Book Review: “You Can’t Make This Up” by Al Michaels

I only knew Al Michaels from his broadcasting days on Monday Night Football; I didn’t know much about his career. From this autobiography, I see a true professional broadcaster who knew what he wanted to be since 8 years old and he was never jaded in his more than fifty years of broadcasting career.

– Always count your blessings: Al considers himself so lucky that his next life may be a night-shift miner in Mongolia.
– It pays to know what you want to do as early stage and start modeling yourself to the best in the industry like he did with Vin Sculley.
– You get to be a pioneer in a growth industry like going from the radio medium to the TV and now the Internet medium.
– The book reads like his play-by-play. Audiobook sounds even better.
– As a parent, we need to be like Al’s parents, exposing the children to all things of interest to the kids so they can be better prepared/dedicated to a career they enjoy. Of course, good eating habits, like eating vegetables, would be good for Al.
– Picked a profession as early as possible and select your colleges accordingly to give you the maximum exposure and practices.
– Game announcers have to be careful in being impartial and yet subtly ruling for his home team. Also, there is a subtlety of matching/syncing the voice with the crowd – no shouting when the crowd is quiet and no whispering when the crowd is creaming. “The game is the melody and the announcer provides the lyrics.” Also, they need to be sensitive to tragedies that happened during the sports events, like car racing.
– So many sports figures, who I’m mostly not familiar with, are described in the book. But you may relate more to the book if you are.

A quick summary:

1. Brooklyn:
Growing up in Brooklyn in 1950, he still remembers Dodgers’ playing in Ebbets Field. And he watched a hockey game in Madison Square Garden. He was exposed to many different sports. He was born to teenager parents, who set good examples to the kids in improving themselves. In his early life, he likes all sports, collected and memorized all baseball cards. He was labeled by his brother as having “manic intensity” or by his own term, “passion with compulsion” about sports, even to the point of role playing with water hose as the microphone, play-by-playing calling his brother’s sports activities.

2. California Kid:
Because of his dad’s promotion, he moved to Los Angeles as a teenager in 1958. Turned out his home was very close to where I grew up as a teenager but different high school. He listened to Vince Sculley’s play-by-play of Dodgers games and became a fan of Kings (Hockey) and LA Rams. He picked ASU for its broadcasting/journalist program and the opportunity to do more than 200 baseball games and wrote his column on the school newspaper. Good preparations.

3. Rascal:
Al was a “rascal” when in ASU like making up a fictitious high-school baseball player and fooled the Phoenix newspaper into publishing it several time, each time more progressively ridiculous. He’s got a good break from Curt Gowdy on his first broadcast opportunity. Al married to his high-school sweetheart in his senior year and kept the marriage to this day. Amazing!

4. Cut by the Lakers:
Al started out recruiting contestants for the “Dating Game” show. Then he was hired to be the “color” man for Lakers next to Chick Hearn, who didn’t want him there. Al’s big break at announcer job for the Hawaii Islanders happened thanks to his father-in-law connection to the owner of the team. He dropped his game show gig and flew to Hawaii.

5. Aloha:
In Hawaii, he did the many play-by-play announcers for the Islanders and doing TV news. He was recommended by Tommy Lasorda, who was managing the minor league team, Spokane Indians. Tommy listened to Al’s work behind the scene after bring kicked out of the game. Al was getting lots of “reps” or experience in his hectic schedule. Then he was recruited to the Cincinnati Reds in 1971.

6. Rose, Bench, Sparky, and the Machine
In Cincinnati, he got to know Pete Rose and intimate in Pete’s gambling habit. Al felt “sad” about Pete’s betting on his own team – a serious conflict of interest. Lots of stories about Cincinnati Reds. Then SF Giants came knocking on Al’s door at the end of 1973.

7. The Giants of Candlestick, and the Wizard of Westwood
Early 1970’s were the transition time from radio broadcasting to TV broadcasting, Al had to change the way he announced the play by play – less is more. At the same time, the TV broadcasting right fee accelerated. At this time, he did both SF Giants and UCLA Basketball games and got to meet John Wooden, the greatest coach of all times. Wooden retired in 1975 after 10 national championships. Al despised Candlestick park like most people in the Bay Area, which he attributed to the poor attendance in those days.

8. Wide, Wide World
In 1976, Al worked between Giants and ABC’s Monday Night Baseball, spending lots of time in the air and eventually parted way with the SF Giants.

