👍 Sortem for Amazon – Google Chrome extension

Sortem for Amazon is an extension for Google’s Chrome web browser which provides an additional sorting option when looking at search results on Amazon.com.

To find the best products, one might think that sorting by product rating (avg. customer review) is the best way to find the highest quality products. After all, if people like a product they will rate it highly. However, that sorting method does not consider that products with fewer ratings are more likely to be rated higher than products with many ratings.

For example, if product A has a single 5-star rating, it will be ranked above product B which has 1,000 4 and 5-star reviews. This is because a single perfect 5-star rating is ranked above 1,000 reviews which average out to a 4.5-star rating.

While sorting by the number of reviews doesn’t magically display the absolute best product as the first result, it does provide a useful sorting option that can be used in conjunction with filtering by product rating.

Sortem for Amazon – Chrome Web Store

💬 Never gets easier

Greg LeMond is a former professional cyclist who has won the Tour de France three times. He knows a thing or two about pushing oneself to the extreme of their capabilities. Despite having been one of the fastest bicyclists in the world, LeMond spoke the truth when he said

“It never gets easier, you only go faster.” -Greg LeMond

While I do not race road bicycles, I know exactly what LeMond is talking about. The pain one feels during their first exercise is the exact same pain that they will encounter during their 1,000th exercise. The pain never goes away. Instead, one feels the same pain but at a faster pace or higher number of repetitions.

This quote also hints at the idea that making progress on an activity is reliant on one’s ability to embrace pain.

👍 The Queen of Versailles and Generation Wealth

The Queen of Versailles

While this documentary film was released all the way back in 2012, I did not learn about its existence until this month. The film introduces the Siegel family and their extravagant billionaire lifestyle as they begin construction on their dream mansion, which is inspired by the Palace of Versailles.

However, their plans soon come to a halt as the timeshare empire they built crumbles during the 2008 financial crisis. The family proceeds to engage in ever more ridiculous behavior as their budget tightens. You will want to tape your mouth shut for this film, otherwise it will spend a lot of time dropping to the floor.


Amazon Video


Generation Wealth

The Baader-Meinhof Syndrome was alive and well this week as I browsed Reddit. Having watched The Queen of Versailles only a few days ago, I found it remarkable to see an image from the film in my Reddit feed. However, instead of taking me to The Queen of Versailles, the post was about a new film and project titled Generation Wealth.

The film comes from Lauren Greenfield who also directed The Queen of Versailles. Her new project consists of multiple mediums: a museum exhibition, a photographic monograph, and a feature documentary film (July 20th, 2018 US & UK theatrical release). This work examines society’s increasing obsession with wealth over the last 25 years.

With her new film, Generation Wealth, she puts the pieces of her life’s work together for in an incendiary investigation into the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen. Spanning consumerism, beauty, gender, body commodification, aging and more, Greenfield has created a comprehensive cautionary tale about a culture heading straight for the cliff’s edge. Generation Wealth, simultaneously a deeply personal journey, rigorous historical essay, and raucously entertaining expose, bears witness to the global boom-bust economy, the corrupted American Dream and the human costs of capitalism, narcissism and greed.

I probably won’t get a chance to view this documentary until later this year, but nevertheless I am very much looking forward to it.


Generation Wealth website

🎵👍 Dan Deacon and Rat Film

Rat Film posterI learned about Rat Film through my appreciation of Dan Deacon, an American composer and electronic musician. “Trippy” is the first word that comes to mind when I listen to his albums.

In addition to producing his own music, Dan Deacon has produced the soundtrack to a few films. The soundtrack to Rat Film popped up in Spotify since I follow Dan Deacon and after hearing the first track, I knew that the film would look intriguing.

The film takes an abstract look at the relationship between rats and humans while exploring Baltimore’s history. I do not have any insights or revelations to share after watching Rat Film. I simply thought it was beautiful and fun to watch, so I recommend the film to you.


Amazon Video

💡 Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design

I stumbled across this list of rules to abide by when designing spacecraft and realized that many of the rules apply to other areas of life in addition to spacecraft design.

1. Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

2. To design a spacecraft right takes an infinite amount of effort. This is why it’s a good idea to design them to operate when some things are wrong .

3. Design is an iterative process. The necessary number of iterations is one more than the number you have currently done. This is true at any point in time.

4. Your best design efforts will inevitably wind up being useless in the final design. Learn to live with the disappointment.

5. (Miller’s Law) Three points determine a curve.

6. (Mar’s Law) Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.

7. At the start of any design effort, the person who most wants to be team leader is least likely to be capable of it.

8. In nature, the optimum is almost always in the middle somewhere. Distrust assertions that the optimum is at an extreme point.

9. Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting the analysis.

10. When in doubt, estimate. In an emergency, guess. But be sure to go back and clean up the mess when the real numbers come along.

11. Sometimes, the fastest way to get to the end is to throw everything out and start over.

12. There is never a single right solution. There are always multiple wrong ones, though.

13. Design is based on requirements. There’s no justification for designing something one bit “better” than the requirements dictate.

14. (Edison’s Law) “Better” is the enemy of “good”.

15. (Shea’s Law) The ability to improve a design occurs primarily at the interfaces. This is also the prime location for screwing it up.

16. The previous people who did a similar analysis did not have a direct pipeline to the wisdom of the ages. There is therefore no reason to believe their analysis over yours. There is especially no reason to present their analysis as yours.

17. The fact that an analysis appears in print has no relationship to the likelihood of its being correct.

18. Past experience is excellent for providing a reality check. Too much reality can doom an otherwise worthwhile design, though.

