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News, Updates, & Rants...
Got keys to new apartment. Will partially move this weekend. I haven't seen it until today. So far, it looks awesome. Literally everything is "new". They even replaced the bathtub and closet doors... all electrical outlets, and even new lightbulbs. So far, pretty happy with the condition of the new place.
- Alex; 20161230
...and back in NYC :-)
- Alex; 20161227
Got to Santa Barbara, and saw something amazing... a sunrise, coming from the sea... on the west coast! (I thought it was impossible, but then apparently the way the road curves work, it was actually there).
From there, turned back North, heading back to San Francisco via Pacific Coast Highway---stopping by at every scenic area.
Stopped by to see Elephant Seals, and a bunch of other stops area, to get my feet wet on the beach.
Then starbucks, and SFO airport :-)
This trip was the first time I drove a Toyota Prius. It was OK. Not great. My driving style for these kinds of trips is mostly highway, so it didn't get to utilize the electrical system much... also, the places I go to are hilly, and Prius really struggles going uphill at highway speeds. With 1 person in the car (not much weight), I had to floor the accelerator just to keep up going 65mph uphill. Gas mileage wasn't spectacular---I think about the same what a non-hybrid Ford Focus would get. So no impressed. I'm sure it's not the typical driving scenario though---and for city driving, it would've done great.
One neat feature of Prius is running heat in the car. If you want to keep car warm, you just turn on heat, and that's it. The engine will come on, charge battery for perhaps a minute, then turn off for about 10 minutes, then come back on to charge battery, etc., with end result is that you're nice and toasty in the car, and the engine is mostly not running. Very nice feature---wish more cars had that.
- Alex; 20161226
Starting day by driving through San Francisco---and through the Golden Gate bridge---where the visitor area is closed :-/
Drove to Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It's awesome. It's huge, lots of amazing views, lots of old stuff, lots of WW2 stuff, etc. In all the places, there were a TON of people. Very hard to find parking, yet everywhere I went, I mysteriously got a perfect spot in just seconds.
After that, drove to Muir Woods. This is where parking situation was worse. The park parking lot overflowed. The overflowed lot also overflowed. The road-side parking was also busy---I had to park downhill like 30 minute walk from the park. Really. Like over a mile away from the entrance!
At the park, did the `canopy trail' (which leads all the way up the hill to the main road, apparently). So if you wanna skip paying the park entrance fee, just park by the sceneic area on top of the hill, and hike down into the park---it's the same trail...
Now... the park itself, sucks. I mean, it's nice. If you've never seen redwoods before, it's "ok". But... if you really want to experience a redwood forest, you'll need to visit the actual redwoods national park, just north of Eureka. So while it's OK for a touristy place, it's certainly isn't as nice as the Redwoods NP.
After Muir, drove north on Pacific Coast Highway until dark, then turned back and drove towards Los Angeles.
- Alex; 20161225
Got to Redwood National Park. There's a very nice trail that goes through and beyond Big Tree... and loops in the highland on the opposite side of the road... so did that loop. It's awesome. Best redwood walk anywhere---very few folks on the trail, huge trees everywhere, etc. Just perfect.
After the hike, decided to go to Death Valley. That's quite a drive. But I should've got there by early morning the following day. So set out down Route 199---that's the route through the mountains. It's very scenic. But unfortunately, about two hours into the drive, the road was blocked. (perhaps a land slide? or snow?). Anyways, drove back to Eureka.
A bit tired, decided against Death Valley, and going for something closer---like Yosemite.
After many many hours of driving, got to Yosemite entrance---and apparently due to recent snowfall, chains on tired are ``required'' (not optional). So... amm... it's already too late to change plan to go to Death Valley---no point in getting there in the evening the following day. So decided to spend the day aorund San Francisco area.
- Alex; 20161224
Flying out to San Francisco for the weekend.
- Alex; 20161223
Finished reading Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil. Much better than I expected---and I wasn't expecting much. I got the book for free as a review copy, and how often do those random books turn out to be good? Well, this one is. It's very thought provoking---data is everywhere, and often models are inaccurate, based on wrong inputs, or in many situations, deliverately evil.