9. Do You Believe in Miracles?
One of the most memorable moments in Al’s career is his coverage of the 1980 Winter Olympics, when U.S. beats the Soviets, the favored championship team in Hockey and eventual won the gold medal. “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” his quote. The game was delayed broadcast to the U.S., quite a strange set up in today’s Internet era.

10. Saturdays in the Fall
There is these interesting predictions by Frank Broyles, Al’s co-announcer in one of the Stanford game, that Bill Walsh will be a great coach and this Arkansas attorney general, Bill Clinton may be a US President some day. Both came true.

11. The One and Only
This chapter is about his relationship with Howard Cosell, who drank heavily off camera and sometimes during the games. From Al’s perspective, Howard Cosell was not an easy person to work with.

12. Roone, the Olympics, and the Fight Game
Roone Arledge was Al’s boss during his ABC Sports days. Roone was known to be mysterious and difficult to find (Waldo), a strange leadership style. Al got the Monday Night Football announcer job in 1983, along with O.J. Simpson and Joe Namath.

13. Monday Nights
Al reminisced a few memorable Monday Night Football games. A story about Al Davis’ competitive nature: you’re a friend or enemy, based on his interview with Marcus Allen.

14. Two for the Ages
Here he talked about covering the World Series in 1989 between Aces and Giants when the big earthquake hit. I was in the Bay Area at that time and I remembered distinctive where I was at work.

15. O.J.
Al lived pretty close to the double murder scene in Brentwood on 6/11/1994. Funny that he was trying to get O.J. to play golf and even rang his house that day. O.J. never denied that he killed the two people. Instead, he kept saying, “How can anybody think I did this?” That’s the clue in retrospect. There was a Howard Stern prank played on Peter Jennings during the coverage of the “slow chase.”

16. Diversions
Al mentioned some of his hobbies of horse race including buying this horse called, Barraq. He also talked about his TV acting experience being short-changed in this movie called, BASEketball.

17. Monday Night Transformations
ABC got bought ESPN and placed more emphasis on ESPN so Monday Night Football got left on the waste side. Dennis Miller helped rejuvenated the game.

18. Partners
Al partnered with more than one hundred people over the years. He talked briefly about the memorable ones and the good ones that understand broadcasting and the art of communicating. They understand story lines and flow and perspective, develop a sense of timing and learn how to use their voices and the art of inflection. He talked about John Madden and his fear of flying in planes.

19. Links
He talked about his love for golf and his encounter with Donald Trump and Michael Jordan.

20. A New Home
Al Michaels moved from ABC to NBC and live happily ever after.

Book Review: “Life” by Keith Richards

Keith Richards is famous for being THE guitarist in the Rolling Stones. Keith told a very revealing story of his and his beloved Rolling Stones band. A very long story. There are three major themes: 1) music, the craft. 2) drug abuse and the battle, 3) split with Mick Jagar.

On the first part about music the craft. How the music came to Keith Richards was amazing like writing a hit song during his sleep. The 5-string guitar was another invention of his. I came to appreciate all the nuances about resonance and harmony when playing different chords, not that I understood any of it.

The story of this whole on-and-off drug scene during his addiction painted a picture of how difficult it was and is for an addict to quit. It was good that he kept himself to the “pharmaceutical” grade cocaine as possible but it didn’t make it any easier to quit and definitely kept him and his group on the wrong side of the law and having to defend himself against the prosecution.

After reading the book, I became a fan of the Rolling Stones as I researched the songs he mentioned and the intricacy of making the music, including Mick Jagar’s amazing ability to write the lyrics on a yellow pad. It’s almost poetic.

The mental split with Mick Jagar as Mick turned into a control freak and wanted to change, go solo and reinvented himself to a different genre. I can see where Mick is coming from and I also see Keith’s point of view of making the “best” music they know how. In a way, the Rolling Stones is already pretty versatile as their music cut across all different genres including country music, and blues.

Keith’s approach to women is a bit passive, according to him. And with his fame, he didn’t have to do much.

Overall, I have learned many things about the Rolling Stones, like getting their band’s name from Muddy Waters’ song “Rollin’ Stone” and his admiration for blues and jazz music. Keith has lived an amazing life. Given his drug abuse and many brushes with law, it’s amazing he could still clean himself up and kept up with a very productive life.

This is a good chronicle of the famous Rolling Stones band, the longest running band. If you’re a Rolling Stones fan or enjoy rock and roll music, this is a book for you. I definitely enjoy reading/listening to the audiobook and familiarized myself lots of Rolling Stones songs.

Hope Keith Richards continue to write music and bring joy to the world. Go Rolling Stones!

