December 31, 2014

Books I've read in 2014

It's New Year's Eve! One thing you have to do on New Year's Eve is to change your footer to 2015, and another thing is to try to sum up your year. This is the books I've read in 2014. Luckily, I've saved all of them in my Goodreads account, so it was easier than usual to remember the books. 

  1. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
  2. The Engineer: Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars
  3. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
  4. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
  5. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
  6. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
  7. Stjärnklart
  8. Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
  9. Ordets makt och vanmakt - mitt skrivande liv
  10. The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles, and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators
  11. Det Nya Afrika
  12. No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War
  13. The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain
  14. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
  15. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
  16. Ultimate Sales Machine
  17. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising
  18. Från Holmes till Sherlock
  19. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big : Kind of the Story of My Life
  20. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
  21. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
  22. Think Like a Freak
  23. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
  24. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

December 28, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - Model X


The first car made by Tesla Motors was the Roadster (right), the second car was the Model S (middle), and the third car will be Model X (left). That car is not yet ready for delivery (I think they have some problems with the doors) so you have to wait unity 2015/2016 before you can drive one - until today when I added the Model X to my Tesla Simulator.

Model X might be a big car (7 people can sit in it), but it was not that difficult to make a 3D-model in Blender. One reason was that I didn't have to make any rear-view mirrors because Model X has cameras instead of traditional mirrors. 

Also, the Model X and the Model S are almost the same car, so I could reuse the wheels and I could recall some of the design features from the time when I made the Model S.

Another thing I learned was to improve the performance and looks of the lightning while night-driving. I have previously used a "real" light source, but I noticed that most games, including Grand Theft Auto, use a texture.

Looks interesting? You can test it here

December 22, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - Model S Textures

There's a saying in the 3D modeling industry: "Mesh is only one letter away from Mess!" A mesh is the name of the 3D model and they tend to become a bit messy as you add more and more details. Also, if you are creating a 3D model for a game, you can't add too many details or the game will run really slow. So in the end you will end up with a mesh that's both messy and boxy. Luckily, you can hide most flaws with textures. 

To learn both Blender and Unity, I decided to develop a simulator where you can drive electric cars from Tesla Motors. I have experience from modeling vehicles in 3D, but not so much experience from painting textures for these models. This weekend I decided to finally learn how to add textures. This is the result:

And this is the result in Blender:

Looks interesting? You can test it here.

December 10, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - Roadster

The car company Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 with the vision to build hundreds of thousands of electric cars. But the problem with that vision was that it is super-expensive to build so many cars, so they couldn't afford and neither had they the experience they would need. To solve this problem they decided to begin with a few (but expensive) electric cars. The result was the Roadster, which I've now added to my Tesla Motors Simulator. (The model is not 100 percent complete yet so I will improve it in the future).

I've also noticed that it's easy to get stuck when you are driving either the Roadster or the Model S, so I added a hovering function. I believe the co-founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, believes that we in the future will have flying cars.

While experimenting I also tested to make a monster truck version:

December 8, 2014

Kill Your Thoughts - or how to make a game in 48 hours

The goal of the Ludum Dare competition is to make a simple game in 48 (or 72) hours. I believe the organizers run the competition about three times per year - and the prize money is nothing more than the honor. This was the third time I participated in the competition, you can read about the other times here: Max Manus, and Battle of Khe Sanh.

As you don't make any money from the competition, the idea is that you should learn something and/or maybe test an idea you have that you may sell as a complete game in the future. You will also get feedback on the game from other participants in the competition. What I learned this time was to not update any software before the competition. I updated Unity to a new version and realized that some of the old features had been replaced with new, so it took a while from the actual game design to learn these new features. While making the game, I also found a few other ideas I will try to test in a near future.

One of the things I learned from the last competition was that a theme from a real war is not a good idea, especially not the Vietnam war if you are going to market your game in the US. So in this competition I decided to make a game where you kill, but you are killing your "bad thoughts," thus the name "Kill your thoughts." This is the description:
You are participating in a competition where you are making a game in 48 hours. If you are participating in such a competition you have to be able to fight thoughts like visiting Twitter, or drink beer, and feelings like "My cat makes better games than me!" To help you fight these feelings, your mind is actually using an armored Saab on the top of your screen.

...and this was the result (You can test it here):

December 4, 2014

Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber by Alexander Bruce

Antichamber is a successful computer game developed by an Australian guy named Alexander Bruce (His Twitter: @Demruth). It has sold more than 750 000 copies. Less than a million copies might not sound impressing, but the game is a so-called indie game, which is defined as:
Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams generally without video game publisher financial support. Indie games often focus on innovation and rely on digital distribution. Indie gaming has seen a rise in the latter half of the 2000s decade, primarily due to new online distribution methods and development tools.

Another successful indie game is Minecraft (sold for more than $2 billion to Microsoft). While some modern games need $500 million and an army of developers to complete their games, many of these indie games are far from that expensive. Minecraft began as a game developed at home in the evenings and with a marketing budget of nothing else than a website on the Internet. 

But back to Antichamber. We know much about Minecraft (there are books, articles, documentaries, etc), but we know less about Antichamber. But the developer of Antichamber gave a good talk this year with the topic "Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber." You can find it here and part 2 is here.

