Showing posts from February, 2020

MacBook Pro 16: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Late December 2019, I replaced my 2015 model MacBook Pro 13 inch laptop with a 2019 model MacBook Pro 16 inch laptop. The MBP16 laptop provided a long awaited fix to the keyboard Apple broke in 2016. I needed a laptop after 5 years, so I thought this was a good time to hop back on board. After two months of using it, I am only partially happy with my choice. Let me explain the good, the bad, and the ugly parts. Good Big screen: In terms of screen real estate the MBP16 is a big upgrade over my old MBP13. This was very similar to going to a big-screen iPhone: initially the big screen iPhone feels outrageously huge at your hand, but after a week, you look at your old small-screen iPhone surprised how you were able to use that stupidly tiny child-toy. After a week of MBP16, trying to use the MBP13 felt exactly that way. Keyboard:  The keyboard is good. I didn't like the keyboard too much in the beginning because I was switching from 2015 MBP13 which had a good keyboard. But af

The art of powerful questions: catalyzing insight, innovation, and action

This is a 14 page booklet by David Isaacs Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, available online at I am fond of questioning. My 2018 resolution was to add MAD questions to each blog post. I also wrote about how to ask better questions a couple of times in this blog. + Master your questioning skills + How to ask better questions This booklet is a pretty nice addition to my collection. Below I include my highlights, with my italicized commentary in-lined. Speaking of questions and collections, you should definitely check this comic.  Highlights from the book  The usefulness of the knowledge we acquire and the effectiveness of the actions we take depend on the quality of the questions we ask . Questions open the door to dialogue and discovery. They are an invitation to creativity and breakthrough thinking. “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spen

Book review. Tiny Habits (2020)

I had mentioned about the Tiny Habits technique by BJ Fogg back in 2014. And now Dr. Fogg wrote an entire book on Tiny Habits. He also provides resources for the Tiny Habits technique freely at . Here you can read more about Dr. Fogg  and his career on captology, the study of computers as persuasive technologies, and some controversy about his work on captology. Interesting stuff. Coming back to the book, to me the book felt longer than needed. Some people may still find this long-form immersive experience useful, but I mostly skimmed through the slow text to get to the visuals and take-aways. Below are some of my highlights from Kindle, and some important visuals from the book. This is a very useful book. As I wrote earlier , "Instilling useful "habits" is a great trick to conserve energy. When you make something a habit, you don't need to waste your energy for remembering to do it and more importantly for finding the wil

Canopus: A scalable and massively parallel consensus protocol

This paper is by Sajjad Rizvi, Bernard Wong, and Srinivasan Keshav, and appeared in CoNext17. The goal in Canopus is to achieve high throughput and scalability with respect to the number of participants. It achieves high throughput mainly by batching, and achieves scalability by parallelizing communication along a virtual overlay leaf only tree (LOT). Canopus trades off latency for throughput. It also trades off fault-tolerance for throughput. The protocol Canopus divides the nodes into a  number of super-leaves. In the figure there are 9 super-leaves, each super-leaf with 3 physical nodes (pnodes). A LOT is overlayed on these 27 pnodes so that the pnode N emulates all of its ancestor vnodes 1.1.1, 1.1, and 1. The root node 1 is emulated by all of the pnodes in the tree. Canopus divides execution into a sequence of consensus cycles. In the first cycle, each node within the super-leaf exchanges the list of proposed commands with other super-leaf peers. Every node then orders

Traveling across the US

This post is me reminiscing of our travel across the US in Summer of 2018. It feels good to remember about the summer in these cold winter days. In order to move to Seattle for a sabbatical at Microsoft, we drove across the US and made this in to a family trip. This was not easy undertaking. Our neighbor called us "brave" when we announced our plan ---her tone suggested that she meant it to mean "crazy". But we did it, and the kids loved it and they wanted to do it again. We traveled from Buffalo to Seattle, not quite the entire coast to coast travel. We traveled through I90 and it was easy and comfortable drive. It comes to more than 2800 miles, and means 40 hours of driving. We had planned to drive 10 hours a day, take a break on the third day to see three national parks on I90, and finish the trip in 5 days. We had three kids, 11yo boy, 7yo girl, and 3 yo girl. We drove with a Toyota Camry 2010. My old faithful already had 128K miles before the drive. We ha

Book Review. Made to stick: why some ideas survive and others die

This book from 2007 was an easy and fun book to read. The book gives tactics for making ideas/concept stick in peoples minds. This is not just useful for marketing purposes, but also for teaching, presenting, and research exposition. The book gives the following formula for stickiness: tell Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, and Emotional Stories. SUCCESS! Acronyms help for stickiness. Notice how close the advice in the "Talk like TED" book mirrors the advice here. For me this is what stuck from the book. (Note that this follows the SUCCESS formula.) Nora Ephron is a screenwriter whose scripts for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle have all been nominated for Academy Awards. Ephron started her career as a journalist for the New York Post and Esquire. She became a journalist because of her high school journalism teacher.  Ephron still remembers the first day of her journalism class. Although the students had no journalism experience, th

How to write papers so they get accepted

This is a very bold and *valuable* talk: The craft of writing effectively . It introduces a no-bullshit approach to academic publishing that will change/upgrade your perspective to writing. This talk may offend you, you may want to reject these ideas initially, but you will eventually realize that this is the reality we live in and you must come to terms with it. Since you are a researcher, and deal with complicated topics, you need to use your writing for thinking. Writing and thinking feed off of each other, and you need to write to help your thinking. But ultimately writing is not about you or your thinking, it is about the *reader*. After your initial drafts are done, you should reframe your writing to be reader-centric . The reader doesn't care about your work, he cares about what useful things he can learn from it. ( In marketing, they have a good saying about this: The customer doesn't want a power drill, he wants a hole in the wall to hang a photo. ) Provide val

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