Book Review: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

This is a tremendously deep book – so much insight about how homo sapiens came to dominate the world since 70,000 years ago. Even if you don’t believe in evolution, this book will give you an insight on how the agriculture and industrial revolutions changed the course of human history. But if you probably would like how he refers to religion as “myths.”

Key takeaways:
– Home Sapiens came to dominate the earth through our unfair advantages: bigger, cognitive brain and our mutual belief in “myths,” though we were pretty insignificant in the beginning.
– Many truths we currently believe are actually myths: religion, human rights, declaration of independence, money, and others.
– Biggest leap-forward was when we recognized we don’t know everything.
– Arts serve to create stories. The better stories like money, and Christianity, the more successful they are.
– Past conflicts or wars can be attributed to not being able to reconcile our stories – instead of food or others.
– Pessimistic end to homo sapiens.
– Sapiens rich can be upgraded now instead of an egalitarian background/DNA.
– The book may not appeal to the religious or non-believers in evolution.
– It’s more a prophesy based on our homo sapiens history.

A summary:
Part I: The Cognitive Revolution:
1. An Animal of No Significance:
The Big Bang happened about 13.5 billion years ago. About 6 millions years go, our grand mother was born to an ape. There were a few other homo species like homo rudolfensis, erectus, soloensis, floresiensis (dwarves), and neanderthalensis. They were coexisting about the same time. Homo sapiens started to form culture around 70,000 years ago. Agricultural revolution happened around 12,000 years ago and the Scientific Revolution about 500 years ago. Our jumbo brain consumes 25% of our body energy but only 2~3% of the total body weight.

2. The Tree of Knowledge:
How homo sapiens can cooperate in a group larger than 150 members can be attributed to our ability to believe in “myths” that exist in our collective imagination. In authors’ words, religion, nationalism, law and justices, human rights, corporations (e.g.”Peugeot brand”) and money are all “myths.” We had since lived in the duality of “reality” like rivers, trees and lions, and myths, increasing more powerful. From myths, there arises our ability to trade (trust in money) and cooperate (tribal spirits) and pass on to next generation (culture).

3. A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve
For nearly the entire history of our species, Sapiens lived as foragers. Our brains, minds and eating habits are adapted to a life of hunting and gathering. Dogs were domesticated about 15,000 years ago. Sapiens did mostly gathering, including how to hunt and make/fix weapons, than hunting. Evidences showed that Sapiens’ brain shrunk since then. By the author’s account, this was a better life – not working as long hours – than the agriculture era that followed. They also had diverse an wholesome food sources. Not all roses though, old, sick people were left behind or killed off and infant mortality was high – intentional or unintentional.

4. The Flood
Colonization of Australia, isolated from all other continents, happened around 45,000 years ago most likely by the Sapiens in Indonesia, who were capable of sailing long distance. This was when homo sapiens climbed to the top of the food chain. The settlers of Australia transformed the Australian ecosystems beyond recognition. Most of giant marsupial mammals like wombat, giant kangaroos, and etc., were gone within a few thousand years of Sapiens’ arrival. Same thing can be said about Sapiens’ arrival in America. Sapiens seem to be the culprit in the extinction of many large-size animals – we are the deadliest animal.

Part II: The Agricultural Revolution
5. History’s Biggest Fraud
About 10,000 years go, Sapiens began to manipulate the lives of few animal an plant species. More than 90% of the calories that feed humanity come from the handful of plants our ancestors domesticated between 9500 and 3500 BC – wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, millet and barley. By the first century AD the vast majority of people throughout most of the world were agriculturists. The agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud, according to the author, as farmers’ lives generally are more difficult and less satisfying than those of foragers but it has the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions. Whose fault is it? The handful of plant species domesticated homo sapiens, rather than vice versa. There is a discrepancy between evolutionary success and individual suffering.

6. Building Pyramids
The Agricultural Revolution made the future far more important than it had ever been before. Farmers must always keep the future in mind and work in its service. They’re busy plowing the field while very few people have been making history; the French Revolution was started by some affluent lawyers. The social norms that sustained the “empires” were based on belief in shared myths, for example, American Declaration of Independence and Hammurabi’s Code, equality, liberty and human rights. These myths or imagined order is always in danger of collapse; they vanish once people stop believing in them. People must be “brainwashed” since childhood of the imagine order. Three factors the keep people believe in the imagined order: a. the imagined order is embedded in the material world. b. the imagined order shapes our desires. c. he imagined order is inter-subjective, something that exists within the communication network linking the subjective consciousness of many individuals. To change an existing imagined order, we must first believe in an alternative imagined order.

