Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Letters to Little Richard #5 What's Your God Given Purpose?

Dear little Richard,

            You want to be a godly man, don’t you? Well, part of becoming God’s man is figuring out what God wants you to do – and doing it. I mean, find God’s purpose for your life. I know… it isn’t always easy to discover God’s plans. Why? Because God’s purposes aren’t always clear as you might like; sometimes God speaks in a quiet voice when you’re alone, sometime through books that you read, sometimes through friends and people in general, and most of the time through His living Word, the Bible. “I will instruct you and show you the way to go,” God’s promises, “with My eye on you, I will give counsel” (Psalm 32:8).

            In doing so I don’t want you to be in such a hurry [also] to understand God’s unfolding plan for your life. Remember that God operates according to a perfect timetable. That timetable is His, not ours. Be passionate about it and at the same time – be patient. I believe, my little brother that God has big things in store for you, but such a good God that He is, He may have quite a few lessons to teach you before you are fully prepared to do His will and fulfil His purpose in your life. I like what Beth Moore writes, “Only God’s chosen task for you will ultimately satisfy. Do not wait until it is too late to realize the privilege of serving Him in His chosen position for you.”   

             May you genuinely try to figure out God’s purpose for your life. If so, you can be sure that with God’s help, you will eventually discover it. And when you discover His plans for you, you’re in for an exciting ride!                       

I found mine,
And many more to discover,

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Simple Book Review: Alan M. Turing, A Biography

Alan M. Turing (first published 1959) by Sara Turing

English mathematician, logician, cryptographer (code-breaker), and founder of computer science, Alan Mathison Turing, has not doubted a genius! I came to know about this man when I browsed through Walter Isaacson’s latest book The Innovators (2014), a story of the people who created the computer and the Internet that included Alan Turing as one of the leading thinkers that created our current digital revolution. Then I have introduced again to Alan’s life in a movie The Imitation Games (2014) loosely based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges [Benedict Cumberbatch a.k.a. Marvel’s Dr. Strange!]. So, when I found this book in the library, I straightaway borrow it!

This is a 2012 Centenary Edition. Sara Turing, the author, is Alan Turing’s mother. Alan is her younger son, and John Turing is her eldest son. “Sara Turing,” comments Martin Davis in the forward, “failed to understand [Alan] on so many levels, wrote this remarkable biographical essay. She carefully pieced together his school reports, copies of his publications, and comments on his achievements by experts.” To me this book is a bit bias, I can feel it as I read it – mother’s touch is always kinder – and I agreed that “she was trying to fit [Alan] into a framework that reveals more about her and her social situation than it does about him.” Alan’s brother, John, wrote in the afterward can only be described as a rebuttal of his mother's account. Sara is so optimistic about Alan; John thinks otherwise. Sara tried to make Alan look excellent and friendly, but John said that he was a bit weird and absent-minded.

Nevertheless, Sara Turing’s aim for this book is precise; it’s not about exhausting detail accounts but “to trace from early days the development of a mathematician and scientist of great originality.”

Highlights about Alan M. Turing: As a child, he was very energetic, intelligent, very good with words, adventurous, love sports, curious, and had his lab to do experiments. He studied at Cambridge and then Princeton. During World War II, he worked in the Foreign Office (where he and other code-breakers cracked German ‘Enigma’ code). After the War, he worked at the National Physical Laboratory Teddington, and also with the Manchester Automatic Digital Machine. In 1937, Alan published the paper On Computable Numbers, which, as much as any single event can be seen as the start of the modern computer age (where his proposed ‘The Turing Machine’). He published another paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence in 1950, which introduced his famous the ‘Turing Test.’ The test continues to play a big part in debates about Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Sadly, Turing died at 41. Sara thought of his death as ‘an accident.’ She writes, “Many friends, either because of his temperament and recent good spirits… have been led to believe that his death was caused by some unaccountable misadventure. Besides, his inadvertence alone had always involved the risk of an accident.” But Martin Davis and John Turing suspected otherwise. Martin writes, “There is a reason to believe that Alan did take his life” by staged suicide, biting a “deadly cyanide apple.” Very likely, this version is more accurate. In memory of her son’s death and significant accomplishments, she endowed the Alan Turing Prize of Science to be awarded annually at Sherborne School.

[P.s: Alan Turing is thought to have committed suicide shortly after his conviction for a homosexual offense, still criminalized at the time. His mother may or may not know of this, and she doesn’t record it clearly in her biography. “I believe it was here, perhaps in the first four or five years at the Wards, perhaps even in the first two,” John Turing recalled, “that Alan became destined for a homosexual.”]


