My daily readings 05/03/2009

  • tags: education, Entrepreneurship, speech

    • If I were back in high school and someone asked about my plans, I’d
      say that my first priority was to learn what the options were. You
      don’t need to be in a rush to choose your life’s work. What you
      need to do is discover what you like. You have to work on stuff
      you like if you want to be good at what you do.

      It might seem that nothing would be easier than deciding what you
      like, but it turns out to be hard, partly because it’s hard to get
      an accurate picture of most jobs. Being a doctor is not the way
      it’s portrayed on TV. Fortunately you can also watch real doctors,
      by volunteering in hospitals. [1]

      But there are other jobs you can’t learn about, because no one is
      doing them yet. Most of the work I’ve done in the last ten years
      didn’t exist when I was in high school. The world changes fast,
      and the rate at which it changes is itself speeding up. In such a
      world it’s not a good idea to have fixed plans.

    • What they really mean is, don’t get demoralized.
    • People who’ve done great things tend
      to seem as if they were a race apart. And most biographies only
      exaggerate this illusion, partly due to the worshipful attitude
      biographers inevitably sink into, and partly because, knowing how
      the story ends, they can’t help streamlining the plot till it seems
      like the subject’s life was a matter of destiny, the mere unfolding
      of some innate genius.
    • We need to cut the Standard Graduation Speech down to, “what someone
      else with your abilities can do, you can do; and don’t underestimate
      your abilities.” But as so often happens, the closer you get to
      the truth, the messier your sentence gets. We’ve taken a nice,
      neat (but wrong) slogan, and churned it up like a mud puddle. It
      doesn’t make a very good speech anymore. But worse still, it doesn’t
      tell you what to do anymore. Someone with your abilities? What
      are your abilities?
    • In the graduation-speech approach, you decide where you want to be
      in twenty years, and then ask: what should I do now to get there?
      I propose instead that you don’t commit to anything in the future,
      but just look at the options available now, and choose those that
      will give you the most promising range of options afterward.

      It’s not so important what you work on, so long as you’re not wasting
      your time. Work on things that interest you and increase your
      options, and worry later about which you’ll take.

    • The best protection is always to be working on hard problems.
      Writing novels is hard. Reading novels isn’t.
      Hard means worry: if you’re not worrying that
      something you’re making will come out badly, or that you won’t be
      able to understand something you’re studying, then it isn’t hard
      enough. There has to be suspense.

      Well, this seems a grim view of the world, you may think. What I’m
      telling you is that you should worry? Yes, but it’s not as bad as
      it sounds. It’s exhilarating to overcome worries. You don’t see
      faces much happier than people winning gold medals. And you know
      why they’re so happy? Relief.

    • If I had to go through high school again, I’d treat it like a day
      job. I don’t mean that I’d slack in school. Working at something
      as a day job doesn’t mean doing it badly. It means not being defined
      by it. I mean I wouldn’t think of myself as a high school student,
      just as a musician with a day job as a waiter doesn’t think of
      himself as a waiter. [3] And when I wasn’t working at my day job
      I’d start trying to do real work.
    • I’m not saying you shouldn’t hang out with your friends– that you
      should all become humorless little robots who do nothing but work.
      Hanging out with friends is like chocolate cake. You enjoy it more
      if you eat it occasionally than if you eat nothing but chocolate
      cake for every meal. No matter how much you like chocolate cake,
      you’ll be pretty queasy after the third meal of it. And that’s
      what the malaise one feels in high school is: mental queasiness.
    • Collecting donations
      for a charity is an admirable thing to do, but it’s not hard.
      It’s not getting something done. What I mean by getting something
      done is learning how to write well, or how to program computers,
      or what life was really like in preindustrial societies, or how to
      draw the human face from life. This sort of thing rarely translates
      into a line item on a college application.
    • Rebellion is almost as stupid as obedience. In either case you let
      yourself be defined by what they tell you to do. The best plan, I
      think, is to step onto an orthogonal vector. Don’t just do what
      they tell you, and don’t just refuse to. Instead treat school as
      a day job. As day jobs go, it’s pretty sweet. You’re done at 3
      o’clock, and you can even work on your own stuff while you’re there.
    • Kids are curious, but the curiosity I mean has a different shape from kid
      curiosity. Kid curiosity is broad and shallow; they ask why at
      random about everything. In most adults this curiosity dries up
      entirely. It has to: you can’t get anything done if you’re always
      asking why about everything. But in ambitious adults, instead of
      drying up, curiosity becomes narrow and deep. The mud flat morphs
      into a well.
    • Now I know a number of people who do great work, and it’s the same
      with all of them. They have little discipline. They’re all terrible
      procrastinators and find it almost impossible to make themselves
      do anything they’re not interested in. One still hasn’t sent out
      his half of the thank-you notes from his wedding, four years ago.
      Another has 26,000 emails in her inbox.

