My Reading list

This first post will just be a log of the books I’m reading. I never read much before a year or two ago. Recently I’ve started reading a lot more. I might end up reorganizing this into separate posts for books I really like, but mostly (for now) this will just be a log.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Finished 2020-03-28)

The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins (In progress, post coming soon)

Weekend Reading Challenge Update

Lmao! What a lofty goal that was. Here I am Tuesday night. I did finish The Selfish Gene + the extra chapter on the extended phenotype.

But I pretty much screwed my weekend up by getting too drunk Saturday and more or less never left my bed to do anything on Sunday.

I’m currently about 50% done with the other 3 combined (didn’t wanna go all the way through, been finishing up). I’ll finally finish my quick review on The Selfish Gene soon and then do the same for the other 3, hopefully tomorrow or Thursday.

Weekend Reading Challenge for Myself

I’ve fallen super behind on reading some of the things I’ve wanted to, and my pile of unread books grows ever larger.

I’m going to challenge myself – by the end of this weekend, I want to finish 4 books (3 are very short):

  1. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
    • I’ve taken waaaaay too long to finish this one. I’ve just been “busy” doing other shit (not too busy to finish), but man it is so so good. This will be the one I try to knock out first to finally just be able to say I’m done with it
  2. The Pyramid Principle – Barbara Minto
    • If you’re here reading this you’ll know my writing is not clear most of the time. Honestly, even if I go through this book and put a bunch of effort into applying what it teaches, it probably won’t make much of a difference here (at least for posts like this) because I write this stuff without any second thought, editing, whatever. Very stream of consciousness. I approach my typing speed limit writing on here lol
  3. The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr.
    • The same idea as the one above. I would love to feel confident in my writing abilities.
  4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
    • My dad got me this a while ago and I never actually read it. God knows I need to

So yeah. If I can power through and finish these by the end of the week I’ll be pretty happy. The middle two are both quite short, but I have quite a ways to go with The Selfish Gene. I’m at a good stopping point for a lot of the coding-related stuff I’ve been working on, so hopefully I can allocate a bunch of time to this!

Will update this Sunday night. Let’s see how far I get!

Network Programming with Go by Jan Newmarch

So I haven’t posted shit and I fell behind on finishing the book(s) that I had originally planned. My brain goes all over the place and I suck at sticking to one thing. Oh well. I did finish something, and that is Network Programming with Go by Jan Newmarch.

With blockchain being at the top of everyone’s mind these days I wanted to learn a bit about networking and distributed computing. I also figured I’d learn Go while I was at it, and this book fit the bill perfectly.

I don’t have much to say about it other than I thoroughly enjoyed working through it. Hence why I actually finished it in its entirety. The GitHub repo I put all the code in can be found here. 68 commits and 10 days later, I am done! And I’m so glad to be done. Man, if I could keep this productivity up and cover that much content every couple/few weeks, I will be able to make some really cool stuff some day.

I’m think I’m going to finally get back on track to finish The Selfish Gene by Dawkins while I go through my next CS book. I haven’t decided whether I want to go through a cryptography book or a distributed computing/blockchain book. A cryptography book would likely help with some of the background, but man I also just wanna go straight to learning more about distributed systems.

I also really need to get back on the real estate grind. Zillow changes their file naming scheme pretty much constantly and I haven’t built anything to more easily keep up with those changes yet. Bastards.

IDK. I’ll post again here when I figure out what I want to do next.

Also sorry that I haven’t kept up with (what I had originally promised would be daily) updates to the math puzzles. I still do some once in a while, but my guess was that approximately 0 people cared. Let me know if that assumption is wrong I guess?


Achieved My Dream as a Gamer

This might sound corny or cheesy or whatever but I honestly don’t care, I’m so happy. All my life playing games, I’ve wanted to be in the top tier of something. Today and forever into the future, I can finally say I did it.

