Wed, 30th Jun '10, 11:05 pm::
Salman Khan is a famous Indian actor with over two decades of box office success. Recently, another Salman Khan is gaining fame because of a different kind of audience he holds captive. This Salman Khan, or "Sal" as he likes to call himself, is an educator unlike any other you've heard before. Sal runs one of the most popular and prolific online universities in the world, Khan Academy, from his home. Khan Academy is an ever-growing collection of YouTube videos that aim to teach a variety of subjects from math to history and biology to physics.
Sal scribbles down math equations on a digital blackboard and narrates each step of the equation in a very soothing but not boring tone. These lectures last 10-15 minutes and cover a small part of a subject. Currently there are about 140 videos spanning the subject of "Linear Algebra" and I've reviewed the sixth video in the series so far. I am in the process of reviewing a lot of math that I haven't touched since graduating from college six years ago. I plan on doing a lot of independent research over the next 6-12 months and I need to learn a lot of math behind digital signal processing, computer vision, and audio synthesis. That means hundreds of hours of learning calculus, linear algebra, physics, and complex numbers.
I've known about the Khan Academy for many years but didn't bother checking out any videos because I felt it was meant for middle and high school students. Indeed, that is how Sal started making these videos - to help his nieces and nephews with their school work. However, now that I actually want to relearn a lot of stuff I've learnt in the past but forgotten over time, I find Sal's videos to be perfect for me. They are very straightforward, he explains almost every detail, and since it's YouTube, you can rewind or skip sections easily. I watch a 15 minute video in about 8-9 minutes. However, there are some parts I watch 2-3 times if I don't understand them the first time around.
I've been listening to Sal's voice for three days now and I'm certain I will continue to do so daily for the next six months. I looked at a lot of other OpenCourseWare, including free classes by MIT and nothing comes even close in terms of quality to Sal's videos. I think the real reason is that while all the large universities are trying to upload videos of in-class lectures by professors and making books, notes, and exams available online, Sal is concentrating on what matters most - simple and clear instructions in small, digestible doses. An MIT OpenCourseWare lecture on Computer Algorithms is daunting. Each lecture is between 60 and 90 minutes long and contains slides, related content, assignments, exams, projects, multiple downloadable formats, and group discussions. Sal's videos run full-screen and have no distractions, interruptions, or extra work. If you want to truly learn a subject, Sal's videos are what you need. If you want to get the in-school experience of doing homework, assignments, and exams, then get started with OpenCourseWare from any number of universities.
My goal is to learn many different subjects in a short span of time. So in addition to Sal's videos, I'm reading books, writing programs to solve some of the new problems I encounter, and reviewing any scientific papers that interest me. 2011 will be an exciting year for sure. I can't wait to catch up on everything I missed.
One of my favorite comedians - George CarlinSat, 26th Jun '10, 10:05 am::
Every now and then, I'll come across someone who does not understand or appreciate standup comedy by the likes of George Carlin and Bill Hicks. Someone on reddit.com commented that they don't see why people love Carlin, after all every quote of his sounds like any angry-old man could have said it. That is indeed true; there is no lack of bitter old men making wise-ass comments like "Stop whining. Be a man. Screw the world." In fact, any single quote by Carlin could be mistaken as having been authored by Lewis Black, Ron White, Dennis Leary, or even a Twitter account.
However, the reason people love Carlin quotes is because they have also heard the other thousands of sentences that make up his entire standup act. His standup acts were brilliant and sliced through the world to show you every little piece of BS like an MRI machine. A single sentence just serves to remind us of Carlin's ideologies, which till the day he died were original and untainted. He also had a way with words.
People love Carlin because he influenced the way they think. It is because of Carlin that I don't worry about "Saving the Planet." It is because of Carlin that I "love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to." Carlin is one of the hundred people whose words, wisdom, and wit have made me who I am today. Penn & Teller have influenced my thinking and views on the world in a similar way. My wife and I have rescued over 10 pets and I say Screw PETA! Add to this list comedians like Bill Hicks, Louis CK, and Woody Allen.
I aspire to have original ideas and always seek to make my own decisions based on the facts and relevant opinions. Listening to comedians like Carlin improved my skills in critical thinking and my ability to discern facts from opinions and biases from agendas. It took my thinking to a whole new level and taught me to question everything. I would say it is because of Carlin that I know I will NEVER stand in line 6 hours for a new iPhone. His standup on "Stuff" has certainly influenced my real life. I live in a 800 sq. ft. house when I can easily afford a 3,000 sq. ft one. I don't buy and hoard stuff because his act sliced through my life and made me realize stuff is just stuff. Now I'd rather spend $100 to spend a whole day at a theme-park doing stupid things with my wife and friends than buy the latest gizmo.
Pick a day when you have nothing to do for 6 hours and listen to some old and some new Carlin material. You'll realize the man was a true genuis. If nothing, your BS-detector will get a good workout next time you watch the news.
Sinister MeThu, 17th Jun '10, 7:10 pm::
People usually forget how sinister I can be on a day to day basis. Juliet lost her car/home keys while shopping at Walmart yesterday and almost had a nervous breakdown this morning when she couldn't find them after searching through her purse, dresser, book-bag, and every nook and cranny of the house for a solid 30 minutes. I gave her spare keys (I always keep all of our spares in a very clearly marked area just for instances like this) and she left for work on time. She called me while on her way and asked if I could go to Walmart and look for her keys. I said "Sorry hun, I have a lot of work to do and I'm not sure if I'll be able to get to Walmart today." She sighed "Alright... I'll search our home once again and go there myself tomorrow."
I called Toyota on my way to work and asked how much a new set of keys would cost. They said it would be about $50 so it's not really a big deal. I called Home Depot and asked how much to make a new set of keys for our house and it's pretty cheap too. I called Juliet and left her a message saying not to worry about her keys because we can get replacements for everything at under $75. She called me back and said I am awesome because I'm so understanding and helpful.
After work, I went to Walmart, found her keys in the lost-and-found bin, and just got home. I put her keys inside the purse that she already searched three different times. She has been freaking out all day about these keys, been feeling guilty for losing them, been feeling guiltier that I have been so understanding and not mad at all. She'll be home in a few hours and find the keys in her purse. She'll immediately say I went to Walmart and put them in her purse. For the subsequent 10 minutes, I'll deny going to Walmart and express my shock at how she can't find her own keys in her own purse! Then after she accepts that maybe she didn't look hard enough this morning, I will show her this blog entry.
I expect to sleep on the sofa tonight but I think it'll be totally worth it.
Update: I received a lot of punches and kicks between 9pm and 10pm last night for my shenanigans. Totally worth it though.
Sun, 13th Jun '10, 10:00 pm::
I know it took forever but I finally uploaded the 600 pictures from our Indian Vacation & Wedding. It took me about 7 hours to go through thousands of photographs from many different cameras and I haven't even begun to check out the videos (there's probably 5-6 hours of HD video footage). I will also write a detailed log of our entire trip very soon. For now, it's time to watch the season finale of Breaking Bad.
Sun, 6th Jun '10, 11:55 am::
We had an amazingly awesome time in India and just got back to our home in Florida. I'm so exhausted after the 44 hour journey back. I'm also kinda sick from the change in weather, temperature, food, and water. Hopefully I won't get any sicker. I will write more soon.