The Happy Equation

My next read is definitely a “Geek Read” – Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat. Solve for Happy is a book about creating and maintaining happiness, written by a top Google executive with an engineer’s training and fondness for thoroughly analyzing a problem, “problems” like self driving cars and Google Glass. Mo applies his engineering skills to the “problem” of happiness and proposes an algorithm based on an understanding of how the brain takes in and processes joy and sadness. 🙌🏽❤️

One of Solve for Happy‘s key premises is that happiness is a default state. If we shape expectations to acknowledge the full range of possible events, unhappiness is on its way to being defeated. To steer clear of unhappiness traps, we must dispel the six illusions that cloud our thinking (e.g., the illusion of time, of control, and of fear); overcome the brain’s seven deadly defects (e.g., the tendency to exaggerate, label, and filter), and embrace five ultimate truths (e.g., change is real, now is real, unconditional love is real). By means of several highly original thought experiments, Mo helps readers find enduring contentment by questioning some of the most fundamental aspects of their existence. panmacmillan

Watch Mo in action below and purchase your copy of Solve for Happy on Amazon (videos, Goodreads).

Math for Homeowners

math-homeownerDoes buying a home make good financial sense? Does the Math for Homeowners work out? As I sit (or lay) here and watch Inside Job, a documentary on the late 2000’s financial crisis, I am (again) horrified by the series of events, collusion and massive manipulation that took place at the highest levels. To repeat a comment from the documentary, “The US is a Wall Street government.” It makes me question again and again if I really want to buy another house – I go back and forth and back and forth in my mind on this concept ALL THE TIME.

Read the summary below from Fortune Magazine that contradicts the traditional “tax benefit” argument:

The mortgage interest deduction doesn’t make up for the fact that you’re still paying a lot of interest.

  • While I understand that it’s possible to buy a house without a mortgage, the large percentage of homeowners (more than 70%) take out a loan.

  • With average mortgage rates at 4.3% (as of this morning), you’ll actually pay $356,307.44 for a $200,000 home: $156,307.44 in interest alone.

  • Averaged over 30 years, that works out to a little over $5,000 per year (even though in practice you pay the most interest at the beginning).

  • Assuming you’re in a 25% bracket – and you itemize – that works out to a tax savings of just over $1,300 per year.

  • But the word “savings” is somewhat of a misnomer because you’re still out of pocket more than you get back in tax savings: in our example, you would “save” less than $40,000 while paying out more than $150,000 in interest.



Algorithms Everywhere

I love MATH, LOGIC, PROBLEM SOLVING and COMPUTERS – not just actually using them, but the actual process of coming up with and building rules to make them behave in a certain way and telling them HOW to do it (that’s called an algorithm and that’s what Software/Computer Engineers do!). Did you know that lots of things we do, see and experience everyday involve algorithms? Unless you’re wired to think “computer logic” and “exceptions”, you probably don’t have this at the forefront of your mind. From HowStuffWorks:

To make a computer do anything, you have to write a computer program. To write a computer program, you have to tell the computer, step by step, exactly what you want it to do. The computer then “executes” the program, following each step mechanically, to accomplish the end goal. When you are telling the computer what to do, you also get to choose how it’s going to do it. The algorithm is the basic technique used to get the job done.


codeThink about it this way – how does the computer (or cell phone) know what to do when you click on that mail icon? A set of instructions, or algorithms tell it exactly what to do! Here’s an example using the mail icon on your computer. If a user left clicks on the mouse, open Microsoft Outlook; or, if the user right clicks on the mouse, “show options”. That’s the simplistic version of pseduo-code (instructions in English) a programmer would then translate to computer language (JAVA, C++) for it to do – no a computer does not speak English?!

io9 published 10 algorithms that are common in daily life. I added a few notes of questions one may ask when thinking about the impact of the algorithm in these tasks:

  1. Google Search – Which sites should be return when the user types “recipes”?

  2. Facebook’s News Feed – Which stories to display?

  3. OKCupid Date Matching – How do “match” people?

  4. NSA Data Collection, Interpretation, and Encryption – What makes a conversation a threat?

  5. You May Also Enjoy…” – How does Amazon know which books you’ll like?

  6. Google AdWords – Which ads should be shown to women?

  7. High Frequency Stock Trading – Read this post

  8. MP3 Compression – How do we get that song from your laptop to your iPhone?

  9. IBM’s CRUSH – How do we determine high-potential crime areas?

  10. Auto-Tune – How do we translate human voice to a cool tune?

So there you have it! A world of algorithms! Who knew?! For all the engaged gals (and guys) out there, here’s a little algorithm for determining who should be on your guest list! 😉

For more wedding tips, click here.