I’ve been grinding out TFT (Teamfight Tactics) with my boy Austin, and tonight we both got to the highest possible ranked tier in one of the game modes, Hyper Roll. It’s called Hyper Tier and has a sweet emblem:

So that’s it. No one can ever take away the fact that I got the highest possible tier in a game I played. It also makes me feel good that it was a strategy game (although admittedly a dumbed down version of the full TFT mode).

Wasting All My Time on BitClout

I haven’t updated a damn thing on my reading list. Why? Well, there are a couple reasons for that.

#1 is that The Selfish Gene is fairly long. And I’m enjoying it so god damn much, I am really spending a lot more time rereading and thinking about what Dawkins is saying than I do in most books. A big part of that is also definitely the fact that it is very new to me. I always sucked ass at biology in school. To me, biology was one of the subjects that was all about memorization. And in high school, that is pretty much true. But wow, this book is so conceptual that it makes me want to scream.

Why didn’t I learn about biology like that in school? Anyways. I’ll save that for the post I make about that book. The real real reason I haven’t updated my reading list is that I’ve spent HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS on BITCLOUT.

What is BitClout?

I’m not here to explain that to you, they’ve done it themselves:


But boy oh boy. To a data scientist, a social media that I can have full access to all the data? A wet dream… or so it would have been before BitClout actually came out.

The platform has tons of issues. Some people on twitter say the blockchain is complete and utter dogshit. I don’t know enough about blockchains to even have an opinion.

95% of the posts read like your average garbage LinkedIn content but even worse because now there is a monetary incentive to get followers.

But regardless, there have been so many social media alternatives that have had varying degrees of success, and the fact is, BitClout allows anyone to build social media (or more if you think far enough outside the box) on top of the BitClout blockchain with a built in, unique payment mechanism.

BitClout Today

As of this second, Friday, May 21 2021 1:43 a.m., this is what my little profile blurb looks like. It looks like any other social media but with a couple additions – the information about my creator coin.

Basically, anybody can trade their $BitClout for specific creators creator coins. Creator coins follow a set $BitClout to $CreatorCoin distribution as shown below:

How to Use BitClout to Bet on Popularity of Influencers, Elon Musk

So creator coins can get created or destroyed as people trade in their $BitClout for them or sell the creator coin back for $BitClout. The more coins get minted, the more the price goes up. A given amount of minted creator coins will always go back to the same amount of $BitClout, so it is really a matter of when you buy or sell someone’s token.

HEADS UP if you plan on making an account, set your founder reward percentage to 100% at the start, or else you’ll have a bunch of people buy your first few tokens when they’re extremely cheap, which means you’ll have to spend a lot more money to get your own tokens later on down the line.

But yeah. I looked into a ton of shit on BitClout and tried some things. Here is what I’ve done so far:

My BitClout Doings

  1. I attempted to make a bot that buys people’s coins immediately after their accounts are created. I was damn close, but somebody else’s bot was faster. I couldn’t figure out how to sign transactions using the API endpoints. I refuse to believe the other guy’s bot used selenium, because my selenium implementation just was not cutting it.

    BUT, honestly I think the dude wasted all his money. The % of new accounts that were fake (and likely made to get a few cents from the coin-buying-bots every time) went up MASSIVELY in the last couple weeks. I bet the guy buying these coins will get a pretty shit return overall. Or maybe I’m just salty that he beat me and he’s hooping now. No way to really know.
  2. That brings me to my second point: a TON of the new profiles are spam accounts. I checked this all sorts of different ways and every method I tried I consistently got 50-60% of accounts were spam. My favorite method to test whether accounts were spam or not was to check the profile pictures used. When you create a profile, you aren’t able to select a default picture, and you have to choose a profile picture.