19. The odds are greatly against you being immensely smarter than everyone else in the field. If your analysis says your terminal velocity is twice the speed of light, you may have invented warp drive, but the chances are a lot better that you’ve screwed up.

20. A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately.

21. (Larrabee’s Law) Half of everything you hear in a classroom is crap. Education is figuring out which half is which.

22. When in doubt, document. (Documentation requirements will reach a maximum shortly after the termination of a program.)

23. The schedule you develop will seem like a complete work of fiction up until the time your customer fires you for not meeting it.

24. It’s called a “Work Breakdown Structure” because the Work remaining will grow until you have a Breakdown, unless you enforce some Structure on it.

25. (Bowden’s Law) Following a testing failure, it’s always possible to refine the analysis to show that you really had negative margins all along.

26. (Montemerlo’s Law) Don’t do nuthin’ dumb.

27. (Varsi’s Law) Schedules only move in one direction.

28. (Ranger’s Law) There ain’t no such thing as a free launch.

29. (von Tiesenhausen’s Law of Program Management) To get an accurate estimate of final program requirements, multiply the initial time estimates by pi, and slide the decimal point on the cost estimates one place to the right.

30. (von Tiesenhausen’s Law of Engineering Design) If you want to have a maximum effect on the design of a new engineering system, learn to draw. Engineers always wind up designing the vehicle to look like the initial artist’s concept.

31. (Mo’s Law of Evolutionary Development) You can’t get to the moon by climbing successively taller trees.

32. (Atkin’s Law of Demonstrations) When the hardware is working perfectly, the really important visitors don’t show up.

33. (Patton’s Law of Program Planning) A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.

34. (Roosevelt’s Law of Task Planning) Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

35. (de Saint-Exupery’s Law of Design) A designer knows that he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

36. Any run-of-the-mill engineer can design something which is elegant. A good engineer designs systems to be efficient. A great engineer designs them to be effective.

37. (Henshaw’s Law) One key to success in a mission is establishing clear lines of blame.

38. Capabilities drive requirements, regardless of what the systems engineering textbooks say.

39. Any exploration program which “just happens” to include a new launch vehicle is, de facto, a launch vehicle program.

39. (alternate formulation) The three keys to keeping a new human space program affordable and on schedule:
1) No new launch vehicles.
2) No new launch vehicles.
3) Whatever you do, don’t develop any new launch vehicles.

40. (McBryan’s Law) You can’t make it better until you make it work.

41. There’s never enough time to do it right, but somehow, there’s always enough time to do it over.

42. Space is a completely unforgiving environment. If you screw up the engineering, somebody dies (and there’s no partial credit because most of the analysis was right…)


📷 West Windy Hill

Every so often I head outside to do some photography using a drone. It can be a difficult hobby to engage with in the San Francisco Bay Area because drones cannot be flown within 5 miles of an airport. This causes most of the Bay Area to be off limits.

Given this situation, I’ve been scouting in the hills on the west side of the SF peninsula for interesting locations to fly. The wind finally died down today so I headed up Old La Honda Road to see what I could find.

The air was full of haze and the sun’s position was not great, but with Adobe’s Lightroom program it’s possible to make nearly any image look okay. Here are a few photos:

👍 Bobby Kennedy For President

Bobby KennedyNetflix has become a remarkable player in the world of documentary filmmaking in the last 5 years. The film Bobby Kennedy For President is their latest documentary production and like most of the others it is a great film. This production is split into 4 individual hour-long episodes which introduce the Kennedys, portray Bobby Kennedy’s path into government, and delve into his eventual assassination.

While I certainly paid attention in history classes back in school, none of the classes I took even scratched the surface of modern American history from the 1950s forwards. This gap in knowledge has been gradually filled in over time thanks to books, articles, essays, and podcasts. However, seeing first-hand footage from history provides a layer of historical understanding that the written medium cannot. I certainly did not have a full understanding of Robert Kennedy’s contribution to government and the impact of his assassination until finishing this documentary series.

What I take away from this documentary is just how much the assassinations of the 1960s impacted the course of the United States. The strongest voices for equality and justice were silenced at a time where the country had the potential of going through a vast transformation. Instead of facing this reckoning, the country chose to stick to the status quo of rampant corruption and classism which we still live with today.


💬 Hyphenated Americanism

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism … the one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.” -Theodore Roosevelt (Columbus Day, 1915)

President Woodrow Wilson, well-known for holding racist views against African-Americans, unsurprisingly espouses similar views:

“I want to say— I cannot say too often— any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready. If I can catch a man with a hyphen in this great contest, I will know that I have got an enemy of the Republic.” -Woodrow Wilson (September 25, 1919)


It is incredibly saddening to realize that the xenophobic views expressed by presidents in the early 1900s are no different than the views expressed by the current president in 2018, more than 100 years later. Diversity brings strength while homogeneity breeds weakness.

🎵 The death of Tim Bergling/Avicii

Deaths are never good news, but the ones which take people who had a part in your life are especially hard. I certainly didn’t know Tim Bergling as a person. However, the music he produced under the name Avicii is special to me. He greatly influenced my taste in electronic music and simply hearing a few notes from many of his songs takes me back to specific moments and years in my life. Avicii’s monthly podcast called ‘Levels’ was an hour of music I always looked forward to. He helped me dance in the shower, push through many tough workouts, and entertain myself on long drives. The world of electronic music is a little quieter today without Tim Bergling.