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Letters to Little Richard #4 Work Hard as Something Done for the Lord

Dear little Richard,

            In a world where easy-money is promoted online and you can be muscular just by drinking drink in one week without exercise, don’t forget the old way of getting things done: work hard. I mean work hard in your vocation, doing it promptly and doing it well. As the Scriptures say, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

            Rich, God has created a world in which generally hard work is rewarded and sloppy work is not. Yet sometimes, you may be tempted to seek ease over excellence, or you may be tempted to take shortcuts when God intends that you walk the straight and narrow path. There are times when shortcuts and pragmatic ways are good and harmless – but not always. Work hard is always right and in fact a blessing by itself. “The world does not consider labour a blessing, therefore it flees and hates it,” writes Martin Luther, “but the pious who fear the Lord labour with a great and cheerful heart, for they know God’s command, and they acknowledge His calling.” Be an industrious worker in God’s field in this world “as something done for the Lord.”

            Work hard. Wherever you find yourself – whether at work, home, school, university, or anyplace in between – give it your best. When you do, you will most certainly win the recognition and respect of your peers (either they like you or not). But most importantly, God will bless your efforts and use you in ways that only He can understand. So, my dear brother, do your work with focus and dedication. Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hands find to do, do with [all] your strength”….and leave the rest up to God.

Read the Bible, God doesn’t use lazy people you know,
With brotherly love,


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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Letters to Little Richard #3 Choose Your Friends Wisely (Those Who Behave Responsibly)

Dear little Richard,

            Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Remember this Bible verse that I asked you to remember 10 years ago? It’s very much relevant today as it was yesterday. If you want to be wise and responsible person, you should hang out most of the time with people who behave wisely and responsibly. You should realize by now that some friendships will help make you a better person, while other friendships won’t.

            Some friendships help you honour God; these friendships should be nurtured. It doesn’t matter if your friends are Christians or not – oh, my Muslim friends back in university were very supportive and even now we have genuine friendships with one another – whatever friendships that make you a better person, you should keep it! Oswald Chambers agreed, “A friend is one who makes me do my best.” Vice versa, other ‘friendships’ place you in situations where you’re tempted to dishonour God by disobeying His clear commandments; friendships that dishonour God have the potential to do you great harm. Because everybody (including you) tends to become like their friends, you must choose your friends carefully. “Do you want to be wise?” asked Charles Swindoll, “Choose wise friends.”

            Do you want to live a life that is pleasing to God? I assume you want it passionately. My brother, you must! Go build friendships that are pleasing to Him. Especially with your Christian friends, remember this wise advice: “True friends don’t spend time gazing into each other’s eyes. They show great tenderness toward each other, but they face in the same direction, toward common projects, interest, goals, and above all, toward a common Lord [Jesus Christ]” (C.S. Lewis). Choose friends wisely. If you do, our Heavenly Father will bless you and your friends with gifts that are simply too numerous to count! Amen.

[P.s: Don’t hang out only with your Christian friends, go and be involve in Christian fellowship, and read the Word daily. Don’t forget to pray too]

                                                                                    Mother send her regards to you,
Your brother,


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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Letters Little Richard #2 Learn to Put God First

Dear little Richard,

            You have many interests. Your mind is full of wonders. You’re naturally curious and want to learn many things. That’s good! It simply mean that your life is not as dull and boring as many kids in your generations. But as you pursue knowledge, don’t forget about this: Learn to put God first in everything you do (even in your studies of theology and works of ministry).

            In Exodus 20:3, God makes it clear that we must have no other gods before Him. Why? Because “the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God” (Deuteronomy 10:17). As you may have already realized, the world tempts us to do otherwise. The world – especially the system of the world – seems to cry, “Worship me with your time, your money, your energy, your thoughts, and your life!” May we be wise and won’t fall prey to that temptation.

            Rich, you will always have some type of relationship with God. It’s inevitable that your life must be lived in relationship to Him. The question is not if you will have relationship with Christ; the burning question is whether that relationship will be one that seeks to honour Him… or not. My brother, are you willing to place God first in your life? And, are you willing to welcome Jesus Christ, God’s Son into your heart? (That mean, He is the King rule over your life). Unless you can honestly answer these questions with a resounding YES, then your relationship with God isn’t what it could be or should be. Hey, God is always available, He’s always ready to forgive your sins and He’s even waiting for you now to come back to Him. To put Christ first in everything you do. The rest, of course, is up to you. Be still, and know that [He] is God (Psalm 46:10).