Here are some key points from the talk:
  • As the topic of the talk suggests, it took 7 years to develop the game. So much for easy money and overnight success. Making games is hard.
  • "Luck is what happens when preparations meets opportunity." We often use luck to describe things we don't understand. You might first say that Alexander Bruce succeed just because he was lucky, but then you don't know what he did during the 7 years it took to develop the game. Luck is just a multiplier of your efforts. If luck is in everything, then factor it out of everything. So if you ignore luck, you have to take everything else more seriously. In the end, you can succeed without luck, but luck will make you succeed more.
  • His first idea of a game he wanted to make wasn't Antichamber as we know it today - he began with smaller experiments. "How would Asteroids looks like in 3D?" 
  • Do something radically different. You have to make something that is different than what everyone else is making. Antichamber is the first game of its kind. Ask yourself: "What makes me different?" This is related to an earlier article where the entrepreneur Peter Thiel said that you should always own your market.
  • Festivals are a great way to get noticed, so visit them all - and hand out cards to a lot of people.
  • Learn from other people's mistakes.
  • Fake it till you make it! Stop doubting yourself by saying, "I'm not a programmer," or, "I'm not a designer." If you want to be someone - start being someone right now!
  • You have to be able to explain your game in ways that someone who has never played it before understands it.
  • You need to be able to watch how people are playing your game, so you can understand your users. Remember that data without any physical observations can give you wrong information. "The moment I start tracking the data, then I'm going to track the wrong thing. People track what's easy to track." What you need to see is the player's face.
  • Calm down! If you rush too fast, you will not make it till the end.
  • If you just look at the successful people, you can miss 90 percent of the story! (If 90 percent fail) 
  • The name of the game is important.
  • Make the best game for the best platform (like PC). If you from the beginning want to add the game to Xbox, PlayStation, etc, it will use time you could have used to improve the game.
  • But when you have a good game, the high expectations of the game might lead you to depression. Alexander Bruce actually had a small mental breakdown. But so did other successful indie game developers (as seen in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie)
  • It's common to feel jealous of other successful games.
  • A good way to market you game is to let someone who is popular on YouTube play it.

November 29, 2014

Give up or learn how to live in the jungle for 30 years


The map above shows the Lubang Island, which is a small island (25 km by 10 km) in the Philippines. Maybe the most famous citizen of the island is Hiroo Onoda. He lived there for about 30 years. 

You might have heard of the Japanese soldiers who never wanted to surrender. The Japanese soldier who held out the longest was Hiroo Onoda, who surrendered in 1974. He came to the Lubang Island in 1944 with the goal to blow up the airfield and the harbor. The Japanese had about 200 soldiers on the island when he arrived, but most of them would die or surrender when the US Marines invaded the island in 1945. But Hiroo Onoda and 3 other soldiers escaped into the jungle and became guerrilla fighters.

The war in the pacific ended in September 1945. Hiroo Onoda, who was an officer, trusted nobody except his superior office who never gave him the order to surrender, so he and his 3 fellow soldiers continued to live in the jungle. They were not fighting anyone - they thought they were too few to do that - so they decided to hide and wait for reinforcements.

The first of the four surrendered in 1950, but the rest of the soldiers never trusted him when he came back and told them the war was over. The second of the four was killed by gunfire in 1954. The two other would held out the longest. This is how and why they did it.

  • People lived on the island so they could steal food and kill the villagers cows. They killed about 6 cows per year.
  • They moved around the jungle and no matter what they did they were very careful. For example, they washed the upper body in the morning, and the lower body in the evening, to minimize the risk of being discovered.
  • Fortunately, the were living on an island that was warm (except during the rain season) and they could find both bananas and coconuts.
  • They took care of themselves. Hiroo Onoda was sick in bed with fever only twice during 30 years.

  • The Philippine Air Force used a part of the island for target practice, so they thought the war was still going on and the planes were bombing them.
  • They got photographs of their families, but they thought the photographs were fake. Remember that all Japanese citizens had orders to die for the country. If the war had really ended, the photographs were fake because then all Japanese would have been dead.
  • Both the US Air Force and the Philippine Air Force dropped letters. But they analyzed the text and came to the conclusion that everything was made-up. This is a common psychological trait and is called confirmation bias.
  • They made up their own world-story by reading the newspapers they stole from the villagers on the island which suited their world-story. For example, they came to the conclusion that the Vietnam War was a part of World War II.
  • When they found a radio and heard about the Tokyo Olympic Games, they thought "After all, people were always saying there were no national boundaries in the world of sports." 

Sounds interesting? Then you should read the great book No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. But what the book will not tell you, but Wikipedia will, is that Hiroo Onoda had killed several of the villagers on the island. 

November 26, 2014

Random Show Episode 26

A new episode of the Random Show with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is out! This is episode 26.

Lessons learned
  • According to Tim Ferriss, a lot of would be entrepreneurs follow this quote: "Everything has been done and there's nothing left." But that's not true, because there's so much left to invent. 
  • Tim Ferriss's favorite market that you should target if you are building a company is very precisely defined, relatively easy to target, and price-insensitive high-end.
  • You don't have to be a large public company and follow the traditional "Silicon Valley way" of building a company. The Swedish furniture company IKEA could do it on their own
  • Both Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss seems to be burned out from the current "tech" hysteria in Silicon Valley. Tim Ferriss argues that we have a tech-bubble and the companies that will survive are the lean companies that are not in a rush.
  • Take some time to be thankful and make a list of those things!


If you want to watch the rest of the episodes, you can find them here: The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

November 22, 2014

Key points from the book Zero to One by Peter Thiel

I've read the book Zero to One – Notes on startups, or how to build the future by Peter Thiel. When I wrote a biography on Elon Musk, I gave a brief introduction to Peter Thiel’s life because he and Elon Musk used to work in the same company. In his new book, Peter Thiel also talks a little bit about his life so I thought it would be interesting to see if I could learn something new.

The book's title originates from Peter Thiel's view that you should always create something new (from 0 to 1) and not copy someone else (from 1 to n). Therefore, the book is about how to build companies that create new things, which is difficult because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done.

