Boys will be boys

I’ve recently started and finished reading the book “Boys will be boys” (2020/04/25) by Clementine Ford. I was originally asked to read this book by my girlfriend, who’s a fan of Clementine. Before starting to read this work, I had only a singular introduction to Clementine. I had seen a rant through an Instagram story. The rant consisted of a monologue of how terrible the men posting in the comment sections of her various social media platforms. While watching, all I could think of was that I’ve found an entertainer who does a good job delivering her product of choice, (out)rage at the world around them. All I could think of was the similarities with Glenn Beck. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of that kind of presentation/personna. Because of this, I was a little reluctant to read the book. But, I promised to keep an open mind and read the book anyways. So I bought it and started reading the next day.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book except for a couple of the last chapters. I think it’s fair to say that I’m familiar with feminism but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that would be classified as feminist literature purely for pleasure before. Academically, I’ve read a few texts on the subject during my highschool and university education. I’ve also read a smattering of peer reviewed papers on the topic when relating to particular and specific injustices (ex: wage inequality, impact on GDP, unpaid labour, etc.). So the ideas and arguments presented in the book aren’t particularly new to me. However, I was caught off guard by some of the sexism examples that are apparently very relevant in Australia that as far as I’m aware are not as systemic or extreme of an issue in Quebec – or at the very least, not in the socio-economic sphere that I’ve lived. This might just illustrate that I’ve lived a sheltered life.

So while I enjoyed reading the book in general, I was personally not a fan of a particular chapter that involved simply calling people out for their sexist and sometimes violent actions. The issue I had was that I had never even heard of 95% of the people being called out and without that background, I think a lot of the message was lost.

Having said all this, I would recommend the book but with one observation that I’d like to present. I had the impression that the book was written by two people. The first voice, a passionate semi-academic which was trying to honestly and critically comment on society and promote improvements for society as a whole for both men and women by fighting an insidious inequality propagated by both men and women. This voice also throws in the occasional joke but makes it clear that they’re very aware of themselves and reality around them. The second, a voice who wanted to spit on all men because they are to blame for the current world order. That second voice rubbed me the wrong way on occasion, particularly at the beginning of the book.

I can understand that second writer, and can agree that all men that aren’t part of the solution are part of the problem and it’s arguable that there are very few if any men that are part of the solution. At the same time, it’s clearly apparent that there are far too many women who aren’t on board with (or are against) feminism. And one possible way to get women on board is to give them a clear enemy (all men) and advance the us versus them mentality.

I recommend the book, but as a man reading the book can be a little off putting. I think this is because of the gnawing incongruity I felt while reading the book. Referring back to my feeling of two authors, the first author illustrates how both men and women are oppressed. That men are smothered emotionally while women are undervalued in multiple ways. Both are taught from an early age the world order and expected to propagate it. We need to fight this and introduce changes at a societal and regulatory level to ensure that a change is made. Then the second author comes along and says, fuck men and they’re all terrible.

Those spouts of anger, directed at a group that I’m a part of, make it a little harder to read. Particularly because the first voice makes it clear that the writer is capable of the nuance required to separate a group into sub-categories and target them for particular transgressions. When I then read that “men are terrible” with no qualifier by the second voice, it hits a little closer to home because I can no longer imagine that this is just an overgeneralization because this is all being written by the same author. Interestingly, after about the halfway point of the book, I no longer had the same discomfort or it was significantly reduced. I’m interested in knowing if something changed in the writing or if I simply got a little less sensitive.

This was a new experience for me and as I’ve said sometimes a little difficult to get through, but I think there’s value in reading and thinking about things that might rub you the wrong way. So overall, I would recommend this book to pretty much anybody. It covers a very interesting and pertinent topic, and is written by an author with a sense of humour who knows the subject well.

Deep Working by Cal Newport

I just recently started reading (2020/04/23) the book “Deep Learning” by Cal Newport. I picked it up on my e-reader based on a recommendation while reading a random blog. The entirety of the book centers on the premise that concentrating on a topic for long periods of time without distraction (thinking or working deeply) provides more value to the individual (and potentially to an employer) than working with diffuse attention (working shallowly). The exact definitions used in the book is at follows:

Deep Work: “Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Shallow Work: “Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”

The book is geared towards “knowledge workers”, where this kind of argument inherently rings true. If a worker is being paid and valued for working with their mind, it would be expected that it would be preferable for them to work more intensely with their minds.

While I was familiar with nearly all the concepts and arguments presented in the book, it was a fairly enjoyable read for two reasons. First, it’s been a while since I read a self-help book and second I liked the structure. The structure of the book is essentially that of an argument as to why “deep work” is beneficial – which you may or may not agree with – followed by a more practical guide as to what you could/should do to optimize the pursuit of deep work.