7. Memory Overload
Writing was invented for record keeping between 3500~3000 BC due to our mental limitation and the amount of people and property exceeded a certain threshold.

8. There is No Justice in History
We lacked the biological instincts to sustain an human society but we managed to do so with imagined order and devised scripts. Hindus come up with the myth that some cosmic forces made one caste superior to others. But these hierarchies are all of product of human imagination, but they enable complete strangers to know how to treat one another. Throughout history, concepts of pollution and purity have played a leading role in enforcing social and political divisions and have been exploited by numerous ruling classes to maintain their privileges. In America, the purity was upheld by the racial segregation. Women were treated as properties of men.

Part III: The Unification of Human
9. The Arrow of History
Since French Revolution, people come to believe in both equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. Yet the two conflict with each other – cognitive dissonance. Small, simple cultures gradually coalesce into bigger and more complex civilizations. History is moving relentlessly towards unity, for examples, the “ethnic” cuisine. Everyone was “us’; there was no longer ‘them’.

10. The Scent of Money
Osama Bin Ladden hates everything about American except for the American dollars. Money is needed because of specialization and trading with strangers and to avoid bartering and storing wealth. Cigarettes can be used in place of money in prisons and POW camps. More than 90% of all money ($60 trillion) are in our accounts and less than 10% in physical money. Money is exchanged because of people trust the figments of their collective imagination and is the most universal, efficient system of mutual trust ever devised. Gold and silver turned into a single transnational and transcultural monetary system, despite being traded by people of different religion, languages, and economic/political spheres. Money is based on two universal principles: a. universal convertibility, b. universal trust. The dark side of money is that the world is in danger of becoming one big and rather heartless marketplace.

11. Imperial Visions
Historically, empires are defined as a political order with 1)rule over a significant number of distinct peoples, 2) flexible borders and an unlimited appetite. There were several empires including Rome, China’s Qin dynasty, Aztec and British empire. They reduce human diversity, forging out of them new and much larger groups. Empires contribute to philosophy, art, justice, charity, common languages, law enforcement, urban planning, standardization of weights and measures, taxes and etc. India, in a way, benefited from British rules for almost a hundred years. As of today, states are fast losing their independence and open to the global market, the interference of global companies and global public opinion and international judicial system. The global empire is being forged before our eyes.

12. The Law of Religion
Religion has been the third great unifier of humankind along with empire and money. Religion is a system of human norms and values that founded on a belief in a superhuman order, not the product of human whims or agreements. Some history of religions like polytheism, dualism, Buddhism, is introduced here. A simple law of Buddhism: suffering arises from craving; the only way to be fully liberated from suffering is to be fully liberated from craving – train the mind to experience reality as it is.

13. The Secret of Success
The people who knew the period best – those alive at the time – were the most clueless of all. How Christianity became the official Roman state religion was and is still a puzzle. History cannot be explained deterministically and it cannot be predicted because it’s chaotic. So many forces are at work and their interactions are so complex.

Part IV: The Scientific Revolution
14. The Discovery of Ignorance
For the last 500 years, the human population have increased 14-fold, GDP 240-fold, and energy consumption 115-fold. Amazing. The historical process that led to the first atom bomb testing in Alamorgordo, New Mexico is called the Scientific Revolution by the author. The modern science differs from all previous knowledge in 3 areas: 1) the willingness to admit ignorance (ignoramus), 2) the centrality of observation and mathematics, 3) acquisition of new powers. Prior, you ask someone wiser or it’s not important to know (leave it to God). Life insurance was first applied to clergymen through the use of mathematics in 1765. Until the Scientific Revolution most human cultures did not believe in progress. Progress and Power = Ignorance + Scientific Discoveries.

15. The Marriage of Science and Empire
The West dominated the last 100 years, as attributed by the author, because the Chinese and Persians lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures in the West. And the European imperialists set out to distant shores in the hope of obtaining new knowledge along with new territories. Discovery of America was the foundational event of the Scientific Revolution. This ignited their “unparalleled and insatiable ambition” to explore and conquer. The Spaniards led by Cortes and Pizarro, exercised genocide in South America including demolishing the Aztec Empire.

