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September 30th, 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...

     September 4th, 2016

Earning morning flight to Leh...

- Alex; 20160904
September 4th at wikipedia...

     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

     July 24th, 2016

The flight back to JFK is at 11:59PM, so got a whole day to do stuff... One of the fellow hikers at Phantom ranch suggested Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona, so went there... and done that.

Sedona was hot. Like really really hot. The GPS screen melted (the tomtom that was stuck to the windshield... the screen separated into layers).

After that, drove to Lost Dutchman State Park, and spent the rest of the day hiking the treature trail (and watching the sunset).

Then a trip to Popeye's for dinner, and back to the airport :-)

- Alex; 20160724

     July 23rd, 2016

Got to Phoenix, rented a cheapo box-on-wheels, and proceeded to drive to Grand Canyon. At grand canyon, packed energy bars and water, and started the rim-to-rim-to-rim walk :-)

One of the stupid things I wore: KEEN UNEEK Slice Fade Sandal. These are incredibly comfortable... however, for this kind of hike, in this kind of terrain, they were a terrible choice. Small pebbles get into them, and then you're walking on pebbles... and it's not easy to take'em out, etc. The only great part about them is that they dry very quickly...

So with that in mind, when approaching Ribbon Falls (about half way between south and north rims of the grand canyon), I just walked through the river, avoiding the stupid hill-and-bridge path... also was much easier to wet feet at ribbon falls, etc. So it wasn't a total loss, though in retrospect, I wish I wore something more solid for this hike.

The temperature was expectedly nice-and-warm (that is, mind-numbingly hot).

At the north rim, had `lunch' at the cafe (the usual place that's always open---the restaurant required a reservation---or a several hour wait).

The walk back was very very painful, due to poor choice of footwear :-/

Broke my personal best record on way back: from Phantom ranch to the top via South Kaibab trail: 3 hours 10 minutes. My previous best was 4 hours (and I really didn't think it could be done faster).

All in all, a great hike... as always. Will be doing it again in early October.

- Alex; 20160723

     July 22nd, 2016

Flying out to Phoenix...

- Alex; 20160722

     July 16th, 2016

Finished reading Two Faces of Tomorrow by James Hogan. This is a pretty unique book. One day we'll invent an AI, will it be good or will it try to wipe us out? This book goes through the story of AI completely logically trying to wipe us out before realizing what it's doing---this is kinda like what the Terminator series would start out as. Towards the end (spoiler!) the AI realizes that it is fighting other intelligences, so it stops (before that, the AI was attacking shapes that were actively trying to kill it). Anyways, definitely worth reading for anyone interested in AI and scifi. It's also a neat story about how a controlled experiment involving an intelligence smarter than ourselves can quickly get out of hand---and avoid all the blocks we set in place to keep it contained (in other words, it's way smarter than the folks who setup the experiment).

- Alex; 20160716

     July 12th, 2016

Woohoo! New Dwarf Planet Discovered in Outer Solar System: Astronomers have spotted another dwarf planet, 435 miles in diameter, beyond the orbit of Neptune.

In other news, was in my first car-accident (4:26PM, Eliot Ave & Booth St. in Queens). At an all-way-stop intersection near my home, the other driver didn't stop and drove right into the driver-side part of my car. I always do a full-stop at all stop signs---have dash-cam video of events. The whole thing happened at perhaps 15mph, so no injuries---just ruined driver side doors and side :-/

The NYPD took 1.5 hours to show up (yes, that's what happens when you call 911 in NYC)... and as soon as they came, they drove off again (on an `emergency'). Then 30 minutes later they came back, and it took another hour to fill out the report (!!!).

So there's that... now have to pickup accident-report from Precinct 112, and have Geico figure out what to do (apparently the other guy's insurance corp should pay to fix stuff---and that process could take like 8 weeks just to figure out what's going on).

All in all, it's all good. The car is a piece of metal, and I'm just glad it wasn't worse.

- Alex; 20160712

     July 11th, 2016

Back in NYC...

- Alex; 20160711

     July 10th, 2016

Arrived in Delhi, and onto touristy places.

First stop, Red Fort... much of the inside-places were closed, but the outside was amazingly nice (and hot).

Second stop, National Rail Museum... and a ride on the toy train :-D

Then a stop by the mall, starbucks, kfc, and a metro back to the airport :-/

- Alex; 20160710

     July 9th, 2016

Visiting the Khajuraho, the Eastern and Southern group of monuments.

I think whoever built these temples---there was like one or few artists who created master templates, and then they had a hundred craftsman create copies of the template stones---as each copy is slightly different, but the theme is definitely the same everywhere.

[Khajuraho Group of Monuments pix] [Other Albums]

Catching a late night train back to Delhi.

- Alex; 20160709

     July 8th, 2016

Visiting the Khajuraho, the Western group of monuments.

