Interesting discoveries #02

It’s been a busy week at work; I never thought I had the time to write this. So here’s what I gathered the past week or so.

1. Read: The Art of Racing in the Rain

A sweet book about a racer from a dog’s perspective. It’s not a book I would have picked up if not for Amazon’s offer and reviews. It’s a good book but I shan’t delve into what Amazon has already decide to be anyway.

The fact that I bought a book on mere offer must have meant something. My spending methods have changed. I use to despise the idea of going to the supermarket and purchasing goods simply because the item is on offer. I now found myself succumbing to that temptation and a half-an-hour introspection was to follow.

Story! Yes, the book is good and this is coming from a reader neither a racing enthusiast nor a dog owner. I do like dogs though.

2. Gun fires in Sandy Hook Elementary School

The most heart-wrenching story of the week is to be the case (CNN) where a gunman killed 26 people at the school, including 20 children, before taking his own life on Friday. I was watching the video reports of this online.

It’s leading to gun control debates, even the National Rifle Association has pretty much shut up in their Twitter account. Moving on from the tragedy, it’s a good opportunity to discuss on the issues with gun ownership and I believe America will reach a rightful conclusion in the months to come. It does irk me a little that the discussion got distracted by people who are calling for more god in schools. Focus on the gun policies first, we’ll talk about morals later.

3. The Walking Dead

Kevin recommended me The Walking Dead and I have been pretty much glued to it. The Walking Dead is an American television drama series developed by Frank Darabont. It is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The series stars Andrew Lincoln as sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma to find the world dominated by flesh-eating “walkers”, resembling the zombies of George A. Romero’s horror movies. He sets out to find his family and encounters many other survivors along the way.

I am not why the drama distance themselves from the “zombie” association. I found that hard to accept. Given the whole setting was made to resemble reality — i.e. having places like the CDC, Fort Benning and Atlanta — I feel a little “betrayed” that no one seems to know about “zombies.” Why is that even so? This is not the reality I live in. Of all the efforts that place in creating this familiar environment, I found myself constantly awaken at each mention of the word “zombie.”

The Walking Dead has good story arcs but falls shorts in their lines. I love the visuals too.

4. Apache Maven

I never came across Apache Maven until this week where my new job requires me to. Maven is a build automation tool typically used for Java projects. Maven serves a similar purpose to the Apache Ant tool, but it is based on different concepts and works in a profoundly different manner. It can also be used to build and manage projects written in C#, Ruby, Scala, and other languages.

I don’t have much of comment on this accept that it is one of the most complicated build management tool I have seen. Or maybe I’m just unfamiliar with these things.

5. SimCity, released on March

What got me excited this week most is the upcoming SimCity.

I leave you the video to watch.

6. Upgrading/buying a new computer

I never learnt so much about computers until I have intentions to buy on. My new work place is at Sunshine Plaza and that is a 5 minute walk away from nerd heaven Sim Lim Square. So I was there doing a bit of cost research. I don’t plan to spend a lot on a computer since I’m just going to play SimCity on it when it is released.

If possible I am going to just stick with an integrated graphic card. I saw that the upcoming Intel Haswell micro-architecture has a significant improvement on their Intel HD offerings and I am looking forward to it although I might not have the patience to wait for it. Making a decision when SimCity is out is definitely not too late so, I’ll do that!

For those self-professed hardware idiots, like me, the update is they are now on DDR3 RAM, and the graphic cards are less a necessity more an option. Also the CPU casings are getting more beautiful. And also Intel i5 3330 (Ivy Bridge) seems to suffice. MSI is cheaper than Asus and it’s okay to get cheaper motherboards, they aren’t as bad as the cheaper motherboards of the past. Okay I know nerd language now. Moving on.

7. Sunshine Plaza

How little they did for Christmas decorations:

Sunshine Plaza

Sunshine Plaza has a mall, a residential and office building. It’s across Fortune Center. Good location, I’m happy it’s near all the tiny food places. Will update on that.

8. Google Maps for iOS

Google Maps for iOS is just pure joy to use after the 4 month deprivation of it. Currently the Google Maps application is top in Apple’s App Store and has a 5 out of 5 average rating. Google really deserves this and Apple has help educate the public how hard it is to get mapping right. Google has triumphed this time and Apple is probably a bit thankful for that. It’s time to put Apple Maps in the folder where I place all the crap I can’t uninstall.

I would have but cannot get rid of the following applications:

  • Reminders
  • Notes
  • Weather
  • Compass
  • Voice Memos
  • Stocks
  • Passbook
  • Maps

Google Maps team definitely deserve a good vacation.