Your brother,

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Simple Book Review: iBrain (Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind)

iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind (2008)
by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan

Reading this book remind me of other books that I’ve read such as Don Tapscott’s Growing Up Digital, Jesse Rice’s The Church of Facebook, Kim Stolz’s Unfriending My Ex and Daniel Sieberg’s The Digital Diet. Basically, all of these books are about how digital age and technology effect the way we think and behave. What make this book different is that Gary Small, a neuroscientist and experts on brain function and behaviour, gives hundreds of researches, studies and experiments on the human brains to draw conclusions in his book. This book is full of facts but not as dry as textbook. It’s interesting! I read this book because I want to understand my students (Digital Natives) and myself (between Digital Natives and Immigrants) in this always-online generations.

iBrain explores “how technology’s unstoppable march forward has altered the way young minds develop, function, and interpret information.” It reveals “a new evolution catalysed by technological advancement and its future implications.” And iBrain also offer helps/tips to avoid the potential drawbacks such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (H for Hyperactivity), increased social isolation, Internet addiction, hyper-multitasking, and so on. They offer tools and strategies needed to bridge the brain gap, enabling us to compete and shrive in the age of high-tech immersion.

This book divide into nine chapters: #1 Your Brain Is Evolving Right Now; #2 Brain Gap: Technology Dividing Generations; #3 Addicted to Technology; #4 Technology and Behaviour: ADHD, Indigo Children and Beyond; #5 High-Tech Culture: Social, Political and Economic Impact; #6 Brain Evolution: Where Do You Stand Now?; #7 Reconnecting Face to Face; #8 The Technology Toolkit; and #9 Bridging the Brain Gap; Technology and The Future Brain.

I learned great deal about technology addictions, the fall of multitasking activities, the power and danger of high-tech culture, the important of face-to-face communications and social skills, the usefulness of physical and brain exercise, and how to balance technology and off-line life. “All of us, Digital Natives and Immigrants, will master new technologies and take advantage of their efficiencies,” writes Gary Small, “but we also need to maintain our people skills and humanity. Whether in relation to a focused Google search or an empathic listening exercise, our synaptic responses can be measured, shaped, and optimized to our advantage, and we can survive the technological adaptation of the modern mind.”


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Letters to Little Richard #1 Remember that It's Your Life and Be Responsible

Dear little Richard,

            If you make a big-time mistake – and if you get caught – what’s the first thing you’re tempted to do? I know you, you’re going to find somebody or something to blame. Don’t do it bro. Forget about playing the blame game. Here is what I learned over the years: The more excuses you make – and the less responsibility you take – the less likely you are to learn anything from your experiences.

Rich, the sooner you begin taking responsibility for your actions, the sooner you’ll start growing into a mature, sensible, clear-thinking adult. As E. Stanley Jones once says, “Transformation will begin in any life – in yours – when you stand up and say: ‘I’m responsible for the kind of person I am. I am what I’ve wanted to be. Now I’ve changed my mind. I’m sorry for what I am and for what I have done. I’m going to be different. God help me.’” If you don’t do this, the opposite is also true: The longer you postpone accepting responsibility for your actions, the longer it will take you to really grow up.

Richard, my brother, it’s your life, which means that the person you see in the mirror is the very same person who’s responsible for the things you do, the things you say, and the mistakes you make. No exceptions! Therefore, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1) in Christ. I know that God is sovereign in all things and at the same time we’re human with responsibility. “God will take care of everything,” writes Lisa Whelchel, “the rest is up to you.” Remember my advice to you here. Meanwhile read the Word daily ya. I’ll write more soon…

Your big brother,


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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Simple Book Review: The Measure of A Man

The Measure of A Man (1959) by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was first a pastor – man of God – only then he was an activist. Not the other way round. He was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1963 and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. This book is not dry essays but lively meditations that contains the theological roots of his political and social philosophy of nonviolent activism. Basic to Dr. King’s philosophy is the belief that meditation and action are inseparable elements of life. If you want to know the motive or theological background behind his action – oh, may protesters in Malaysia today think it through before joining or supporting any cause – read this book!

The question ‘What is man?’ is one of the most important questions confronting any generation,” writes King, “The whole political, social, and economic structure of a society is largely determined by its answer to this pressing question. Indeed, the conflict which we witness in the world today between totalitarianism and democracy is at bottom a conflict over the question ‘What is man?’” There are those who look upon man as “little more than an animal.” Then there are those who would “lift man almost to the position of a god.” There are still others who would “seek to be a little more realistic about man. They would avoid the extremes of a pessimistic naturalism and optimistic humanism and seek to combine the truths of both.”

Then King turned to the Psalmist. He comes forth with an answer to ‘What is man?’ “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honour” (actually he quoted Psalm 8:5). First, he explained that man is a biological being with physical body. He doesn’t stop there, he also said that man is a being of spirit. “This distinguishes him from the lower animals. And so, somehow, man is in nature, and yet he is above nature; he is in time, and yet he is above time; he is in space, and yet he is above space.” But there is another principle that must go in any doctrine of man, claimed King, “It is the recognition that man is a sinner.” Because of this we have conflict with our Holy God, we misused our freedom, we go to war, we “destroy the values and the lives that God has given us”, we become selfish and ego, etc. King pleas with sinners that we may come to God who say, “Come home, I still love you.”

