A song about Jennifer Something

This is a song written for a magazine reader who sent me a nice email. Disclaimer: I do not promise to write you a song if you send me a nice email. Read my magazine Singularity.

Here are the lyrics:

Jennifer Something [but it rhymes with “sea”]
You sent me an email, encouraging me
And my day got brighter just because of that
And the sky was bluer, right off the bat

Jennifer Something [but it rhymes with “sea”]
Your words give a boost like vitamin C
Your words crossed timezones without any lag
You support my work just reading my mag

And what’s this magazine,
With topics written on art and science?
I want to make a scene,
Creating a world more than colours and lines

Jennifer Something [but it rhymes with “sea”]
You’re an awesome person, that’s true as can be

Singularity Magazine June 2011

Singularity magazine June 2011

The June 2011 issue marks the birthday (birthmonth?) of Singularity! This is the 13th issue, and I thank you for reading the magazine. Download this month’s issue (about 7MB).

Behind the scenes

So I found a solution to my cat ride problem. I negotiated heavily with my cat, and she decided (rather imperiously, I might add) that she shall have 1 back massage per month.

“I thought I give you back massages!”
“Mmrrr.”
“Oh yeah, I haven’t done that for a while…”
*swipe claws*
“AARRRHHH! Whaddya do that for?”
“Mmrrr.”
“Ok, fine.”
*purr*

So now I have fairies as hired help, but I have to feed them and they are allowed cat rides. My cat shreds junk email and I persuaded her to give cat rides. In return, I have to give her back massages. What have I gotten myself into…

Books, Go-Karts and fake diamonds

In the May 2011 issue of Singularity, I interviewed Beverly Akerman, the author of the book The Meaning of Children. I also interviewed Ricky Springer, a 9 year old go-kart racer who suffers from Eosinophilic Colitis.

Singularity May 2011 issue:
http://polymathprogrammer.com/2011/05/01/singularity-magazine-may-2011/

Singularity magazine Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/SingularityMag/123346924410259

Facebook page of The Meaning of Children:
http://www.facebook.com/TheMeaningofChildren

Beverly Akerman’s blog:
http://beverlyakermanmscwriter.blogspot.com/

Ricky Springer’s website:
http://www.racingforacause.com/

APFED:
http://www.apfed.org/

Singularity Magazine May 2011

Singularity Magazine May 2011

In this May issue of Singularity, we have interviews with molecular-genetics-researcher-turned-author Beverly Akerman (who wrote The Meaning of Children) and 9 year old go-kart-racing Ricky Springer.

I also covered an event by professor Joe Winston on “Beauty, Education and the Well-being of Children”.

Download the May 2011 issue.

In exciting magazine news, we also have a Facebook page! Share your comments, put up links, start discussions!

Behind the scenes

The fairies I hired to help me were starting to get very fond of the cat rides, which was an important part of my contract with them. My cat, if you remember, helps me with getting rid of junk email with her tele-mechano-kinesis powers. My cat had also gotten a little tired of giving rides. She took to hiding…

Cat hiding

This, is going to be a problem…

Singularity Magazine April 2011

Singularity Magazine April 2011

For April 2011, we have our “thickest” magazine issue ever. 95 pages! Even I’m surprised…

Download the April 2011 issue of Singularity magazine (about 11MB).

I have the pleasure of interviewing Thom Chambers, a fellow magazine editor who runs the In Treehouses magazine.

You might notice that I’m sort of slowing down writing for the blog here in favour of writing for my magazine. One reason is that I find some of my ideas harder or inappropriate to write here, due to design or expression or simply the idea itself. Another reason is that I feel a greater satisfaction of having created something, compared to just a blog post. You will do well subscribing to my magazine. I will still write here, just maybe not as often. Maybe.

