Category Archives: Great Design

Great Design

Flawless Recall Expansion Book: Memorize Irregular Conjugations Of SER, For Students And Teachers by Alexander Van Berg

My third book is currently being published.  My first follow-up book covered the Spanish verb estar, and this second follow-up book covers the Spanish verb ser.  Both of these expansion books utilize and extend the foundational system in the original book.

Considering estar and ser are loosely related, conflated, and easily confused, I figured it made sense to publish distinctive works on this pair of frequently used verbs.  And so in a way, these two expansion books are worth more than the sum of their parts.

In my opinion, this book has some of the best mnemonics and visualizations yet.

One of the strong selling points of this series of Flawless Recall books is it provides enough instruction so that you can eventually generate your own custom expansion content for any irregular verb that you like.  And for the ambitious student or teacher, they could possibly take the entire system, and look at adapting it to a completely different language.

The book is currently working its way to the different marketplaces.

https://books.apple.com/us/book/flawless-recall-expansion-book-memorize-irregular-conjugations/id6443567341

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1142359150

https://books2read.com/u/bOnnrN

Great Design

The Claim (2000), Extremely Underrated And Much More

American poster for The Claim (2000).

 

I was very impressed the first time I saw The Claim, which wasn’t that long ago.  I had never heard of this film, and at 6.3 on IMDb, this has to be one of the most underrated films on the site, after filtering out more minor works.  I’d have to rate it at least 9.0 out of 10, and I don’t say that lightly.

The Claim is various complex stories wrapped up in a very simple story.  The simple story being an old, cruel America finally being replaced by a more effective and newer, old, cruel America.  (And of course, all of these iterations of America would finally get us to the relatively advanced America we live in today.)

Although American politicians and the United States military demarcated America’s boundaries, all of that land would only become America through the confluence of various inviolable determinations, and this is captured brilliantly in The Claim.

There were always two manifest destinies, or at least two facets to the ill-defined term.  The simple story in The Claim is a haunting story.  The original victors of the geographical manifest destiny are rendered extinct by ushers of the chronological manifest destiny.

I’m not sure why, but this film has not received the attention that it deserves.  I believe it should be inducted into the US National Film Registry as important and compelling Americana.  And all of this is made just slightly more strange by the fact that it was a co-production between Canada and Britain.

I purchased the DVD and I watched it for a second time with Spanish audio.  It transferred very well with Spanish audio, although some of the Spanish translations do not do justice to the original English lines.  The film definitely holds up over time, and my guess is that it delivers in any language.

Great Design

Flawless Recall Expansion Book: Memorize Irregular Conjugations Of ESTAR, For Students And Teachers by Alexander Van Berg

I released my first book last month, and now I’ve released a follow-up to it – Flawless Recall Expansion Book: Memorize Irregular Conjugations Of ESTAR, For Students And Teachers.

This follow-up book is very, very interesting because it demonstrates how the original system for regular Spanish verbs can be re-used, to a significant degree, for different irregular Spanish verbs.

To anyone who’s struggled with this aspect of Spanish, and wanted to finally memorize these conjugations, I can’t recommend these books enough!

Right now the book is working its way to the different marketplaces.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BFCVN3NX

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flawless-recall-expansion-book-alexander-van-berg/1142239905

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1305006085/flawless-recall-expansion-book-memorize

https://books2read.com/b/4D6gK7

Given that irregular Spanish verbs tend to be even more jagged and chaotic than regular Spanish verbs, a good memorization system really makes sense.

The common teaching style in schools tends to revolve around rote memorization, and the analogy here would be traveling in Japan from Tokyo to Kyoto.  Rote memorization is like crawling there with a heavy ball and chain shackled to your ankle, while a good mnemonic system is like taking the bullet train.  Yes, the bullet train still takes time to get there, but it gets there a lot faster than crawling, and more importantly, it’s also reliable.

Great Design

Flawless Recall: Universal Memorization Method For Conjugating Regular Spanish Verbs, For Students And Teachers by Alexander Van Berg

Well, I finally broke down and wrote a book.  These days the process is seductively simple.  You can write any book you want, in a Word document if you want, and then publish it pretty much everywhere through a service like Draft2Digital, for free.

An eBook and a print book are making their way to all the marketplaces right now.  Amazon takes a little bit longer due to their gating procedures, but right now the book is actually available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B9Q9S6GSminor eBook outlets and also intermittently at Barnes & Noble:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B9Q9S6GS

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1288226705/flawless-recall-universal-memorization

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flawless-recall-alexander-van-berg/1142006254

https://books2read.com/b/b6R1jZ

This book provides a reliable way to finally memorize regular Spanish verb conjugations across 18 tenses.  (In this book, the subjunctive and imperative “moods” are called tenses just for simplicity).

