient, you could browse online bookstores, many bookstores have online website nowadays. Some of my favorite are Kinokuniya, Book Depository. For Malaysian, GerakBudaya contains some underground Malaysian books.

Kinokuniya Singapore
Kinokuniya Singapore. Source: https://singapore.kinokuniya.com/store

Secondly, get recommendations from people. I like Bill Gates’ book recommendation, or Obama’s, or some notable people whom I respect. Some more examples are New York Times bestseller list, Quora recommendations, Five Books. I did this by googling. Try to google for “book list” or “book recommendation”.

Bill Gates Books list
Bill Gates Books list. Source: https://www.gatesnotes.com

Thirdly, get recommendations from websites. Some websites such as Goodreads lets you catalog books you have read, wants to read, or currently reading. You can also see what your friends and other people are reading, share quotes from book, discuss about books, it is sort of like a social media for book worms. Another good thing is, the website has recommendation system, the algorithm will shifts through your ratings of books, and recommend what books you would like based on similarity or other factors. Other websites such as Amazon, Google Books has such recommendation system built in.

Goodreads
Goodreads. Source: http://benzackheim.com/how-to-set-up-goodreads-giveaways/

Fourthly, get recommendations from prizes. There are many book prizes out there that awards great books. You could look for such book prizes and mine through the winners to choose which books you like. Examples of book prizes are Royal Society book prize (science), Hugo Award for Best Novel (sci-fi), Goodreads Choice Award, etc. Goodreads has good lists of book prizes.

Hugo Awards
Hugo Awards. Source: http://spyhollywood.com/

Lastly, if you want some technical books or some academic books, you could check out university publishers or press’s websites, example, Oxford University Press. If you want academic books that are not for lay people, you can google online for university syllabus, search for “site:*.edu leadership syllabus”, replace “leadership” with whatever technical term you want, for leadership, you could get Harvard Kennedy School MLD325: Becoming A Leader syllabus on leadership. Or if you are a computer science student, you could get Computer Science syllabus with the standard textbooks.

Oxford University Press logo
Oxford University Press logo. Source: Oxford University Press

Update (10/Feb/2017):

Look for books recommended in the references/ further readings section of a book. Authors often leave references to books or papers at the end of their book. If you like a particular book, this is good place to get a reading list of the subject.

Book review: Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Thunderhead by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
Thunderhead by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child. Source: Goodreads

The novel is an archaeological and witchcraft thriller. The novel protagonist, Nora Kelly, an assistant professor at Santa Fe Archaeological Institute receives a letter from her father whom dissapeared sixteen years ago from an archaeological trip. The letter prompts Nora to go on a journey to discover what had happened to her father and an ancient city called Quivira.

The story deals with the ancient Anasazi culture, a native American culture. It will be fascinating for people who likes to know some ancient cultures and archaeological work.

I find it hard to imagine the mentioning of archaeological features or cave features, to picture the scenes, maybe due to my lack of vocabulary (e.g. what is a Kiva?).

The characters are well developed, I can imagine the distinct characteristics of each character. The plot is good, the mysteries, such as why did the Anasazi abandon Quivira, why did the Anasazi left Quivira leaving behind everything, who are the feral humans or animals, who sent the letter, what is the function of Quivira, have well explanations. The plot deals with the struggle to be the first to discover an epic archaeological site, the seriousness of preserving the site, etc.

The witchcraft strikes me as kind of dark, especially the rituals. An interesting look into the practice of witchcraft and ancient beliefs.

Readers who like this book may refer to the author’s references to learn more about witchcraft and ancient culture, and archaeology.

“The authors made use of information from a number of other publications, the most important of which include: Clyde Kluckhohn, Navaho Witchcraft; Blackburn and Williamson, Cowboys and Cave Dwellers; Basketmaker Archaeology in Utah’s Grand Gulch; Crown and Judge, eds., Chaco and Hohokam: Prehistoric Regional Sytems in the American Southwest; Kathryn Gabriel, Roads to Center Place: A Cultural Atlas of Chaco Canyon and the Anasazi; James McNeley, Holy Wind in Navajo Philosophy; David Roberts, In Search of the Old Ones; George Pepper, Pueblo Bonito; Hester, Shafer, and Feder, Field Methods in Archaeology; Lynne Sebastian, The Chaco Anasazi; Levy, Neutra, and Parker, Hand Trembling, Frenzy Witchcraft, and Moth Madness; Mauch Messenger, ed., The Ethics of Collecting Cultural Property; Chris Kincaid, ed., Chaco Roads Project, Phase I: A Reappraisal of Prehistoric Roads in the San Juan Basin; Tim D. White, Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos; Christy Turner, Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest; and Farouk El-Baz, “Space Age Archaeology,” Scientific American, August 1997.” – Author’s Note, Thunderhead (1999)

Book review: The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World by Kishore Mahbubani

'The Great Convergence' by Kishore Mahbubani.
‘The Great Convergence’ by Kishore Mahbubani. Source: Asia Society.

Kishore Mahbubani is the Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at National University of Singapore, former Singapore diplomat, and former ambassador of Singapore to the United Nations (UN). This book is about the reemergence of Asia (China and India), threats to USA and the importance of multilateral organization such as United Nations.

Kishore Mahbubani served at the United Nations for many years and have seen the workings of United Nations and the various under-the-table actions of United States and other countries. It gives a good overview of what motivates the actions behind countries like United States and China which can benefit readers who want to know what is going on in the political scene.

