Things I read/watched this week (05/18 – 05/24)

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  • Steve Wozniak: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
    • Some interesting snippets of conversation that I have never read or heard about. Steve Wozniak was the brain behind Apple computers. His engineering acumen along with Steve Jobs marketing skills lead to the success of Apple.
    • He talks about his hard work and dedication towards building new things and his disdain towards becoming rich. He loved his job at HP and wanted to do it for the rest of the life.
    • One of the amazing thing is that he is still an employee of Apple and gets paid around 50$ every month as a sign of respect.
  • Competition is for Losers with Peter Thiel
    • Best speech I have heard recently. Although the talk is focused on building a startup, this can very easily be implemented on any creative field.
    • Thiel talks about the two kinds of businesses: competitive and monopolies. Taking the side of monopolies, he argues that it is better to start a business in something that has a chance of becoming a one-place to go to rather than being a small fish in a big pond. He gives the example of a restaurant catering to a nice market. First of all, it is not scalable. It might be able to give you a recurrent income but there is a very small scope of expansion. This view is contrary to Seth Godin’s view of catering to a small subset of the population and building your reputation on that.
    • If one looks at Google, Amazon, etc. they are the giants which did not start with the things that they are doing right now. But now, it is nearly impossible to take their thrones for any new startup because of their reach and the resources at their disposal. Thiel says that there would not be any new Google or new Facebook, there will be something else. Hence, the title that Competition is for Losers.
    • The quote that I liked: “The tremendous price (of competition) is that you stop asking some bigger questions … don’t always go through the tiny little doors that everyone tries to rush through, maybe go around the corner, go through the vast gate no one is taking.”

Things I read/watched this week (05/11 – 05/17)

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  • Podcasts: I have become really fond of listening to podcasts leaving my proclivity towards tv shows and movies. My mind is not dormant anymore when hearing these podcasts in comparison to the latter, which I enjoy very much.
    • Elizabeth Gilbert’s Amazing Creative Toolkit: Saying No, Trusting Intuition, Seeking Awe, Bathing in Grief, and Index Cards
      • Gilbert discusses her relationship with the people in her life.
      • She discusses the importance of saying NO to people which I have heard almost every successful person say. If you keep on agreeing to everything even if you do not want to, you will never get shit done. Seth Godin in a similar tone says that many times he takes speaking gigs because he thinks that he will never get a speaking gig ever, but that is a forced YES that comes out of desperation. If your gut does not think it is worth it, do not force yourself in creating something of lesser value.
      • She makes a reference to TS Elliott’s poem East Coker that she has prescribed many people in their dire times.
      • “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
        For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
        For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
        But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
        Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
        So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
    • Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable people – Sir Ken Robinson
      • Hearing Ken Robinson was like a breath of fresh air. I have not read books written by him or the TED talk repeatedly cited by Kawasaki in this podcast, but he makes good points about why standardizing our education system has led to its fall. He gives the analogy of restaurants with schools. If you go to a fast food restaurant, the main selling point is that you will find the same standard thing in every outlet that you visit. For example, McDonalds will have the same McBurger in the whole USA wherever you go. But if you go to an Italian restaurant (not considering chains like Olive Garden), you will find that the chef prepares the meal exclusively for your taste that no other restaurant will provide. This is what is happening in the schools that keep on producing the same bulk goods crushing their inner specializations.
      • Kawasaki also looked up a job posting on Apple’s website where the eligibility requirement states – ‘Bachelor preferred with the adequate skills for the job’. They have eliminated the need for the degrees most universities are selling in order for you to have a dream job. If you have the skills for a job, you can apply for it.
    • Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life
      • The excerpt that I really liked: “Writer’s block is a myth. What people get stuck on is not that they’re out of ideas, it’s that they think they’re out of good ideas. That everyone had bad ideas. My only argument is if you put enough bad ideas into the world, sooner or later your brain will wake up, and good ideas will come. That the bad boss problem is your bad boss won’t let you ship anything because he or she is insisting on perfect. I’ve done 7,400 blog posts, and I’ve done four perfect ones. So you just got to keep making the work with generosity, because then your lizard brain will give up on censoring you because it’ll realize that you’re not going to give up. And at that point, it’ll just say, well, we might as well make it better.”
      • I think that the above argument can be applied to any creative field whether you are a musician, painter, physicist or an entrepreneur. Everyone can relate to the fact that we have an inner voice that says ‘NO’ to everything we pursue. You saturate only when you let that voice command each action taken by you.

Trying Ulysses for blog posts

I usually write my post on the Notes app on my Mac. The problem is that I have to copy the content each time I want to post on WordPress. Another problem is that the links do not get copied when I transition from one to another.