King then turned to the Apostle John’s vision of New Jerusalem, describing the city: “The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal” (Revelation 21:16). This is how he interpret this text: that life as it should be and life at its best is the life that is complete on all sides. And he challenges each of us to meditate upon and to accept the dimensions of a complete life – the length of life (the inward concern for one’s own welfare), the breadth of life (the outward concern for the welfare of others), and the height of life (the upward reach for God).

Rev. Martin concluded, “Love yourself, if that means rational, healthy, and moral self-interest. You are commanded to do that. That is the length of life. Love your neighbour as you love yourself. You are commanded to do that. That is the breadth of life. But never forget that there is a first and even greater commandment, ‘Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind.’ This is the height of life. And when you do this you live the complete life.”  

This book is simple, but it is very meaningful and depth in wisdom. I read it twice. Now I understand deeper why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a theologian and pastor involved in political and social nonviolent activism. This is his philosophy.


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Simple Book Review: In Their Own Words (Thomas Edison)

In Their Own Words: Thomas Edison (2001) by George Sullivan

I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.” These are the words of Thomas Alva Edison. They help to explain why he is the greatest inventor in American history. (After I read about Benjamin Franklin in the same series, I looking for more biography, holla! I found Edison!) Edison’s inventions changed the world. Edison amazed people with the first practical electric lightbulb with hairpin-shaped carbon filament. He called it his “bright idea.” The phonograph was another of his ingenious inventions. He invented a movie camera and projector too, and was one of the first people to produce movies.

Edison also did much more. He invented the business of inventing. He brought together teams of scientists and engineers. They are his masterminds to solve problems (even so, he like to solve the hardest problems by himself). In so doing, Edison introduced the idea of modern research laboratory which many companies use today. Throughout his life, Edison valued hard work. Since he was a kid he worked as a farmer, then as train boy selling newspapers and snacks for the passengers (he even have his own mini laboratory in the train), and learned to become one of the most famous telegrapher. His curiosity and inventiveness gives joy and fullness to his life (oh, and also disasters. When he was six, he started a fire in his father’s barn. When asked why, he later explained that he wanted to “just see what it would do”). He worked day and night on his projects. “Genius,” Edison said, “is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” I almost agree totally with this statement. I just don’t think the percentage division is accurate.

Sadly, he suffered a hearing loss as a young boy and grew worst as he became older. Amazingly however, Edison was the original positive thinker. He claimed that his poor hearing worked to his benefit. “I wasn’t easily distracted,” he said, “because I heard fewer sounds than other people did.” So he could concentrate better. During his lifetime, Edison was granted 1,093 patents in the United States (That mean on average, if we count from the day of his birth to death, 84 years old, he invented at least once per month!) That’s the greatest number ever issued to one person. What I admire about Edison was his honestly, passion, confident and positive mental attitude. It was told that he also seldom gloomy. For example, in December 1914, a fire broke out at Edison’s factory buildings in West Orange. Edison, then 67 years old, stood and watched the blaze. “Where’s mother?” he asked his son Charles, “Get her over here. Her friends, too. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” Not long after, he rebuild the factory again.

Lest I try to make Edison perfect, he was not. He was also very competitive, feel superior to other inventors and sometime very mean to his ‘enemies.’ However, I think maybe these characters what make him the Inventor of the Age. He died in 1931 but his legacy continue on until today. “Edison,” write George Sullivan, “was after all the wizard of electricity. His inventions had changed the face of the world.” Look at the light bulb and you see his idea shine on us.


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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Simple Book Review: Steve Jobs [Thinking Differently]

Steve Jobs: thinking differently (2011) by Patricia Lakin

Entrepreneur. Inventor. Pioneer. Creative. College dropout. Visionary. Revolutionary. Rebellious. Nonconformist. Sometime asshole. I think, anyone who know him will agree that Steve Paul Jobs, the cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc., could answer to all of these descriptions (oh maybe except an asshole). Jobs created one world-famous company, Apple Inc. and nurtured both NeXT and Pixar Studios. In short, he and his team – with his visions and passions for perfection – revolutionized home computers, the music and smartphone industries. I told my colleague, pointing at a poster on the wall, “Do you know that Steve Jobs involved in the creation of computer-animated films like Toy Story here?Wall-E too, but maybe most people doesn’t realize that. But for sure, people can remember Jobs as ‘father’ for the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad.