In many respects, I believe I followed most of the recommendations before reading the book but there’s always room for improvement. Funny enough, I think the act of reading an entire book on this subject is a little bit of a cruch for people who haven’t thought about this topic before. And I’m certain most people after reading this book won’t act on the recommendations or actively think about the subjects presented.

The only real critic to the book I had was that near the beginning I felt like the opinions were a little more researched and included references to a few studies as backup while towards the end of the book I got the impression that the author simply got lazy and started making suggestions with a sample size of one (himself or one other professor or famous example).

An Update

I know, I know, it’s been a while since my last blog post. I have a multitude of excuses I could use to justify myself. However, since this is my blog and I’ve no obligation to write posts, I’ll keep those to myself for the time being and maybe write a post on the topic in the coming months.

I was decidedly bored last week and was meandering on the internet looking for something to occupy my time. At first, I was looking for a replacement or alternative for my Garmin Vivosmart watch which is in the middle of dying. The band is falling apart and a replacement band or watch costs more than I think it’s worth. It does, however, have some useful features:

  • It’s a watch; it’s main use
  • It’s connected to my phone; it allows me some distance from my phone
  • It monitors my steps, heart rate, and motion (sleep monitor); interesting health data

Unfortunately, it does all these tasks poorly. A watch with a 5-7 day battery life isn’t great. The fact that the usable parts (strap) can’t be easily replaced is a huge downside. Being connected to my phone is great, but unfortunately the phone application that it comes with is of poor quality. And finally, the health data is maybe a little questionable – but I’ll let that slide as that’s fairly systemic.

So I gave all of this a little thought, and considered what I’d like in an ideal world and what can be accomplished realistically. I would still like a watch. So I’m going to buy a solid watch without any bells and whistles. I like knowing the time and I like having something simple that requires minimal maintenance. Just a solid watch that does it’s job well. I don’t really need an additional connection to my phone. I’m just going to play around with my phone settings until I find a nice compromise where I’m notified when there’s something important. Finally, I’d still like to have some health data since I find it pretty interesting.

I started looking at what’s available in terms of inconspicuous sensors. And the best thing I could find was a ring. The first product I found is called the Oura ring ( It does almost everything i would like. Unfortunately, it’s a fair bit outside of what I would consider paying. It’s effectively a small ring with all the sensors you might want that lasts a week and can be charged wirelessly. It has sufficient memory to store data for over a month and uploads and connects to your phone via bluetooth to offload when it can. For the time being, I’ll keep an eye on other smart rings and maybe pull the trigger once the prices come down a little and once the technology matures.

And I’ve already failed.

Well that was quick. It’s been a little over a month, albeit a relatively busy month, and I’ve already managed to fail my self imposed 3 month ban on television. During that month period I did the occasional cheat of catching a few snips of television  while other people were watching (not watching but didn’t leave the room) but I was fairly disciplined. Last night, however, I had nothing to do and decided to binge watch the first four episodes of “Would I lie to you?”.

I highly recommend the show – and I’m itching to continue watching it as I haven’t had such a high frequency of laughs while watching television in a while. I wasn’t particularly successful with my abstaining from viewing television but I’m going to steel myself and forge on (not bad but unintended metallurgy wordplay).


What’s Important?

Yesterday night I had one of those brief moments of existential thought. I’ll admit I had just consumed a very alcoholic beverage which may have helped me get there. Anyways, the thought that occurred to me was that I spend a lot of time doing things that truly don’t matter to me. I was having a really good evening and was wondering why I didn’t get that feeling more often. That thought lead to the two following questions:

What am I doing that I think is a waste of time?

Well that’s an easy one. I currently spend far too much time watching media – mainly Netflix. When I think about my day there are a few exciting bits that pop out and some satisfaction from a job well done. I have never thought back on my day and thought, boy am I glad I watched those three episodes (usually more) of whatever Netflix recommended I watch.

The problem isn’t really Netflix/TV/whatever but the frame of mind I’m in while consuming certain types of media. The fact that it’s completely passive is the part that kills me. The idea that I want to sit there at the end of the day and just be a vegetable makes me hate myself a little. Visual media is a great thing (a picture being worth a thousand words and all that), but like most things only in moderation. So on that note, I’ve decided that I am going to avoid watching television of any kind for the next 3 months. I’m going to try to go cold turkey since if I try to set up arbitrary guidelines I’m certain I’ll cheat. The one exception I may make is that it’s possible I go to a movie or two, a relatively small concession time-wise.

I haven’t been able to find any solid statistics but based on various news sources – they don’t seem to provide very specific information on how their data was collected – suggest that the average Westerner watched around 3.5-4 hours of television per day in 2017. That seems like a lot at first glance, but when I think about my average day it doesn’t seem to be too far from reality.  Assuming I’m able to free up 3.5 to 4 hours of my time up per day, that leads us to the second and arguably more important question.