- Alex; 20161222
Did some more upgrading on the black-friday laptop... Added a 2T SSD drive...
- Alex; 20161216
Got the M.2 SSD drive, and upgraded the Black-Friday laptop. Acer Aspire E5-575G-55KK Intel i5 7200U & GeForce 940MX for $429.99, 32GB DDR4 RAM for $139.99, and now 1TB M.2 SSD for $249.99. Awsome cheap gaming laptop.
Windows10 re-install was painless (yes, keeping this machine a "windows" box; world of warcraft, portal & half-life2 machine :-)---download Windows10 iso from Microsoft website, created a bootable USB stick using "winusb" program (on Linux), reinstalled Windows... everything worked right out of the box, and windows managed to correctly activate itself without issues (didn't have to type in code or call anywhere).
- Alex; 20161210
After getting back to the car, decided to go to Zion National Park. There's an Observation Point hike that I've heard is nice, so that's on my list. Unfortunately, it's almost a 6 hour drive. As I drove out of Canyonlands, noticed I'm dozing off behind the wheel, so pulled over and closed eyes for few minutes. Five hours later, I woke up... and was very late to start out on a 6 hour drive to Zion. Decided to give it a try anyway... there's nothing much to do anyways.
While driving on I70, saw an exit for Capitol Reef National Park, and decided to hike there instead. Will have to come back to Oservation Point some other time.
At Capitol Reef, picked a hike that I've already done, Cassidy Arch, except starting from a different trailhead (highway, instead of the camp site---it's a different trail with the same destination). Cassidy Arch hike is around 10 miles... unlike the previous day's 38 miles :-)
This park is amazing, with absolutely beautiful trails. Very relaxing to just walk and walk, etc.
The thought process for this hike was the nature of reality. It started with relativity... and curvature of space time around a massive body... the question is: how is the space curved.
For example, we know space-time is curved around a mass---the mass is generating some field (that travels at speed of light) that tells space to curve... now, what is that field made of? Lets say it's made out of photons (similar to electromagnetic field, or so I thought), then the question is how does a black hole generate that curved space around it---as there are no photons leaving that. Eg. how does a black hole curve space-time around itself? (what reaches out from it and grabs space to be curved around it).
So anyways, I was then thinking perhaps it has to do with motion... well, there's interial mass---which strantely equals regular mass... so there may be a relation. But what's the resistance to motion anyway? If I have a hydrogen atom, and I push on it with another atom, how does that resist motion? For one, electrons wouldn't touch each other, but they'd repel. Now, once electrons repel, they somehow must push on the proton at the center of the atom. Yet orbits cannot be fractional... So I push on an electron using another electron, what's exactly is the process of getting the whole atom to start moving...
So that took me off gravity (there has to be a photon like particle that creates the gravity "field"), and into electro magnetism... so spend some time thinking about that, being almost certain that the electricity is a "solved" problem----after all, Faraday and Maxwell figured out field equations over a hundred years ago----we have computers operating on quite advanced understanding on how electricity works... etc.
Imagine my surprise when I get back and start googling, and find What Is Magnetism? Apparently it's not a solved problem at all... I mean, yah, we can describe what's happening... similarly in how Newton described forces, etc. We know there's a field that has objective reality (we can measure it, etc.), but we apparently have no idea how it actually does what it does---how is that field generated. We *assume* there are these mysterious virtual particles that pop in and out of existence faster than plank time (so they cannot show up in any measurement), and yet they have an effect that makes it appear like magnets work... virtual particles!
Somehow virtual particles satisfied everyone. Yet when it came to gravity, somehow virtual particles weren't applicable, and we needed to create Higgs particles to explain curvature of space time... Seems a bit biased---if we dunno how the electric field exists and works, we appear to have a pretty big hole in our understanding of reality.
Anyways, need to read up more on quantum mechanics---specifially this virtual particle stuff.
After the hike, went to see the pictographs... which was right across road from the trailhead. Then very slowly drove back to the airport.
I'd like to mention (well, complain mostly) the car: I rented a Nisan Versa... it's not a bad car for driving around---but the power plug didn't work. So couldn't charge my phone...