So I decided to give Ulysses a try and bought the student subscription for 6 months. It is just 12$ if you want to give it a try.

Ulysses is a Markup language and makes writing zen-like. Markup here means that you can write things without thinking about the formatting of the document. For example, if you want to start a heading, you just start your heading with a # symbol. This tells the app that you need that line to be a heading. There are many different styles of ready-made fonts and page styles that you can choose from.

I think Ulysses performs the function extraordinarily it is supposed to, distraction free writing.

Things I read/watched this week (05/04 – 05/10)

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  • How To Not Waste Your Life
    • Although a short read, the amount of raw knowledge in this piece is immense. Nikolas talks about the movie Extraction (somehow the word ‘Extinction’ comes to my mind whenever I think about this movie) where Chris Hemsworth is trying to rescue a 15 year old child. One of the quotes of the movie hit me hard, “You drown not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it.” Nikolas explains that all the distractions, all the procrastinations are actually the ‘river’ in your life which will keep pulling you down. The onus is on you to steer away from these and create a path for yourself.
    • Another punchline: “All rivers flow into the sea. If you don’t push to the surface, if you don’t start swimming, that’s where you’re going.”

  • Introduction to LaTeX macros
    • A great introduction into creating short macros for repetitive LaTeX commands that are annoying to write every time.
    • If you have been a graduate student or are currently, typing pages of LaTeX is a hassle. One of the ways to get good at it is practice. Just like any musical instrument, if you keep tuning your fingers to reach the correct notes, you will get better. But along with this grind, you can be smart and use shortcuts that take your typing speed a notch higher.
    • Example: If I want to write some term like G_{0}^{-1}(\mathbf{r}, \mathbf{r’}; E) where the r and r’ keep changing but the overall format remains the same. We can define a LaTeX macro like \newcommand{\green}[2]{G_{0}^{-1}(\mathbf{#1}, \mathbf{#2}; E)}. This defines a new command called “\green{#1}{#2}” where #1 and #2 are the variables you want in your function. This reduces a lot of time that would be spent on writing the mathematical expression again and again.

  • Marcus Aurelius
    • Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor around 160 AD. He is famous for the treatise that he wrote on stoic philosophy – ‘Meditations’. The manuscript kept on passing along including some famous people like Christina of Sweden, John Stuart Mill, Goethe, etc.

  • Goodnotes vs Notability 2020!
    • Goodnotes and Notability are both iOS apps for writing on iPad. I have Notability and it works wonders. The best feature that I have not used yet and did not know about is voice recording along with writing. So, if you are a student taking notes in a lecture, you can record the whole lecture when taking notes. The best thing is that when you go back to refer to the notes, the audio is synced with your writing.

Things I read/watched this week (04/27 – 05/03)

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  • Thomas Sowell – Gender Bias and Income Disparity: A Myth?
    • Found out about Thomas Sowell while browsing through my YouTube feed. In this small clip, he talks about gender bias in the workspace. He says that a lot of these can be explained by women who have a child versus women who do not. The women who are not mothers tend to reach at higher positions than men of the same age. Another thing is that statistically the jobs women take are also dependent on how obsolete they will become once they take a gap for their child, for example, in the tech industry.

  • The Collapse of the American Empire
    • Chris Hedges talks about his book – “America: The Farewell Tour” which is a commentary on the current state of America and its future. He says that America, as an empire is breaking down and Trump is an outcome of the diseased country.

  • Genders, Rights and Freedom of Speech
    • Steve Paikin in his talk show, The Agenda with Steve Paikin, discusses the furore over the law mandating using Gender neutral pronouns. Jordan Peterson claims that this is an attempt by radical Left wingers to force and brainwash the general public. He says that legalizing the mandatory use of these pronouns is a direct attack on free speech. Theryn Meyer, a YouTuber and Transgender pundit, asserted that forcing these things and not discussing over it would be ludicrous. Nicolas Matt who is a lecturer on transgender studies said that this law would reduce the abuse and discrimination that the trans community is facing day to day that includes not using gender neutral pronouns in their degree certificates. Mary Rogan, who is an author, agreed with the fact that harassing someone who hold opposite views should be discouraged but reiterated that Peterson’s fear of this law leading to a socialist Marxist state is unjustified.
    • I really liked the way this debate was conducted and I love the moderator. Speaking in a calm manner, addressing everyone politely and interjecting to allow everyone to keep their points made this debate special. This is ironic in the sense that this should be the norm, if you look at the Oxford Union debates.