I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who’s wanted to accomplish that goal, but has struggled to do so.  If that sounds like you, keep an eye out for this book at your favorite marketplace!

Before I designed this system, I had spotty recall on maybe just a few tenses.  I’m now able to write out the entire 18-tense conjugation chart purely from memory, and I also have a better understanding of what the tenses actually are.  (If you’re counting, that chart has upwards of 200 or more facts, and those facts are not conveniently packaged.)

Academically speaking, this represents a canonical and accessible implementation of a relatively difficult goal: State-of-the-art mnemonics properly fitted to language learning.  I would characterize this book as a seminal publication.

The print book will soon be available (through standard vendors) for physical bookstores, libraries, schools, and universities to order, so if your local book centers would benefit from this type of book, be sure to suggest it to them.

Great Design

Three Simple Hacks That Have Always Worked For Me

#3:   Keep an extra supply of new, unused SIM cards.  Over the years, extra SIM cards have saved me countless time, effort, and headaches.

 

#2:  When watching something, and when they’re available, always turn on subtitles for a language you’re learning (or willing to learn).

 

#1:   I use an unorthodox financial transaction scheme that helps me stay on top of everything more easily.

Whenever I have to manually pay a bill online, and it requires me typing in a certain amount by hand that is not copy-and-pasteable, I don’t type in the exact amount.  I type in the next dollar up, plus a penny.

The reason for the rounding is it removes almost all possibility of human error.  I helps me think less, and the overpayment is meaningless and gets accounted for in the next bill.

But there is actually another reason for the scheme beyond even that.  I custom code the following types of financial transfers by the trailing cents:

*.01   bill

*.02   bank transfer

*.03   ??? (haven’t used in a long time)

*.04   ??? (also haven’t used in a long time)

At one point I had up to four coded transaction types.  I can’t remember what the last two were, but the first two I still use.  When I check my bank account balances, I can see and verify what’s going on, at a glance, with a high degree of confidence.

Sure, there’s a 1 in 100 chance that a different type of transaction might end in the same number of cents, but this has happened to me maybe once in all the years I’ve done this.  Plus, the odds drop even further once you systematically adjust other transaction types as part of the same scheme.

Great Design

Things Worth Remembering

This Christmas, get yourself a gift that promises not only to reward you, but to keep on rewarding you indefinitely.

I was intrigued a while back by several products on the market.  One was a relatively new DVD titled The Secrets of Mental Math.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  The instructor is clearly a student and an expert in mental math techniques, and he goes over the best methods and techniques that would be accessible to the average person.  This is not a hard DVD to watch, but many will probably get more out of it with multiple viewings.

The other product, fittingly, was from the era of audio cassette tapes: Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory (“As Seen On TV!”).  The analog nature of the tapes sort of romanticizes what the product reveals.  And that is that the human mind was an analog picture recorder, analog emotion archiver, and analog pattern matcher from the very beginning.  We go through school and learn digital ideas and digital techniques (e.g. 2+2=4), but it’s never anything that the mind stores in its “native file format”, which is analog.  As someone who had never heard of the techniques presented, it really, really impressed me!

These products will yield different rewards to different people.  It’s something that you can take and use as much or as little as you like.  I believe at the very least – and the Mega Memory tapes touch on this – these products work to un-calcify the mind.

Finally, in my opinion, it’s a crime that these subjects are not mandatorily taught in high school.

So if you received any gift cards this year, and you aren’t familiar with the above subjects, reward yourself richly and check those products out.  I doubt you’ll regret it.

Great Design

3 Stock Market Ideas Contrary To Conventional Advice

A popular user post courtesy of reddit's wallstreetbets. Tattoo commemorates one user's massive gains of several hundred thousand dollars on an underdog stock.
A popular user post courtesy of reddit’s wallstreetbets. Tattoo commemorates one user’s massive gains of several hundred thousand dollars on an underdog stock.

 

Above I’ve posted an image from a user post in reddit’s wallstreetbets.  If you’ve been following financial news at all, you’ve surely heard about the frenetic run-ups in various underdog “meme stocks”.  These stratospheric gains have materialized due to massive crowdsourced interest in bidding these stocks up, which in turn has led to complicated secondary effects that have pushed the prices up even further, and this has made some people a lot of money.  In some cases, near-bankrupt companies are able to sell additional stock at those highly-inflated prices, rake in an unusually large amount of proceeds, get out of dire straits, buy some time, regroup, and inch closer to a self-fulfilling prophecy where that company might actually be valuable in the future.  I would definitely not recommend this line of investing for most people, but I think it’s genuinely noteworthy because of the sheer audacity of the movement, its disregard for conventional wisdom, and its discovery and belief in a new idea – whereas previously, people were simply set in their ways and couldn’t see anything of interest.