At a rest stop, decided to "fix it"; opened up the owner's manual, and looke for fuse box... The picure showing how to open fuse box doesn't actually tell you where it is... it just doesn't have enough context. The picture just shows a panel, that is opened. Now where that panel is...
Anyways, found the panel, and opened it. owern's manual said there are spare fuses, so... with any luck I can just replace the fuse for the power plug. Guess what: the fuse box doesn't have any labels of which fuse goes to which thing. There's nothing in the owner's manual! They do say that you can examine fuses for burned out ones... but there are a few dozen of the, so finding the burned out one would be VERY time consuming.
Stupidly, I yanked out one fuse, and it just hopped out of my hand and onto the ground. Searching for a while, it didn't turn up. So I dunno if I "lost" a spare fuse or if something important will not work now. Anyways, car started up fine, and I just closed the fuse box and stopped exploring---don't wanna get stuck in the middle of nowhere.
While looking for the fuse, found a whole bunch of bullet shells right under the car... apparently someone was doing some shooting at the rest area :-/
- Alex; 20161204
Landed in Salt Lake City, and drove off to Canyonlands, the Needles section. There are a bunch of trails in that area---enough for a weekend of hiking.
Weather is VERY cold in Utah... there's snow on the side of the highway.
Got to Needles, and parked at Elephant Hill. The plan is to do a HUGE loop---going to Druid Arch, then Joint Trail, then going down to the river, then... walk back to the trailhead via the elephant hill road.
At Joint Trail, went into one of the cracks between mountains... Last time (last hike there) I saw kids squeezing through some passages that aren't big enough for adults. Apparently there are secret passages there---adults can squeeze into some off-trail passages, but then the rocks just get too tight. So unless you're a kid, can't proceed.
Next stop is going down to the Colorado river. That trail turned out to be much tougher than I expected... it's like a quarter of a grand-canyon hike---very similar terrain, going down well over 1000 feet elevation, etc., very steep.
Near the river, there was a trail leading to Confluence point, so decided to follow that. After about half an hour, realized that the trail doesn't actually have any footsteps, and only hoof prints. Yep, I've been following a deer trail :-). So relaxed by the river a bit, and headed back.
The place got dark as I was ascending out of the canyon (river hike). The temperature dropped. The stars came out... it was amazing. Walked for perhaps six or so hours in the dark---via Cyclone Canyon---nice and open sky all the way (though the darkness made my pants gather up all sorts of spiky things---those spiky plants hurt!).
Milky way is amazing. The temperature got rediculously low. During the day, it was perhaps 40f-ish degrees---chilly, but not cold (especially when walking at fast pace). At night, it was single-digits... and the dry air made it feel much lower. It was rediculous... I put in all the layers I had (quite a lot of warm clothing---stuff I felt "OK" with on top of Mnt.Whitney) and it was still super cold---so was shivering for most of the six hour walk to the car. [water froze, etc.]
Through the walk was contemplating research ideas... (for such long walks, I often fixate on some problem... sometimes it gets solved, most times it's just a nice way to concentrate on something for a while). Anyways, one big realizaiton... I'm doing resarch in modeling market participant behavior---e.g. is it possible to predict what traders will do before they do it. Well, the problem is that there's very little labeled data---the trader would not say "this is what I'm doing" on their market events. But what I thought up---is that they *do* label their behavior... every time they submit a market action. Their action is the label! It's kind of a backward way of thinking---before I was imagining labeling their actions and then potentially learning the labels based on their actions (supervised learning). They don't have such labels, so the thought process stalled. Now... what if the trader's action labeled the current market and trader state... For example, if the state of the market shows a buy imbalance, and the trader's open positions are mostly on the buy side... and their action is to throw market sell orders, perhaps they're trying to spoof the buy side of the market... Now, we can calculate the market state, we can also calculate the participant's open positions---and then their action (what they're doing in that context) is the label that can become the target in a supervised training method. In any case, I now have something to try...
- Alex; 20161203
Flying out to Utah---hiking weekend.
- Alex; 20161202
Finished reading Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom. Well, all I can say is... we're all DOOOOOMED!