Behind the scenes

Visits to 2 cafes, coverage of 2 events, 1 gruesome evening at an art museum and 95 pages later, I’m tired. To say the least. March was gruelling, what with working on my small business and writing the magazine and all. I asked my fairy helpers for, well, additional help. They did this:

Double Vincent

There once was a man named Vincent
Whose work had caused him to be spent
He bathed in fairy goo
And then split into two
Thus the laws of physics were bent

Let’s not do this too often…

Interview with John D. Cook

John D. Cook

So I interviewed John D. Cook for the March issue of Singularity magazine. The most interesting answer came from the last question I asked: “Last comments?” And John said,

My graduate adviser told me that he thought there would be a lot of opportunity for someone who could combine theoretical math and computation. I believe he was right. Most of my career has been in that overlap and I’ve had the opportunity to do some interesting things.

The whole interview is in the March issue. Click on the link above to get the magazine.

Musings

Some time between my final exams and getting my first job, I’ve been afraid. “What can I do?” came up a lot. I had a double major in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science. I’m not really that good in mathematics, nor am I “qualified” to do programming. The research facilities want PhD’s and MSc’s (in maths). The software companies want graduates with a computer science degree, not a computational science degree. They don’t understand the difference, so it takes more convincing.

Ok, just to clear things up a little. You probably know what computer science is. So what’s computational science? This is the definition I recall from a professor:

We write programs to solve scientific problems

Or something like that. I wrote a program that analysed wave motions (I think). I wrote a MATLAB program to do image texture matching with Fourier Transforms. I wrote a C program to simulate computer virus behaviour.

It’s why I never learned about databases and SQL. My scientific problems and experiments hadn’t required large amounts of data. I understand that my peers in the computer science courses learnt to simulate airline ticket purchasing, and to connect to databases, and to design web interfaces.

I just typed “cc vince.c -o vince” on my Unix command line. Then “vince” to run the program. If segmentation faults didn’t assault me, then I had the output somewhere in a text file.

Luckily, I got hired a few months after graduation. A telecommunications company director interviewed me. Apparently my maths degree was an edge, because all his hires were computer science graduates. One of the departments that the director was in charge of, was the billing support department. Hey numbers! My forte! Supposedly. (No, I mean, yes, definitely my forte! [I needed to eat…]) I found out about that supposed maths edge I had some time after I was hired, when he talked with me (I think).

So John’s answer struck something deep within me. I wished I heard that when I was in university. Then I don’t have to be so afraid that I won’t be of use anywhere.

When I did my honours thesis project (I was working on computer virus behaviour simulation), my adviser suggested I become an epidemiologist. It means I help in the study of epidemics, such as virus outbreaks and stuff. I was more interested in writing code, so I declined his offer to make recommendations to the Singapore CDC (or some health organisation. It was a long time ago. I forget…). I wonder what would’ve happened had I accepted his offer…

So to the (future) mathematicians out there, learn to write code. Programming is actually quite compatible with how you think in maths.

To the (future) programmers out there, learn to broaden your knowledge and skills. (You thought I was going to say maths, didn’t you?) Software is getting more complex and simpler at the same time. That’s because the range of needs from users is getting wider. There’s software that does facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, speech recognition, image matching, and textual analysis. There’s software that does billing, accounting, profit sharing, and banking. There’s also software that just blips 140 characters to some server. There’s software that does all kinds of things that people want or need.

Your skill to write code isn’t in question. Your skill to understand the myriad scenarios and conditions for your software to work, is.

Singularity Magazine March 2011

Singularity Magazine March 2011

So in a fortnight’s time, it will be Pi Day! Are you excited? Yeah? Yes? no? Oh, you don’t care… Well, you get to eat pies… oh you love pies? Great! So look out on the Internet on March 14. Why March 14? Because the first three digits of PI (3.14159) is 3, 1 and 4. You know, 3/14 as a date?

Anyway, the March 2011 issue of Singularity magazine is available! I’d chomp right through a bushel of cookies if I had it right now. Because I’m that happy. Speaking of cookies, there’s a special report on CookieBank, a sweet way of microlending. Check it out in the magazine.

Since we have Pi Day, we can’t escape from mathematics, right? I bring you an interview with mathematician, John D. Cook. He says contrary to popular understanding, Taylor series approximations are not used to calculate trigonometric functions in computer chips. What, you didn’t know? Neither did I!

