[Review] Thank you for Being Late

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Last week I finished listening to Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. Overall I liked the book. There’s a little lukewarmness in my feeling towards it, but that lukewarmness, is still pleasant: like perfect Nevada shower-water, the kind you can stay-in for hours.

Like the last book I read (Brain Maker), the title of this book was very misleading. I came into this book hoping (and believing) it would be a book with dire warnings of how we are moving way too fast in our modern impatient, techno-culture (what the book dubs, The Age of Acceleration). While it did do some of that, those parts simple book-ended the beginning and end of the book, while the bulk of this tome was simply a charting –in exhaustive detail– of the history of how we got to where we are today.

I must admit, I was still fascinating to hear how AirBnB was started by a RISD student barely scratching by in California, subletting his place with air-mattresses to make rent. I loved hearing things about technology that I hadn’t heard before, like Github and Hadoop’s origin story. There was an interesting notion that Friedman reiterates throughout the book about the Computational Supernova we are living in: the recent abundance of cloud-based processing power that is making complexity cheap in this new era.

If you are looking for a detailed charting through of recent technological innovations in a very readable, and well-written book, this is it. In fact I might dare gamble it’s the most comprehensive and most readable book on the shelf right now about this subject; the author, Thomas Friedman, being a former NY Times journalist is in a rare position to provide a ton of great first-hand anecdotes, and interviews with important figures that have been pioneers in our current track of exponential Moore’s Law growth. His journalist eye for important detail, and (perhaps, problematic) linear historical progression makes for a very pleasurable read.

Some of my takeaways (or more like extrapolations) from this book is that technology is moving faster than I even imagined. Human empathy is something that may be in short supply as complexity in technological innovations accelerates; technology is far outpacing our own social structures and inner psychic capacity to keep things in balance. As such, there is even greater value in the liberal arts and human relations now than ever before (regardless of the STEM or the Everyone should Code movement).

My advice: even if technology is running at full-steam at the 10 mile mark, stop at the water-stations, break sourdough bread with your family, breathe — in and out — and cherish moments with the ones you love. Life is an ultra-marathon not a sprint.

Beating the Market Using a Server (and freezing your emotions)

I discovered a very conservative, but effective way to make money on the stock market that beats passive index investing by several notches. It took almost a year to refine the algorithms, along with a lot of false starts, bugs, and mistakes, but I feel really confident now that the methodology is somewhat sound and stable.

This sounds too good to be true right? Sounds like SPAM, right? One of those auto-bots on stock discussion boards, that almost sound like a real person. Perhaps. Well, I’m not SPAM, and I’m not an auto-bot (nor a Decepticon), and I can’t determine if this methodology will work if we fast-forward into the future. However, it’s based on some old fundamentals, uses historical data, and there are a few safety checks built in to help avoid the real risky equities (OTCs, etc). In fact, I actually think it can still work in a very bear market, or one that is grossly overvalued. All those sentiments are baked into the decision making of the software, and should allow one to stay clear of real dangerous / volatile securities.

The only time I have lost money on the market this year (which is too many) is only when I departed from using this algorithm. I start to let me emotions carry me and I used my gut. I sold when I should of held; or bought something on my own. Well, my gut seems to be as good as flipping a coin. I’m a software developer, and I know how to write code, calculate probabilities, and program a computer. I’m not an equities analyst, nor do I have any real business background. But, I found that as long as I slavishly follow the logic I developed and not let me emotions sway me, everything seems to work very well. In fact, YTD (9 months so far) if I followed this strategy, I would have seen a 120% gain in my portfolio. Of course, I didn’t follow it religiously, so I can’t boast that I had that type of gain this year. But, if I followed it to the letter, I would have — and I kick myself for it constantly.

They say that 84% of stock trading is done by computers. This is probably why this algorithm works — it thinks like a computer, because it is. It crunches historical data, measuring probabilities, finding trends, consumes analyst sentiment, and weighs target prices. If you follow the advice of my software slavishly, like an emotionless machine, you should see steady gains. Of course, investing any money in the market involves risks, so do so with common sense and discretion, and never follow the exclusive advise of one dope on the internet — use your own judgment.

This has been a really good year for the market in general. Some call it the Trump effect; that seems to be as good a reason as any for the huge gains over the broad market: especially since the double digit rise in the S&P aligns almost perfectly with the recent US election. Maybe this algorithm won’t work next year as the Trump effect seems to have cooled. That is yet to be determined.

I’m going to make the computer’s stock picks available on a daily basis to others as soon as I work through ways to do so without incurring too much load on my servers. Stay tuned!