Peter Thiel knows what he's talking about because he has founded (or co-founded) both PayPal and Palantir, and was and early investor in both Facebook and SpaceX. All these companies went from 0 to 1. The problem today is that most entrepreneurs want to go from 1 to n because it's easier even though our world is in a desperate need of innovation.

In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable. Not many years ago, we looked forward to vacations on the Moon. The computer in a modern smartphone is more powerful than the computer that landed on the Moon, but we are only using our smartphones to fire birds against pigs. While in the 1950s, people welcomed big plans, today is a long-range plan considered as hubris. Moreover, the number of new drugs approved per billion dollars spent on R&D has halved every year since 1950. How can the future get better if no one plans for it?

According to Peter Thiel, these new technologies can only emerge from startups. A startup is the largest and smallest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. Larger organizations are too inefficient, and you can't do it on your own.

From Zero to One is a short book (380 pages on my iPad) but it is filled with knowledge and is easy to read. Among others, here are some important key points from the book:
  • Today's "best practices" lead to dead ends – the best paths are new and untried.
  • Technology is miraculous because it allows us to do more with less.
  • There's no formula for success because every innovation is new and unique.
  • Ask yourself the following question: "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?"
  • In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancements than actually doing work.
  • How much of what you know about business is shaped by mistaken reactions to past mistakes?
  • The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself. 
  • Monopoly is the condition of every successful business. Under perfect competition, no company makes an economic profit. On the other hand, a monopoly owns its market, so it can set its own prices. 
  • Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school are stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. 
  • Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past. When PayPal wanted to copy Square the only difference they made was a triangular card reader.
  • Competition can make people hallucinate opportunities where none exist. 
  • For a company to be valuable it must grow and endure – even though many entrepreneurs focus only on short-term growth.
  • You are not a lottery ticket! If successful entrepreneurs were just lucky, then entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk wouldn't have created several billion-dollar companies. But there's no way to find out if that's really true because companies are not experiments. 
  • Today the whole Eurozone is in slow-motion crisis, and nobody is in charge. 
  • China is probably the most pessimistic place in the world today because they know there's no way Chinese living standards can catch up with those of the richest countries – because of lack of resources. 
  • Avoid the lean startup where you iterate a minimum viable product. Making small changes to things might lead you to a local maximum, but you will miss the global maximum.
  • The most important lesson learned from Steve Jobs has nothing to do with design. The greatest thing Steve Jobs designed was a long-term vision. 
  • Less than 1 percent of new business in US receive venture funding, but ventured-backed companies create 11 percent of all private sector jobs and generate revenues equivalent to 21 percent of GDP. 
  • If you think something hard is impossible, you'll never even start trying to achieve it. 
  • The best startups might be considered slightly less extreme kinds of cult. 
  • Poor sales rather than bad product is the most common cause of failure. Engineers know their jobs are hard, so when they look at salespeople laughing on the phone with a customer or going to a 2-hour lunch, they suspect that no real work is being done. What engineers miss is that it takes hard work to make sales look easy. 
  • Computers are complements for humans – not substitutes.
  • Big data is usually dumb data.
  • The most valuable companies in the future will ask, "How can computers help humans solve hard problems?"
  • The best problems to work on are often the ones nobody else even tries to solve.
  • Founders are important not because they are the only ones whose work has value, but rather because a great founder can bring out the best work from everybody at his company.

November 12, 2014

No wheels and an electric motor

We now have cars with electric motors, and we also have bikes with electric motors, but what about the boats? I don't know if this thing can be defined as a boat, but at least it behaves like one:

The "boat" you see in the image is a Q2A Electric manufactured by the Slovenian company Quadrofoil. Here are some basic data:
  • Price: From 15,000 Euro ($19,000)
  • Range: 50 km (31 miles)
  • Speed: 30 km/h
  • Seats: 2
There's one limited edition, but this data is from the standard edition. The difference between the two versions is the speed and range and thus the price.

According to the manufacturer, the Quadrofoil (the company name is also the name of the boat) is unsinkable because the hull is hollow. And it also comes with a built-in anti-collision system that absorbs the collision forces. When the Quadrofoil is not moving, the depth of the water you are operating in has to be at least 1 m. But when it's moving, the depth can be much shallower as the draft of the boat is as little as 0.15 m. 

Looks interesting? You have to wait until Q2 2015 before you can buy one.

November 9, 2014

Why you are helping Google each time you sign in

I've read the book Big Data - A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. The book promises to give the reader a brief introduction to the world of big data. While some say big data will revolutionize the world and transform it in ways we've never thought of before, others say that big data is just another bubble. I guess only time will tell us the answer.

The basic idea behind big data is that if we analyze gigantic amounts of data we will discover what we otherwise couldn't have discovered. The book is filled with examples from the world of big data, ranging from how to discover flue trends with the help of what we search for in Google to new alarm systems that analyze the seat-position of a car driver and sends a signal to the police if the car doesn't recognize the driver's position. It also discusses what might be possible in the future. Will we be able to jail criminals before they committed a crime if the data said they would commit the crime in a near future?

The company the book talks the most about is Google - a company that has access to gigantic amounts of data. Each time we search for something in their search engine, they save the data and are improving their systems with the help of that data. But we are also helping Google in other ways each time we sign in. As you probably know, Google has been driving around in their cars and photographed heaven and earth. The result is Street View.  But they have a problem. The images they took are not accurate enough so they can determine the street number of all buildings. That's where you and me are expected to help them each time we sign in somewhere using their system. 

At the height of the tech bubble, in 2000, a guy called Luis von Ahn was tired of automatic computers who wrote "spam" all over the Internet. He came up with the idea to force you and me to write numbers and letters that are difficult for a computer to read automatically. He called the system Captcha. But what if he could use you and me to also do some useful work and not just write random numbers and text each time we sign in. Google had the same idea and acquired the technology from Luis von Ahn's company in 2009. 