16. The Capitalist Creed
Capitalism fueled the Scientific Revolution. What enables banks and the entire economy to survive and flourish is our trust in the future – the sole backing for most of the money in the world.
A host of new, wonderful opportunities open up if we can build things in the present using future income, leverage “credit.” Adam Smith taught people to think win-win, greed is good and by becoming richer I benefit everybody – egoism is altruism. Capitals consists of money, goods and resources that are invested in production. The European conquest of the world was financed through credit than taxes and directed by capitalists whose main ambition was to receive maximum returns on their investments. Dutch, rather than Spain, was successful because they win the trust of the financial systems by repaying their loan on time and in full and their judicial system enjoyed independence and protected private property rights. Capital and politics played a huge role in Britain-China’s opium war, Greece’s independence from Turkey, Egypt’s paying off the Suez Canal debt, and etc.

17. The Wheels of Industry
The wheel that drives the Scientific Revolution early was the steam engine; it improved the textile industry. The capitalist-consumerist deal is that people are promised a paradise, but only the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions and buy more and more.

18. A Permanent Revolution
Humankind is driving many species to extinction and might even annihilate itself. Almost everything we do now must be done on time. The biggest social revolution is the collapse of the family and the local community and replacement by the state and the market. Over time, by liberating the individuals the states and markets used their growing power to weaken the traditional bonds of family and community. Today, humankind has broken the law of the jungle. There is at least real peace due to the much higher price of war and the profits declined as wealth consists mainly of human capital, not physical.

19. And They Lived Happily Ever After
This chapter addresses if we’re happier now with improved material conditions than before the collapse of the family and community. Being satisfied with what you already have is more important than getting more of what you want. It’s all a matter of expectations. Also, our happiness is determined by the complex system of nerves, neurons, synapses and various biochemical substances such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Another way to look at it: a meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in he midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is. Or someone may say it’s a “self-delusion.” Buddhism has the cure for the self-delusion by paying no attention to the inner feeling nor the external conditions/achievement. This “happiness” history is a gap historians have not filled.

20. The End of Homo Sapiens
Until recently, Sapiens are incapable of breaking free our biologically determined limits, though we had circumvent it through selective breeding of animals. We’re now beginning to break the laws of natural selection, replacing them with the laws of intelligent design. By playing with DNA/stem cells, scientists are playing gods through 3 methods: biological engineering, 2) cyborg engineering, 3) engineering of inorganic life (robots). There are lots of ethical, social and political questions remain. The upper wealthy class may be able to create further inequality through medical and biological engineering. The new singularity when all the concepts we give meaning to our world will become irrelevant. The Frankenstein myth that confronts Homo Sapiens that the last days are fast approaching may become the truth soon. “What do we want to become?” may be the question we’ll soon be asking.

My favorite videos:
This is a short intro by the author:

The is the complete talk:

Book Review: “The Garden of Evening Mists” a Novel by Tan Twan Eng

I normally don’t read novels. But this book intrigued me when Amazon had a special Kindle deal on it. The story line sounded interesting as I was curious on Japan’s aggression in Malaysia and the book reviews were good. I was glad I bought the eBook and the audiobook version as a companion order. The book was narrated by the central character, Yun-Ling Teoh, an accomplished retired judge returning to her Yugiri garden after almost 34 years. From there she reminisces back 34 years how she met the master gardener, Aritomo. Then the stories got told from there about her and her sister being put in the concentration camp by their Japanese captors. The stories flashes back and forth that got confusing at times. But over all, it is a beautifully written book. My takeaways: (Spoiler alert: don’t read past this if you plan to read the book).

1. During World War II, Japan invaded Malaya and did atrocious damages to the Malaysians, like China. I wasn’t aware of the extent of it until reading this book.

2.CT (Communists) were like bandits living in the mountains, threatening the newly independence of Malaysia from its previously colonial master, Britain. The fact is that Malaysia was successful in driving the Communists down.

3. As a victim of the Japanese concentration camp and losing her sister to the Japanese captors, Yung Ling buried deep hatred against the Japanese. Just so happened, she turned into a gardening apprentices to Aritomo, the Emperor’s previous gardener, and later fell in love with Aritomo.

4. The audiobook was masterfully narrated – so many different voices mimicking the various male and female characters’ voices.

5.Hidden in the subplot is the purpose of the concentration camp the narrator is rounded up and imprisoned. Why has it not been documented? Of course, this leads to some doubt about why Aritomo lives in Yugiri Garden all these years. Could Aritomo be one of the “Golden Lily” operative sent there to protect the hidden, royal treasures, buried by the Configuration Team.

6. Aritomo’s final gift to Yun-Ling is the whole body tattoo on Yun-Ling’s back. It was a taboo at the time but gave Yun-Ling something to remember Aritomo all these years since Aritomo walked off from his Yugiri property and disappeared. What a contrast to her judicial career as the high court judge.