With that said, in my opinion, conventional stock market commentators, gurus, and authors have largely overlooked some of the best and simplest ideas for the average DIY stock market investor.  Below I’ll list 3:

1.)  Don’t just learn about stocks – learn about options also.  The stock market is never perfectly priced, which is why people buy certain stocks.  They buy them because they’re betting the price will rise, and that’s generally to say those stocks are mispriced.  Likewise, options can be mispriced, and this leads to a second area of potential profit.  Additionally, options can help people shape their risk and their bets more accurately.  Stocks are like a hammer, which is a useful tool, and options are like adding a bunch of extra tools to the hammer.

One of the most common things a retail investor does is buy stocks and then hold them indefinitely.  That investor is literally leaving money on the table each and every year by not selling call options for the stocks that they own.

In my opinion, one of the greatest sins committed by stock market gurus is this sin of omission.  It’s almost a crime when they don’t mention anything about simple option strategies that would bring in easy, ultra-low-risk money for many investors.

2.)  Strongly consider starting out in a Roth IRA or standard IRA.  The reason is pretty straightforward.  These IRA accounts only allow you to deposit $6,000 per year, only allow 3 day trades per week (until you’ve built up extra funds), and disallow the borrowing of stocks (which carries unlimited risk).  Thus, you’re much less likely to lose your life savings in the blink of an eye, before you’ve even had a chance to get the hang of the stock market.  In that sense, IRA accounts create very useful guardrails for those new to the stock market.

There are penalties for early withdrawals from an IRA account.  However, if you were planning on doing this for your long-term financial health anyway, that generally wouldn’t be an issue for you.

Although this entire second point sounds like common sense, to the point you’d expect it to be an axiomatic rule-of-thumb, I can’t say I’ve ever heard it promoted anywhere.

3.)  If you’re looking to day trade, and you’re not 100% certain that you’re a superstar day trader that can generate a ton of money right away with high certainty, give strong consideration to doing it in an IRA account.

This is completely unorthodox.

To start, you will first need to build up additional funds to access full day trading privileges.  A minimum of $25,000 is the FINRA requirement.  The reason to go through all this trouble to day trade is two-fold:

First, profits in Roth IRA accounts are 100% tax-free, except for the very obscure UBTI, which you probably won’t be dealing with.  (Standard IRA accounts have their major tax advantage on the front end.  Roth IRA vs a standard IRA is a big decision, but the point is both offer a major tax advantage.)

Second, tax accounting for day traders is a nightmare.  This is beyond what most people would ever want to spend time on, and so you will be spending money having someone else do it for you.  But, if you can make your day-trading profits completely tax-free, no IRS return will ever necessary for those funds (barring extremely obscure exceptions like UBTI).

Great Design

The English Snob

I’m kind of secretly a snob when it comes to the English language, which wouldn’t be as funny if I were actually fully and completely proficient at English.

Be that as it may, there are at least 3 things that need correction in American English, and they all stem from the same discrepancy:  There is an accepted paradigm that states that language should support ease of use, but yet there is sometimes a lag in the implementation of that paradigm.

 

1.) The first correction is to completely rescind the rule that states that numbers below 11 (some say only below 10) should generally be spelled out.  An counterexample of this is right above where I wrote the numeral ‘3’ instead of the word ‘three’.  Notice how it’s easier to read?  Easier-to-read trumps everything else.

In some cases, small numbers are actually easier to read as a word.  However, in my experience, it’s mostly when there are two sets of numbers being thrown around, and it’s possible to segregate one set (usually the smaller one) by spelling those numbers out.  The bottom line is whatever makes it easier to read is what should be adhered to.

 

2.) An example of the second problem can be found here in a local news story, at the very bottom:

Cameron and Starr counties did not report case numbers as of press time Sunday, with the former routinely skipping Sundays to report activity on Mondays.

Now, in 2020, why do we still tolerate word puzzles in our English-language publications?  If for some reason I wanted to struggle with a printed game, I’d look for something like a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or maybe even some sort of Mensa challenge.

No one should ever be forced to pause, and use an ounce of mental energy, to figure out what “former” and “latter” are referring to.  Rather than just spell out what they’re saying, these authors are punishing us, and the question is why are we still accepting it?

