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December 5th, 2016



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www.theParticle.com
Welcome to www.theparticle.com. It's the newest pre-IPO dot bomb that's taking the world by storm. Now is a perfect time to buy lots of worthless and overpriced shares!
     What this site is about?

Internet is becoming more and more polluted with junk-mail, people selling crap, and businesses which don't know their place on the net. They're all trying to make this wonderful place (i.e.: the net) in to hell (i.e.: real world). Internet should be viewed as a place of imagination, creativity, and most of all: fun. Internet is not some really advanced tool for searching for people to rip-off. It's about searching, and finding, things which are useful, helpful, and promote the sharing of ideas. This is what this site is striving to become.

News, Updates, & Rants...

     November 27th, 2016

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
November 27th at wikipedia...

     November 23rd, 2016

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

     November 22nd, 2016

Yey, short day at work!

...and Happy B-day!

- Alex; 20161122

     November 15th, 2016

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.

Highly recommend!

- Alex; 20161115

     November 14th, 2016

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

     November 13th, 2016

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

     November 12th, 2016

Enjoying YHack event. Gave a 30-min talk related to financial regulation, big data tech, and FINRA :-)

- Alex; 20161112

     November 11th, 2016

Driving out to YHack.

- Alex; 20161111

     November 6th, 2016

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

     November 5th, 2016

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

     November 4th, 2016

Flying out to San Francisco---hiking Mnt.Whitney :-)

- Alex; 20161104

     October 30th, 2016

Changing oil on my 4runner. Two years since last time I've done that :-)

- Alex; 20161030

     October 23rd, 2016

Spending Sunday in Harriman State Park...

- Alex; 20161023

     October 21st, 2016

Got Google Pixel phone. Seems like slightly better version of Nexus 5X. Not sure the slight performance improvements are worth the upgrade.

- Alex; 20161021

     October 17th, 2016

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20161017

     October 16th, 2016

Train ride from Ambala to Delhi...and flight to NYC.

- Alex; 20161016

     October 15th, 2016

Big family party... and apparently a surprise b-day party for yours truly :-)

- Alex; 20161015

     October 14th, 2016

Shopping day... and trying out my wedding Kurta Pajama. Fits ok :-)

- Alex; 20161014

     October 13th, 2016

Taking bus from Katra to Jammu, then train back to Ambala.

- Alex; 20161013

     October 12th, 2016

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

     October 11th, 2016

Observed the Dussehra (Maha Navami) festival.

Taking night-time bus to Katra.

- Alex; 20161011

     October 10th, 2016

Another day of shopping...

- Alex; 20161010

     October 9th, 2016

A day of shopping in Chandigarh.

- Alex; 20161009

     October 8th, 2016

Got to Delhi, and then Ambala...

- Alex; 20161008

     October 7th, 2016

Flying to out Delhi.

- Alex; 20161007

     October 5th, 2016

Happy B-Day to yours truly :-D

- Alex; 20161005

     October 2nd, 2016

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

     October 1st, 2016

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

     September 30th, 2016

Flying out to Phoenix, Arizona, for my crazy grand-canyon rim-to-rim-to-tim walk :-)

- Alex; 20160930

     September 24th, 2016

Spending Saturday in Harriman State Park...

- Alex; 20160924

     September 17th, 2016

Spending Saturday in Harriman State Park...

- Alex; 20160917

     September 12th, 2016

...and back in NYC :-D

- Alex; 20160912

     September 11th, 2016

Flying back from Leh to New Delhi...

Followed by a flight back to NYC...

- Alex; 20160911

     September 10th, 2016

Walked up Shanti Stupa again...

Scooty ride to Hemis Monastery. Had lunch there.

Then scooty to Thikse Monastery... didn't realize there's a road leading all the way to the top---walked all the way uphill and back :-/

Stopped by Druk White Lotus School (or Rancho's School---from 3-Idiots movie).

Then scooty to Shey Monastery. Walk up and down...

...and finally scooty to Leh Palace, then dinner and hotel.

...one long day :-)

- Alex; 20160910

     September 9th, 2016

Driving back to Leh, via Chang La pass.

- Alex; 20160909

     September 8th, 2016

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

     September 7th, 2016

Walking tour of Turtuk village. They got fresh walnuts! And a natural fridge-cave thingies (like a refrigerator).

Then camel ride at Sand Dunes Leisure Park, Sumoor Nubra. Spending night nearby.

