Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dreamer vs Visionary

While I was writing a love email to my wife this morning, I got some topic to write.

I always love to talk about future dream. I like to imagine. I like to aim the target. I love the challenge. Speaking about future dream, actually there are two types of people based on how they react to their dream. First is a dreamer. Obvious. The second one the most important is a visionary. Similar but not same (remember the clause in bahasa: serupa tapi tak sama :p).

A dreamer is a person who just live in his dream. His mind flying here and there like a junkies. He have many things to achieve in his list. Hist mind full of imagination about how is when the dream come true. But this type of person is lack of effort. Most of time, his dream is just a dream. Like a cloud in the sky. Visible but not tangible. Dreamer is a person who look forward but just looking without moving. Who just aim but never shot and the target fly away.

The second type is the best. Visionary is a person who look forward and start to move immediately. He have list of things to do and just do it. Visionary is never wait the perfect moment, he fetch the moment. When he want something he will start then talk. Not talking too much but never start. Aim accurately and shot. He dedicated more effort and any effort to achieve his dream.

By the way, this distinction is based my own analysis, so most likely you will not find elsewhere. This concept also most likely will be not too valid :). By the way again, I share this concept just to make sure to be not too often to be a dreamer but move on more to be a visionary.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sentimental Rain

I don't have interest yet to meteorology or climatology. But climate (one of theme researched in those mentioned sciences), is always affecting our daily life. One informal signal of season change in tropical country Indonesia can be derived by it's naming. When the naming of the month is end with "ber" like September, October and November, rain season has come.

Rain often brings sentimental feeling. Asphalt is wet, the air is humid and the temperature is cold. Singapore has been poured by rain again almost everyday since last week. But at least in here there will be not too much negative side effect of rain. As far as now, there is no flood or even puddle and without any significant reason usually no traffic jam.

Sometime my memory is thrown back to previous one year in my life. That was when I was still in Jakarta. When I was working, rush hour comes to office and going home from office will be literally rush and hectic. In normal condition, all the vehicle will be stuck in that rush hour. For the driver it will stressful. For the public transport passenger, it will be boring time to home. The situation will be worst when the rain come. Even for very short rain, congestion will be increased significantly. Travel time can be doubled. When I was in university, I remember a moment when some of my friend spent 5 hours to home, because of the rush hour after rain.

Without elaborating too much, on of the main reason of the traffic congestion is overload road capacity. When rain come the congestion become so significant higher because there will be a lot of bottleneck happen on the road. First bottleneck is careless motorist who take shelter in the middle of the road (usually below flyover or bridge) and disturb traffic flow. Second, because vehicle have to queue for passing some small to large puddle.

But that was a memory. Rain or not rain in Singapore the road traffic will be usually same. I just often enjoy sentimental moment in the bus ride to home. Rain is sweet and scary. Sweet because the cold that it brings can make us calm and scary because heavy rain usually brings black cloud with a lot of thunder. In Singapore we just need to wait for the last month with "ber" ending passed to leave this sentimental season. Hopefully can meet another rain season in next year.

Nine Algorithms that Changed The Future

I just finish read John MacCormick book, Nine Algorithms that Changed The Future some days ago. This book describe about algorithm in popular way. The selected algorithms are high level algorithm and not explaining basic algorithm like sorting, data structure and graph. For whom prefer the second  with complicated theoretical explanation can refer to Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen one of the best book about algorithm.

Let's start from the basic. What is algorithm? Formal definition can be found in text book and maybe will cited in wikipedia. For me algorithm can be explained as follow:

Algorithm = Recipes

Recipe is step by step definition to cook food. Same with algorithm, step by step definition to solve problems. But different with recipe which usually executed by human being, algorithm is executed by computer. Recipe can be written in free way and most of time can be understand by executor without to much problem. In the other side algorithm have to be precise in definition without any ambiguity so computer can executed that correctly. Later probably I want to write in more detail with popular way some post about fundamental algorithm.

