Semi-Book Review: The Piano Teacher

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This is one DISTURBING book!

If you know all the weird and disturbing books I read, you would take that warning seriously.

I have a very high disturbance threshold, thanks to having read all kinds of books that I’m sure you would not care about, and yet, this one almost made me puke, and I’m only half way through (not planning to finish it, for health reasons).

It’s about a sexually suppressed and sadist (later masochistic) piano teacher and her sado-masochistic relationship with one of her students.

Plenty of sexually explicit stuff – masturbation, bodies, caressing, beating, hair pulling, etc. That’s OK.

What’s disturbing? Graphical descriptions of female genitalia mutilation with a sharp blade, with blood everywhere. Pages and pages of it.

I don’t think I’m quite ready for this book yet, but the writing is good, and apparently it’s a pretty famous work.

Proceed at your own risk.

Book Review: The Art of Thinking Clearly

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We all know humans don’t behave rationally in all situations, but it’s still very cool to see a nicely compiled list of common ways in which we are irrational, complete with examples that we can all relate to.

The book is organized into 99 short chapters, each about 2 pages long, and talks about an irrational phenomenon, with examples.

For examples, we are willing to walk 10 minutes to another store to buy $2 cheaper milk, but practically don’t care about $100 on the price of a $20K car. We think in proportions when proportions don’t make sense. $2 is $2, whether it’s part of a $20K car or a $3 carton of milk.

Every TED talk we listen to, every motivational speech we listen to, and every successful person we talk to, tell us that the way to success is to follow your dreams. That’s because we don’t invite people who followed their dreams and failed miserably to give TED talks. Survivorship bias. We always try to find common personality traits between successful people, but what we often forget to do, is to see if those traits also exist in people who failed. In a lot of cases they do. Our sampling process is very severely biased.

You spent $10 on a movie ticket, and realized after the first half hour that it’s an incredibly boring movie. Do you walk out? Or would you stay to “get your money’s worth” and “minimize losses”? Most people would stay, but that’s illogical. You have already wasted $10 and half an hour of time, but that doesn’t justify wasting another 1.5 hour of time. Sunk cost fallacy. This is especially applicable in engineering – we spent 2 million dollars and 2 years of time already on this project that is now clearly not going to be profitable because a competitor has a functionally equivalent product at a price we can’t even hope to beat. Do we cancel the project? Of course. Already-incurred costs should not affect our decisions at all.

An MBA school says their graduates make $50K more per year than other university grads. Does that mean if you go there, you’ll end up making $50K a year more on average? Quite possibly not. It’s entirely possible that the type of people the school attracts would have made more money than others anyways whether they went to the school or not. Correlation does not imply causation. Everyone knows the saying, but we still fall for it all the time.

Why are we much more likely to donate when we see a picture of a suffering African child, than if we saw a line of text that tells us 500 people die of hunger every day in Africa? Why are we much more sensitive to photographs than numbers, when numbers tell us much more?

Or the fact that the average human has 1 testicle, and that most people have an above average number of toes (our brains intuitively interpret statistics incorrectly a lot of times).

Those are just a few of the 99 types of irrationality discussed in the book.

Does knowing them allow me to act more rationally? I don’t know. Probably not. After all, we consistently overestimate the amount of control we have over the world, and also the effects of our decisions.

What I DO know though, is it’s a very fun and engaging read.

RIP. Al Cermak

The first time I talked to him was after one of my very first landings (those were barely survivable) when I broke the tail wheel. We called tower for assistance, and they called Al, who came in a little golf cart, and changed the tire right on the grass next to the runway, and we continued flying.
Second time, almost exactly a year ago, was on a windless and very sunny day, even by California standards. I had just returned to Reid-Hillview airport after my very first solo cross country flight across about a quarter of California to Chico. I taxi-ed to the hangar where he was waiting, and he scolded at me for returning the airplane late. He was worried and had been tuning in to various controllers along my planned route trying to find my airplane (while other people were about to call search and rescue… oops!). Then he lent me his wire cutter to remove my camera that I attached to the aircraft with zip ties (totally legal…).
That was the very last time I ever saw him.
Twice. In 8 months of flight training.
Most people, even pilots, don’t think about airplane mechanics too much, until something goes wrong. If not for my own screw-ups, I probably would have never met him.
RIP. Al Cermak.