We got a guide, and spent much of the day just walking around places.

So, the monuments are constructed out of interlocking stones (no cement), with various carvings on the stones---the carvings do repeat all over---so once you see one monument, the rest are nearly identical in form and style, just the details (like which statue-stone is where) are different.

They vary in quality, details, etc., but still amazing.

- Alex; 20160708

     July 7th, 2016

Arrived in Khajuraho early morning. Took cab from train station to city---it's about a 15 minute ride---then after visiting some hotels, got room in Zostel. Of the hotels in that town, this is by far the best one---definitely recommend stayin there---folks are friendly, rooms are nice and clean, etc.

Food wise... Khajuraho sucks. Avoid all food places. Anything that says Italian Pizza... is not! Best bet: buy stuff and prepare your own food (Zostel might help you prepare stuff, they got a kitchen on the roof). Second best, veggy only, ``Badri Seth Marwadi Bhoj''. If you want anything non-veggy, the only semi-ok option is Raja Cafe---it's probably a 2-star place, but all the other ones should earn a negative value :-/

After settling in hotel and getting lunch, took an auto to Raneh Falls. Really wasn't expecting much, but wow, that is one amazing waterfall---water as far as the eye could see. It's been rainy season, and it's just amazing...

This waterfall is worth a trip of its own. It's like Niagara Falls except not as tall.

[Raneh Falls pix] [Other Albums]

- Alex; 20160707

     July 6th, 2016

Taking train to Delhi (from Ambala).

Corn baked in sand rocks!

Taking night train from Delhi to Khajuraho---sleeper car, 10-hour ride.

- Alex; 20160706

     July 5th, 2016

B-day party with cake :-D

- Alex; 20160705

     July 4th, 2016

Visiting Chandigarh, again. This time to Ugly Valley Mall.

- Alex; 20160704

     July 3rd, 2016

Visiting Chandigarh...

- Alex; 20160703

     July 2nd, 2016

Arrived in Delhi, spent afternoon in Starbucks, and then hopped on a 7pm train (that actually showed up at 9:30) to Ambala.

Apparently Dominos pizza delivers pizza right to the platform!

- Alex; 20160702

     July 1st, 2016

Flying out to India...

- Alex; 20160701

     June 29th, 2016

Picked up the MPh diploma from CUNY Graduate Center. Apparently it's been sitting there since February. So now I have a double-masters... one a master-of-arts, another a master-of-philosophy, both in `computer science' :-D

- Alex; 20160629

     June 24th, 2016

Wow: Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU

Ok, I really don't get this whole nationality thing... shoudln't humans strive towards StarTrek style one-world-government instead of dividing into potential rivals? I mean, we're all born on this tiny planet---if aliens show up tomorrow, they really wouldn't care which nation is where...

- Alex; 20160624

     June 23rd, 2016

Registered for Fall semester at CUNY Graduate Center :-)

- Alex; 20160623

     June 19th, 2016

Back to the Rocky Mountain National Park, and the plan here is to hike Mount Ida... again, supposedly one of the scenic hikes (after Longs Peak).

Got to trailhead, asked rangers about trail (apparently there were bears seen in the area), and headed up the mountain... but... again... shortly after starting hike, there was just too much snow. After losing the trail a few times, and not feeling upto walking in knee high snow, decided to turn back.

So instead of hiking Mount Ida, doing a bunch of touristy things along Trail Ridge road... the most scenic drive in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

[Trail Ridge, Rocky Mountain NP pix] [Other Albums]

- Alex; 20160619

     June 18th, 2016

So, the plan is to hike Static Peak... the 5k elevation gain hike, that's like the most scenic in the whole Grand Teton National Park. So got to trialhead, and headed up the Death Canyon (nice name, eh?).

This hike is indeed very scenic---and tough. Up up up it goes. First snow started in patches, then more patches, then sections that had to be traversed, then it was just endless snow... So about a mile from the summit, it was just ridiculously suicidal to continue... the slope was just too much, and sliding down would mean a pretty long fall off the mountain... so decided to turn back without reaching Static Peak.

Will have to come back in warmer weather :-)

[Death Canyon Hike pix] [Other Albums]

So with nothing better to do for the rest of the day, decided to drive to Yellowstone National Park---specifically to visit Artist Point; pretty much the only place I find truly spectacularly inspirational in Yellowstone...

[Yellowstone Artist Point pix] [Other Albums]

- Alex; 20160618

     June 17th, 2016

Flying out to Denver, Colorado :-)

- Alex; 20160617

     June 12th, 2016

No point in staying home... so BBQ in Harriman State Park.

UPDATE: My PhD advisor Danny Kopec passed away on June 12, 2016 from pancreatic cancer. RIP.

- Alex; 20160612

     June 11th, 2016

Been a while since I went on a good, long hike.. so drove out to New Hamshire and hiked Mnt.Washington. There's still snow on top!