Download the March issue right now (about 3MB)

Behind the scenes

So the fairies I hired last month are really good. They helped me track down nice pictures to use in the magazine, small bits of info here and there, do some design stuff. All they ask for is that I feed them, which is ok, since they eat very little. And that I let them take rides on my cat (assistant). My cat graciously obliged (after I begged her imperial Majesty for a few days. I really needed the fairies to help).

There was one small tiny bit of a commotion. An incident really. The fairies were exploring the house, and they settled near my cat’s food bowls. They picked a couple of pieces of dry cat food out.

KABLOOEEE!!

My cat pounced onto the fairies. Luckily, no fairy was hurt (they fly and flee fast, I’ll give them that). Otherwise I’d have to answer to the Magical Minist… what? Oh, I’m not supposed to tell them. Uh, forget what I said.

So. My cat’s fine with the feline rides. But touch her food bowls and you die. Period.

Interview with Karol Gajda (and other stuff)

Karol Gajda

So a few weeks ago, I managed to interview Karol Gajda, a Polish traveller, minimalist, online entrepreneur, guitarist and vegan. We talked about freedom, diet, challenges and fear.

They are all fighting for you to be normal. – Karol Gajda

Read the entire interview in the February issue of Singularity magazine.

The other stuff part

So while I was doing research on Karol for the interview, I read about his views on vegetarianism. In particular, on what he means when he says he’s a vegan. Now there are actually “levels” of vegetarianism. My friend called it the Vegetarian Continuum, which I wrote about in the August 2010 issue.

There’s the normal meat eaters. Then the Pescetarians, whose meat only comes from seafood, mainly fish. Then there are the “ovo” and “lacto” combinations, where you consume eggs and/or milk. Then comes the vegans, where you don’t consume meat at all (eggs and milk count as “meat”), or even have animal products in your lifestyle. Then we have the Buddhist vegetarians, where certain plant types are also excluded (the allium family, such as onions and garlic). And then we have the fruitarians, where your diet consists only of fruits, nuts and seeds.

Do you know about Buddhist monks seeking alms? Did you know they are not supposed to refuse any food placed in their alms bowls? Did you also know they cannot throw away food placed in their alms bowls? And finally, did you also know that if meat is placed in their bowls, they have to eat it?

Karol follows the spirit of vegetarianism, that of not killing another animal (or life). As do Buddhist monks. Here’s the thing. As a vegan, Karol doesn’t eat meat. BUT, if despite instructions or precautions or whatever, he ends up having animal products in his food, he will still eat it. For example, if he explicitly said to remove all cheese, but when the food arrived, it still contained cheese, he would still eat it.

Because if he didn’t eat it, it would be a disservice to the animal which died so it could be on his plate. If he refused to eat the incorrectly prepared food, most likely it would be thrown away. The animal was already dead. Throwing the food away meant that the animal died for nothing. Think about that the next time you waste food.

Obesity, overeating and possibly its cure

So here’s just a small idea I have about obesity (or at least the preventable behavioural type). In these modern times, when we no longer have to hunt for food, where food have become plentiful, we start to waste it. We continue to eat because there’s still more food, and not stop when we’re done and full. Economics then take over. More demand meant more supply needed. Which fed (no pun intended) back to growing demand. Which is why we now have Trenta sized Starbucks coffee.

The message seemed to be, it’s ok to have supersized food portions. The worse message is that, it’s ok if we can’t finish it. There’s still more food!

I don’t think it works the same way when Chris Anderson said it’s ok when we start wasting bits.

This is the power of waste. When scarce resources become abundant, smart people treat them differently, exploiting them rather than conserving them. It feels wrong, but done right it can change the world.

Here’s something else to think about. I can’t remember where I read it, but according to scientific studies, the more you eat, the shorter your lifespan. This is because your body is breaking down faster at the cellular level. When you eat, your body breaks down the food into useful materials and turns it into energy. That process wears down your cells. The more it does that, the more wear and tear your cells take.

Eat moderately. Don’t waste food. Don’t overeat, but don’t starve either.

Eat enough to live, then go do something awesome with your life. Then come back here and tell me about it.