Notes and Review - The Odyssey (Homer) (Wilson translation)

Review

I heard about this new translation on the Ezra Klein show. Madeline Miller made a very convincing pitch for why this book is relevant today, and why everyone should read this book; especially, the new translation by Emily Wilson. I was looking for something complex to read, that would keep me occupied for the 5 day extended vacation from May 2nd to May 7th (here in Japan). That was my main reason for picking this book up.

The story was simple, it was told at a beautiful, exciting clip. The story moves forward with this incredible, hard-to-believe speed. I am glad I read this book!

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Notes and Review - A Game As Old As Empire (Hiatt)

Review

This book is everything that it claims to be on the book jacket. It “uncovers the inner workings of the institutions behind these economic manipulations”. In particular, it looks at some of the incredibly global institutions that are name dropped in a lot of contexts: World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. There are several stories here about loans that were given to countries which were supposed to build schools or upgrade the city hall building of a bustling city or one of a myriad of other reasons but never did that or help the people the money was supposed to help in any way.

I must admit that it was a pretty shocking revelation at several points. In particular, we get stories from the people in the field, the rank and file of organizations like the World Bank who are going abroad to assess if a given loan should be sanctioned or a banker who used to work in an island that was being used for offshore banking.

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Notes and Review - Sapiens (Harari)

I have been hearing about Sapiens since April 2018. A friend in university read that book and told me that it was really good and that it changed the way they thought about a lot of things. I wanted to read the book but it was never very high on my list. This past Friday, I read a profile of the author, Yuval Noah Harari in the New Yorker. This profile intrigued me because it told the story of a university professor and a historian and even a philosopher who had some very strange principles and said things that I had honestly never heard before. These two quotes sealed the deal for me:

In “Sapiens,” Harari writes in... Read More

Converting GNUCash's XML file to Ledger's DAT format

Note: What follows is a meandering account of why I wrote a Perl script to convert GNUCash’s XML file to Ledger’s plaintext format. This script was the result of this process.

I have been using GNUCash to maintain my personal finances for about 4 years now, and especially since I started working, I have used a single GNUCash book for my expenses. Before that, I used to close my accounts every year or half year and start a new book. Apparently, this is not the recommended way to use GNUCash.

The more I have used GNUCash, the more I have become familiar with the data entry system. In general, I try to enter all my transactions by saving receipts and categorizing everything appropriately. If ever I have the feeling that a particular month or quarter I spent too much on a given category (bought too many clothes / too much electronics shopping) I pull up the Expense barchart report that GNUCash has in built support for. The default report is pretty good, and gives one a good idea of how they are doing with their money.

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More tools!

Here’s a list of some of the repositories I created on Github recently:

Vim plugins  
MarkdownLinks.vim 2020-02-02T03:54:14Z
PersistentScratch.vim 2020-01-02T09:56:07Z
Scripts in bash / perl / etc  
gospec 2020-01-25T12:08:24Z
json-where 2019-09-23T07:45:08Z
gnucash-xml-to-ledger-dat 2020-02-11T11:35:33Z
launchdarkly-prereq-graph-gen 2019-06-01T08:02:52Z
Firefox add-ons  
wealias-firefox-add-on 2019-02-05T13:49:12Z
open-circleci-workflows-firefox 2019-08-24T07:13:19Z
Misc  
stern 2019-03-21T14:47:12Z

I realized that I have been building a lot of tools lately. In particular, I have gotten into writing Vim plugins and forking and editing the tools I use often so that they have the options I want, but will probably never be merged into the tool’s repository itself.

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Work from Home

Mercari announced on 18th February, 2020 that they will be implementing a work from home polcy for all employees starting the next day and continuing till the end of February. This past week the policy was extended one more week, until March 8th. More extensions are possibly around the corner.

So, I have been working from home since 19th February! I have a desk and a monitor at home. I brought my split keyboard (A Kinesis Freestyle 2) back home from the office. Setup-wise, I would say I have managed to re-create a very work-like environment. My house is a typical apartment in Tokyo with a floor space of 25 square meters (about 250 sq. feet). There’s a living space of about 150 sq.m and the rest is a kitchen, a bathroom and space for a refrigerator and a washing machine.

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Year in Review - 2019

2019! It was my first full year at work, first full year outside India, the first time I spent a considerable amount of time learning and conversing in a foreign language. I looked back on the things I did and experienced in 2019 and wrote down the ones that stood out.

Travel

I went to Europe for the first time! It was also the first time I travelled outside India with my parents. We spent about a week in Italy! We went to Vatican City and stood in the plaza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. I enjoyed the food and coffee that is especially in abundance in Italy, the amazing nature around Lake Como and the clean, crisp mid-August air. I also realized that most of the paintings in Rome were about war, strife, hunger and conflict.

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Notes and Review - The Trial (Kafka)

The text cannot be altered, and the various opinions are often no more than an expression of despair over it.

This text perfectly describes this book. But the author put it at around the 90% mark, right when the book is about to end and you are starting to understand the kind of closure you will get from this book.

As far as disorienting books go, I have found those with non-linear timelines to be the most disorienting. In particular, you don’t know what’s going on, you have completely lost your place in the story of the book, you are invested in seeing the main character get out of whatever jam they are in but you have absolutely... Read More

Notes and Review - The Lever of Riches (Mokyr)

Summary

The Lever of Riches is a great book. I think I say that about a lot of books though. Lever of Riches is a 3-part book. In the first part, Mokyr presents a concise history of Technological progress starting in 500 BC and ending around \1915. In the second part, Mokyr compares the relative technological progress in three periods across time and space and the possible reasons (he touches on religion, culture, geography and national sentiment as possible reasons). In the last part, he draws an analogy between Biological Evolution and Technological progress.

I liked the first and second parts immensely. I didn’t find the last part (the analogy) very intersting or useful.

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Setting up Wireguard - Experience

Note: There are several guides out there which have a set of steps and the commands to set-up Wireguard on a Linux computer. This post is written along those lines but takes a different approach - it focuses more on what one can learn about basic Linux networking by doing this setup themselves.

Premise

I started out with a fairly clear goal: Setup a VPN server inside a Digital Ocean droplet to forward all local traffic through, using wireguard.

I wanted to use Wireguard mainly because it was inside the kernel which had this subconscious implication that it would be blazing fast. Also, I have seen the video on Wireguard’s website which has Alice and Bob side by side and in about 7 commands the video shows how Bob: ping Alice starts working! This was fairly revoutionary to me because until now I had used two kinds of VPNs:

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