Things I read/watched this week (04/20 – 04/26)

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    • Tim Ferriss talks about his struggles with suicide during his senior year at Princeton.
    • There are so many things to take out from this article. Below is a snippet of what I really liked about this article to overcome depression.
    • Most “superheroes” are nothing of the sort. They’re weird, neurotic creatures who do big things DESPITE lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk.
      Here are some of my coping mechanisms for making it through the day: 1) Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. E-mail is the mind killer.
      2) Make a cup of tea (I like pu-erh like this) and sit down with a pen/pencil and paper.
      3) Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.
      4) For each item, ask yourself:
      – “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”
      – “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”
      5) Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions.
      6) Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.
      7) TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2-3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work.
      8) If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.
      9) Physically MOVE for at least 20 minutes each day. Go for a long walk, lift weights, take a free online yoga class (YouTube), anything. Ideally, get outside. I was once asked by friend for advice on overcoming debilitating stress. The answer I repeated over and over again was: “Remember to EXERCISE daily. That is 80% of the battle.”
      10) Follow a diet that prevents wild blood sugar swings. This means avoiding grains and refined carbohydrates most of the time. I follow the slow-carb diet with one cheat day per week and have done so for 10+ years. Paleo also works great. Don’t forget to eat plenty of fat. High protein and low fat can give you low- grade symptoms of rabbit starvation.
      11) Schedule at least one group dinner with friends per week. Get it on the calendar no later than 5pm on Monday. Ideal to have at least three people, but two is still great medicine.
      12) Take a minute each day to call or email someone to express gratitude of some type. Consider someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time. It can be a one-line text or a 5-second voicemail. Congratulations! That’s it. Those are the rules I use, and they help steer the ship in the right direction.
      Routines are the only way I can feel “successful” despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, hit snooze, nap, and otherwise fritter away my days with bullshit. If I have 10 “important” things to do in a day, I’ll feel overwhelmed, and it’s 100% certain nothing important will get done that day. On the other hand, I can usually handle 1 must-do item and block out my lesser behaviors for 2-3 hours a day.
      And when — despite your best efforts — you feel like you’re losing at the game of life, never forget: Even the best of the best feel this way sometimes. When I’m in the pit of despair with new book projects, I recall what iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
      Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.

    • “Since what you need to do here is loosen up your own mind, it may be best not to make too much of a direct frontal attack on the problem — i.e. to sit down and try to think of ideas. The best plan may be just to keep a background process running, looking for things that seem to be missing. Work on hard problems, driven mainly by curiosity, but have a second self watching over your shoulder, taking note of gaps and anomalies.”
    • A treatise on how to find a startup idea. This is so general that it can be applied to any field, for example, finding a research problem for PhD.
    • Some very good points including not weeding out unsexy and schlep ideas.

    • Schlep mean a heavy or burdensome work. When someone is approaching a problem, it is easy to get discouraged by the size of the problem. But Paul Graham rightly points out that there are many advantages in sticking to this idea. Due to the schlep, you have less competition and more incentive to find a solution.
    • The best approach is ignorance.


I tried maintaining a journal for what I read everyday and the important bits I want myself to remember. This is why I started posting it here.

I noticed that if I keep publishing it daily, I might add stuff to the posts that are not that useful and add only little to the content. Although it is a good exercise, it is much better if I collect all the good articles and post them at the end of the week.

This way, I will have a journal and also would not spam my own blog (Haha!).

So from now on, the posts will be labelled as ‘Things I read/watched this week” rather than “Things I read today”.

PS- I added the watched part to these posts as well. I have found that there are so many good videos on Youtube (Premium member here) which add to my learning. For example, until last week I had no idea about Gmail filters that you can use to make your life easier. Now my spam goes to the spam directly without the need to mark those emails again and again.

Things I read/watched this week (04/13 – 04/19)

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    • An interesting read comparing World War II with the current situation and how the manufacturing and relief measures should be similar to what happened in WW II.
    • My favorite part from this article was the need to centralize the procurement of essential supplies and optimal distribution to the states. At this point, the states and the center are fighting a bidding war for essential supplies like N95 masks and ventilators.
  • Quote that I loved: Why do people procrastinate? Because it is very easy to rationalize. If you don’t want to work on something, your mind can be convinced that delaying it would not hamper the consequence. Found from Mac D’Avella’s video about procrastination.
  • Came to know about 2 wonderful apps that any Mac user would find useful.
    • Itsycal : This is a free app that gives you the calendar with all the events on your menu bar. You can also customize by selecting a hotkey for opening it.
    • Blotter : This app puts your apple calendar on your desktop with the daily events. This is very handy when you are working on a lot of projects and deadlines are nearby. It keeps reminding you of the things you still have to complete. Since its a Mac app, the price is 10$.
  • This video by Johnny Harris: How to force yourself to learn stuff.
    • Johnny says that there are two things that force you to keep learning: excitement for the project and accountability.
    • I totally agree with the idea that accountability imposes a certain constraint on how you can slack. Your reputation/job is on the line and the mind knows this. For example, I have never been more focused than when giving my exams. It feels like the world has stopped and the only purpose of my life is to solve this problem. This is also the idea behind FLOW.
    • “The point is this: you don’t need to do anything wrong to get death threats, rape threats, etc. You just need a big enough audience. “
    • Tim takes us to the point in his life when he became famous. How his life changed and what good/bad things came out of this fame.
  • How to Remember What You Read | How I Digest Books
    • A wonderful video by Tim Ferriss. He talks about 5 different books that he read and made notes on. It is important to take notes when you read a book because when you go back to it after some time, your notes are the pathways to the insights you had while reading the book.