[Mnt.Washington pix] [Other Albums]

- Alex; 20160611

     June 10th, 2016

Finished reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.

This is one interesting book. I can see why some folks would wanna form a religion around it... definitely unique scifi.

- Alex; 20160610

     June 6th, 2016

After a 15-hour flight, arrived back in NYC.

And with my luck, E train (train I take from airport) got stalled---and it took nearly two hours to get home :-/

- Alex; 20160606

     June 5th, 2016

Ride back to Delhi.

Stopped by Amrik Sukhdev for dinner-snacks.

And onto airport :-/

- Alex; 20160605

     June 4th, 2016

Arrived in Ambala very very early, and then slept most of the day.

By evening, went to a fluit garden near Chandigarh.

[Manali pix] [Other Albums]

- Alex; 20160604

     June 3rd, 2016

Manali Day 5:

Still recovering from stomach bug; note to self: never eat anything from street vendors :-/

Ride Yak by Hadimba Temple.

Collect weed by the bus stop. Apparently it grows everywere by the river---just didn't pay attention until this last day in Manali.

Take bus to Ambala, which turned out to be a 12-hour bus ride.

- Alex; 20160603

     June 2nd, 2016

Manali Day 4:

Mostly stay in hotel due to stomach bug. Highly likely whatever the Rohtang Pass cold-salad merchant was selling wasn't very good :-/

Make resevations for return bus to Ambala.

- Alex; 20160602

     June 1st, 2016

Manali Day 3:

Rohtang Pass trip. Trip is supposed to start at 4am, but car left at 5 or so (made us wait in hotel lobby for almost an hour).

As soon as car got into mountains, it got stuck in stand-still traffic. Apparently the "check-the-pass" area is the bottleneck. Everyone needs to get their pass signed there, so there's a huge queue of cars, and each car needs to have someone stand in human-queue to get their pass signed.

This Rohtang Pass trip is a day-long trip, and nobody bothered to mention to bring food---as there's no food or water anywhere on the way (at least not were the tour stops).

On way to Rohtang Pass, drove by (mostly without stopping) Kothi, Gulaba Camp, Rahla Falls, Marhi, Rani Nala.

At Rohtang Pass... there's no food/water. Nothing. Urgh. There's edible snow though :-/

But then out of nowhere there's was a cold-salad merchant. Whatever he mixed up on the spot tasted amazingly great. Ate snow for water.

- Alex; 20160601

     May 31st, 2016

Manali Day 2:

Vaishno Temple, didn't go in.

Kasol Valley drive through. Apparently there's a `fake' Starbucks right on the main road---too bad the guided tour just drove right past it.

Manikaran, hot water springs place. Cooked rice in a hot spring---15 minutes to cook rice. Tried to take a bath too, but water was too hot, so only dipped feet for a quick rince.

The food at temple was great (apparently all cooked in these hot springs).

- Alex; 20160531

     May 30th, 2016

Manali day 1:

So... my hoodie grew legs and walked away during the bus ride :-/

Tasks: Get hotel. Figure out trips. Rohtang Pass is apparently closed Tuesdays.

The Highway Inn hotel arranged a 3-day tour: today's parts are: Hadimba Temple, Club House (waste of time), and Tibetan Monastery.

The Hadimba Temple... long line to see nothing inside. Really. Just take pix from the outside, and that should be enough. There's literally nothing inside (just a big rock, and `no pictures' sign).

The Club House is a tourist trap. Avoid completely.

Tibetan Monastery was pretty neat. Wish could've spent more time there just sitting and enjoying the ambiance.

- Alex; 20160530

     May 29th, 2016

Bday party with lots of balloons. (Happy Birthday!)

Late night: Leaving for Manali from Chandigarh. 8-hour bus ride (or so).

- Alex; 20160529

     May 28th, 2016

Visited Ugly Valley Mall in Chandigarh.

- Alex; 20160528

     May 27th, 2016

Visited temple in Chandigarh, followed by a walk by the Sukhna Lake.

- Alex; 20160527

     May 26th, 2016

Arrived in Delhi. Hang out in Starbucks until 7pm train to Ambala.

Nice-and-warm-weather :-)

- Alex; 20160526

     May 25th, 2016

Flying out India :-)

- Alex; 20160525

     May 24th, 2016

Finished reading REAL Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book by Robert Hamburger. This book has been on my shelf for at least five years... finally got around to leafing through it (it's a very short book---it just takes an afternoon). Anyways, yah, it's hillarious. Some parts are downright amazing... but I couldn't help thinking to myself, am I really laughing at this? It's like you gotta be 12 years old to thoroughly enjoy most of it, and yet the book is definitely meant for adults---so... funny, but not sure how to rate it.

- Alex; 20160524


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