This book is excited because it shows from the beginning how Steve Jobs, the brain met Steve Wozniak, the genius to found Apple Computer. “I remember Steve,” said Wozniak, “…mostly about pranks we’d pulled, and also what kind of electronic designs we’d done. It felt like we had so much in common. Typically, it was really hard for me to explain to people the kind of design stuff I worked on, but Steve got it right away.” Jobs agreed, “Woz was the first person I met who knew more electronics than I did.” They started their ‘company’ in the garage “creating an inexpensive computer for the average person.” With many challenges and failures, both Steves, Mike Markkula, their first investor, and his friends (partners and workers) were able to produced the first generation Apple Computer [I always wonder, why called it ‘Apple’? #1 Steve once worked on a farm tending to apple orchard; #2 Steve was a vegetarian, consumed an all-fruit diet; and #3 Newton’s apple as symbol of revolution].

I chuckled as I read the seriousness of Steve Jobs in the teachings of Zen Buddhism that one time when he went to India he said to a guru he wanted to be a monk. I chucked some more when I read about his unseriousness in college causes him to dropped out but take a great interest in calligraphy. I amazed at his simplicity in life, his ability to think ahead of others, his don’t-give-up spirit, his drive for perfection, and his determination even in the midst of failures. I think of him as asshole sometime when I read about how he handled conflict with others (especially with Woz), how he treated his ex-girlfriend (he have a daughter, Lisa with her), and how self-centred he become when it comes to making decisions (but then again, I can interpret it as selflessness, for he think about the company and the products as a whole).

Honestly, minus the all-star popularity, the perfectionism and creative level, I see myself in Steve Jobs’. That’s why I love-hate Jobs. I don’t want to be like Jobs, and at the same time I want to be like him in the area of imagination, perseverance, passion and daring. After I read this book, I understand a great deal of the person of Steve Jobs. I used to doubt, “Apple Inc. is not only Steve Jobs but also Wozniak, the Lisa team, the Macintosh team and the Apple team. What so great about Steve?” Now my perspective is different: Yes I cannot think of Steve as the sole creator and designer of the Apple products. But Steve is worthy of our amazement because he was “like an ingenious conductor who assembled an orchestra of brilliant musicians and led them in playing his tunes, always to perfection.” Jobs was not the soloist hero, but the leader who lead a great team. In his life time and after his death in 2011 he had fulfilled his dream, namely, “to put a dent in the universe.

On my office table, there are two quotes I printed and framed as my reminders. One is from Albert Einstein and the other is from Steve Jobs, quote that he recorded for the multi-awards Think Different advertisement: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

With this, Patricia Lakin also end her book.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Simple Book Review: Einstein's Masterwork (1915 and the General Theory of Relativity)

Einstein’s Masterwork: 1915 and the General Theory of Relativity (2015) by John Gribbin

I picked up this book simply because it’s about Albert Einstein, the title and persuasive BBC Sky at Night’s reviews, “An absorbing and readable account of Einstein’s life and work.” I once saw this book while I’m looking for Walter Isaacson’s Einstein at Kinukuniya KLCC Bookstore. I finally bought this one because I can’t find Isaacson’s. No regret! John Gribbin, though he is a physicist and astronomer, writes in a simple language (in comparison) and gives easy illustrations to difficult subjects (not all, of course). Gribbin, to me, successfully described what an incomparable physicist Albert Einstein really was to the world of science.

The Special Theory of Relativity,” writes Gribbin, “one of the achievements of 1905, is ‘special’ in the sense that it is restricted and ‘only’ describes the behaviour of things moving in straight lines at constant speed. The name alone tell you that the General Theory is a bigger deal, but because of the widespread (mis)conception that the General Theory is too difficult for ordinary mortals to understand, the events of 1915 have been less feted than the events of 1905… Einstein’s greatest year was indeed 1915, not 1905.” But throughout this book, Gribbin intend to demonstrate this by “putting Einstein’s science in the context of his life and work both before and after 1915, including his breakthrough year of 1905.”

It all started when his father gave the boy Einstein a magnetic compass to relieve his boredom. “He was fascinated by the idea of an invincible force that kept a grip on the compass needle, and baffled that none of his teachers at the school had shown him anything half as interesting. This helped to instil an early conviction that he was much better off working things out for himself than working within the system.” This is typical for geniuses, they are more productive and creative when they are alone. To cut the story short, Einstein wasn’t “the Einstein” when he was young, it was hard for him to further his study and even to find a job! He faced many rejections and was once told by his professor, “a lazy dog.” I think this is fair.