What should I be doing that I wouldn’t think is a waste of time?

There’s a few things I “should” be doing. Like eating better and going to the gym. And if I’m being completely honest, there’s really no excuse for not going to the gym (or doing some kind of physical activity) for 30 – 60 minutes per day. So lets be optimistic and say that I’m going to spend 60 minutes at the gym per day that leaves me around 2.5 hours.

I’ve just recently moved to Germany (approximately 6 months ago) and I’ve been fairly inconsistent with my German lessons. This can be partially blamed on my work, I’ve traveled quite a bit which effectively disallows for consistent courses. However, I’m also partially to blame in that I could easily put at least another 1 to 2 hours per night into my German with self-study. Starting next week, I’ll be starting a course that takes place twice a week. The remaining days of the week I’ll have to force myself to study.

Finally, I’ll be trying to bring this site back from the dead – and putting up content on a semi-regular basis. While writing on a blog that nobody reads is probably a waste of time, I find it a little therapeutic and at a bare minimum it’s some creative writing. Since finishing my Master’s degree at the end of 2014 the amount of structured writing I’ve done has been fairly minimal and it’s definitely something I could work on.

Until next time – hopefully soon,


Short Obsession with Memory

During the last few months I’ve had a short obsession with memory. I can’t remember exactly what started me on this obsession (irony) but it lead me to reading “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer. Joshua Foer is a journalist who, by chance, covered a story on competitive memorization. It follows his journey to becoming the 2006 U.S.A Memory Champion a year later.

I highly recommend this book. It does not discuss in great detail the memory techniques used but I found it to be very informative, engaging, and easy to read.

It ignited my curiosity in the subject and convinced me to read a slightly more technical work called “Your Memory: How it works and How to Improve it” by Kenneth L. Higbee Ph.D. This book delves more deeply into how memory works (what is known, what isn’t, the tried and tested methods, history, etc.). It is definitely still meant for a layman but focuses more on the topic of techniques.

The way I think of memory has changed after reading these books. I used to think (in retrospect I did not think particularly hard) of memory as just a blob. My senses pick up information and my mind should just realize what’s going on and store absolutely everything. And when I try to remember something (and fail) it’s my mind that’s failing me.

In reality, I should have thought of my mind as a bunch Wikipedia articles. I’ve got a bunch of contributors (my vision, audio, etc.) who can write articles very quickly. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to make links between articles particularly well. Sure every once in a while they’ll put something in but most of the time it requires active attention. The biggest problem is that people don’t have an efficient search function. What they do have is the ability to jump quickly between already linked articles.

Growing up, everyone forms a list of topics that are very well linked together. These are the things that are ingrained and form the cornerstone of your memory. These are things that are meaningful either because you were actually interested or because it’s been forced to be meaningful through schooling or experience. The best way to remember something new is to find a way of making sure that new information can be linked to as many of those old articles as possible (making something meaningful). This is a possible explanation as to why people tend to specialize in something. They have an interest, and it is easier to expand on that interest than it is to start something new since it takes active effort to make these new connections.

There are many ways to make something meaningful. Just spending a lot of time will add meaning to something. Repeating something might convince your mind that it’s meaningful. Combining multiples senses can help.

There are however some clever little tricks that can be used to improve your memory. Spatial memory (visual memory for places) is particularly efficient. If you try to visualize a place you walked through, you could probably do it pretty easily. This probably has some evolutionary background relating to not getting lost. The method of loci (or memory palace) centers on the fact that you’ve memorize a place and can imagine yourself walking through it. Continuing my analogy, this is a wikipedia page that you know exists and can call up at will. Now if you want to memorize something like a list you simply need to come up with a way of conjuring those items along the path you’re walking (creating links in your wikipedia page). The fact that you’ve got a path provides a first link which makes things easier to remember.  Instead of thinking directly about an item, you’re thinking of the path and can hopefully remember that item you’ve conjured on that path.

In summation, it all comes down to how meaningful you can make the information you are trying to remember and create as many links/hooks as possible. Sure you can trick your mind into giving meaning to something that wouldn’t normally have much meaning to you but it takes more effort. By practicing memory skills you could reduce the effort involved. But just like everything, there’s always going to be some effort and people tend to be lazy.

I don’t think my memory has improved from reading either of these books – I haven’t been willing to put the effort involved in using the techniques described. I may not remember the titles of these books in a years time but I’ll definitely remember large chunks of the content and at least apply the basic principles when it comes to simply learning new information.

Reading “Tools of Titans”

I’m currently reading the book “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Tim Ferriss. The book is a distilled account of some of the interviews that Tim Ferriss has performed on his podcast.  He has what I would consider many interesting guests (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger) and provides short quotes from the longer interviews that he performed.