- Alex; 20160907

     September 6th, 2016

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

     September 5th, 2016

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

     September 4th, 2016

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

     September 3rd, 2016

Landed in New Delhi, met Suneli, and spent the evening in central Delhi.

- Alex; 20160903

     September 2nd, 2016

...and I'm off to India.

- Alex; 20160902

     September 1st, 2016

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

     August 31st, 2016

EmDrive: NASA Eagleworks' paper has finally passed peer review, says scientist in the know. Nice...rumors.

- Alex; 20160831

     August 30th, 2016

SETI has observed a ``strong'' signal that may originate from a Sun-like star.

- Alex; 20160830

     August 29th, 2016

Yey! First day of class!

- Alex; 20160829

     August 26th, 2016

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[1] vs @arr[1] syntax; I still don't know how Perl6 does slices :-/

- Alex; 20160826

     August 21st, 2016

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

     August 11th, 2016

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

     August 10th, 2016

It seems every time I travel, I catch something... been pretty sick with flu-like-symtoms last few days---can barely catch a breath :-/

- Alex; 20160810

     August 9th, 2016

Went to pickup car from repairs... and it was missing two parts. The pieces that were replaced had other pieces attached to them... like the mudguard, etc., so those were missing. (it was kinda easy to tell they were missing, since the left/right sides of car should be perfectly symmetrical, and they were not). Left the car in shop while those are ordered and attached :-/

For the last two days, had a `createathon' (sorta a hackathon) at work (FINRA). With 58 teams and about 350 people participating. My team implemented the Local outlier factor algo going against featurized firm trade data [features such as how aggressive a firm is, whether it tends to take liquidity or provide it, etc.]. Got some results---no time to analyze them. Made it into the `final' round of 12-teams, but in the end didn't win anything :-/

- Alex; 20160809

     August 8th, 2016

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20160808

     August 7th, 2016

Long ride from Ambala to New Delhi... and catching the flight.

- Alex; 20160807

     August 6th, 2016

Spending day in Ambala... and getting soaked in the rain :-D

- Alex; 20160806

     August 5th, 2016

We really wanted to see the sunrise, so got up very early, and ran to the best places to observe the sunrise... unfortunately due to clouds, it wasn't very spectacular... but it was still nice.

This is the day of flying back to Delhi, so needed to get back from Darjeeling to Siliguri. Caught a shared-cab as it was leaving, and got in. That cab had 13 people in it (including driver).

Anyways, the drive back was also amazing pretty---also through hilly tea plantations. It's just an amazingly pretty place.

The cab dropped us off about a mile away from the Siliguri city center---so we decided to walk a bit. And then it got super duper hot. And then when we got to the center, everything was closed (including the KFC!).

It's very hard to find a place to snack :-/

We ended up catching a shared cab to the airport, and just hanging around there until the flight. The airport cafe had a week-old pastry with coffee, which was very palatable by that point.

Flight to Delhi had great food :-)

In New Delhi, we needed to pickup stuff and get to Ambala, so... from airport, we went to New Delhi train station, auto to places, then back to train station, learned that there were no tickets to Ambala, then auto to bus station, and caught an air-conditioned bus as it was leaving (literally, on the go right at the gate). The whole evening was hurry-hurry-hurry-hurry... the bus ride was amazingly nice after that.

- Alex; 20160805

     August 4th, 2016

Started day with a walk to the train station to book a `toy' train ride. Got morning tickets for a loop ride on the steam Darjeeling Himalayan Railway... then back to hotel for breakfast, followed by walk back to the train station...

The train ride was a lot of fun. The coal from the engine goes everywhere. The train goes right on the street, along with cars---it seems like it's going through people's homes (everything is so packed on top of hills, that the railway seems to be going right through folks backyards).

After the train ride, went onto tea trip. Bought some tea, tasted lots of teas, had pastries with tea, etc., just hanging around town until sunset.

- Alex; 20160804

     August 3rd, 2016

With Gangtok touristy places done, we caught an early morning shared-cab to Darjeeling. That is one amazingly pretty drive... via hills of tea plantations. The views are amazing.

It didn't even occur to me that Darjeeling is famous for the tea... until seeing a tea shop on every corner :-/

Darjeeling is a very vertical town... very hilly. Takes a lot of effort to get around. Just walking around town you're gaining and losing a lot of altitude.