So in 2009, we were all hired by Google to translate text. Google has scanned almost all books in the world and they are now searchable at Google Books. But to make them searchable by you and me, Google had to translate the scanned images to text. Their computers could translate some text, but not all, and it would be too expensive to hire translators, so Google began to send out images to you and me each time we signed in. If maybe 5 of us translated the image of text the same way, Google took the translation and added it to the book they scanned.

I believe Google has run out of books to translate, so they now need help to translate street numbers. That's why you and me now have to write a number each time we sign in:

November 6, 2014

Top words in top selling books

Last year I wrote an article showing the Opening paragraph of top selling books. A while ago I read an article that talked about the top words in top selling books. I've lost that article so I decided to use my data mining skills and make a similar research on my own. The books I've included are a few of the top selling books from the last article:
  • A tale of two cities
  • And then there were none
  • The Hobbit
But since all of the top selling books are not available in the correct format needed to analyze the words, I've also included:

This is the result:

Alice Two cities Hobbit And then Bible Engineer
the the the the the the
and and and a and to
to of of of of a
a to to to to and
she a a and that of
of in he he in in
it his in was he was
said it was said shall he
it that they I unto Elon
in I it it for that

But, as you can see, most of the words in the results above are so-called stop words, so I've also tried to see what happens if these words are removed. This is the result:

Alice Two cities Hobbit And then Bible Engineer
said said said said shall elon
alice mr bilbo lombard unto said
little lorry dwarves blore lord car
know man came vera thou tesla
like defarge like armstrong thy like
went little long rogers god company
thought time thorin mr said electric
queen hand time know ye rocket
time miss great went thee space
did know did little man didnt

If I recall that old article I read on the top words in top selling books, I think the words were "and" and maybe "but." Anyway, it was interesting to see that the words in my own book matched almost all of the words in the other top selling books. But I think we will need more books to come up with any real conclusions.

As a bonus, I've also calculated the average words per sentence in each book. This is the result:
  • Alice: 27
  • Two cities: 18
  • Hobbit: 20
  • And then: 9
  • Bible: 28
  • Engineer: 20
...and average length per word:
  • Alice: 4.09
  • Two cities: 4.33
  • Hobbit: 4.17
  • And then: 4.21
  • Bible: 3.94
  • Engineer: 4.46

October 30, 2014

Why you need a better recommendation system

I've just finished the first version of a new project currently called August Shield 743. The idea behind the name is simple: it was generated by Google when I created the API-key I needed to complete the project. But as the name sounds like a secret Navy Seals operation I decided to keep it.

August Shield 743 is a blog-article-recommendation-system and it took about a week to complete the first live version. The idea behind a recommendation system is to recommend x based on a,b,c,... where x could be a movie, a book, or as in this case a blog article. If you have visited Amazon and at at the bottom of the page saw the heading "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought," you will know what I'm talking about. For example, if you want to buy the Steve Jobs book, you will notice that other people also bought the book Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. Amazon is finding these suggestions with the help of a recommendation system. 

Last year I read the book The Everything Store, which is a biography on Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon. The section from the book I remember the most is the section where the author talks about the first version of Amazon's recommendation system. It goes like this:
Eric Benson took about two weeks to construct a preliminary version that grouped together customers who had similar purchasing histories and then found books that appealed to the people in each group. That feature, called Similarities, immediately yielded a noticeable uptick in sales and allowed Amazon to point customers toward books that they might not otherwise have found. Greg Linded, and engineer who worked on the project, recalls [Jeff] Bezos coming into his office, getting downed on his hand and knees, and joking, "I'm not worthy."
According to the book Big Data, a third of all of Amazon's sales are said to result from its recommendation and personalization systems.

So a recommendation system is a really powerful tool you can use to increase sales. With this thought in my mind I had earlier installed another recommendation system om this blog called LinkWithin. I've used that system for a while, but I realized that it didn't give any good recommendations. You don't need just any recommendation system - you also need a recommendation system that generates good results. 

Improving a recommendation system is actually very complicated. When Netflix wanted to improve their recommendation system they decided to make a competition out of it called Netflix Prize, where the winning team would win 1 million USD. Despite the reward, it took no less than 3 years before the competitors had developed an improved system.

But improving LinkWithin took about a week, and the solution looks like this:
  1. Read the blogger-data with JavaScript
  2. Clean the data to remove strange characters and unneeded words
  3. Find recommendations by using a similarity measure called Jaccard distance. I've here found the distances between the title, text, and labels and then added them together, so articles can get a score between 0 and 3, where 3 means that it's the same article. The system is general and will work for all blogs because I didn't specialize it to just this blog 
  4. Store the data in a database
  5. Read the data and add recommendations to blog articles

This was the result:

Recommended articles with the LinkWithin system:
  • The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss (has nothing to do with the article)
  • Experiments with Blender (has a little bit to do with the article because I developed the car model in Blender)
  • Quote: Edward Tufte (has nothing to do with the article)
Recommended articles with the August Shield 743 system:
  • Tesla Motors Simulator Update (has everything to do with the article)
  • Tesla Motors Simulator (has everything to do with the article)
  • Tesla Motors Test Track Simulator (has everything to do with the article)
  • Catacomb Snatch 3D  (has a little bit to do with the article because both Catacomb Snatch 3D and the simulator were developed in Unity)
  • The Engineer Update 3 (has a little bit to do with the article because The Engineer is a biography on Elon Musk, who co-founded Tesla Motors)

If you are interested in learning how to develop your own recommendation system, you should read the following books:

October 21, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - GTA Style


I've updated my Tesla Motors Simulator. Before this update you could only drive the red Model S, but now you can change car like in Grand Theft Auto. I've also improved the performance by using custom collision meshes. Next step is probably to add another model, maybe the Roadster or the Model X?

