Two Computing Books I’ve Read Before

There are many computing books I’ve read before, but there are two I thought would be interesting to share.

The first is “Mind at Play: The Psychology of Video Games” and the second is “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity”.

Mind at Play: The Psychology of Video Games

I read the first book in my teens from the school library (TKSTS) when I was crazy writing games in the mid 80s.  It didn’t teach me how to write games as far as programming languages were concern, but it explored what made people tick.  What makes games compelling?  Why do people play games?  Back in those days, it was a gem, for it gave insights into how I could design the games I was writing to make it interesting and fun.  Challenging and not insurmountable, rewarding and not trivial.  How to get others hooked onto my game?

Now as a monk, I think back about that book and ponder about how there are much parallel between what the author discovered and shared in the book and what the Buddha taught 2500++ years ago.  Understanding how people get hooked onto games, offers some insight into how people get hooked into other things and concerns.  In turn, it helps me appreciate the Buddha’s teaching on how people can get unhooked, not just from games but also from the things and attachments that binds and bogs us down.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity

This is an interesting book I read when I was working in R&D as a software engineer in the late 90s.  It explores Human-Computer-Interaction instead of Human-Computer-Interface.  The crux of the book is about relooking computer software design, not as an after thought or bug fix, but as a key project goal.  To design computer software, targeted at real user personas and not just code an app against a checklist of functions.

This is, to me, a must-read for any designers, computer or otherwise.  The design tips goes beyond computer software applications and is equally applicable to other design fields as well.

The Asylum book is really a good design book to read.  Maybe for those who are into designing, this book would be a fun read as well.  For me, it was rather insightful and offered a fresh alternative approach towards software development.

Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, I’ve a pet project coming up for Vesak. 😉


Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra 瑜伽師地論


Co-translated with Lee Cheng Soon

Translations in progress — ongoing changes are expected.

  1. Stage connected with the Body of Five Consciousness – edited 1 Dec 2020
  2. Stage of Mano – edited 1 Dec 2020
  3. Stage with Investigation and Analysis
  4. Stage without Investigation but with Analysis
  5. Stage without Investigation nor Analysis
  6. Stage of Samāhita – in progress
  7. Stage of Non-Samāhita – New 29 Jan 2021
  8. 9. Stage with and without Mind – New 1 Dec 2020
  9.  (combined with stage 8)
  10. Stage accomplished through Hearing
  11. Stage accomplished through Reflection
  12. Stage accomplished through Cultivation – edited 1 Dec 2020
  13. Stage of Śrāvaka
  14. Stage of Pratyekabuddha – Edited 9 Feb 2021
  15. Stage of Bodhisattva

Copyright Provenance: © 2012 Shi Chuan Guan and Lee Cheng Soon.
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Q&A: Respecting Books

Below is part 1 of my reply to an open question posted on Leave a Message

1) My dad says that we must respect books because some divine beings might be living inside it, if we disrespect the book( e.g stepping on them, putting them in an untidy manner etc.), we will not get good results in examinations and will not gaining enough knowledge. Is that true?

So there are two parts to your father’s claim:
1. That there are some divine beings living inside books, and
2. By disrepecting them, there will be some consequences, such as poor exam results and being knowledgeable.

First off, there sure are beings living in books, but divine or not, I know silver fishes lives in books, especially the old ones.  There are some legends that some spiritual beings or guardians protects books, and that they may get pretty angry if anyone mistreat the books they protect.  Such legends probably evolve or develop from earlier legends about guardians of knowledge or wisdom, which books are the physical representation of.  These latter legends may themselves have been derived from the view that knowledge or wisdom is sacred and thus should be respected and held in high esteem.

Knowing this probable origin of such claims can help us relate to books in a proper manner.  Consider how paper, printing and publishing were pretty scarce in the past.  An attempt to preserve the books and inculcate a healthy attitude towards books may spin off into legends and myths quite easily.  Such development of legends can be found not just in Asian societies but in almost all countries that exist long enough for folklore to develop.  So we should perhaps see and understand this claim just as other claims from other culture or religions in a similar light, and understand the original
intention when the legend began.

The second part of the claim is that there are consequences to showing disrespect to books.  I have to agree that there are consequences here, although the consequences may not a) be due to divine being’s retribution on us and b) be the same as claimed.

To get good results, one just have to do one thing: get the right answers to the examination questions.  Even if one were to put the books on an altar and perform all the world’s religious rituals and treat it with the most respect, one will not be any better off at answering the examination questions.

Gaining knowledge from a book is done by reading, analyzing, contemplating and reflecting over the content, the meaning of the book.  To me, that is the right way to “respect” books.  Conversely, the way to show “disrespect” for books is to neglect them, and not read them.  That is one sure way to be closed to whatever the book may offer, and would thus make oneself ignorant (as far as the book’s content is concerned), and in the case of school textbooks, a potentially poorer examination result.

Just a casual note, “stepping on books, and putting them in an untidy manner” … why would anyone be stepping on books, never mind whether you respect them or not?  As for tidiness, I for one will attest to having had an untidy “organised mess” of computing reference books and yet, I say without boasting, that I excelled in programming nonetheless.  My seemingly untidiness definitely did not hinder my learning.  (ok, maybe I may become the president scholar I never was, but there is no way to find out, is there?)

I am not encouraging anyone to be untidy, but to me, it is a matter of preference.  As long as such preference do not hinder the goal of learning or result in hygiene issues, then I’m pretty ok with it.  Whether your parents are ok with it, is a different story altogether!