Well, that's the picture the book paints... and it's pretty damn convincing. Bostrom is a smart guy and thought the topic through quite thoroughly. The conclusion: Superintelligence will emerge, whether we try to control it or not... it will get out of our control, and then the big question of what it dies with us... would we be part of its cosmic plans, or will it just get rid of us---or perhaps just ignore us the way we ignore ants.
It's a very clever book---with a lot of thought provoking concepts. Highly recommend it---especially if you're interested in AI.
What the author didn't intend, and what I noticed while reading the book, were religious overtones. For example, the superintelligence would be so far beyond what we can even imagine, the whole situation is similar to humanity creating its own gods. Perhaps causing existential catastrophy in the process. It's hard to reason about something that you by definition cannot understand.
- Alex; 20161201
Black Friday weekend: got a shiny new laptop, with Windows 10. I haven't used Windows since Windows7 (Use Windows7 at work, tried Windows8 in various places, and found it to be a confusing mess... haven't tried Windows10 until this morning).
``Getting Windows ready. Don't turn off your computer.'' Oh yah? You're telling *me* what to do? Last time I wiped Windows7 off my laptop, it did exactly this---as I was leaving the train! I mean, what am I supposed to do, stay on the train and not shut off my laptop??? This is a stupid design... and I see they've kept it in Windows10 :-/
And no, there's no "good" reason for it. Databases have been recovering from pretty disastrous mid-transaction power failures, and it's all good---no reason Windows cannot listen to the user and *immediately* power down---and perhaps continue once booted up again. For example, imagine telling a killer robot: "STOP! RIGHT NOW!" and robot just continuing on saying "oh, we'll stop, but we're downloading an update, so it might take a few minutes." This "we know better" approach to user experience is what drove me away from Microsoft in the first place.
Other criticism: I was hoping to try out the Linux subsystem in Windows10... perhaps I can live with that Linux and use consumer grade laptops in the future... well, I've yet to activate it. Perhaps it's the Home edition of Windows10, or something, but none of the features that websites point towards to enable Linux subsystem appear to be there :-/
Guess will have to use this machine to play video games :-)
- Alex; 20161127
Got my complimentary Daydream View, and it rocks. This is my first VR headset (I tried cardboard before, and it was OK, not "WOW! This rocks!", also tried Oculus Rift a year ago, and it was "OK" too). Well, the Daydream View really does rock!
It's relatively comfortable to wear, and the experience is amazing. This is what consumer-ready VR should be like... just pop your phone into it, and boom, off you go.
The content is not there yet though. There are apps that suck. Pricy too. (most don't start at $0.99, they start at $3.99) They're mostly passive experience when you're standing in one place, and stuff happens around you. Youtube VR is the same... nice videos, but... it's a *passive* experience---like, watching a youtube video! One game I tried (racing go carts) really sucks... the controls are terrible, and it got me a bit motion sick... (didn't get motion sick from the "passive" experiences).
So yah, great setup, the content will come... perhaps even Oculus-targetted content will play well on a phone in a few years...
- Alex; 20161123
Yey, short day at work!
...and Happy B-day!
- Alex; 20161122
Finished reading [Early Release of] Deep Learning
A Practitioner's Approach by Josh Patterson, Adam Gibson. Not to be confused with Fundamentals of Deep Learning
Designing Next-Generation Machine Intelligence Algorithms by Nikhil Buduma. The two books appear to be aimed at the same market, but are vastly different.
For one, I enjoyed Patterson and Gibson book a LOT more, while Buduma's book is probably a waste of paper. The book doesn't explicitly concentrate on "deep" learning, but actually covers quite a few neural network based approaches towards problems---with pretty clear explanations of how stuff works. They're also trying to push their Java library to work with arrays, so all their examples are using that---and feed into learning mechanisms that accept their array APIs, etc., but... their APIs actually make sense, and aren't just `here's what we did for this book', more like the other way around.