Before finding this book I’d never heard of Tim Ferriss – but now I’ve listened to several of his podcasts and will probably continue in the future. The book itself is pretty poorly organized. Some “chapters” are short and provide very little information or insight while others go on for pages and provide so much information that it’s quite difficult to distill without re-reading.  But, considering the quantity of interviews performed and the length of a normal interview I appreciate the convenience of having a condensed version.

I don’t want to review the book in detail – as I think it would devolve into a summary of the quotes I found the most interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone who has not heard a significant portion of Tim Ferriss’ podcasts.

Basics of Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is a branch of physics which I believe everyone should study for at least a short period of time. It is at once so simple that intuitively most people already understand it without any formal education yet at the same time so complex that some of the nuances escape graduate students who specifically study the topic.I’m a little biased in my appreciation of thermodynamics as it was/is a relatively large part of my educational background – metallurgical modeling and chemical engineering heavily relies on thermodynamics. Because of my interest in thermodynamics, I’ve decided that I will make multiple posts explaining the basics of thermodynamics while giving examples that may (or not) interest whoever is reading this site.

So allow me to finish this post with a relatively famous quote:

“A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended its area of applicability. Therefore the deep impression that classical thermodynamics made upon me. It is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced will never be overthrown, within the framework of applicability of its basic concepts.” -Albert Einstein

Constant Volume Fans

I had a little problem at work where a process was behaving differently in the summer and in the winter. No obvious explanation was available. One thing that did change significantly in the summer and winter was the suction of the ventilation system. Unfortunately, the depression measurements in place weren’t particularly accurate, so I started to wonder what is the potential change in ventilation based on various assumptions concerning air temperature and humidity while using a constant volume fan. In the end, the difference in ventilation didn’t appear to have a significant influence – but it was something that was interesting at the time and may prove useful to consider at a later date.

So here’s the problem, consider that you have a fan that can pull a constant volume. In the summer it’s dealing with air which is at a minimum of 30 degrees centigrade. During the winter the temperature is closer to 10 degrees centigrade. Now since we’re always dealing with the same volume – all that we’re really interested in is  the difference in air density as a function of temperature and humidity.

The following is a table showing the effect of temperature and relative humidity on air density at atmospheric pressure (101325 Pa). The densities were calculated from the ideal gas law – considering a mixture of air (molar mass of 28.9645 g/mol) and water (molar mass of 18.01528 g/mol). The saturation vapour pressure of water was obtained from wikipedia – citing the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics published in 2005. I don’t have my copy of the handbook on me so I couldn’t validate that the values were correctly transcribed.

We can now perform a quick calculation depending on relative humidity. If we consider the simple case of 90 percent humidity – we have a 8.16% increase in density (a relatively significant change in volume is pulled) between 30 and 10 degrees centigrade.

Temperature Humidity
K C 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
273 0 1.29 1.29 1.29 1.29 1.29 1.29 1.29 1.29 1.29 1.29 0.80
283 10 1.25 1.25 1.25 1.24 1.24 1.24 1.24 1.24 1.24 1.24 0.78
293 20 1.20 1.20 1.20 1.20 1.20 1.20 1.20 1.20 1.20 1.19 0.75
303 30 1.16 1.16 1.16 1.16 1.16 1.16 1.15 1.15 1.15 1.15 0.72
313 40 1.13 1.12 1.12 1.12 1.11 1.11 1.11 1.11 1.10 1.10 0.70
323 50 1.09 1.09 1.08 1.08 1.07 1.07 1.06 1.06 1.05 1.05 0.68
333 60 1.06 1.05 1.04 1.04 1.03 1.02 1.01 1.00 1.00 0.99 0.66
343 70 1.03 1.02 1.00 0.99 0.98 0.97 0.96 0.94 0.93 0.92 0.64
353 80 1.00 0.98 0.96 0.95 0.93 0.91 0.89 0.88 0.86 0.84 0.62
363 90 0.97 0.95 0.92 0.90 0.87 0.84 0.82 0.79 0.77 0.74 0.60
373 100 0.95 0.91 0.87 0.84 0.80 0.77 0.73 0.70 0.66 0.62 0.59

Trying to be more consistent

It’s safe to say I’ve been very inconsistent with my posting on this website. I would like to increase my frequency of posting but I’m finding it difficult to find appropriate subjects to discuss. To alleviate a little bit of the tension involved in generating both ideas and content at the same time I am going to give myself a week to come up with an idea and then a week to generate the appropriate post.

Since I’ve already given myself more than enough time to come up with a topic – my next post is going to be a little discussion and information relating to ventilation systems. Namely, the problems that can potentially occur when using a fix speed fan in a ventilation system.

Hopefully, next week I’ll be posting a shiny new post on this topic that probably doesn’t interest anybody else but made me sit down and think for a few minutes.