Looks interesting? You can test it here: Tesla Motors Simulator

October 14, 2014

The best daily rituals from the book Daily Rituals

I've read a cool book called Daily Rituals - How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book has summarized in very short chapters what more than 100 artists were doing when they created art. Famous artists in the book include the authors Stephen King and Isaac Asimov, and the painters Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. You can also find a jazz-player, an architect, and some lived in the 17th Century. Stephen King has written his own book on how to write books called On Writing, but most other artists haven't done it.

Here I've tried to summarize with short sentences the findings from the book. I've already read a few books on how to write when I wrote a biography on Elon Musk, so it was interesting to complete my knowledge.

  1. Military discipline, drugs
  2. Extreme chaos, an excess lifestyle
  3. 2-3-month vacations, work above all
  4. Non-sexual exploration of the penis until inspiration arrives, large quantities of coffee and tea, standing up 
  5. Manic work, cigarettes, doughnuts, a bottle of vodka, pet snails
  6. 3 hours of sleep at a time, use the social network
  7. Out of 8 hours of hard work, it's only 10 minutes of actual creation, periods of isolation on a distant island, almost no drugs or alcohol, music
  8. Live like a monk, only work before lunch, copy what you have written to find new ideas, a good chair
  9. Only a few hours a day of work, but be busy the rest of the day with other tasks
  10. Exactly 60 beans per cup of coffee, take breaks to walk outdoors (bring paper and pen if you find an idea), take long baths
  11. Write - take a walk and find new ideas - write until evening
  12. Work in bed until noon - then work until evening for a total of 18-20 hours a day
  13. If you have a virtue - focus on it for a week - then it will become a habit, take a cold bath (sit in a cold room without any clothes for an hour)
  14. Begin at 5.30 AM by reading what you wrote the day before, then eat breakfast, then go to your normal job. 3 hours of writing per day is enough - if you work more than that you will not be effective - and use this time effectively
  15. Live like a normal person
  16. Let the initial ideas come to you automatically - then isolate yourself for whole days and work hard to realize the ideas. It can take 6 weeks to finish 1 page
  17. Write during the night because it's more quiet, take a short break when you are stuck. 2 pages can take 1 week, and 1 book can take 5 years
  18. Work at night, drink alcohol constantly, and don't sleep much (and die at 36)
  19. Wake up at 8 AM, isolate yourself from visitors, family and telephone and work until noon, then do something else
  20. Work in a museum reading-room all day until it closes, then go home and continue working. It may take 20 years to finish 1 book
  21. Focus on your work and let someone else do everything else (including putting toothpaste on your toothbrush), smoke 20 cigars per day, take a 3-month summer vacation
  22. Isolate yourself in a primitive house without electricity or water and work for 2 hours per day - but only on holidays because you've kept your regular job
  23. Art is a part-time activity - but give your neighbors opera tickets so they keep their dogs quiet
  24. Wake up at 8 AM, have a bath and breakfast, work between 10 AM to 1 PM
  25. Enjoy everything and never be bored - exotic birds in cages might help you
  26. Exercise is important if you want to avoid depression, avoid commercial social events
  27. Force yourself to drink coffee, write for 30 minutes per day, look at cows when you are not writing
  28. Wake up by the first light of day - even if you have an hangover - then write (while standing up) until you are out of ideas
  29. Write as much as you can. But if you discover that you can't write after noon, then don't write. 2-3 hours per day may be enough
  30. Write in brief bursts of concentrated activity when you can write 8,000 words in one session, avoid alcohol
  31. Adapt to various schedules as necessary, then you can write up to 10,000 word per day
  32. Wake up early, write, tear up what you've written, repeat until you produce something good
  33. Dedicate your life to your work, don't wait for inspiration to strike
  34. If you feel like working during the night, then do it - if you feel like working during the day, then do it. Don't force it - it may take months before you can continue writing
  35. It may be easy to write during the night - but make sure to read it because easy doesn't mean good results
  36. Chain yourself to your desk
  37. Wake up at 4 AM, write for 6 hours, physical strength is as important as psychological strength
  38. Have a 9-5-job and write when you can
  39. Write, write, write until you have produced one single page per day. The first draft is always difficult, but once you've figured it out, the rest is easy
  40. 3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon, working more is counterproductive because you are producing garbage, keep your TV or radio on in the background
  41. Write whenever you can and have something to write
  42. Do it all by yourself, do it regularly to avoid writer's block, switch off in the evening, don't plan too much
  43. Concentrate for a few hours and take a break when you've done something good
  44. Work from different places and change your routines whenever you begin to work on a new piece of art. If you are a good writer in the morning, then you can simulate having 2 mornings by first waking up and write, and then go to bed and wake up again
  45. Set the alarm clock a few times during the night when you are sleeping and work a little
  46. Write 1,000 word before breakfast
  47. Work for 13 hour per day, but take breaks
  48. Write when everyone else is sleeping
  49. Drink green tea and wash your feet in warm water. Write a pep talk with solutions to common problems you can read to yourself when you need it
  50. Live like a machine with standardized routines
  51. No habits and a life never really under control
  52. Work until noon, prepare the next day's work in the evening
  53. Have a regular job where you can work despite that you are tired because you've written all night
  54. Work when your mind is at its best, drink alcohol to clear your head, 1 sentence can take 1 day, and 1 book can take 7 years
  55. Withdraw from society, work at night, go out only when you need to gather facts, live on 2 croissants and 2 glasses of boiled milk a day 
  56. Isolate yourself in a room, use your depression to find inspiration
  57. 3 hours of work per day is enough
  58. Walk 12 miles (19 km) a day, work in cafes - not restaurants if you love food
  59. Go to bed late and wake up late, isolate yourself, surround yourself with your work and animals (including a monkey), drink water and milk, dedicate Sundays to social life
  60. Work too much and sleep too little, use drugs, cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol to stay awake
  61. Work in the evening
  62. Do all the work in your head and write it down when it's finished
  63. Have a normal job to get day-to-day stability and experience you can use in your writing
  64. All you need is a typewriter and a desk
  65. Work for 4 hours and before you begin you should know the first sentences, face your desk against a blank wall
  66. Rent a studio and keep the location of the studio as a secret so no-one knows where you are
  67. Work at night at the kitchen table
  68. Struggle with writing all day, use sleeping pills to fall asleep, wake up, write until your children wakes up, repeat
  69. Put on a suit as a normal worker, take the elevator to the basement of your apartment building, take off your suit and work in your boxers until lunch, put on your suit again and take a break the rest of the day