In the first chapter, Kishore Mahbubani argues that the world is the best it has ever been, with fewest casualties in war and conflict since history, the most educated population, lots of people joining the middle class. The world, despite their diversity and differences, all believe the same thing, such as science, logical reasoning (business, strategic thinking in politics), free-market economics, social contract (the ruler gets their power from the people), and multilateralism. Multilateralism, means stronger rules-based multilateral institution such as United Nations.

For now, the sole superpower in the world is United States. This is the case for the last 200 years plus. But, China economy is growing fast and going to exceed USA in GDP terms soon. Following history, there always has been conflict between the greatest power in the world and the greatest emerging power in the world. In our case, is the conflict between the USA and China.

The last time this happens is between USA and Great Britain. The transfer of power from one Anglo-Saxon power (Great Britain) to another Anglo-Saxon power (USA) causes less conflict. This time however, the transfer of power is from a western power (USA) to eastern power (China). Conflict should be strong, however, war does not break out. This is because of the interdependence in area of economics between China and USA. It is not an interest for both sides to go for war.

Ex-USA president Bill Clinton had said:

If you believe that maintaining power and control and absolute freedom of movement and sovereignty is important to your country’s future, there’s nothing inconsistent in that [the US continuing to behaving unilaterally]. [The US is] the biggest, most powerful country in the world now. We’ve got the juice and we’re going to use it. . . . But if you believe that we should be trying to create a world with rules and partnerships and habits of behavior that we would like to live in when we’re no longer the military political economic superpower in the world, then you wouldn’t do that. It just depends on what you believe.

Kishore Mahbubani praised that Bill Clinton had the wisdom to see what is coming. So far, USA had been trying to weaken multilateral institutions such as UN because they don’t want UN to put handcuffs on USA on what it should do, they can act unilaterally. They chose UN leaders that would not criticize them or bring about changes. However, Bill Clinton said that, if China were to rise, and become Number One, it is not the national interest of USA to weaken UN, but to strengthen UN, because this will put handcuffs on China, and make it a fair playing field in the world. It is in the interest of USA to strengthen international rules because soon China will be more powerful and the rules that are weaken that benefits USA will soon benefit China.

Despite knowing that multilateralism is important, no politician in USA dares to put global interest above national interest as it is political suicide if any politician in USA were to tell the USA citizens that they will be number two in the world.

He also criticize that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank for being too european centric. The head of IMF can only be European and World Bank can only be American. This is not how a global organization should work. The IMF is used by USA for their own national interest even though it is a global organization.

Another organization is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC consists of 5 core members, UK, USA, France, Russia, and China, which is called the P5. The P5 comes and discuss global issues, and each member has the veto power, this means that even if one member veto an issue, the issue will not be passed, issues such as action to condemn genocide at certain countries. This gives UNSC a great power.

The decision-making of P5 is very secretive and not open to debate. Kishore Mahbubani suggests a 7-7-7 systems. 7 top members, 7 middle members, and 7 bottom members for great power, middle power, and lower power, so that the UNSC can be more balanced. If the P5 does not heed the recommendation, it may risks becoming less legitimate in the eyes of the world.

He praised the European Union as an organization that has peace among its members and zero prospect of war, this is a historical anomaly. He also says that asian countries had a similar organization called the ASEAN. In fact ASEAN had done more, because it unites many countries in South East Asia, which was called the Balkan of the Asia, with diversity, unlike EU which consists of mostly Christian countries.

The book also discusses geopolitics such as the America-China relationship, China-India relationship, Islam-West relationship. America-China relationships includes the economic ties between the two countries, China’s red lines (Taiwan South China Sea territory dispute, legitimacy of Communist Party of China, crisis of USA becoming number two, China joining WTO, etc). China-India relationships include shared interest in global warming, both shared rapid growth in economy, global access to natural resources, and secure sea lanes. Islam and the west includes the Israel-Palestine issue.

Using a boat metaphor, Kishore Mahbubani illustrates how the world had gone global. In the past, countries live in their own boats. Now, countries live in their own cabins in the same boat. The challenges the countries face now is global issues such as terrorism, health. Things happening in one part of the world can affect the other part of the world, such as the financial crisis in 2008.

Here are some podcasts where Kishore Mahbubani talks about China and the USA, Kishore Mahbubani by HARDtalk (March 25, 2013China and the United States by Experience ANU (21 June 2016).

UTMSPACE Fakulti Komputeran course outline and prerequisites for 2015

Sometimes it becomes tricky when you register for subjects because you don’t know the requirement of the subject, and no one tells you. Finally, after months of googling, I finally found the course outline and prerequisites of each subject.

One kind lecturer had posted the outline on the web (click FC Courses Sypnosis).

Book review: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

This is a book by Ashlee Vance, a famed tech writer. Initially I thought the writer is a female!

Elon likes to think from the first principle. The whole space rocket can be boiled down to the physics. Instead of improving the existing rockets, his company built everything from scratch, minimizing cost of each component, and increase efficiency by thinking about how to change fundamental things. One thing that is different also, is that, every component in the rockets or cars he built is built in house.

At one point after reading, I am sort of in sync with what he is talking about, the plan to have human live on Mars, the steps he envisioned to achieve that, after he tells you about the that, you can actually see how this can be done.

Elon is hard on people, people may have his vision like myself, but I doubt I want to work with him.