7. Frederic remained a friend to Yun-ling despite his admiration and love toward her. But friendship often lasts longer than romantic relationship.

8. There is a strong correlation of gardening and wood carving arts to tattooing in Japan. And they actually preserve the tattooed skin upon death for exhibits.

This is a fantastic novel. I really enjoyed the aubiobook version. If you want to learn a few things about Malaysia, Japan’s gardening and tattoo arts and its aggression during World War II, this is the book for you. Of course, the characters are interesting and mysterious, making you want to read through the book quickly to find out what really happened and if Aritomo is really part of the Golden Lily, which remains a mystery.

Book Review: “What If?” by Randall Munroe

Lots of serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions. Some are intriguing but most are overly hypothetical, borderline silly and the answers were overly thought out or overkill and I wish the questions were more plausible.

Some of the “good” questions that have good answers:
1. Swimming in typical spent nuclear fuel pool. I was surprised that you would come out OK as radiation drop to half strength every 7mm of water. But you’d probably die from the gunshot wounds by the security.

2. Some of the elements on the bottom of the periodic table are so radioactive and so transitory that a nuclear explosion would occur if you just collection a small portion of it.

3. A mole (unit of measurements) is roughly 6×10^23. It’s a huge number. A mole of moles (animal) could mean a size bigger than the moon.

4. If every human somehow simply disappear, the last artificial light could be coming off from our nuclear waste deep in concrete vaults.

5. All the physical space of storage on the Internet can be contained in just one oil tanker. This speaks to the amazing density of the harddisk.

6. Dropping a piece of steak from the orbital distance from earth would char just the surface but not cooked throughout due to the cold temperature. Inside the steak it would still be frozen or cold.

7. You can’t eliminate the common cold by forcing everyone on earth to be quarantined from one another for a week, because not all people have healthy immunity system to rid themselves of the rhinovirus.

8. Yoda can produced ~19.2KW of power, based on his ability to lift an X-wing Skywalker vehicle from the swamp. Impressive.

9. There is not enough energy to move the entire current human population off-planet. No, it would probably destroy the planet.

10. Self-fertilization: too much inbreeding could have a very high probability of contracting spinal muscular atrophy. A case in point is King Charles II of Spain, who’s got an inbreeding coefficient worst than a child of two siblings. Yikes!

11. When will Facebook contains more dead people profiles than living ones? ~2065.

12. Richter scale can go negative. You get -8 when a grain of fine sand fall onto the pile at the bottom of hourglass.

So there are lots of useless what-if questions that author attempts to answer with great efforts. The questions make good brain teasers and even good interview questions and it’s all they’re going to serve and the author.

Monitor Display Cropped With HDMI Input From PC – How I Fixed It

Recently, I replaced my 24″ monitor that has a VGA and DVI inputs with another monitor ViewSonic VX2453 that has one VGA input and 2 HDMI inputs. All is well when I connect to the VGA input from my desktop PC. But I need to share this monitor with both my PC and my laptop, which has only one HDMI output. So I just need to connect the HDMI output to the HDMI input of the monitor. Simple right? Not so fast. The display turned out to be heavily cropped by the monitor, in other words only ~70% of display was shown; the rest could not be seen.

I suspected there may be three possible causes: 1) my graphic display driver and 2) HDMI cable 3) the monitor settings.

The first thing I did was to update the Intel HD 3000 graphic driver, which was dated 2011. I downloaded the Intel Driver Update Utility 2.2 . The utility failed to update the driver after 3 attempts. Then I tried to download the driver directly from the vendor’s (Acer) update site, which hosted the same old driver I had. Then I Googled and found the exact driver from Intel’s manual download (go to download center and search on “hd 3000”). The worked fine to update to the latest graphic driver: dated 5/16/15. Great! But it did NOT help my monitor cropping problem.

Next I tried to rule out the HDMI cable by swapping the cable with another. It didn’t help either.

Then I Googled around and saw another idea from this article. The suggestion to change the scale seemed to make sense. The first step is to select the Advanced Graphic Mode by right clicking the background wallpaper and select “Graphic Properties”. See below:
Graphic mode
So I change from “Maintain Display Scaling” to “Custom Display Scaling” and adjust to ~ 70% to get out of the “cropped” mode. See below:
Scale Original
Scale After

So this should fix it right? Yes and no. The display was not cropped but it looked like “crap” – lots of rough edges. This was not going to work for me. So I decided to try my last option 3 – adjust the monitor. I went through each menu carefully. And voila! I found the source of the problem. As it turned out, this monitor has two different modes for the HDMI input: AV mode and PC mode.
2015-09-29 22.12.45
2015-09-29 22.13.01
The default is the AV mode which automatically crop out 30% of the display. By selecting the PC mode. The problem went away after changing the Scale to “Maintain Display Scaling” and the display was fantastic! Problem fixed!