Allowing Remote MySQL Connections on Amazon AWS and Windows Server 2016

I ran into one of those situations today where it took me forever to figure out why a MySQL database I spun up on Amazon AWS Windows Server 2016 wasn’t allowing remote connections. I finally figured it out on my own today — no thanks to the internet. Hopefully this helps you.

There are a few obvious things you need to check first and which you probably already know about to enable remote MySQL connections:

1. MySQL Account with Remote Access: First, you need a MySQL user on the database server that can connect from a host other than locally (a la “@localhost”). So, a user like “myUser@%”. The ‘%’ after the “@” is a wildcard that allows the user to connect to the server from any IP address in the world. Ideally, you would want to lock this done further than that, but it’s great to toss the wildcard in there for troubleshooting.

2. Amazon Security Groups: Ensure the Amazon security group your instance is attached to has a special inbound entry that allows TCP traffic on port 3306 from your IP address (or all IP addresses). This is easily done through the Amazon EC2 interface and there is a special type called “MySQL/Aurora” that you can select from the drop-down that will pre-fill the port-number .

3. Windows Firewall: Finally, and this is the gotcha that took me forever to figure out, you must check your server’s local inbound firewall rules. I saw a bunch of “allow” entries for MySQL already in there so I assumed it was fine. However, by default it creates these rules under the profiles “Domain” and “Private”. You have to explicitly add in another one within the profile “Public”, or edit one of the existing rules to also allow public, to finally enable remote connections.

After I did the final step, it worked like a charm.

How to Force a link to Download Instead of Play in Browser

In an earlier post, I included a link to a large MP3 file on my server. I noticed that whenever I clicked on it in Chrome, the file would not download, but would simply play within my browser. That is not the behavior I wanted: playing in-browser like that over time might cause unnecessary bandwidth expenditure, but more importantly, I felt that playing in-browser would not be as convenient for some users that wanted to simply download the file. I wanted to give the user the option. Anyway, it’s really easy to force an HTML-5 enabled browser (like Chrome) to force a link to download a file instead of playing in-browser. All you need to do is include the word “download” anywhere in the anchor tag:

<a download href="yourfile.mp3">Download this File!</a>

Now if only all things were that easy.

Stalled Black Truck

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There is no better time to write on your blog, I always say, then when you should be writing something else. I have friends who run a fishing blog. The should in this particular instance is a short paper I need to write for my Postcolonial Medieval literature class. I’m stalled on the first sentence of this paper, and not going anywhere fast. Ironically, I tried to start my old F-150 today for the first time in 5 months, in hopes to use it to help a friend move this weekend, and of course, it doesn’t start at all. In fact, it makes absolutely no sound whatsoever when you turn the ignition key. Attempts at jump-starting it with my Passat proved fruitless. It will have to be towed to my mechanic (who is of course named “Joe”) in the morning to try and resuscitate it back to life. Trucks are not easy to push — I learned this today. Who knew: you can really feel that extra 1,000-lbs of material.

The dead, black truck sitting in front of my house that can’t be moved, is a fitting metaphor for this paper that is going no-where (if you’ll allow me to return to it). I’ve since proceeded to Edgar Allen Poe’s choice remedy to lubricate the fused, stalled, an unresponsive neurons/dendrite connections in my brain. I must admit, it is helping — I think. Or, at least it’s making “other” writing easier.

Well, it was … I suddenly have nothing further to say.

The CFP List: www.cfplist.com

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As a professional in literature, you are constantly on the prowl to present at conferences. So, as you can imagine, grad students are strongly encouraged to attend and submit papers to conferences whenever possible. “Real” conferences, to me, are super intimidating still. I can’t help but have nightmares that someone is going to ask me a question that I can’t answer. Or worse, a question to which I can’t even figure out the question.

Lately I’ve been scouring the web for friendly graduate student conferences which I think I may be able to handle. Unfortunately, there are very few sites that have a nice rich repository of CFPs (Call for Papers). Sorry, “CFPs”, the acronym I had to learn lately, is basically a beacon call for academics to submit a proposal to present. So a fellow English Grad student and I created our own CFP database called cfplist.com. The goal is to warehouse all CFPs floating out there. Well, we’ll see if it takes off!