      I’m not saying you can get away with zero self-discipline. You
      probably need about the amount you need to go running. I’m often
      reluctant to go running, but once I do, I enjoy it. And if I don’t
      run for several days, I feel ill. It’s the same with people who
      do great things. They know they’ll feel bad if they don’t work,
      and they have enough discipline to get themselves to their desks
      to start working. But once they get started, interest takes over,
      and discipline is no longer necessary.

    • If you want to do good work, what you need is a great curiosity
      about a promising question. The critical moment for Einstein
      was when he looked at Maxwell’s equations and said, what the hell
      is going on here?

      It can take years to zero in on a productive question, because it
      can take years to figure out what a subject is really about. To
      take an extreme example, consider math. Most people think they
      hate math, but the boring stuff you do in school under the name
      “mathematics” is not at all like what mathematicians do.

    • And not only in intellectual matters. Henry Ford’s great question
      was, why do cars have to be a luxury item? What would happen if
      you treated them as a commodity? Franz Beckenbauer’s was, in effect,
      why does everyone have to stay in his position? Why can’t defenders
      score goals too?
    • The way to get a big idea to appear in your head is not to hunt for
      big ideas, but to put in a lot of time on work that interests you,
      and in the process keep your mind open enough that a big idea can
      take roost. Einstein, Ford, and Beckenbauer all used this recipe.
      They all knew their work like a piano player knows the keys. So
      when something seemed amiss to them, they had the confidence to
      notice it.
    • it’s by doing that you
    • Don’t disregard unseemly motivations. One of the most powerful is
      the desire to be better than other people at something. Hardy said
      that’s what got him started, and I think the only unusual thing
      about him is that he admitted it. Another powerful motivator is
      the desire to do, or know, things you’re not supposed to. Closely
      related is the desire to do something audacious. Sixteen year olds
      aren’t supposed to write novels. So if you try, anything you achieve
      is on the plus side of the ledger; if you fail utterly, you’re doing
      no worse than expectations. [8]
    • Your life doesn’t have to be shaped by admissions officers. It
      could be shaped by your own curiosity. It is for all ambitious
      adults. And you don’t have to wait to start. In fact, you don’t
      have to wait to be an adult. There’s no switch inside you that
      magically flips when you turn a certain age or graduate from some
      institution. You start being an adult when you decide to take
      responsibility for your life. You can do that at any age.
    • The only real difference between adults and high school kids is
      that adults realize they need to get things done, and high school
      kids don’t. That realization hits most people around 23. But I’m
      letting you in on the secret early. So get to work. Maybe you can
      be the first generation whose greatest regret from high school isn’t
      how much time you wasted.
    • The key to wasting time is distraction. Without distractions
      it’s too obvious to your brain that you’re not doing anything with
      it, and you start to feel uncomfortable. If you want to measure
      how dependent you’ve become on distractions, try this experiment:
      set aside a chunk of time on a weekend and sit alone and think.
      You can have a notebook to write your thoughts down in, but nothing
      else: no friends, TV, music, phone, IM, email, Web, games, books,
      newspapers, or magazines. Within an hour most people will feel a
      strong craving for distraction.
  • tags: sysadmin, SSH

  • tags: Math

  • tags: sysadmin, cron

    • By default cron jobs sends a email to the user account executing the cronjob.
      If this is not needed put the following command At the end of the cron job line

      >/dev/null 2>&1

  • tags: sysadmin

    • cat /dev/null > filename

      Zero’s out the file without breaking pipe


      Some applications keep an open pipe to a file and if that file is removed the application will no longer write to that file.
      By using this command it will zero out the file without breaking this open pipe.

  • tags: OCR

  • tags: YQL

  • tags: YQL

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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