But as he gained great interest in science, especially physics, and by the inspiration of people like Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Niels Bohr – and many more – he soon become self-taught theoretical scientist. In 1905, what was called The Annus Mirabilis (The Year of Miracle) he produced three papers that jump start his career as world-class physicist, simply put as #1 On Brownian motion [which prove the existence of atoms], #2 On light quanta [on which at the same time prove that light is both particle and wave], and #3 the Special Theory of Relativity [I don’t understand all but for sure one of it is that E=mc2, the only famous equation that almost everybody knows].

Then with ups and downs in his life, particularly in his broken marriage and family in general, Einstein tells me that he is a mere mortal, not a god. But in the midst of [also] wars, personal health, and loneliness, Einstein completed his masterwork, namely the General Theory of Relativity. The Theory was tested over and over again that “the General Theory of Relativity can now be regarded as one of the two most securely founded theories in the whole of science, alongside quantum electrodynamics.” From this Theory, to my estimation comes ‘weird’ consequences or positively put, give us the shock of nature’s reality such as time is relative, universe space is curve, universe is expanding, gravity can bend light, the possibility of time travel, supernova, the black hole, wormhole, timewarps, dark matter, black matter, quantum internet, theory of the Big Bang (or vice versa, the existence of Intelligent Designer, God), and many more.

Einstein died without really finishing one of his ambitious dream, namely, “a single mathematical package – a unified theory – that would describe both the material world and the world of electromagnetic radiation.” He died as icon of science, as towering genius, as one of the founders of quantum mechanics. Good book.
[P.s: Some of my conclusions here might be inaccurate or too simplistic, I’m sorry, I’m not a physicist. Correct me if I wrongly inform]

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Simple Book Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2012)
by William Joyce. Illustrated by William Joyce & Joe Bluhm

[This is one of the best fiction-fantasy, short-book I ever read so far! Full of wonderful graphics and how I wish you also may read this book with all of its inspiring pictures. This is a story about a man and his books, and how his life and readings influenced others to read books too. As the author writes that this book is dedicated to one of the librarian that influenced Joyce’s reading and love for books]

Morris Lessmore loved words.
He loved stories.
He loved books.
His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another. He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.

But every story has its upsets.
One day the sky darkened.
The winds blew and blew…

…till everything Morris knew was scattered –
even the words of his book.

He didn’t know what to do or which way to go.
So he began to wonder.
And wonder.

Then a happy bit of happenstance came his way. Rather than looking down, as had become his habit, Morris Lessmore looked up. Drifting through the sky above him, Morris saw a lovely lady. She was being pulled along by a festive squadron of flying books.

Morris wondered if his book could fly.
But it couldn’t.
It would only fall to the ground with a depressing thud.

The flying lady knew Morris simply needed a good story,
so she sent him her favourite. The book was an amiable fellow,
and urged Morris to follow him.

The book led him to an extraordinary building
where many books apparently “nested.”

Morris slowly walked inside and discovered
the most mysterious and inviting room he had ever seen.
It was filled with the fluttering of countless pages,
and Morris could hear the faint chatter of a thousand different stories,
as if each book was whispering an invitation to adventure.

Then his new friend flew up to him and landed on his arm.
It held itself open, as if hoping to be read.
The room rustled to life.
And so Morris’s life among the books began.

Morris tried to keep the books in some sort of order,
but they always mixed themselves up.
The tragedies needed cheering up and would visit the comedies.
The encyclopedias, weary of facts, would relax with the comic books and fictions.
All in all it was an agreeable jumble.

Morris found great satisfaction in caring for the books,
gently fixing those with fragile bindings
and unfolding the dog-eared pages of others.

Sometimes Morris would become lost in a book
and scarcely emerge for days.

Morris liked to share the books with others.
Sometimes it was a favourite that everyone loved,
and other times he found a lonely little volume whose tale was seldom told.

“Everyone’s story matters,” said Morris.

And all the books agreed.

At night, after all the stories that needed telling had been told
and everyone has settled down to their proper places on the shelves,
the great big dictionary would get in the last word:

It was then that Morris Lessmore would once again write in his own book.
He wrote of his joys and sorrows,
Of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.

The days passed.

So did the months.

And then years.

And years…

…and Morris Lessmore became stooped and crinkly.

But the books never changed.
Their stories stayed the same.
Now his old friends took care of him
the way he had once cared for them,
and they read themselves to him each night.

Then one day he filled the last page in his book.
He looked up and said with a bittersweet sigh,
“I guess its’s time for me to move on.”

The books were sorry, but they understood.
Morris put on his hat and took his cane.
As he went to the door, he turned and smiled,
then waved good-bye.
“I’ll carry you all in here,”
he said, and pointed to his heart.

The books waved their pages, and Morris Lessmore flew away.
And as he flew, he changed back to the way he’d been
that long ago day when they’d all first met.