- Alex; 20161115
So an automated Linux Mint update b0rked my laptop. Apparently the boot partition filled up, so when it upgraded the kernel, it didn't fully write it---and the old kernel was somehow messed up... and since the drive (and home folder) was encrypted, the whole thing won't boot. Got to the point of restoring the main disk, but couldn't get to the home folder... :-/
Good thing I didn't keep anything on it for longer than a few hours :-)
- Alex; 20161114
And back in NYC...
Takeaways from YHack: For the most part, students are much better at using APIs than building their own stuff from scratch---perhaps that's the point of a "hack" but some projects didn't do any coding at all.
For example, when I asked ``what algorithm does such and such API use'' they didn't know... I mean, you're using the API and you have no idea how it actually does what it does... (yah, that's the point of APIs, so you don't have to care... but... you're computer science folks, you must have curiosity!)
Another instance ``what algorithm does such and such API use'' I got a response of "C++"... Hmm... Indeed!
Other than the projects themselves, the event itself was pretty nice. Lots of folks trying to do something really cool with limited time.
- Alex; 20161113
Enjoying YHack event. Gave a 30-min talk related to financial regulation, big data tech, and FINRA :-)
- Alex; 20161112
Driving out to YHack.
- Alex; 20161111
Got back to Mnt.Whitney Portal just as the sun was rising. Drove out to the nearby town, stopped for a short break.
Booked tickets to the Mystery Spot, and started driving towards that. Got there by 3PM (ticket time 3PM).
Mystery spot is... well... just a tourist trap. It's very well executed optical illusions---there realy is no gravity anomaly... it's just perspective and brain being fooled into thinking water flows uphill... Still pretty neat (was trying to visit it for the last year, and finally got around to doing it).
Then stopped for coffee, and then airport... and flight back to NYC.
- Alex; 20161106
Arrived at Mnt.Whitney Portal around 8am, and started up the trail with about 20lb backpack---mostly water and snacks.
The place is pretty chilly---above 11k feet, the lakes are frozen, and there's quite a bit of snow. Saw a lot of folks turning back---mostly because of traction in ice/snow or freezing temperatures.
So last time I hiked this trail I got a very severe headache and some weird hallucinations---hearing voices that were reprogramming my brain. This time, I thought I was prepared... but...
At about 13k feet, headache...urgh, but then every step began causing an interrupt, and the interrupt handler did three GUI pop-ups, and two of those three pop-ups were not cleaning up memory correctly and were leaving stuff behind... so with every step, the memory leak was causing the system to become slower and ... more tired. Yep, the reaosn I was getting tired on that mountain was due to a memory leak in an interrupt handler that handles footsteps.
So now I'm thinking that the voices from the hike four years ago didn't do a good job at reprogramming---leaving memory leaks behind :-)
Got to summit around sunset---with a terrible headache (and faulty interrupt handler in my brain)---spent almost an hour in the summit shelter cabin---recovering my bearings and trying to keep warm---it was terribly cold. Snoozed my phone a few times attemping to nap on the wooden floor.
On the way down, terrible headache. All the way down to 11k feet elevation or so. Then just exhaustion....
- Alex; 20161105
Flying out to San Francisco---hiking Mnt.Whitney :-)
- Alex; 20161104
Changing oil on my 4runner. Two years since last time I've done that :-)
- Alex; 20161030
Spending Sunday in Harriman State Park...
- Alex; 20161023
Got Google Pixel phone. Seems like slightly better version of Nexus 5X. Not sure the slight performance improvements are worth the upgrade.
- Alex; 20161021
...and back in NYC :-)
- Alex; 20161017
Train ride from Ambala to Delhi...and flight to NYC.
- Alex; 20161016
Big family party... and apparently a surprise b-day party for yours truly :-)
- Alex; 20161015
Shopping day... and trying out my wedding Kurta Pajama. Fits ok :-)
- Alex; 20161014
Taking bus from Katra to Jammu, then train back to Ambala.
- Alex; 20161013
Hiking to Vaishno Devi Mandir.
The hike around places took all day... and Suneli managed to get us to crawl through the lower cave... (without waiting a few days in queue).
Really enjoyable place. The feeling of crawling out of that cave is hard to describe. Just amazing.
- Alex; 20161012
Another day of shopping...
- Alex; 20161010
A day of shopping in Chandigarh.
