Unexpected Benefits from Reading

August 4, 2015 at 10:35 am (Innovation, Rant, Thinking) (, , , , )

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading (a LOT of reading). I’ve been making a point of visiting my local library once a week this year and I can’t seem to leave the building without two or three new books. It has helped to sate my need to learn about different things, but it has also provided me with some unexpected benefits.

A couple of the topics that I’ve been reading about are leaf cutter ants and map making. These aren’t exactly topics that directly impact my daily life, however, they’ve been helping me expand my ideas to beyond just what has already been done. If you think about it, how can you be innovative and expand your field if your field is all that you study?

the benefit of reading isn’t necessarily learning about a topic;
it’s gaining perspective about the world of things you don’t know about.

At this point, it isn’t a secret that I prefer to do things a little different. I frequently file patents through the company I work for, and I’m always on the hunt for ways to improve the world around me in ways nobody has considered. I’ve been finding more and more that there is almost always some sort of alternate takeaway from even the most obscure subjects. They help to change the brain’s neural pathways to generate new combinations of ideas and make better contributions.

More importantly however, I believe the largest benefit is that it helps me see what I don’t know. Frequently, we only ever play in areas we’re good at: we read books and articles where we’re already familiar with the field, we cook foods that we know how to cook, and I bet over the years you’ve probably gotten good at your job. There’s rarely a chance to see just how much we don’t know.

In my opinion, the benefit of reading isn’t necessarily learning about a topic; it’s gaining perspective about the world of things you don’t know about. I’d like to go as far as to say that you can attempt to shrink that world, but perspective is the best we can do; you can’t shrink the infinite.

So, go forth and read something that is outside of your sphere of expertise; you might be surprised with the results.

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Update Mar 12, 2015: New game demo, mind palaces, and notebooks

March 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm (Game Development, Games, Processing, Thinking) (, , , , , , , , )

It’s been a while again since I’ve posted here, but I haven’t been idle in this period of time. I don’t think I can list all of the things I’ve been up to, but here are three things I’ve been up to:

New Game Demo

I’ve recently released (privately) a new demo for my game. It features brand new levels, mechanics, and storyline. I’ve even added new tilesets and original music for the levels. With the last demo, I was happy to have something playable that resembled a game and showed off some of the neat things I’ve built, but this time I think I’m actually content with it as a game. I’ve added some dialogue that needs a bit of polishing, but is roughly what I want it to be as well. I still need to post screenshots and a video, but I need a big chunk of time to do that still.

The first person to play-test it and give feedback made me pretty happy. It seems that they felt what I wanted them to feel and thought what I wanted them to think with respect to the storyline. They noticed some of the extra details I put into the levels (like the rain effect) as well. One thing I took away though, was that they didn’t use the camera mechanic at all. I think I might add some HUD cues and mechanics to encourage the usage of it.

 Mind Palace

I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time lately rebuilding my “Mind Palace”. This is a mental tool that utilizes the “Method of Loci” method for memorization. Essentially it’s a superior way to reliably remember things. It takes a bit of effort to set up and upkeep, but if done correctly, you can do wonderful things with it.

Before, I was building the hub structure of my palace based on something I had imagined. My problem was that I never fully constructed it; I wasn’t sure how big of a space I needed, so it deteriorated over time faster. I can still reference most of the rooms, but I didn’t solidify where everything was enough.

Also, I didn’t have enough connections to well-known places. Examples of these are houses I’ve previous lived in, These are useful as you can typically just imagine yourself moving through those places and then have your memories jump out at you. My next goal is to tie in more of those to my “hub area” so that I can jump from location to location without having to remember how many houses I’ve lived in. It probably would look like that hallway in one of the Matrix sequels that had all the doors leading to difference places.


Soooo, it turns out I am a crazy person? I used to have decision issues when it would come to notebooks. I remember being in a store for 10 minutes trying to decide what colour I wanted to use for a notebook. I ended up just buying all of them so that I could decide in a non-public place. Recently, Target has gone out of business in Canada due to questionable decision making. The good part of this is that Moleskine notebooks have gone on sale; at the time I purchased them, the discount was 30% off. I rarely notice these going on sale, and since I’ve started using them almost exclusively, it seemed like a great idea! However, now I have a drawer full of different sizes of notebooks and my mind will only let me use certain notebooks for certain purposes. I’m happy to not have to go buy more for a while, but now I have to store a ton of notebooks…


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Book of Knowledge

August 18, 2014 at 10:58 am (Rant, Teaching, Thinking) (, , , , , )

I am starting a new notebook. While reviewing some information from one of the online courses I’m taking right now, I realized that I am back in an old habit of assuming I’m smarter than I am. This usually means that I read stuff and learn about stuff and assume I’ll just remember it, or assume that I understand it completely. This notebook is meant to write down summarized information on whatever I am learning at the time. It will also include mnemonic tips and other stuff.

This will allow me to quickly review whatever is in the book and solidify it in my mind. I want to keep it concise enough so I can glance through it, but have enough details so that I don’t lose context or have no clue what things are.

Work in progress.

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Computer Science for Visual/Kinesthetic Learning Styles

September 17, 2012 at 9:33 am (Computer Science, Processing, Programming, Teaching) (, , , )

I’ve been playing with some ideas for how to teach CS and math topics to people with visual and kinesthetic learning styles. This means that they excel at learning by seeing visual examples or by doing and manipulating respectively. I have a Processing demo for teaching basic vector math right now, but its nowhere near ready to be seen yet.

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Restricted Boltzmann Machines

March 28, 2011 at 11:31 am (Computer Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

So for a computational neuroscience project, I’ve been working at implementing a type of neural network called a restricted Boltzmann machine (RBM). It’s a type of unsupervised learning consisting of a visible and hidden layer with no inter-layer connections.

So I’ve modified some Matlab code to allow the network to learn handwritten digits from the MNIST handwriting database. It’s pretty nifty and can reconstruct noisy images based on what it’s learned by itself (no labels involved).

Here’s a screenshot of a run using 100 digits from the database. The network has 300 hidden nodes. The images have 20% noise before reconstuction.

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