The books were quiet for a while.
Then they noticed that Morris Lessmore had left something behind.
“It’s his book!” said his oldest friend.
Inside was Morris’s story.
All of his joys and sorrows,
All that he know and everything that he hoped for.

Then the books heard a small, expectant sound.
There in the doorway was a little girl.
She looked around with wonder.
Then something fantastic happened.
Morris Lessmore’s book flew up to her and opened its pages.

The girl began to read.
And so our story ends as it began…

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Simple Book Review: A Brief History of Time (From Big Bang to Black Holes)

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (first published 1988)
by Stephen Hawking

On the back cover of this book, “Was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards? Is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries?” These three questions sparked neutrons in my curious mind. At first I wasn’t interested in Stephen Hawking, not until I watched Youtube video Brilliant Minds: Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Hawking (particularly, because I’m interested first in the life of Einstein). And after recalled watching 2014 movie Theory of Everything based on Jane Hawking’s book Travelling to Infinity, I get to know more about his life and works.

Hawking, now renowned astrophysicist, born in 1942 exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo (FYI: right after Galileo died, Isaac Newton was born). He studied physics at Oxford University and then further his studies at Cambridge. When he was 21 years old he was diagnosed as having ALS or known as Motor Neurone Disease (that’s why you see him on the wheel chair and communicate using a program called Living Center). Among many of his accomplishments, one that fascinate me is that he holds Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambrigde, a post once held by the great scientist, Isaac Newton.

This Hawking’s first book for nonspecialist, holds rewards of many kinds for the lay audience,” introduce Carl Sagan, “As interesting as the book’s wide-ranging contents is the glimpse it provides into the workings of its author’s mind. In this book are lucid revelations on the frontiers of physics, astronomy, cosmology, and courage.” Hawking in this book wish to write a book for “people without a scientific education can understand,” he continues, “This is what I have attempted to do in this book. The reader must judge whether I have succeeded.” Hmmm… I don’t know…

Well Mr. Hawking… for the first parts of this book [chapter #1 Our Picture of the Universe, #2 Space and Time, and #3 The Expanding Universe] I do understand some great deal, then I stated to lost in the midst and skipped lots of pages [chapter #4 The Uncertainty Principle, #5 Elementary Particles and the Forces of Nature, #8 The Origin and Fate of the Universe, and #9 The Arrow of Time] and totally black out in chapters #6 Black Holes, and #7 Black Holes Ain’t So Black. Chapter #10 The Unification of Physics, is the most interesting to my mind. A theory of everything – the Theory – that try to combine quantum mechanics with general relativity is much sort after theory both by Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking himself. “...If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God.”

The origin and the end of the universe, the Big Bang and the Big Crunch, the nature of time and boundaries of space in the universe, the existence of God or not at all. These and many more of cosmological physics were explained with clarity (in his mind and most of the reviewers, but not necessarily to me) and wit. “I resolved not to have any equations at all,” writes Hawking, “however, I did put in one equation, Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2.” Even so, Mr. Hawking, I wish that this book can be simpler. I think Michio Kaku is better and Brian Greene clearer, not in term of intelligent, but in how to explain physics simpler to non-scientific, general readers. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading this book. It make me [feel] smarter.

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Simple Book Review: Isaac Newton (Laws of Motion)

Isaac Newton: Laws of Motion (1998) by Michael White

[For the person of Isaac Newton I would like you to refer to my summary on Giants of Science: Isaac Newton (2006) by Kathleen Krull. But here I would like to simply explain and focus on the first Newton’s law of motion]

There are three laws of motion stated in Newton’s most famous book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (usually referred to as the Principia). But the first law, which deals with the concept of inertia, has the widest applications today. Inertia is the term given to the tendency for all objects to resist change or movement. In order to move an object, a force has to be applied to overcome its inertia. Newton stated that because of their inertia, all things continue in a state of rest or moving in a straight line unless affected by an outside force.

Michael White gives an example: “If a perfectly smooth ball was rolled along a perfectly smooth surface and there was no wind or any other force at work, the ball could, in theory, carry on rolling forever. Of course, in real life the ball would slow down and eventually stop, and that is caused by outside forces, such as friction and air currents.” Galileo, Newton’s predecessor in the field of mechanics, had studied the properties of falling objects, but no one before Newton had thought about why a force had to be applied to a stationary object in order to make it move.

A thousand years before Newton, the Greek philosopher, Leucippus, had proposed the theory of causality that “Nothing happens without a cause, but everything with a cause and by necessity.” It is an obvious statement but there was no proof or experiment. What Newton did was to explain the idea that forces need to act on an object and to cause the effect of overcoming inertia or changing the object’s path. “He proved this idea using geometry and predicted the effect caused by the application of forces of various strengths on different objects,” writes Michael. To me, Newton showed what ‘real’ science was in comparison with pseudo-scientists and the philosophies of the Greek.