In the mean time let's going back again to the discussion about the book. This book list following high level algorithm:

  1. Search Engine Indexing
  2. PageRank
  3. Public Key Cryptography
  4. Error-Correcting Codes
  5. Pattern Recognition
  6. Data Compression
  7. Databases
  8. Digital Signature
  9. Computability
The content of the book is delivered with very easy to understand way. I skip reading number one and two because I have read many books about google and Apache Lucene with more and less already explaining basic thing about search engine indexing and PageRank. Public Key Cryptography is an awesome chapter. It describe about Public Key Cryptography using very good analogy. Error-Correcting Codes and Pattern recognition raise my interest again to artificial intelligence  Data compression is delivered with detail description. I skip chapter database and continue to Digital Signature. Digital signature have some similarity with Public Key Cryptography. Digital Signature is one of chapter that took my interest a lot. Digital Signature is a method about how we can sign something and make sure our signature will be not tampered by someone. Last part actually not discussing any specific algorithm but more elaborating a question about is it any thing that can be computed by computer? 

The book is so concise and can be finished reading around 3 hours cumulative reading. Very recommended. Another expectation, I plan to write something relate to Cryptography and Digital Signature.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Power of Impulse Control

In Emotional Intelegence, one famous book of Daniel Goleman, has emphasized the importance of delayed gratification. This concept is introduced through Marshmallow Experiment conducted by Walter Mischel at Standford University. In that experiment, some children is offered a marshmallow. If the kid can resist not to eat that immediately and wait another 15 minutes he can get one more marshmallow. But for the kid who cannot resist temptation and eat the first marsmallow before 15 minutes then he cannot get second marsmallow.

Some years later, researcher follows progress of the children at adolescence time. Researcher sees "the delayers" -- the child who can wait is somehow more successful rather than "the grabber" -- the child who took gratification directly. The delayers have more impulse control than the grabbers.

Impulse control is an important component of Emotional Intelegence. Impulse control is so easy in concept but need strong commitment in practice. Impulse control is element that distunguish between success people and not too success. Also distinguish honest authority vs corupt authority. Corruption is one habit which a person cannot stand against immediate gratification.

The common sample of impulse control can be found in morning wake up. When we don't have anything to do e.g. In weekend we usually will add sleep time more than necesary even though maybe we also not totally sleep but just lying lazy on the bed. We enjoy to take more sleep rather than wake up directly to do more useful things. In other day when we have an important things todo like going to work or school in the morning we can wake up easier or at least we can push ourself to wake up from the bed. From this sample we can conclude that brain actually have full capacity in controlling how we react again immediate gratification. We just need to train ourself harder to stand against immediate gratification. You can read how we can train ourself in The Power of Practice post.

Hopefully next time when someone offers a marshamallow we can little bit patient and wait hopefully he will give another marshmallow. ;)

Image from: http://ellybeanstalks.blogspot.sg/2012/06/delayed-gratification.html

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Power of Rejection

A few days a go I receive a letter from Germany. My first rejection letter. Few months back I was applying to one master program in TU Ilmenau Germany. The program is so interesting. Research in Computer and System Engineering. Actually I will do anything (in positive way) to be accepted in that program. But unfortunately I was rejected this time. The announcement first come through email. The detail of rejection is coming by post few days back. I am not sure whether I will have another chance if reapply again. But I learn some important things from this experience.

First, rejection is bit. Second, rejection is sweet. The first reason is so tangible. Everyone doesn't like rejection at first moment, for any reason. But somehow, rejection at the moment later will give some useful advantage. New enthusiasm to be not rejected anymore. There three steps that I have identified to react to rejection.

  • Accept
  • Evaluate
  • Retry

The first one is most difficult. Every time I got a rejection, I will lose my mood for couple of days. It has been proven by several time fail in scholarship application. I feel so hate to myself which is not competitive enough to be admitted  The feeling will become worst if not handled properly. The best way to handle it is by accepting the rejection. Sometime when we were rejected is not only because we are not competitive enough. But probably there are some required criteria that is not matched with our profile. This the thing that I learnt form the letter that I receive. My score is not enough to be accepted in Research in Computer and System Engineering mostly because my previous degree is not too similar.

After accepting rejection next is to evaluate. Why is we were rejected? Then do evaluation and prepare strategy adjustment or improvement. Don't be insane! Albert Einstein said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result. Adjustment will avoid us to be a donkey that trapped to the same hole. For every evaluation we have done, we will learn enormous experiences.

The last step is retry. With proper evaluation and strategy enhancement we should get different result. In case applying scholarship for example, we supposed to have better application and more prepare for any selection process like interview. We will also more prepared to be rejected again. But whose know if the next time we retry maybe we will success.