    So when people made new accounts, I would check to see how many times their exact, pixel for pixel, profile picture had been used in the past. I hand checked a bunch to see the threshold at which point it seemed like the accounts were for sure not real. Even at 3 copies of the same exact picture, most of the accounts looked 100% fake, and so that was my criteria. There were several profile pictures that had been used thousands of times each. I checked them, and saw that the guy with the coin-buying bot had bought all of their tokens (at least all of the ones I sampled). Poor guy. Maybe you were faster than me because you didn’t check these simple things.
  3. I’ve been learning Go and to some extent TypeScript to keep up with the core code. I couldn’t read a single line of it in the beginning. Now some of it makes sense! I’ve also been going through some very basic blockchain implementations to get a better sense of how consensus actually works. Maybe one day I’ll be a goated blockchain dev. Probably not but lol who knows

If you decide to make a bitclout or are already on, HMU! bitclout.com/u/vinnymeller

The Moscow Puzzles – Ch. 1 (Pt. 1)

So way back a long time ago (I don’t even remember when) I bought a bunch of random math & physics problem books. It must have been when I wanted to be a physics god so late high school or early college.

Anyways. One of the books I got is called “The Moscow Puzzles” by Boris Kordemsky. Supposedly (from the book’s introduction) this was the most popular mathematics puzzle book ever published in the Soviet Union.

I went through a few of the problems today, and I think I’ll make this a daily, or at least almost daily thing. After doing a couple I figured maybe it’d be a fun thing to share here. So each post will just have whatever problems I went through for the day with the solutions.

Chapter 1 – “Amusing Problems”

The intro for chapter 1 says this:

To see how good your brain is, let’s first put it to work on problems that require only perseverance, patience, sharpness of mind, and the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers.

1. Observant Children

A schoolboy and a schoolgirl have just completed some meteorological measurements. They are resting on a knoll. A freight train is passing, its locomotive fiercely fuming and huffing as it pulls the train up a slight incline. Along the railroad bed the wind is wafting evenly, without gusts.

“What wind speed did our measurements show?” the boy asked.

“Twenty miles per hour.”

“That is enough to tell me the train’s speed.”

“Well now.” The girl was dubious.

“All you have to do is watch the movement of the train a bit more closely.”

The girl thought awhile an also figured it out.

What was the train’s speed?

See answer The speed is 20 mph. The only way you’d be able to tell the speed of the train is by observing the smoke coming out of it. If the smoke appears to be going straight up, you’d know it is going the same speed as the wind.

3. Moving Checkers

Place 6 checkers on a table in a row, alternating them black, white, black, white, black, white. (Here, X = black, O = white)

[ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [X] [O] [X] [O] [X] [O]

Leave a vacant place large enough for 4 checkers on the left.

Move the checkers so that all the white ones will end on the left, followed by all the black ones. The checkers must be moved in pairs, taking 2 adjacent checkers at a time, without disturbing their order, and sliding them to a vacant place. To solve this problem, only three such moves are necessary.

See answer
Start:  [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [X] [O] [X] [O] [X] [O]
Move 1: [ ] [ ] [O] [X] [X] [ ] [ ] [O] [X] [O]
Move 2: [ ] [ ] [O] [X] [X] [X] [O] [O] [ ] [ ]
Move 3: [O] [O] [O] [X] [X] [X] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]

4. Three Moves

Place three piles of matches on a table, one with 11 matches, the second with 7, and the third with 6. You are to move matches so that each pile holds 8 matches. You may add to any pile only as many matches as it already contains, and all the matches must come from one other pile. For example, if a pile holds 6 matches, you may add 6 to it, no more or less. You have three moves.

See answer
Start:  [11 matches] [7 matches]  [6 matches]
Move 1: [4 matches] [14 matches] [6 matches] -> move 7 from the 11 pile
Move 2: [4 matches] [8 matches] [12 matches] -> move 6 from the 14 pile
Move 3: [8 matches] [8 matches] [8 matches] -> move 4 from the 12 pile

My Skribbl Chrome Extension!

I just made a post about how I haven’t been getting anything done lately due to some mental health difficulties. Well, I figured that in the meantime I could show you guys my skribbl.io Chrome extension!

(Link to the extension is here if you are interested)

If you don’t know what skribbl is, basically everyone takes turns drawing pictures of random things that the game makes you choose from. Everyone who isn’t drawing has to try and guess what it is you’re drawing as fast as possible. The faster they guess, the more points they get. The more people that guess correctly, the more points the drawer gets.

