Academic Learning & Notes
When first learning something new, I never take notes. The first time I'm exposed to new content, my focus is purely on internalising the material; whether that's a lecture on pathfinding algorithms, rotational mechanics, Spanish colonialism, or romantic motifs in Austen novels.
On the second pass through the material, I'll paraphrase the contents of the lecture, YouTube video or textbook. On the third pass, my goal is to shorten my own notes. Each pass of paraphrasing demands I "explain" the material in a new, more concise manner (see the Feynman Technique.) It also produces clean, palatable notes for my own future reference. I've taken notes on a variety of things throughout my life; you may or may not find them useful.
- React Notes: React is a front-end library/framework built by Facebook that allows web developers to easily build and scale user interfaces, analogous to Angular and Vue, but perhaps the most popular right now in industry. These are notes taken from a 5-hour tutorial and cover the fundamentals: everything from props and state to lifecycles and hooks.
- Software Projects: I spend most of my programming time working on projects, both small personal ones like web scraping information about economic history, and commercial ones, like prototyping web and mobile apps for startups as a freelance engineer. In the process, I've had to learn a variety of languages, frameworks, technologies, and skills--from GraphQL API structure to the nuances of python frameworks like Django and Flask.
- SWE Interview Prep: Earlier this year, when living in SF, I interviewed for some small tech startups before deciding that working full-time as an engineer probably wasn't the best use of my time. This document contains information about data structures, algorithms, problem-solving, systems design, and more that startup interviewers like to ask.
- International Biology Olympiad: Junior year of high school, I narrowly missed making the British IBO team. These are my notes that 1) summarise A-level Biology (a more rigorous and in-depth version of AP Biology, for my American friends) and 2) offer information snippets that are highly relevant to those preparing for Olypmiad Biology competitions, since much of these notes came from past IBO problems I couldn't do, or from important parts of Campbell Biology (a staple undergraduate Biology textbook).
- Advanced High School & Early Undergraduate Chemistry: These are notes for Pre-U Chemistry, a British high school curriculum for advanced students. They will cover a lot of first, and even touch on second, year content from an undergraduate chemistry degree stateside. Contains everything from molecular orbital theory to acid-base calculations, and more.
- Advanced High School & Early Undergraduate Physics: These are notes for Pre-U Physics, a British high school curriculum for advanced students. They will cover a lot of first, and even touch on second, year content from an undergraduate physics degree stateside. Covers everything from derivations of the Bohr model of the atom to differential equations used to describe simple harmonic motion, and more.
- TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 Review & Summary: Disrupt SF is allegedly the biggest startup conference on the planet. I'm inclined to believe that. Disrupt was great; I learned a lot, met some very smart people who are changing the world, and many other smart people who are not. This doc contains detailed notes on the conference and its proceedings, as well as my opinions.
- What Makes Silicon Valley So Great? This was a question I wanted answered when I moved over here, because I actually want(ed) to spend my life outside the United States--mainly in Europe and Asia. And so you can imagine I was hopeful that tech and startup ecosystems outside the San Franscisco Bay Area were comparably robust. But I was disappointed to discover that "Silicon Valley" is enormously, indescribably, ahead of any other region on Earth. This document explains why.
- Web Summit Notes: Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, attracts over 80,000 people from around the world, and is allegedly the biggest tech conference on Earth. I thought Portugal was magical, and had an enormous amount of fun in the one week I was there. Lisbon itself was a stunning city taken right out of a fairy tale. But I didn't think the conference itself was that valuable--it was watered down and tailored towards a non-technical audience.
- AI/Big Data Notes: These are some notes that are derived from the 2019 North American AI/Big Data Expo in Santa Clara. The main learning point here for me was the scale of opportunity in enterprise AI for the observant entrepreneur. These notes have everything from the future of conversational AI to what a machine learning engineer does on a day-to-day basis to what it's like working as a data scientist for the DoD.
- Great People of History: From Aristotle and Caesar to da Vinci, Churchill and Jobs, this document is my attempt to learn about 10 of the most important, influential, and memorable people in history and to try and find patterns in what makes people go down in the history books, and how these behaviours vary over the ages.
- Historical Megaprojects & Seminal Innovations: This document goes through some of humanity's most lasting innovations--from multi-cropping and the waterwheel to internal combustion engines and the internet, examining the circumstances that birthed them and the scale of impact they've had. Here, I study how we might replicate the culture present in successful government facilities and academic labs of antiquity in the modern private sector.
- Industry Notes: This document contains thoughts, insights and reflections from reading about, and talking to experts about, the education, energy, climate, agriculture, waste, gaming, media, defense, military industries, thinking about how software can and will be important in these industries in the future, and the role these industries will play in the growth of our species, in the short and long-term alike. It also touches on themes in biotech and fintech.
- Writing Analyses: In this document, I dissect great pieces of writing by some of my favorite authors, like David Foster Wallace and Patrick Rothfuss, and dig into what makes those pieces powerful and resonant, as well as try to derive actionable insights that I can use to practise on my own writing to make it more engaging, and beautiful. I'm convinced writing is one of the most powerful skills anyone can have.
- Learning French: Starting this year, I was conversant in French, having taken it for a couple of years in high school, and done well on exams. But I was a far cry from fluent--I struggled to hold extended conversation, spoke robotically without knowing slang or convention. After a few months of practising speaking and listening, I'm pretty fluent now, and these notes document everything from vocabulary to slang to verb conjugations.
- General Non-Fiction Notes: While my learnings from books in each industry given in my bookshelf are captured in my "Industry Notes" file on this page, which is perhaps my magnum opus from this gap year, this file contains notes from all the books I read that weren't about any particular industry, but just generally engaging--from Einstein's biography to books on world history.