  70. Experiment with self-medication that will make a doctor horrified
  71. No matter what, write for 2 hours a day, 5 or 6 good sentences a day is enough
  72. Have a normal job so you don't have to worry about money, find ideas while walking
  73. Stop writing when you know what's going to come next - then it's easier to start the next day
  74. Write for 2 hours a day
  75. There is no rule so you don't have to follow a writing routine, always think about what you are going to write - while waiting for the elevator, swimming, etc
  76. When you know the story, it's easy to write it down, you need to be obsessive when coming up with the story, try to change something when you are stuck - like changing room, take a shower, etc
  77. Eat something with sugar in it or meditate to find new ideas
  78. Write in hotel rooms - not at home, push yourself to the limits of your ability
  79. Find new ideas while ironing
  80. Work in the night and improve the work the next day, use your dreams to find solutions
  81. Write for 4 hours during the day, go though what you've written in the evening, always work in your bed
  82. Go to the park (even if it's raining) and write there for 4 hours, discuss with someone what you've written, then improve what you've written in your home
  83. Work for 12-14 hours, have fun in the evening
  84. Work all day, get drunk in the evening, almost never go out
  85. You find the best ideas when you wake up, so use that time effectively, complete everything in your head before you write it down
  86. Have a normal job and begin a new "day" of work at 10:30 PM where you write
  87. Work for 12+ hours a day
  88. Have a normal job, work for 2-3 hours in the evening, and you will have a book after 8 years
  89. Have a normal job and your own office where you can close the door. Finish your scheduled "normal" work in 1 hour and work on your own project the rest of the day
  90. Work from 10:30 AM to 5:00 AM, work in the dark
  91. Isolate yourself, communicate only through phone, 1 meal a day is enough
  92. Insomnia is good because you can work more
  93. Continue to write while you can, otherwise stop writing and continue the next day
  94. 3 hours and as many pages a day is enough
  95. Writing is hell so 200-300 words a day is enough, alcohol might help to find new ideas
  96. Writing is a nightmare because it's uneventful and never ends, live alone
  97. Exercise, make a draft with a pencil and improve what you've written with a machine
  98. Write in bed
  99. Meditate while taking a morning walk, write notes in the morning and the complete text in the afternoon
  100. Even an author can be blind
  101. Idleness is essential to good mental work
  102. 1 page a day is enough and you need to have inspiration, so don't force anything
  103. Have rotten apples in your room to feel the urge to write
  104. Work in the morning while smoking pipes
  105. Sleep little, go to church, smoke and drink constantly
  106. Your imagination is exciting enough, so you don't need coffee, drugs, or alcohol
  107. Work a lot by drinking 50 cups of coffee a day - then relax a lot
  108. 2 raw eggs for breakfast, isolate yourself in the morning, then have a cold bath, bring a notebook so you never forget any ideas
  109. Install an extra door to decrease the noise around you
  110. Divide up the work by taking breaks where you can take walks, sleep, read, etc
  111. Live in a farm so you can relax with the animals and vegetables when you are not writing, live in an environment that resembles the environment you are writing about
  112. Write only during the colder months
  113. Writing is a routine, isolate yourself
  114. Isolate yourself, read a book you can learn something from, take a 2-hour walk
  115. Isolate yourself between breakfast and dinner, get feedback on your work in the evening, Sunday is no-work-time
  116. 3-4 hours of sleep is enough
  117. When you have inspiration, work nonstop
  118. Chop wood for 1 hour a day, tape a piece of cardboard to you glasses if you can't concentrate because you are distracted by something in the room, never work in artificial light
  119. Isolate yourself in a desert and begin the day by killing all the rattlesnakes you can find 
  120. It's always difficult to find uninterrupted time
  121. Picture the complete book before you begin writing it, use index card to organize the story
  122. Pray and meditate in-front of what you are working on, sometimes this may take up the entire working-day, smoke
  123. Maintain a rigid schedule - but don't work too much
  124. Experiment with your body, sleep 40 minutes after each 6 hour period of work
  125. Use drugs so you can work 19 hours a day, give away almost all your money, own only a suitcase with clothes, travel the world
  126. Drink tea and carrot juice
  127. Pack a lunchbox and hide somewhere for 4-5 hours, take vacation for months
  128. Write in the morning, afternoon, and evening - but don't forget to take breaks
  129. Order 6 martinis and drink them one after another, then wake up at 9 AM and work, set a goal for each day and stick to it, 6 pages a day, write only what you care about
  130. Rent a office and write for 3-4 hours a day
  131. Keep a simple routine
  132. Find a hobby, like gardening, and divide your time equally between your hobby and your writing
  133. You find the best ideas just as you wake up 
  134. Work 2.5-3 hours a day
  135. If you are using drugs, you can write day and night, sometimes 30 hours before you need to sleep. Don't leave your desk even if you are stuck
  136. If you have a job and no time to write, then quit that job and find one where you have time to work and write
  137. Live in a hotel room, use drugs, work for 24 hours in a pajamas
  138. If you are drinking more alcohol than you are producing art, try to move to a smaller city where you will be less motivated to drink
  139. If you don't want to write and work at the same time, then find a partner and one of you can write while the other work. After a year has passed, you can switch roles
  140. Strong coffee, long walks when you are stuck
  141. 4 hours of writing a day is enough, spend the rest of the day drinking alcohol, cleaning, and taking care of the cats
  142. Make a schedule and stick to it 7 days a week, smoke constantly, read what you've written aloud to yourself, try not to rush - 0 sentences a day might happen
  143. Write when the children sleep
  144. A 4-hour sleep in the afternoon and a 4-hour sleep before waking up at 8 AM might be better than one 8-hour sleep
  145. Wake up at 5 AM and work as long as you can, do this every day, including holidays
  146. Write at a standing desk and keep to your schedule, but if you are really inspired, throw out the schedule and write for 36+ hours
  147. The most important thing is to change routines, clear all distractions
  148. Doodle to find new ideas
  149. Photograph in the morning before you begin to write, be angry to work well
  150. Keep a schedule when the work is going badly
  151. Let the work take over your life, but make sure you have another life when you are not working on a project
  152. You should form good, consistent work habits
  153. Write every day, including holidays and your birthday, and don't quit before you've reached 2,000 words
  154. Insomnia is good because it feels like you have a 28-hour day
  155. Recruit a typist and dictate what you've come up with the night before
  156. Weeks can pass when you don't get anything done, then you find an idea
  157. Eat out only once a year, live on rice and chicken, isolate yourself in a dark room with earplugs, and it will take 4 years to complete a book
  158. Have only music and work where your work - no email, phone, or food
  159. You don't have to work every day - intense bursts of work that lasts for a few weeks might be enough
  160. Work all the time, but only if you like it
  161. You can always find a little bit of time to write 