Also apparently Kangchenjunga (the third highest mountain in the world, at 28k feet) is visible from Darjeeling. So right at sunset, we ran (walked fast) to Observatory Hill to get a view... pretty amazing.

...and then KFC and PizzaHut for dinner :-)

- Alex; 20160803

     August 2nd, 2016

Around 7 in the morning, found out that roads to Lachung are closed. So much for that. Onto the backup plan of: Tsomgo Lake!

At the checkpoint (yes, there really is a check point where they verify the permits and number of foreigners per car---the guy from Japan agreed to also go on Tsomgo lake), they didn't wanna let our car pass.

Apparently some of the paperwork was not filled out correctly, and the guards didn't believe Suneli was Indian (she's traveling with me, so `obviously' she needs a visa which she didn't have). So yah, that was a laugh---then she went and spoke to the chief and straightened the whole thing out. And on we went...

After a really long drive, the lake itself was very underwhelming. Yah, it's a lake... but the place isn't worth a whole-day-sitting-in-a-car-trip.

We did our best to hike around the lake, cut there appears to be no trail all the way around---it's very close, but the trail seems to just end, without looping back onto the road.

On the way back, saw a semi-wild (probably domesticated) Yak... it was just near the road, very friendly, posed for some pictures, etc.

Then the landslide... the truck stopped for a long while... by the excavator on the side of the road... waiting for a rock to fall down. Waiting and waiting and nothing... then OK to go. The rock turned out to be just a bit larger than an average brick :-/

So that's that for the big day trip into the mountains.

A note on negotiation: the Japanese tourist paid 5000 rupees for this day-trip, while Suneli and I *both* paid 3000 rupees. That's 1500 vs 5000 per person... Same trip, same everything. So... negotiation is very important. I'd imagine the British couple I saw at the checkpoint paid a lot more---since they arranged everything in advance before coming to India.

- Alex; 20160802

     August 1st, 2016

Made arrangements to visit Lachung. So here's some stupidity: there are some places that foreigners aren't allowed to go, and the places where foreigners *are* allowed to go, you need at least *two* foreigners. That's right, Suneli and I couldn't go places all by ourselves... we needed another foreign tourist!

So after some hassle, we found a tourist agent who was willing to take us to Lachung... the plan was to sign up another willing (and imaginary) foreigner---to get the permit that required at least two foreigners, who would fall ill the following day and not show up... the tour would continue without the imaginary tourist, etc. Then later in the day, luckily for everyone, another (real) tourist from Japan showed up, so that sneaky plan of a sick-imaginary-foreigner didn't materialize.

Anyways, we heard that the roads to Lachung were in bad shape, so made arrangements to visit the Tsomgo Lake (which also required a permit, and a 2nd foreigner).

With next day stuff planned, onto doing day trips at Gangtok... walked to Enchey Monastery, then all over places, such as Tashi View Point, Flower Gardens, Bakthang waterfall, Tibetology place, Chorten Stupa, Nam-Nang View Point, and the rope-way ride. The whole thing took maybe half a day...

- Alex; 20160801

     July 31st, 2016

Flying out from Delhi to Bagdogra...

After a really long shared-cab ride, arrived in Gangtok. Apparently foreigners need to get an ``Inner Line Permit'' from the `Government of Sikkim' (yah, it's kinda a country within a country---they even stamp the passport kinda like a visa :-)

- Alex; 20160731

     July 30th, 2016

Arrived in New Delhi, met Suneli, and spent the rest of the day roaming around central Delhi.

- Alex; 20160730

     July 29th, 2016

...and I'm off to India :-)

- Alex; 20160729

     July 28th, 2016

Finished reading Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight by John W. Foreman. This book is amazing. It starts out very "meh" like---it uses Excel for *everything*... but then it gets super duper good. You'd be amazed what Excel is capable of...

But this book isn't about Excel. It implements pretty hard core machine learning stuffs... with very clear explanations and examples, all done in pretty simple Excel.

The last chapter implements everything from previous chapters in R.

The last section... is just pure gold. Your job as a data scientist isn't to use Hadoop or to implement fancy algorithms,... it's to solve business problems. It's more than likely your company's core business isn't data science. Whatever you do must help your core business. The book gives an example of an airline company... sure they do a lot of data science to squeeze as much profit out of every seat... but their core business is flying airplanes... everything their data science folks do must complement that core business. And it's the same for other enterprises.

- Alex; 20160728

     July 25th, 2016

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20160725


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