By running the display via the HDMI cable, the sound can be redirected to the speaker of the monitor. But I had to manually changing the sound output to the VX2453 by right clicking the speaker icon on the bottom and select “Playback devices” and then select “VX2453 Series” to be the default output.
Sound Output Selection
That was the bonus! Hope you find this tip helpful and wouldn’t have to waste the 2 hours I spent to fix the problem.

Book Review: “The Innovators” by Walter Isaacson

As an engineer working on computer development for the last 30 years, I found this book very enlightening and thorough but a bit long. It documented the history of the computer from as early as Ada Lovelace’s concept document over a hundred and fifty years ago to the present PC era. It’s a much longer history than I thought and the book was equally long but the stories of the individuals who contributed to the computer history were interesting nevertheless.

My main takeaways:

– People who worked as a team and collaborate well tend to bring out the best and most creative work. Internet is the epitome of the collaborate work on the network.

– People like Ada Lovelace, Einstein, Steve Jobs, and others are good at bring out the symbiosis of science of humanity.

– Significance of Altair Computer in 1975 that gives birth of Microsoft and Bill Gates’ wealth.

– We all stand on the shoulders of giants of the past so we can look farther. Notable contributors: Alan Turing, who came up with the idea of a Logical Computing Machine, dubbed a Turing Machine. Claude Shannon came up with the “logic gate” idea. George Stibitz turned the idea into a mechanical relay machine (400 relays) in 1939.

– The book started with the story of Ada Lovelace and ended with it. Ada was the first one conceive in her “Notes” in 1843 the idea of the general-purpose computer, where the program is stored in a memory device and executed there.


Chapter 1: Ada, Countess of Lovelace
– This chapter goes into the beginning of the computer concept given by the early pioneer, Ada Lovelace. She had come up with the concept of computer back in early 1842 in her paper called “Notes” that outlined the four key concepts: general-purpose (not limited to just doing differential equations, etc.), not limited to just math and numbers, a step-by-step sequence or algorithm (e.g. calculating Bernoulli number), and not thinking on its own (dubbed Lady Lovelace’s Objection.)

Chapter 2: The Computer
– Solving the differential equation by Babbage was the first application for the special purpose computer – or appliance in today’s term.
– ENIAC was the first electronic calculator built by Mauchly and Eckert with 17,468 vacuum tubs and weighed 30 tons in 1945.
– British in 1943 with Turing’s help built a special purpose decryption machine to decrypt the German wartime codes, based on mechanical relay and vaccum tubes. It’s called Colossus.
– There is a long discussion about who invented the computer? Mauchly and Eckert topped the list but it’s mostly a group effort and ideas drawn from the past.

Chapter 3: Programming
– Grace Hopper was the first programmer due to her ability to articulate precisely. The Mark I machine she used was a behemoth, made by IBM. She eventually joined Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp. to help develop the COBOL and Fortran languages and first compiler.
Alan Turing contributed to computer algorithm and how should a “Turing machine” work. His homosexuality caused him great pain and resulted in his being jailed and sentenced to chemical castration in UK. He later committed suicide at the early age of 41.

Chapter 4: The Transistor
– This chapter describes the invention of the 20th-century’s most important technology – transistors by John Bardeen (the quiet, theorist physicist), Walter Brattain (the experimenter), and William Shockley (the competitive, credit-grabbing boss) in the Bell Lab in 1947. The competitive nature of William Shockley showed in his behind-the-scene bipolar-transistor idea and publication/patent to try to overshadow Bardeen and Brattain’s FET transistor idea. In 1952, Pat Haggerty of Texas Instruments, originally a Dallas-based oil exploration company, persuaded Bell Labs to license its transistor technology and managed to mass produced the transistors resulting in cheap pocket radios (Regency TR-1). IBM’s Thomas Watson turned the transistors into computers. Then Shockley decided to start his own company and ended up putting in Palo Alto, his childhood home to be close to his aging mother. Hence, the Silicon Valley was born. Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore and the other 6 rebelled against Shockley to form the Fairchild Semiconductor.