This is how the game looks:

And I really sucked at this game. I’m not good with words and it turns out my imagination is lacking quite a bit when trying to see what other people see.

Looking at the top you can see there are four underscores “____” which tells you the word has four letters. As the timer ticks down, it will randomly fill in some of the letters as hints.

Despite all the hints and time I was still really bad at the game, so I decided I would try to make an extension to help myself out. I’d never used JavaScript for anything but dang it I would do anything to stop being in last every round.

So after a long day of trying to figure out what the heck JavaScript is, I had it! Here’s what it does:

#1, as you can see below, it shows you how many letters there are. In this case, a 4 letter word followed by a three letter word. It also shows you the letter counts on the bottom right where you type your guess.

Once the letters start coming in, it will also show them on the bottom right where you’re typing.

Lastly, it will highlight your box to let you know if you’re on the right or wrong track. Orange is neutral – it doesn’t know whether you’re doing anything wrong yet.

If it highlights red, it means you’ve done something wrong. For example, if the word has 7 letters but you’ve typed in 8, it will be red. Or, as in the case of the picture below, the letters I typed don’t match the letters the game gave me. I saw two e’s and typed “sleep”, but I had a p where the game knows I need to have an e, so it highlighted red.

So in my opinion it’s a super useful little thing to have on your side when playing. Again, I really just made it for myself so I could have an easier time competing against friends (everyone agreed that if I was going to bother to go to this much effort to play better, it wouldn’t count as cheating, so don’t worry about that!)

The coolest most feel-good part about all of this, though, is how many people have actually ended up using it!

I was amazed when it hit 50 active users, and then 100, and was beyond hyped when it hit 1000! Over the past year it has steadily continued to grow and now has almost 3,600 weekly active users.

Looking by region, I can see that over its history, people from 133 different countries have used my Skribbl Helper extension!

To a lot of people this would be a little baby project with little baby numbers. But I really can’t express how cool it feels to me that thousands of people from over 100 countries have used the little tool that I made to suck a little bit less at everyone’s favorite early-quarantine game.

Just figured I’d post something positive and also tick off the box of posting about something that I’ve made.

If you play Skribbl, try it out!

Pardon the Interruption

Hey all. I planned on being much more active on here when I first put this version of my site up, but it didn’t happen that way.

I have OCD and have had it since I was pretty young. The vast majority of the time my symptoms aren’t bad enough to interfere much with my day to day life. Lately they have been.

I haven’t been super functional for the past month or so, but I’ve since gotten a new care team and am back on the path to feeling normal.

I’d hoped to put out a book rec on here at least once or twice a month but it’s already been over a month since the last one and I’m 20% through the book. So it’ll be a while.

I can’t wait to start sharing the cool things I read and do once I’m back to doing more stuff again!

Until then

Book Rec: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Finished: 2021-03-28

Amazon affiliate link (kindle version, best translation)

YouTube link to the movie (pretty good, IMDB here)

This book was simply amazing. You’re sitting there reading an entire book about one day in a prisoner’s life. A day that Solzhenitsyn assures us is really no different than any of the others in Ivan’s 10 year sentence. Yet, it is one of the most gripping stories I’ve read.

I was motivated to read this mainly because of how politicized everything is. People calling each other communists and fascists left and right. It just made me want to read something about one of them. I decided to read something relating to either communism or fascism, and went with communism because we learn plenty about the Nazis in school.

If you’re interested in the book, whether or not you use my affiliate link, get the Willets translation. This is the translation linked (at least the Kindle version is). I’ll let an Amazon reviewer with much more knowledge than me speak to why this is the best translation:

The work was a huge critical success in the Soviet Union due to its nuanced integration of peasant vernacular and prison slang into its narrative structures. The older translations of this novel, which were originally released in the 60s, use stiff literary language and simply do not capture the idiom of the original . In addition, I believe Willetts’ translation is still the only authorized one by the author, which includes sections that were not redacted or censored by the government during the original publication.