Stylistically, the “former”/”latter” grammatical construct must literally go the way of the dinosaur, and be renounced unless it’s actually used to replace a sizeable amount of text.

 

3.) What exactly is the Anti-Vaxxers’ philosophy?  Admit it, you had to think about that term Anti-Vaxxers’, didn’t you?

The special-case apostrophe-with-no-s isn’t helping anyone.  It’s not perfectly clear, it causes people to waste mental energy, and adding an extra ‘s’ to the end of the word doesn’t make it especially vile.

In the worst case, there is no problem with the reading of the improved version.  However, I admit that the worst case does sound a little different – but it’s worth it!

“The Anti-Vaxxers’s philosophy…”

If it comes down to saying something that sounds a little different in the worst case, and having to spend mental energy thinking about what words actually mean, saving mental energy should always win, and will eventually win anyway.

 


  Note the British English spelling.  Totally inconsistent use of British English should be acceptable in cases where British English spellings are deemed easier to the eye in terms of comprehension.

Great Design

Things To Do With Cash When There Are Too Many Unknowns

Coronavirus-fueled uncertainty has swept the globe, leading to higher levels of volatility and chaos in the stock market.

If you have money in an IRA (or Roth IRA  or 401 K) account, you probably know that there is a penalty for withdrawing it before a certain age.  Additionally, if you actively manage the money in your IRA account, things have gotten a lot murkier in the past few weeks.  It may not be clear where to allocate the money inside your IRA.

Banks offer their own CDs (FDIC-guaranteed) and money market accounts (not guaranteed), but once again, the money inside an IRA account is basically marooned – you can’t withdraw it to re-invest in bank CDs without the hefty withdrawal penalty.

I discovered there are actually ETFs (exchange-traded funds) that simulate money markets.  The symbol MINT is one of them.  There are others, and certainly do your own research.  Broadly speaking, MINT basically ticks up a penny every day.  It’s a tiny increase, with a tiny amount of volatility, but it’s extremely reliable (although not guaranteed), and it beats having cash sitting in your IRA account doing nothing.

Below is a snapshot of what the MINT fund currently invests in.

What the MINT fund currently invests in as of 1/31/2020.

 

As you can see, there’s a mix of government bonds, private bonds, and bonds from overseas.  Again, it’s basically a money market adapted into a tradable security that, for example, you can purchase inside your IRA account.

(In the days when individual trades cost $5+, this whole idea might  never have made sense.  Luckily, many of the big brokers have waived trading fees.)

Finally, I almost didn’t even post this because private bonds and foreign bonds are definitely susceptible to “black swan” type crises – like a pandemic!  For example, let’s imagine Royal Caribbean issued a private bond and today the MINT fund foolishly purchased it, and then you purchased some shares of MINT.  Let’s say COVID-19 leads to people not going on cruises, which leads to Royal Caribbean defaulting on its bond.  That means MINT will not pay off its projected profits, and in a worst case scenario you could end up losing money.  (And standard money market accounts provided by banks would, likewise, tend to have the same problem.)

So again, certainly do your own research.

Great Design

Things I’ve Never, Ever, Ever Regretted

Laika was the first dog and first living being launched into outer space. She was launched by the Soviet Union in November 3, 1957. (Copyrighted image courtesy of NASA.)

Occasionally I feel the need to get something off my chest, and for some reason this topic has come to mind and it’s struck me with a great deal of clarity.

I have never, ever regretted not being an early adopter of something.

Whether it be technology, a fad, a trend, or something else, I invariably and intentionally wait until I see that it makes sense to use or adopt.

My personal opinion is I don’t feel the need to be a guinea pig that discovers and experiences all the problems, all the risk, and all the various wrinkles that need to be ironed out.  I have never regretted this philosophy.

Moreover, I realized this would probably be a subject ripe for scientific research and publication.  So I searched for “early adopter” on amazon.com and the top results included an ancient technical book dedicated to the niche software subject VoiceXML, and a song by that name performed by the artist “TRAKTOR”.

If those empty search results really do represent a dearth of study on the general subject of early adoption, then my bold prediction is that it’s just a matter of time because this subject is begging to be given a proper academic treatment.

Part of this academic treatment should definitely include higher-level analysis of what various creators and producers can do, given people’s different early adoption habits, as well as the fundamental dynamics of early adoption.  For instance, how could a technology maker more intelligently reason about its operations, and more fully optimize its operations, once this specific dynamic is more perfectly understood and taken more conscientiously into account?