So, in other words, there's not one daily ritual you should adapt. Maybe the last quote in the book summarizes everything:
"Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you."

October 12, 2014

How to hack the art market

A few days ago I decided to sell some old coins I had found deep down in a drawer. It turned out the old collectibles were worth about $5 - not that great. But the expert in the coin store told me he would sell these coins to a guy who bought all of those particular coins. My theory is that this guy will try to buy all of these almost worthless coins, and then melt down all of them - all of them except for one coin. This last coin will now be very rare and thus very valuable because of the supply and demand effect. 

But what about the art market - like paintings and sculptures. Why are some paintings very valuable while other paintings that might look similar are almost worthless. We can can't apply the supply and demand effect here because almost all paintings differ from all other paintings, so we can't generally buy all paintings from one artist and destroy all of them except for one. It might work if the painter is a famous artist - but what if we are stuck with a painting by an unknown artist?

Why are these stools by Ai Weiwei worth at least $500,000? It's not because of a potential future increase in the price of the art - because in the long run your investment in art may only do about as well as your holdings in bonds. And art comes with greater risk.

Grapes by Ai Weiwei. Source: AGO

According to a few articles I've found, this is how you can hack the art market and increase the value of your art collection:
  • Scamming and faking. There's a veteran art dealer who believes there are people who keep the Andy Warhol market hot by manipulating his auctions. There's also people who pay a lot for unknown artists, but these artists will now become famous because someone has bought their paintings, so more people will jump on the bandwagon
  • Previous owners. You tend to pay a premium for a piece once owned by someone famous
  • Famous. Something that has been shown in a museum is worth extra
  • Prestige. One art dealer is famous for saying, "If I can't sell something, I just double the price." Some people prefer to pay more than makes sense because they want to show the world that they can afford it
  • A collection. People want a collection of art by one artist. The demand for old artists with fewer paintings has cooled down, but the demand for artists with many paintings and sculptures, like Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, has increased 
  • Improve the work of art. You can add value to any work of art, thus increasing its perceived significance (and price) in the eyes of a collector, by adding:
    • Signature
    • Title
    • Date
    • Number
    • Explanation
    • Documentation
    • Ingredients - so future art collectors can conserve it
  • Other aspects.
    • Paintings of beautiful young women and children are more expensive than ugly old men. But widows in black or sick children are very hard to sell. For example, an orange Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol is worth $15 million, but Richard Nixon sells for just $700,000
    • The places in paintings are also important - Venice is more expensive than France
    • Calm weather in paintings is more expensive than stormy weather
    • Paintings with death in them is generally less expensive than paintings with life in them
    • Paintings of eagles are more expensive than sparrows - and this rule can be applied to other animals as well
    • In general, paintings with bright, bold or pale colors are far more expensive than dark works
    • A bigger painting is generally worth more than a small one

Source: Newsweek, ArtBusiness, The Art Newspaper

October 4, 2014

How to turn a blog into a multi-million-dollar business with the help of Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi

My latest addiction is a podcast by Tim Ferriss called The Tim Ferriss Show. We have earlier met Tim Ferriss on this blog since I'm also addicted to his YouTube-show called The Random Show. Anyway, the latest podcast chapter featured Ramit Sethi who runs the blog I will teach you to be rich

