This Week I Learned - 2017 Week 42

Last week post or something from the archive.

Sweet old week 42. Another ten more weeks and we can conclude the year 2017. Things are getting more exciting. Switching different diet seemed to help somehow, even the complexion of old wounds was getting better.

21 years. That's is probably the longest overdue to-do item I've checked off this week. When I was young, Japanese Drama was a regular slot our local TV channel TV2. There was this drama and song which I partially remembered but can't remember the name or the casts. The tune have been humming inside my head for the past 21 years.

While building a play list of songs to test different amplifier or speakers, I stumbled upon a list old 90's Japanese opening theme songs. The first song on the list was the bloody tune that have been lingering in my mind for so long. The name of the song is "Ima Sugu Kiss Me (今すぐkiss me)" sang by the pop/rock band, Lindberg. You can safely ignore the awkward 90's fashion sense and MTV style. And the name of the drama is "Sekai de Ichiban Kimi ga Suki (世界で一番君が好き!)".

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. One of the issue when picking up new skill is you may stuck at the advanced beginner level and can't move on to the next level. The joke about having ten years experience but doing the same thing ten times clearly illustrates this sad but truth scenario. How you know you're stuck in the advanced beginner level? Observe your seniors who have work much longer than you. Refactor your wetware is one of the possible way to overcome this.

Philharmonic Audio Affordable Accuracy speakers. Some knowledge on electronic and speaker design does help to improve an existing good enough speakers to excellent level. Again, sadly we can't get the parts here in MY.

The Farmer's Horse by Alan Watts. Not really much about the lesson of the story but the origin of the story. I've read this story several times and there are several versions. Some believed this is an old Chinese parable but I don't remember reading this story in any ancient Taoism literature. There are always stories from second source rather than the primary source. I was wondering what is the primary source of the story?

Vim after 15 years. (via HN). Time to clean up my Vim configuration again.

The ES9038PRO DAC chip (details from manufacturer). Never buy product by the brand, always look into the component used. Compare the specifications and features and purchase according to your budget. However, product based on this DAC chip is still rather expensive. Can't wait to get myself on any cheaper DACs based on this chip from China to test it out like the TFT HifiDuino project. Comparable, you also can get DAC using the AK4497EQ chip.

Coursera - Writing in the Sciences - Week 4

Continue with week 4. I've been quite behind the schedule and needs to stick back the schedule. Managed to finally sit down and went through all the week 4 modules in one session straight which took me around 3 hours. For the coming weeks, I should be able to get back on track.

4.1 More paragraph practice
The key take away from this module is emphasis on paragraph. Two important things:

(1) What's the paragraph about?
(2) What's the main idea or important points?

Good exercise to learn this is to summarize the main idea of the blog posts, papers, or other published literature. Webshit Daily is a good example of such writing with humour and sarcasm.

When you've a paragraph with complex idea, we can represent the concept as table or diagrams. As they said, a picture is worth a thousand words. If there are repetitive words or ideas, shorten it to take away the repetition. Wordiness may also leads to ambiguity, rewrite it to become more specific.

When to use passive voice? When it doesn't matter who did it.

Use "However" when you want to contrast something in the previous sentence.

One paragraph should contains one main idea. If you have two ideas within a paragraph, rewrite it into two paragraphs instead.

A paragraph can contains 1 - 3 sentences. Yes, there a paragraph with one sentence. I always think that a paragraph should at least have four sentences. One topic sentence, two supportive sentences, and one final concluding sentence.

4.2 Overview of the writing process
The main point is how do you approach writing? There are three major steps:

(1) Pre-writing.
A process of collecting, synthesizing, and organizing your data and ideas of your writing.

(2) Writing the first draft.
Turn the ideas into complete sentences. Writing should be fast and quick. Fsck grammar!

(3) Revision.
Revise to make it sounds better.

As a writer, you should follow the three steps in a sequential manner. Don't do two steps in one time. Multi-tasking is always bad! For example, start writing without much research is a typical approach by most people but this is not recommended. Not only this will stress you out, you are also prone to distraction as you're busy googling and doing something else. As you all know, googling for information will often leads to other unproductive online activities like reading news, checking social media status, and others. Also, when you're focus on the details of writing, you will lost focus on the big picture. Therefore, invest more time in pre-writing step.