Michael continues, “Newton laid down laws that could be applied to predict events with remarkable accuracy. Newton’s mechanics was systematic, it was built on sound fundamental principles and simple, irrefutable laws which could be applied to the most elaborate and complex problems – problem such as sending spaceships to the planets, or something as relatively simple as the movements of a billiard ball on a smooth surface.” These and many more of Newton’s scientific contributions to the world today. I recommend this book for sure, and all other books – biographies of great people especially – because of its inspirational and creative values.

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Simple Book Review: In Their Own Words (Benjamin Franklin)

In Their Own Words: Benjamin Franklin (2000) by Peter and Connie Roop

Once I thought of reading Walter Isaacson’s 550+ pages of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2004) but it is so thick and very detail. I just want to read for inspirations and get a glimpse of Franklin’s life, so I read this simpler, thinner biography just 112 pages. This book is very interesting, clear and smooth reading. I read in one sitting in the library today (this is how I spent my off day). Everyone must know this man, don’t ever think that he is exclusive for Americans only, this man literally change the world. Roop writes, “Even without all the writing Ben Franklin left, the world would still remember his remarkable life.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was much more than one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, however. He was a father, a husband, a friend, an author, a poet (never last), a printer, an inventor, an entrepreneur, a scientist, a diplomat, an ambassador, a representative, an initiator – and of all, a true American thinker.

What I like about Ben is his hunger for knowledge and continuous pursue for personal development. He was a vivid reader too. Ben loved to read and learn throughout his life. When he was working with his brother, James, at the printing press, he wrote, “I now had access to better books. Often I sat in my room reading the greatest part of the night [and]… early in the morning, lest it should be missed.” Ben also recalled, “From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.” Because of his natural curiosity, Ben read widely: science, religion, politics, novels and essays.

Another thing I like about Ben is that he was born without privilege or wealth. He becomes who he is known today through hard work, faith, intelligence and determination. His legacy includes the ideas of fire department, a national postal system, free library, a hospital (with his fellow scientists), freedom of slavery, and a university. He was the inventors of ‘armonica’, bifocal glasses, lightning rods, and many more that make life easier and safer for people (there is one experiment that was very dangerous for his own life, namely, flying a kite in a thunderstorm to prove that lighting was indeed electricity). Ben’s life was an exciting journey. On his deathbed he wrote a letter to a friend, he said he would die with “little regrets, as, having seen during a long life a good deal of this world, I feel a growing curiosity to be acquainted with some other.”

Franklin died peacefully in his home with his family, his inventions, and his books. With this, I closed this book with gladness and inspired. Next time, when you go to the library or bookstore, when you see a biography of Benjamin Franklin, please consider to read it – better, buy it.

[I also watched “Biography Series: Benjamin Franklin, Citizen of the World” DVD to explore more about Ben’s life. Both materials I borrowed from the library. See, knowledge is free for the curious minds!]


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Simple Book Review: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations (originally published around 170-180 AD) by Marcus Aurelius

This book is published under Penguin Books – Great Ideas (2004) and was translated by Maxwell Staniforth in 1964. What can I say, this book is small in volume, only 164 pages. But the effect of it for my mind and motivations is invaluable. Meditations (or literary “that which [is] to himself”) is a series of personal writings – not intended to be published, but as guidance and self-improvement – by a Roman Emperor-Philosopher, Marcus Aurelius (on which persecutions of Christians seemingly increased during his reign as Emperor. May or may connected to him).

This book is the most significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. Even though I read “God” or “the gods” or “Nature” I know that he doesn’t mean the Christian God but the Greek gods, who, mainly rule by Zeus. Nevertheless, Christians must not throw this pagan writer/book simply because all truths (even in this book) belong to the Truth. When I read Meditations, it felt like I’m reading the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes only in different contexts and background. “Soon you will have forgotten the world, and soon the world will have forgotten you” (Book 7, verse 21). Doesn’t it sound like “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”? (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Of course, there are lots of differences too.

When I read this book, I noticed that Aurelius always emphasis that: #1 Life is short; #2 Do your best in everything you do; #3 God (or gods) desires the ultimate Good for us; and most obvious of all #4 Reason is under our control. “A little fresh, a little breath, and a Reason to rule all – that is myself” (2:2). Here are some of my favourite quotes on the use of the mind (or reason):

Concentrate every minute … on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions … you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centred, irritable.”

You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random and irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious.”

“You can lead an untroubled life provided you can grow, can think and act systematically.”

“Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.”

“Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.”

“Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.”

Because contemporary self-help books is mainly repetitious, read classics for fresher perspectives on life and the way to think. I recommend Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Try to read it. 

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