End notes

This week has been busy and my sore throats gotten worse. I met my new colleagues that I haven’t been as able to be chatty as I could have been. I spend more time reading this week, mainly on Maven, Backbone.js and Handlebars.js. It’s going to an exciting next week.

Reading on Amazon Kindle

I can’t recommend Amazon Kindle enough if you’re an avid reader. I got mine delivered over from the US to Singapore through a proxy courier. I think I used comGateway.

Since then I bought numerous books from the US shop without trouble, it all get delivered to my Kindle. I haven’t encountered phone verification of any sort.

The question I get most from people is what is it that don’t work in Singapore. Well, the 3G internet on the Kindle can only access Wikipedia and Amazon websites unfortunately. Other than that everything works fine.

I have been using Kindle for Mac more often lately:

Kindle for Mac.

It’s a lot easier to search through the annotations in the desktop application.

More coding

I realized a devoid of code examples lately. I was distracted by a lot of reading lately. Reading doesn’t translate to doing something significant yet still gives me a certain sense of accomplishment. I just spent an overwhelming amount of time last week just clicking and reading through — researching as I like to call it. I achieve some additional knowledge, I guess. However, time could possibly be put into better use had I actually coded something.

So, note to self — do, don’t just read.

Oh, and write, too.

Reading less and writing more

A thought struck me lately — I’ve been reading too much, writing too little. Similarly, I’ve been over consuming and under producing.

I’ve been thinking about the times that I could otherwise be spending in building, what I would describe with my limited vocabulary, a lasting pleasure. I have been distracted and once in a while I will wake up realizing people are ahead of me.

It has been a long dream, and it is about time.

Just ordered an Amazon Kindle

I just ordered an Amazon Kindle yesterday:

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, 6

It turns out that Amazon Kindle doesn’t deliver to Singapore, the leather cover does though, but that would be just useless without a Kindle. I decided to use a post forwarder to bring it to Singapore and we’ll see how that works out. I got the one that says “Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, 6″ Display, Graphite – Latest Generation”.

Reading cuts stress levels by 68%

Reading helps keep stress down:

Reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two thirds or 68%.

New research by consultancy Mindlab International at the University of Sussex says reading works better and faster than other methods to calm frazzled nerves such as listening to music, going for a walk or settling down with a cup of tea.

Listening to music reduced the levels by 61 per cent, have a cup of tea of coffee lowered them by 54 per cent and taking a walk by 42 per cent. Playing video games brought them down by 21 per cent from their highest level but still left the volunteers with heart rates above their starting point. (Source: Marie Claire)

I’ve been reading quite a bit these couple of months. What I feel is that reading from a book helps reduce stress much more than reading from the screen.

If you don’t like reading books typically, you may get humor books just to have a laugh. I have a book with only funny pictures — that worked too. I probably flipped through hundreds of times, each time looking at around 10 pictures. That seems to keep my stress level down. Whoever said “laughing is the best medicine” might just be right.

How to speed read

In this short video Kris Madden shows you how to read faster. The trick, he says, is to repeatedly say “AEIOU” or “one, two, three, four,” as you read. This prevents you from vocalizing the written words with your larynx. Once you train yourself, you can stop uttering “AEIOU,” and you will be able to read much faster than before, or so he says. (from BoingBoing)

How to speed read

Also check out Derren Brown’s blog.

Borders no longer wants to sell itself

I love Borders. Love to be able to walk in and browse through. I have to admit that 90% of the time I come out empty handed or perhaps just with the Borders card member brochure.

I’m sorry that you aren’t doing well Borders. It’s all my fault.

Borders Inc ‘no longer for sale’

It posted a net quarterly loss of $175.4m (£113m), or $2.90 per share, as against $161.1m, or $2.74 per share, in the third quarter of last year.

But it said applying a range of restructuring measures in the past year will allow the company to stand on its own despite the downturn.

“We have smiles on our faces”, Borders chief executive George Jones said.

Like-for-like sales dropped 12.8% in Borders superstores, with revenue falling to $693m from $765m during the same quarter last year.

The news sent Borders share down 52% in after-hours trading.

In March, Borders said it had been evaluating a sale of its core business after facing increasing difficulties in accessing funds. (Source: BBC)

Books aren’t doing well these days probably because lesser people are reading these days. I used to see more people reading in trains. Singaporeans are rather busy people, few have the chance to read at home for leisure. Most read during commute time. It’s not easy to read while standing. Those sitting on chairs either have their ears plugged with earphones (blissfully unaware that they suppose to alight the previous stop sometimes) or sleeping (or perhaps pretending to sleep when there’re older folks in front of them).

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Anyway, it’s just not good news for book lovers. Are physical stores impractical these days? Is the future going to be electronic books? I still much prefer touching paper. I’ll hate to see physical bookstores become a luxury of yesterday.