Similarly, do not carry out writing the first draft and revision at the same time. Fsck grammar! Just make sure you have written down the ideas in complete sentences. Is okay you've wrong grammar, spelling, or the sentences do not sound good. That is for the last step -- revision!

The next question is how much effort or time we should spend on each step? The recommended breakdown are as follows:

- Pre-writing (70%)
- Writing the draft (10%)
- Revision (20%)

See how important the pre-writing process is. While going through this module, I've realized that my approach to writing, especially writing for learning should follow in this sequence!

4.3 The pre-writing step
Again, remove the bad habit of writing and gathering information simultaneously. Focus on gathering information. Don't starting writing unless you've gather and organize the information. If you have a sense of overall structure of your writing, then you can proceed to the next step.

To have an overview, use several available organization system. For example, mind map or road map so that you've an outline of the overall document. By organizing the ideas, you will know what are the missing pieces and what to search next. This process will take a while. If you're stuck, do something else. Subconsciously, the missing pieces will come to you, eventually in one way or another. Always carry a recorder, a pen, or any capturing ideas tools. You can even put a water proof whiteboard in your bathroom.

When come to organizing ideas with different viewpoints, group the arguments. For example, you can group the ideas by those who support it, the counter arguments, and the rebuttals.

4.4 The writing step
Just write. Fsck grammar or spelling or what ever style. Convey your organized ideas into complete sentences. Focus on the logical organization of your ideas. Best to set a timer on this so that your priority is to finish the writing instead of doing any revision or editing.

Do not edit your writing. Just write it down!

4.5: Revision
Six important steps which will improve the revision process. These are:

(1) Read your writing out loud.
The main purpose is to identify awkwardness in your writing. When the writing sounds good, then the reader will appreciate the natural flow of the writing.

(2) Do a verb check.
To make sure your writing is expressed in a direct way, underline all the main verb in each sentence. There are three issues with verb:

(a) Lackluster verb. For example, "are".
(b) Passive verb. For example, "was".
(c) Burried verb. For example, the main verb is too far from the subject. We have discussed this in previous week.

(3) Don't be afraid to cut.
Identify these issues to improve your writing. Those marked in bold are my bad writing habit.

(a) Dead weight words or phrases.
(b) Empty words or phrases.
(c) Long words or phrases.
(d) Unnecessary jargons and acronyms.
(e) Repetitive words or phrases. 
(f) Adverbs. (very, really, quite, or basically)

(4) Organizational review.
Tag the paragraph of your writing. Each tag is a summed up main point of the paragraph.

(5) Get outside feedback.
As the reader with or without the domain knowledge for feedback. The reader should be able to identify the main point, the take-home message, or the significance of your writing. If they are unable to do so, ask them to identify the part which are hard to grasp. Their feedback is the focus of your revision.

(6) Find a good editor.
Someone know have the domain knowledge and good in writing.

4.6: Checklist for the final draft
Finally, before sending out the writing to the editor or journal, go through these check list below to ensure consistency and accuracy.

(a) Check for consistency.
You writing style and so forth.

(b) Check for numerical consistency. 
For example, is the writing match the result in the table? Sometimes, sloppy copy and paste can cause inconsistency between the numerical data and the writing.

(c) Check your references.
One main issue is citation propagation where the writer back his/her statements based on a secondary source instead of the main source. Always do fact checking and reference to the main source.

Learning Objectives
(1) Practice writing clear and concise paragraphs.
Some common tips.

(2) Describe the steps in the writing process.
Most important lesson learned here. Pre-writing is so crucial that we also neglect it and do it together with writing. There will be no writing until you have completed the pre-writing step.

(3) Recognize the importance of spending sufficient time pre-writing.
This learning note was done in such way where I jot down the ideas which took me 3 hours. The writing was fast and it took around 1 hour.

(4) Recognize that good writing requires extensive revision.
Read, review, revise, and repeat.