Make sure to check it out: http://www.cfplist.com

IIS7 and non-www prefix on domain

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Be warned, this is a somewhat technical post. It took me a while today to figure why my webserver running IIS7 was not loading up my website whenever the “www” prefix was not included. So for instance, “ariyam.com” was sending out a 404 error, while “www.ariyam.com” was working correctly. After spending a lot of time Googling my way to a solution I actually ended up in a dead-end and had to figure this out on my own. Others had suggested adding “redirect” rules, but that didn’t seem to work for me. Turns out the problem is incredibly easy to fix on IIS7. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Firstly, open up a command prompt and make sure “www.domain.com” and “domain.com” are pointing to the same IP. You can either run “ping www.domain.com” or use “nslookup www.domain.com” to do this. If the IPs don’t match, you have a DNS issue which you need to resolve first (don’t ask me how).
  2. Assuming the IPs match for the non-www domain and the regular domain, you can then proceed to your web server and launch the IIS7 management (inetmgr).
  3. The issue is something called “binding”. All you have to do as add another “binding” entry on IIS for your website. It takes about 10 seconds. Once you have IIS7 open, click on your website and click the Binding link on the right, click add, then put in the domain name minus the “www” prefix. See the screen shots below.
  4. And that’s it!

(Un)Comfortable Reading Positions or “Norton Neck-Cramps”

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There’s a common problem plaguing english grad students — in fact, it may have spread to all students generally. It is a problem oft dismissed as irrelevant; never talked about; never addressed, and students suffer alone when confronting it. I of course refer to this:

The 3,000 page neck-aching Norton Anthologies: textbooks that work your mind as well as your forearms. Pictured here is my Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Just look at it! It laughs at your futile attempts to read it comfortably. The first 500 pages or so are by far the worst of the experience — the book constantly shutting from the stress on its binding. Sometimes I look forward to mid-semester only because the book balances better on a table. Word of caution: do not attempt to read this book in bed, unless you have two spotters (very few people do). If you read it in a chair with your lap (which sounds reasonable) you will find your eyes cannot make out the micro-print typeface. The book must be 10-12 inches from the eyes, and the only way to accomplish this is on a flat table, with your neck precariously hinged, taking frequent breaks to relieve the stressors on said neck.

Fortunately, that has all changed. I’ve finally discovered a more comfortable way to read this book! I never thought I’d see this day, but alas: Behold, the book holder!

This ingenious device props books upright allowing it to be read easily at eye-level, relieving neck stress, minimizing head movements, and overall providing a more comfortable and healthy reading posture for uber-large textbooks.

In my mind, this is a revolutionary find (though, apparently a hushed secret among law students who have known about it for years: damn lawyers and their secret clubs!). I bought mine from Amazon for about 8$ and love it. It has already dramatically improved my reading experience, and as result, no doubt will seep into better grades. Simply search for “book holder” on Amazon and always remember who showed you the way 😉


Melodie Professional Edition

Melodie ProOnce upon a time, churches used overhead projectors to display song lyrics on screen for people to follow. This was not bad for its time, but it did require a lot of work on the operator. It was tedious (and stressful) to search for songs fast under pressure; one needed nimble fingers to jump to different stanzas quickly, and strange cardboard-contraptions to obscure certain lines. And apart from rolling back the projector and re-focusing, adjusting the size and resolution or the background was difficult if not impossible. But thankfully, in this era such contraptions are a thing of the past.

After many long months of programming, I’m happy to introduce our latest software creation: Melodie. With Melodie, you can store your entire library of songs on a computer, and then quickly retrieve them, and have lyrics scroll down at a certain pace, and/or quickly queue up the next song or stanza at the direction of a song leader. The idea is distraction-free worship.

But if you need to add a little color or make a more dynamic song/bible presentation (for a youth choir, or Sunday School graduation for example) you can still do that with Melodie!

With the new Professional Edition of Melodie you can set dynamic backgrounds (picture clouds moving) via videos. The text, fonts, margins etc. are all customizable. In fact, Melodie Professional has a whole suite of neat features, such as:

  • Dual-Screen Output
  • Direct X-based text scrolling for enhanced smoothness and control
  • Jump quickly to individual song lines as well as stanzas
  • Supports wide screen output aspect ratios
  • Easy to use (cliché-sounding, but it really is easy)
  • Bulk import your song data from a spreadsheet
  • Songs can be “tagged” by keywords to aid in searching.
  • Video loop and gradient background options
  • Advanced full-text song searching algorithm
  • Quick Bible passage look-ups (comes with the KJV and ASV bible)
  • Shortcut / Function keys make operation a cinch
  • Melodie keeps itself up-to-date automatically

Check out The Melodie Professional Edition website to download and learn more!

Mission Window Seat

It’s getting colder out, so I’ve hustled to finish my final woodworking project for the year. I put the last coat of poly last night. It’s called: The Mission Window Seat. It’s made entirely of Red Oak (my first time working with oak).