Things I read today – 04/10

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“After tragedies, one has to invent a new world, knit it or embroider, make it up. It’s not gonna be given to you because you deserve it; it doesn’t work that way. You have to imagine something that doesn’t exist and dig a cave into the future and demand space. It’s a territorial hope affair. At the time, that digging is utopian, but in the future, it will become your reality.”


  • 5-bullet Friday from Tim Ferriss.
      • Interesting bit suggested by Paul Graham on the mistakes that scientists (professionals) make. Giving the example of Newton, he explains that Newton had 2 more interests than physics, theology and alchemy. Nobody talks about the last two because they failed. 

    • I read another article by Graham. Have started liking his style of writing. To the point and hitting the nail hard. In this article, he talks about the inverse relationship between being “noob” and actual ignorance.

    • Biographical description of Ramanujan and Hardy. Just wow. This is the most elaborate portrayal I have ever read. Stephen Wolfram has a unique way of describing things where he includes Mathematica snippets and gives the historical background on how those Mathematical functions came about.

  • Came to know about an interesting application Hemingway. This is a word editor that cuts the clutter and publishes polished sentences. Although I do not know if it is better than Grammarly. The price is 20$.
    • Incidentally,  I did a google search and found that Grammarly has this in its Terms of Service which looks scary.
  • Found another editor/grammar checker : ProWritingAid. Looks promising and I think I might give it a try.

Things I read today – 04/09

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    • Tim Urban talks about the ‘Fog’ which is the main hindrance to reaching the state of ultimate consciousness (or being a better version of ourselves). Fog is what Steven Pressfield in his book, Do the Work, calls the ‘Resistance’. The objective of these things is to block our self-improvement and growth.
    • He divides the steps of consciousness that are within our reach into 4 steps.
      • Step 1: Where a majority of the population exists. This is the step where fog totally clouds our judgement and way of thinking.
      • Step 2: Know that something like ‘Fog’ exists and to improve, one has to think about the context to thin it.
      • Step 3: This is the place where one acknowledges the vast reality and how one’s actions are indifferent in the bigger landscape. He calls these ‘Woah’ moments. Difficult to stay here.
      • Step 4: Complete unknown. A place that the humankind has no idea about but exists. As a PhD student, that is what we are after 🙂
    • “The truth is a combination of what we know and what we don’t know—and gaining and maintaining awareness of both sides of this reality is the key to being wise.”
    • “The red alien a few steps above us on the staircase would see human consciousness the same way we see that of an orangutan—they might think we’re pretty impressive for an animal, but that of course we don’t actually begin to understand anything. Our most brilliant scientist would be outmatched by one of their toddlers.”
    • “If either A) you don’t feel like you’ve evolved in a meaningful way in the past couple years, or B) you aren’t able to corroborate your values and philosophies with actual reasoning that matters to you, then you need to find a new framework. To do this, just ask yourself the same questions I asked myself: What’s the goal that you want to evolve towards (and why is that the goal), what does the path look like that gets you there, what’s in your way, and how do you overcome those obstacles? What are your practices on a day-to-day level, and what should your progress look like year-to-year? Most importantly, how do you stay strong and maintain the practice for years and years, not four days?”

    • One of the things I like about Tim Ferriss is that he is very straightforward in his articles. In this one, he shows why daily journaling is important to him.
    • “Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.” – Julia Cameron on Daily journals.
    • “Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull. Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life?”.
    • I have been wondering about doing this myself but have not been able to keep up with it. Maybe I am afraid of what might come outside?

    • Came in my daily blog feed. Tim shares Rachel Cargle’s prompts for past, present and future self on how things are now and will be. This is a nice idea for daily journaling if you run out of things to write about.
    • For example, Tim’s prompt – “Imagine that you’re suddenly the older version of you — 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. If you sat down over wine or coffee with the current, younger you, what advice or observations might you offer?”.