Chapter 5: The Microchip
Jack Kilby of Texas Instrument and Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore of Fairchild held a patent dispute on who invented the microchip, while the popularity of microchip blasted off. Moore’s “Law” was born. Noyce got tired of the Fairchild bureaucracy and decided to start their own company with Gordon Moore and Andy Grove. With Arthur Rock’s venture capital funding, they started Intel. Thanks to the foresight of owning the right to the 4004 design, while designing a general-purpose calculator for Busicom of Japan, they embarked on the road of Intel’s microprocessor architecture and products.

Chapter 6: Video Games
Spacewar was the first open-source computer game created by Steve “Slug” Russell on a DEC PDP-11 computer. Then Nolan Bushnell started Atari after a bad experience with Nutting Associates and came up with “Pong” game. This chapter proves that innovation takes three: a great idea, the engineering talent to execute it, and the business savvy to turn it into a successful product.

Chapter 7: The Internet
Bob Taylor, the clever and stubborn Texan ARPA Director, managed to get Larry Roberts to come work on the ARPA net, originally intended to link all the ARPA-funded computers to share the compute resource. To design the router, they came up with the novel idea of packet switching, owing to the Paul Baran’s original idea to be more robust against nuclear attack: to be distributed with no central hub. AT&T, so adamant about their “circuit switch” network, never saw the beauty of the distributed packet routing network. The Internet came to existence around 1969 but it awaits something else besides big research computers on campus to be popular — PC’s.

Chapter 8. The Personal Computer
Doug Engelbart demonstrated in 1968 the first mouse at the computer conference. Alan Kay of Xerox PARC, invented the first Dynabook, a notebook computer. Xerox PARC engineers came up with the first GUI Alto Systems with a mouse. Ed Roberts, a hobbyist, came up with the Altair 8800 with Intel’s 8080 chip. The Altair attracted Bill Gates and Paul Allen to come up with the BASIC language for that machine.

Chapter 9: Software
Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s Microsoft story is described in this chapter. Gates exhibited the innovator’s traits: a fanatic who loves what they do, works day and night, and a rebel with little respect for authority. He argued against hobbyist club taking the BASIC code without paying for it. Also, Apple’s story with Steve Jobs and Wozniak is being told. In addition, Dan Bricklin’s visicCalc occupies a couple of pages. Of course, the main turning point for Microsoft was Gates’ insistence on giving non-exclusive license right to IBM and Microsoft owning the code. Gates’ mother, Mary Gates, actually played a critical role for IBM to work with a non-name Microsoft at that time because IBM’s CEO, Opel, knew Mary Gate, working with United Way. The battle between Gates and Steve Jobs on GUI interface was described further. Also, Linus Torvald’s Linux story and the Gnu guy, Stallman’s leading the free software movement made an impact on the computer industry.

Chapter 10: On Line
Steve Case’s American Online and Al Gore’s contribution to Internet.
No Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet and never claimed he did but he did open up the ARPANet to the general public, who are prohibited to tap into the network until 1992.

Chapter 11: The Web
Tim Berners-Lee invented the hypertext across the Internet, hence the URL and http protocol were invented. Then he created HTML to display the web pages. He and Robert Cailliau coined their proposal the “World Wide Web.” They joined Richard Stallman in adopting the Gnu General Public License. Then entered Marc Andreessen and his graphical Mosaic browser in 1993. Justin Hall started blogging in 1993 as a Freshman at Swarthmore College. There is a story of Wikipedia by Ward Cunningham and Jimmy Wales. Lastly, it was the Google story started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. This is a huge chapter.

Chapter 12: Ada Forever
The book ended reciting the Ada Lovelace’s objection that no computers no matter how powerful, would ever truly be a “thinking” machine. It’s the “human-computer symbiosis” that will do us most good. Lessons learned from the author’s perspective: 1) creativity is a collaborative process, 2) most technologies are based on ideas handed down from previous generations, 3) most productive teams were those that brought together people with a wide array of specialties (like Bell Labs), 4) physical proximity is beneficial. 5) best leadership come from teams that combined people with complementary styles (as in founding fathers of USA). 6) pairing visionaries (Noyce and Moore) with operating managers (Grove). 7) in a collaborative team, decisions can be made through the “request for comment” process. 8) successful innovators/entrepreneurs are “product” people.

The last paragraph: Innovation will come from … creators who can flourish where the arts intersect with the sciences and who have a rebellious sense of wonder that opens them to the beauty of both.

Learn by Blogging (and Sharing) – Derek Tsai's Personal Blog