Review: Accidental Genius by Mark Levy

This is a piece of work inspired by Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power. Many of the concepts here are introduced in Writing with Power as one of the tools for writing.

In this book however, Levy chooses to focus on use of free writing to generate ideas and organize process thoughts. He applies it to his own experiences to show us how to free writing has helped in his article writing assignments. Along the way, he also provides many tips to help writers get on with generating new ideas.

It is a great book compliment to Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power, providing a more directed and practical approach to writing.

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Explanation – How computers draw curves

In illustrations, lines and curves are the most basic components that will eventually form up everything that we see designed today. Well, straight lines are rather simple, get two points, and fill in whatever is in the middle.

Curves are different. Computers draw curves using the “cubic bezier curve” (yeah, its abit math-sy, I know, but it makes sense when you see it graphically). The video I found explains the bezier curve really really well. Have a look and be in awe of the wonders of maths (and computers).

Kudos to Peter Nowell for the video

There are more to bezier curves that just that. To form even more complex curves, there are curves of even higher power. It isn’t really easy to explain, and there is all these maths equations that I will have to get into and it will look really really message (plus, its not something I fully understand)

To prevent explaining it wrongly, I will just skip that part and show you the animation for generating curves of different powers. If you are really interested and looking for something to help you sleep, you can read the math parts here.

Quadratic bezier curve (simpler version of cubic)

Cubic bezier curve (we saw this just now)

Quartic bezier curve (fourth order)

Fifth order bezier curve (really really cool, but messy)

Basically, the idea is to keep connecting the different points to form different line segments, until you get the tangent to generate the points for the curve. That is as simple an explanation I can give for now. But when I eventually figure out how to explan the math formulaes in human terms, I will make another explanation post.

Review: Gambling Theory by Mason Mulmuth

A great introduction to gambling concepts. However, Mason did not really wrote this book with beginners in mind, hence does not go in-depth as to the “step-by-step” of gambling. That said, this book is rather easy to follow, and gives a general sense of what to expect when you go pro gambling.

The book list at the end of the book was especially helpful. It culls all the great books and separated them from those with dubious content. It makes sure you gets it right the first time round.

Sketchnote:

How I learnt basic morse in 3 days

In cheaper by the dozen, it was mentioned in one of the childhood stories that her father managed to teach morse to kids over a short span of an holiday.

Then I thought to myself, considering my age and my access to technology, I could probably be able to do it in a week, could I?

Starting with the trick

The method used in the story was to use phrases to help memorize the dots and dashes of the alphabets, using the emphasis of certain syllabus as hints.

The first few of the alphabets were given in the book, I went online and googled the rest. I settled on this list that I found on wikipedia.

I read through them a few times. It wasn’t really to memmorize it, more of trying to get the phrases in my head.

Testing it out

Armed with the knowledge, I went online to search for a morse training app. You could probably download any of them, I think it doesn’t really make much difference if the funtionalities are the same.

I downloaded the morse trainer, and tried out the transmission mode. I tried to transmit some words, I couldn’t really get the hang of it, I was too slow, the pause makes the app thinks that I am between words, I couldn’t continue.

Getting hang of tapping morse

This isn’t the way to go. I went on to the freepad mode and tried to enter some words. There was a guide in the app. Apparently, between letters the pause should be the length of a dot, and between words, the length of a dash.

I practice really hard. And after a while, I got the hang of it. The trick was to type the letters and say it out at the same time. Somehow, you will insert that pause automatically. But lets say you are pausing too long and the spaces keeps appearing, You can try saying out the letter faster. Similiarly, if your tapping are all jumbled up, you can slow down the recitation to get the right speed.

How do I push this to the extreme? When practicing in the word mode, I switched off the sound and looked away while tapping out the code. I find that this helps me grasp the momentum better as I learn not to rely on the use of audio and visual feedback.

Memorising the alphabets

It finally the main part. I still remember my first word – “elements”. When I was training the tapping, I wrote out this word in morse (with the appropriate spaces) and tried tapping it out. After trying out for really long, I found that I memorise morse best in the visual form.

What do I mean visual form? It means that I memorize the alphabets in blocks. Take “L” for example. Initially, I used the phrase method, so I have got “he LOST his lid”, which translate to “._..”.

After a while I realized that when I actually tried to recall “L”, the block of dots and dashes came to me really quickly. So when I got “L”, the image “._..” just came very quickly to me. For me that seemed like a shortcut.

This works for the more common letters such as “E”, “T”, “L”, “Y”, etc. Interesting these patterns are opposite pairs, which means that exchanging dots for dashes, you get “T” from “E” and “Y” from “L”. Maybe that’s why it was easier for me to imagine it as blocks.

For the rest, I still use the phrases. For example, “G” for “GOO GLE ad”, “V” for “vic to ry Vee”. These are the less common letters, so the phrase still prove to be a great help, especially if the phrase jumps up to you very quickly. (tip: choose a weird and memorable phrase)

But after tapping morse for a long time, I suspect that it will be very easy to imagine the letters of blocks of dots and dashes. Take “R” for example. I learnt it as “ro TA tion”, but now when I encounter it in my tapping, the block of “._.” jumps up to me immediately.

Results

After 2 days of practicing, I am proud to say that I have some basic mastery of morse code. Without refering to any sheet of information, I can type out the words with relative accuracy (except for the occasional pausing too long problems) without any form of feedback (audio or visual).

I took 10 tries to tap out 10 words
score for morse tapping

Now that I am suffuciently capable of transmitting morse, I will be moving on to receiving morse and decoding it in real time. The practice mode in the app does not really provide a very good practice (I feel), as it does not use real words. I will find another way to hone my morse receiving skills before reporting any results.

Conclusion

Over the short span of 3 days, I have learnt to transmit morse. That might be long for some people, but I feel that being able to reach such level of efficiency is rather commendable.

But to be fair, I had a lot of time to practice, and didn’t have much other things to distract me from my learning.

So, if you are wondering if you can spend a weekend learning morse, no worries, start today and you will be tapping morse in no time.