Posted this on Facebook a little while ago, but I like to keep things on my blog, so here it goes –

The first time I talked to him was after one of my very first landings (those were barely survivable) when I broke the tail wheel. We called tower for assistance, and they called Al, who came in a little golf cart, and changed the tire right on the grass next to the runway, and we continued flying.

Second time, almost exactly a year ago, was on a windless and very sunny day, even by California standards. I had just returned to Reid-Hillview airport after my very first solo cross country flight across about a quarter of California to Chico. I taxi-ed to the hangar where he was waiting, and he scolded at me for returning the airplane late. He was worried and had been tuning in to various controllers along my planned route trying to find my airplane (while other people were about to call search and rescue… oops!). Then he lent me his wire cutter to remove my camera that I attached to the aircraft with zip ties (totally legal…).

That was the very last time I ever saw him.

Twice. In 8 months of flight training.

Most people, even pilots, don’t think about airplane mechanics too much, until something goes wrong. If not for my own screw-ups, I probably would have never met him.

RIP. Al Cermak.

Eurotrip 2013 in Keywords

Some people take pictures to help them remember. Some people buy souvenirs. How about, words?

Mannheim. Autobahn. Van. Hot. Tap water. Eichbaum. Currywurst. Carbonated. Tram. Book store. Architectural sin. Education. Bridge. Jewish. Capricious. Castly castle. Stairs. Poses. Chains. Swing. Butt. Ice cream. Reporters. Hidden alley. Triangles. Wet. Thunderstorm. Lightning. Woohoo! Alcoholics. Night walk. Reflection. German factory. German fire. German smoke. Bus. Trees. Trees. Trees. Wind turbines. Currywurst. Lactose-ful ice cream. Eindhoven. Stone roads. Robocup banners. Harry Potter staircases. Fake fireplace. Real freezer. Lactose-free poo. New Testament. Her. Music. Carrot juice. Yoghurt. Mango pudding. Mango ice cream. Toothbrush. Walk. Grass. Gas price. Gay salon. Traffic lights. Fences. Smoke. Fire extinguisher. Pasta. Box. Formation. Sandwich. Balcony. Flag. Sleeping beauty. Beast. Burning smell. Beers. Kids. Climb. Laundry. Spider. Bar. German girl. Intelligent conversation. Ballmer peak. Fish. Goodbye. TU/e. Orange thingies. Hungarian Dance. Train. Feet. Train. Night. Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Taxi. Unisex. Snoring. Stranger. Awkward shower. Potted plants. History museum. Propaganda. Blood. Maps. Heavy. Currywurst. Gate. Shadows. Ice cream. Park. Underground. Grass. Pasta. Gum. Schloss Charlottenburg. Castly palace. Queen. Science. Garden. Symmetry. Different colours. Organ. Mirrors. Chandelier.¬†Airport. Schrodinger’s burger. Les Miserables. Rome. Empty airport. Taxi. Spider webs. Climb. Climb. Climb. Gladiators. Colosseum. Dead people. Rocks. Hot. Spray painting. Roman buildings. Holes. Petition. Crowd. Crowd. Crowd. Tour bus. Vatican. Bargaining. Sword. Michelangelo. Troll. Naked. Cardinal in hell. Sistine Chapel. Dark. Ceiling. Optical illusions. Indian. Dark. Comfy floor. Amsterdam. Albert Heijn. Doner. Tram. Bike. Kills. Red bricks. Homeless cup. Stars. Carbonated iced tea. Boats. Gossip. Boaters on weed. Canals. Wet. Sun. Vondelpark. Finding Nemo. Red windows. Shots. Pee. Pee. Pee. Chips. Kicked out. Erotic museum. Night. Mindless walk. Windmill. Sun. Nemo. Sun burn. Spiders. Sparkly water. Kites. Giant penises. Ethiopian. Lamb. Coconut beer. Coconut shell. Albert Heijn. Morning run. Trees. Trees. Trees. Ponds. Bridge. Bikes. Juices. Small eggs. Post cards. Poo. Les Miserables. Upside down. Smiles.

I promise there is absolutely no hidden message in there. Even if there is, it has absolutely nothing to do with the golden ratio.

… this is definitely going to be one of those wtf posts when I come back to read it couple years later. I love trolling my future self.