It's super-important to have a popular blog because you can market your thing (product, service, or whatever you have) by writing articles and marketing by blogging is free - and marketing your thing through ads is far away from free. Here are a few lessons learned from the podcast on how Ramit Sethi and Tim Ferriss grew their respective blogs:
  • Ignore haters. The people who are hanging out on the Internet mirrors the people who lives in our society. We all know that some people in our society are mentally unstable so it's natural that there will be some mentally unstable who visit your blog where they criticize you.
  • Focus on quality. One good article can change your life forever.
  • Don't focus on everyone all the time. You can never write an article that everyone will enjoy reading. A rule Tim Ferriss has says that an article he has written should appeal one group of his visitors once every 2 months.
  • Collect your visitors e-mail. Ramit Sethi explained that one of the biggest mistakes was to not set up an e-mail list and he estimated that this mistake has costed him millions of dollars because e-mail lists generate 90 percent of his revenues. And don't forget to e-mail those who have signed up. It took Tim Ferriss seven years before he decided to use e-mail lists! 
    • Don't forget to make the e-mail you send look interesting - they are not newsletters.
    • Make sure your users can respond to the e-mails they get and you should read all of the replies. This will make it more personal and your users will reveal more information about themselves that you can use.
  • Use data to improve. Analyze how your visitors are using your blog and how they are reading your e-mails.
  • Avoid ads when you are new. The first 3 years, Ramit Sethi decided to not have ads on his blog because he didn't want people to believe he had started the blog just to make money.   

That's it! Oh, and you need to invest a few years of your life as well...

September 29, 2014

God rewards fools

I'm reading the The Code Book and found this quote by Martin Hellman:
The way to get to the top of the heap in terms of developing original research is to be a fool, because only fools keep trying. You have idea number 1, you get excited, and it flops. Then you have idea number 2, you get excited, and it flops. Then you have idea number 99, you get excited, and it flops. Only a fool would be excited by the 100th idea, but it might take 100 ideas before one really pays off. Unless you're foolish enough to be continually excited, you won't have the motivation, you won't have the energy to carry it through. God rewards fools.  

August 28, 2014

Random Show Episode 25

A new episode of the Random Show with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is out! This is episode 25.

Lessons learned
  • Tim Ferriss is a guy who likes to experiment with his own body. For example, he has experimented with how much he really needs to sleep, or if he can stay off-screen during each Saturday. His latest experiments is NOBNOM - short for No Booze, No Masturbation for 30 days. That's why Kevin Rose is the only one in this episode who's drinking wine
  • Kevin Rose is trying to become better at meditating, and he recommended the meditation app Headspace. Kevin Rose recommended Sam Harris's website if you want to learn more about meditation
  • Kevin Rose has found a new way to make exercising fun. He puts on a 20-pound [9 kg] heavy weight-vest, jumps on a treadmill, opens a game on his iPad, and walks for 45 minutes


If you want to watch the rest of the episodes, you can find them here: The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

August 26, 2014

Why is Chess so popular?

Of all the games we play today, which games will we still play in 100 years? Which games will we play in 1000 years from now? To answer the question, I decided to find out why chess is so popular. I learned how to play chess when I was maybe seven years old, but I've never been really interested in the game. Instead I played a lot of computer games. The difference between those computer games and chess is that a computer game lasts for a few years (if the developers are lucky), while people have been playing chess for hundreds of years.

Knights Templar playing chess in 1283. Source: Wikipedia

To find out why chess never gets old, I decided to try a new tactic which is called reasoning from first principles. It's a strategy I found when I wrote a book about the entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is using the strategy. 

This is how the strategy reasoning from first principles works. When you want to find the solution to a problem, you have two choices. The first is reasoning from analogy (experience), which is the fastest way but will not always give you an accurate answer. The other is reasoning from first principles, which is slower but will give you a more accurate answer. Based on experience, you can say that chess never gets old because it's easy to play if you are two people because almost everyone has a chess board laying around, or whatever you think. But if you reason from first principles, you have to dig to the bottom of the problem. 

To get to the bottom of the problem, I decided to read the book The Immortal Game - A history of chess by David Shenk. What I learned from the book was that we don't know for certain when people began to play chess. What the author has found is that we began to play some kind of chess about 1400 years ago. The rules have changed during these 1400 years (it's said the reason why the queen is so powerful was because the powerful Isabella I of Spain wanted the piece to reflect herself) but the basic game is the same. Other celebrities who are known chess players include Benjamin Franklin and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had a permanent chess table in his movie set trailer.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing chess. Source: Oakland

While reading the book I found these basic principles that might describe why chess has survived the history of mankind:
  • You need a strong psychology to play chess. "The game is often as much about demolishing your opponent's will and self-esteem as it is about implementing a superior strategy."
  • It's easy to learn how to play chess. "The pieces and moves are elementary enough for any five-year-old to quickly soak up."
  • You always play a new game of chess. "The board combinations are so vast that all the possible chess games could never be played - or even known - by a single person."
  • You can't bluff like you can in a poker game because nothing is hidden and you can't win because you're lucky. "In a critical departure from previous board games from the region, these games contained no dice or other instruments of chance. Skill alone determined the outcome."
  • You can learn something while you're playing chess. Chess improves a person's:
    • Foresight - looking ahead to the long-term consequences of any action
    • Circumspection - surveying the entire scene, observing hidden dynamics and unseen possibilities
    • Caution - avoiding haste and unnecessary blunders
    • Perseverance - refusing to give up in dim circumstances, continually pushing to improve one's position

There are several then-popular games that didn't survive. One example is the Irish board game fidchell, and another is a game played by Vikings called hnefatafl. To this list of then-popular games, we will in the future probably add now-poplar games, like Angry Birds, because they don't have the same basic principles as chess has.

Update! A few years later I read the book A theory of fun for game design. It argues that chess is fun because each new game of chess is a new puzzle to solve. If you play chess against a physical person then each new game is a new puzzle to solve, so chess consists of an endless amount of puzzles. Also, each new game of chess is similar to all other games of chess. This is yet again why chess is popular. Each new game of chess is a new puzzle, but the difference between each new game of chess is not too different, and we humans don't like to solve puzzles that are too different from each other.