The Power of Practice

Yesterday, almost all major newspaper around the world put headline about record breaking being done by Felix Baumgartner by his jump from height about 39 Km. 39 Km more or less is Singapore distance from west to east. With speed driving we will spent about 45 minutes from end to end. But in Baumgartner's case the distance is vertical from top to bottom. He took only about 10 minutes and drop with supersonic speed. He became the first man who break speed of sound without riding any vehicle. One important lesson we can gain from this achievement.

The supersonic man doesn't got this skill in one night. He was quite famous by doing many jump from many high building. Several famous places that he have been visited are Petronas Tower and Taipei 101. Its mean he must be have train so hard. In this post I want to bring a discussion about the power of practice.

Gladwell mention about 10.000 hours rule in his seminal book Outliers. He said it will need about 10.000 hours learning and training to be an expert in one field. Then he give several example of success people like Bill Joy the founder of Sun Microsystem and Bill Gates founder of Microsoft who most likely have spent their 10.000 hours to enhance their particular skill. Similar case with Baumgartner and must be similar to us as well.

Life is iteration of learning. Who want to make progress in life supposed to be never stop to learn. Learn cycle is quite simple in my opinion.

  • Read
  • Repeat
  • Retrieve. 

Please notice this is ordinary blog post that doesn't refer to any formal reference. But I hope the explanation could be quite logical. Read doesn't need to be literally reading text. Reading book or any text media could be the main resource of learning. But other form of "reading" like scrutinize carefully, see a beautiful nature and thinking deeply can be considered as a form of reading. As a Muslim, the first verse revealed is Iqra which mean Read. Read is the first moment when human brain exposed by information.

Brain is working like muscle. The more it used, it will be more stronger. That also the case of brain. The more it trained, the more it sharp will be. Read will not guarantee information will be persisted strongly in mind. The next important phase of learning is repeat. Repeat is the form of training for the brain. This is the most significant phase because this determine whether information and understanding can be saved permanently or at least in long term. Form of repeat in learning could be continuous reading, study test in shool or college, writing, sharing, etc. Any activity that involve using the information that have gained before can be considered as a form of repeat or practice.

The last want is retrieve. This is the part of we actually taking advantage of what we have learn. Back to Baumgartner case this is the moment when he finally jump from his Zenith capsule after several years of read and repeat. The success of learning can be asses by how easy information being retrieved and used. For example in learning language the successful learner should be have a capability to use his knowledge of language in communicating. In basic level he has been adapted to retrieve knowledge about that particular language and use it in communication easily.

At the conclusion  human ability is almost unlimited. Human can learn almost everything. Human just need to practice and repeat a lot. Then anyone maybe could be like Felix Baumgartner after enough read and repeat.

Preparing GRE

Today I just bought another book. On my lunch break time, I went to Junction 8 mall in Bishan. After browsing for a moment, my eyes attracted to one official GRE book from ETS. No need to long time 40 SGD have to go out from my pocket. GRE which stand for Graduate Record Examinations is a standardized test to assest analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitive reasoning of a person. Even though not mandatory, this test is usually used as an admission requirement for many graduate schools. GRE will be used especially for applicant who plan to apply a course which is different with his bachelor degree. More or less is the situation that I've face right now.

Since last two years, I have applied several scholarship. Most of time I was rejected. Several time I even don't get any notice at all. Finally I arrived to a conclusion, I have to evaluate my strategy. Improve my approach before I apply scholarship or apply to graduate school again. The first thing that appear in my mind is GRE. GRE is not mandatory in most scholarship or graduate school. But providing GRE must be a significant added value.

GRE itself consists General Test and Subject Test. General test is what I have mentioned previously. Subject test is special test which will measure knowledge in particular field of study. There are eight disciplines currently available:

  • Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology

From those list, my concern beside General Test will be GRE Computer Science Subject test. Because most good graduate school in computer science most of them asking this test. General test is offered as computer based test in most place but Subject test is offered in paper based only.

GRE fee is 175 USD for General test and 150 USD for subject test. General test is available about every one month in most of places while subject test is available 3 times per year only. Personally I aims to take the test in about next 3 months. Let's begin to practice. :)