# Enabling LaTeX support for Mnemosyne on MacOS

Mnemosyne doesn’t support LaTeX by default. It requires two additional packages — latex and dvipng.

Install the lightweight version of TeX that has latex binary:

brew install --cask basictex

Then, update the package manager and install the dvipng package:

sudo tlmgr update --self
sudo tlmgr install dvipng

Mnemosyne fails to find executables in their installation locations on MacOS. Therefore, we need to specify these location in the configuration file first.

Get the full path to the installed binaries:

which latex
which dvipng

This should return:

/Library/TeX/texbin/latex
/Library/TeX/texbin/dvipng

Use these locations for latex and dvipng commands in /Library/Mnemosyne/config.py:

# Latex command.
latex = "/Library/TeX/texbin/latex -interaction=nonstopmode"

# Latex dvipng command.
dvipng = "/Library/TeX/texbin/dvipng -D 200 -T tight tmp.dvi"

# On Writing Well by William Zinsser

I finished reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I mentioned in my February notes why I wanted to read this book — people expect you to know how to write, but nobody teaches you how to write. Non-native speakers face greater challenges. Teachers say that the more adjectives and the longer sentences the better. Clichés and standard collocations are what get you an A. But this is not how good English writers write.

The book consists of two parts. The first part gives you tools to improve your writing. It is simple. Use only what’s necessary. Don’t add words to your writing to sound smart. Avoid adding new adverbs when choosing a precise verb would do the same job. Use adjectives only when their meaning is not part of the noun. Keep your writing simple. Write for yourself. Keep it short. Always rewrite. Express your real self because people want to hear the real you. Find precise words for what you want to say.

The second part of the book focuses more on writing different types of prose. It was not immediately beneficial for me now because I did not intend to write something as big as a memoir. But it was inspiring and encouraging. Sometimes I wanted to grab my laptop and write something personal.

I noticed on Goodreads that some reviewers say that Zinsser’s style lacks poetry and imagination. But this is missing the point. This book is not about fictional writing, where vivid descriptions are encouraged. It’s about expressing ideas clearly.

In my entire life, people taught me to do the opposite. Therefore, this approach to writing felt new and refreshing.

The book would likely be called Lean writing” if it were written today.

# Recently: Writing, Blogging, and Reinforcement Learning

I resurrected my blog. I took the idea for these regular posts from Tom MacWright. This is more interesting than posting content to different services like Letterboxd, Goodreads, Twitter, 500px, and so on.

I finished reading Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, which I liked and wrote about.

I wanted to learn how to write better. Almost anyone in your life assumes that you know how to write. But nobody teaches you to write. If you are not a native speaker of English, you learn to do the opposite. Your teachers say that you need to use fancy words, idioms, and collocations to make your writing sound better. This is not how I want to write. I want to write like Paul Graham. My favorite thing about his essays is that I can imagine him talking. So I started reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser, which is a popular book on writing. It focuses on the simple and precise use of the English language for writing non-fiction.

I started the introduction course on reinforcement learning by David Silver. It is ten weeks long. I might finish it sooner, but I prefer spending time on better understanding ideas, so it might take longer. I also started reading Reinforcement Learning: An Introduction, which is a classic book on the subject, and David’s course is partly based on it.

# Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman

I liked this book. It was fun to read about how Feynman saw the world. He did not care about what other people thought about him. He kept doing what he liked. Maybe this quality of a character is what it takes to do great things. However you define greatness. Or maybe it is the never ending curiosity. Or finding small things that make the world interesting and worth exploring.

I have too many thoughts about this one and therefore, unable to put them into words. I will probably update this post after the second reading.

# The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

The brothers were born in Ohio, a typical part of the United States. They did not have special education and had no investments. Yet, they were hardworking, austere, and detail-oriented. They had a supportive family, where curiosity and the fix it” mindset were encouraged. They were ordinary 1 people and they showed that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.

McCullough is an excellent writer. He turns history into an interesting story and gives sufficient detail without getting boring.

It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of progress or flying.

1. They clearly had qualities that set them apart from others but these differences were not big enough to notice.↩︎