- Alex; 20161009
Got to Delhi, and then Ambala...
- Alex; 20161008
Flying to out Delhi.
- Alex; 20161007
Happy B-Day to yours truly :-D
- Alex; 20161005
Got out of grand canyon... via Bright Angel trial (a bit longer and less steaper than South Kaibab---at least on the way up).
Went on a trip to Lowell Observatory. That's the place that discovered Pluto.
On one of the tiny woody paths, stepped on a nail---which ruined the rest of the day.
Drove to Lost Dutchman State Park... but didn't go on a hike... then airport, and passed out in the airplane.
- Alex; 20161002
Arrived in Phoenix, rented car, and headed to Grand Canyon village.
Walked to South Kaibab trailhead, and headed down. Stopped by Ribbon Falls, and walked up the North Kaibab trail.
Tried to get dinner in the fancy lodge restaurant, but they were once again booked and required a reservation---so ended up eating in the pizza cafe :-/
After dinner turned around and went back to the south rim :-)
- Alex; 20161001
Flying out to Phoenix, Arizona, for my crazy grand-canyon rim-to-rim-to-tim walk :-)
- Alex; 20160930
Spending Saturday in Harriman State Park...
- Alex; 20160924
Spending Saturday in Harriman State Park...
- Alex; 20160917
...and back in NYC :-D
- Alex; 20160912
Flying back from Leh to New Delhi...
Followed by a flight back to NYC...
- Alex; 20160911
Driving to Pangong Lake.
On way to the lake, encountered an unusually friendly marmot, who ate grass out of Suneli's hands :-)
Visited the spot where scenes from 3-Idiots movie were shot.
At Pangong lake, rented a tent by the shore... spent evening sitting by a fire with live guitar music/singing (and one annoying jerk playing video on phone very loudly---as someone else was trying to sing).
- Alex; 20160908
Road trip around Leh...
Driving through Khardung La. Strangely, didn't get a headache while there.
Stopped by Diskit Monastery.
Spending night at Turtuk village. One amazingly beautiful place... where electricity is on for whole 3 hours of the day... :-)
- Alex; 20160906
Went up to Shanti Stupa. Did the whole clock-wise walk around the whole thing :-)
Rented a scooty...
Scooted to Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, then to Magnetic Hill, and then onto Alchi Monastery...
The Alchi Monastery is located at the end of a tourist-trap road (with markets selling trinkets all along the road to the monastery. Wasn't really expecting it to be *that* touristy.
Then scooty back to the hotel...
- Alex; 20160905
Earning morning flight to Leh...
...Landed in Leh, walked all around the main street (market area) looking for a hotel. Surprisingly hard to find a good hotel that isn't fully booked.
No internet in the entire region---not even WiFi :-/
- Alex; 20160904
Landed in New Delhi, met Suneli, and spent the evening in central Delhi.
- Alex; 20160903
...and I'm off to India.
- Alex; 20160902
My main (dev box) computer that's been up non-stop for the last five years... shut off and wouldn't boot up :-/ Probably the spinning-rust disk gone bad. Ordered a 1T SSD to replace the main disk.
Good thing for backups...
- Alex; 20160901
Yey! First day of class!
- Alex; 20160829
Finished reading R for Everyone: Advanced Analytics and Graphics by Jared P. Lander. Certainly an OK book on R---probably better than average. I'm still not a fan of the R language, and think its syntax is akward. Besides for vectorized operations, most folks would be better off with something else.
Speaking of which, finally got around to trying Perl6... I'll reserve judgment until a bit more time. (so far, I'm not liking the $arr vs @arr syntax; I still don't know how Perl6 does slices :-/
- Alex; 20160826
Got an Intel NUC NUC5CPYH; put in 8G of RAM and 240G SSD... not a bad machine for the price. Runs Linux without any hickups.
- Alex; 20160821
Finally picked up car from repairs... and it's great. Better than it was before the accident (all clean and shiny---all the tiny little scratches at various places were buffed away, and everything seems to have been repaired very well without any noticeble artifacts). Total cost of repair: $6.9k---good thing for auto insurance :-)
- Alex; 20160811
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