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News, Updates, & Rants...
So... thinking it's been a while since I did a crazy hike, yesterday (or rather, Friday), decided to go to Mnt.Washington. Did a similar winter-hike of that mountain last year, around this time of year, and it was great.
Weather outlook this time showed mostly sunny skies, some wind, and (something I ignored) chilly temperatures. Really, how chilly can they get? So anyways, set out Friday night, and got to Mnt.Washington by around 8am. It really is sunny! And very pleasant. The folks at visitors center said I didn't need snowshoes (as expected), crampons, etc.. Said wind gusts will be ~80mph, with whinchill 20f to 30f below. But...I've done that before (it was worse on Mnt.Marcy last year when my toe nails fell off). Put on gear, and headed up. Below tree line, it was great. Chilly, but generally pleasant. Very icy.
Above tree line... urgh. Very windy. Very cold. And it just didn't stop. So I put on my gears (facemask, ski goggles, mittens, etc.). Didn't feel a thing. I was prepared, and was expecting this kind of wether. Headed up. It was actually fun, leaning into the wind, and pushing through. You hear it, you see it (it snowed, a LOT,.. but none of it was sticking due to wind), but none of it gets at you...
About a mile from the summit (the last summit bulge), wind picked up. Knocked me down to the ground twice (!). Standing up became difficult, and gusts just knock you over. Literally holding rocks as you walk crotched down. And it got much much colder. So much so that my perspiration *under* my jacket froze! After a bit of "OMG, so close!!! I can't turn back *now*!"... I just gave up, and went back. This is the first time weather at Mnt.Washington got the better of me---and frankly, in retrospect, I should've turned back much sooner (like right after the tree line).
I think that's how folks end up dead. Gear lets them get way too close to the danger, and when something happens, it's just so much worse 'cause you're up there. Without gear, you give up early, before you're in any real danger.
By the time I got back to the car, the `hot' water in my thermos was frozen :-/
Anyways, now I'm back in NYC, with all toes (and toe nails) accounted for...
- Alex; Sun Dec 8 23:23:04 EST 2013
December 8th at wikipedia...
Illinois OKs pension cuts in landmark reform. Eh! Perhaps they should read The Irreversible Nature of Pension Promises by Warren Buffett.
In other news, my whole ``buy a ton of small items for black friday'' idea failed completely. It seems everyone only has uninteresting crap on sale. e.g. there are only so many USB drives you can get... So mostly ended up buying books (but I usually don't wait for black friday to buy those). So eh!
- Alex; Wed Dec 4 06:47:06 EST 2013
Ah, December! ...ammm....December 2nd? What happened to 1st?
- Alex; Mon Dec 2 07:09:51 EST 2013
Amm... No tech bubble here. If they have to ask (or answer), then yes, the tech bubble is here.
- Alex; Wed Nov 27 07:14:31 EST 2013
Hmm... 8 things you can buy with bitcoins right now. Yey?
Imagine I start a gold mine, and over say 10 years of hard-work of gold mining, manage to accumulate say 10000oz of pure gold. After letting the world know I have that gold, I take that gold and burry it in my secret deep-underground vault. Suddenly I can borrow against it, and essentially live the life of luxury just 'cause it's burried in MY backyard as opposed to in some mountain somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Technology moves foward, and someone figures out a way to cheaply extract gold out of say... sea mud, or something. So lets say it's suddenly 2x cheaper to extract gold out of the ground. Suddenly, MY stash is worth much much less. Not just one half... but much less (that 2x cheaper process is cumulative; my underground stash is constant).
So the downside of gold... is bad. How about the upside?
Imagine gold mining has exhausted all the easy-to-get-to-gold, and mining more is simply not practical (there really is a limited amount of the stuff on the planet). Also, everyone on the planet gets paid in gold. Your salary is in gold, everything is bought/sold in gold, etc.
Then out out of the blue, population grows 20% in 20 years. Does it mean everyone's salary drops by 20%? Perhaps it does... BUT, it also creates more (20% more!) demand for goods, so prices are up! Suddenly everoyne's worried about lower salaries and starts saving more---guess what, that in itself causes a drop in gold supply (more burried in people's backyards for a rainy day).
Note for the above, population doesn't "have" to increase to have end up in that crappy cycle. Any economic bump would do. Speculators notice prices going up and down, hedge against that, and you got a problem.
And...the savers argument. ``I can save gold (burried in my backyard), and it will still be gold in 20 years.'' That dollar isn't worth the same today as it did 20 years ago, but an oz of gold from 20 years ago, is still an oz of gold today (and aha, look at that, it's actually worth a LOT today!).
But... NOBODY should be "saving" dollars, just like nobody should be saving oz of gold. It's a horrible savings medium. Invest! (and no, gold is NOT an investment, same way keeping dollar bills in your mattress is not an investment).
And back to bitcoins...
What problem exactly are bitcoins solving? Are they solving the limited supply problem (same as gold?). No, in fact, bitcoins have a much harder supply problem. But aha, you can partition them indefinitely... but (as with gold) that doesn't solve the actual problem. The upside is also not solved.
However you look at it, bitcoins as a currency *will* collapse. It has all the bad aspects of gold, and none of the good aspects of actually having something shiny in your pocket.
...and the whole aspect of *wasting* electricity to create something that worthless... wow! This borders in usefulness to all those gold miners spending their entire life to unburry the gold from somewhere and reburry it in a bank vault. Seriously, am I the only one missing the whole benefit to society here?
- Alex; Tue Nov 26 07:26:10 EST 2013
Finished reading How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil. It's a very enthusiastic book with very little actually new content. If you've read other Kurzweil's books, my guess a good 3/4th of this one is just a paraphrased version of those. All in all, was an interesting thing to read.
- Alex; Sat Nov 23 16:41:36 EST 2013
Wow, time sure flies.
- Alex; Wed Nov 20 02:03:36 EST 2013
Finished reading Summa Technologiae by Stanislaw Lem. It's kinda hard to describe this book. It's not fiction. It's not scifi. It's like a braindump of cool brainy stuff. Not sure if this is now my favorite book, but it's definitely way up there; highly recommend!
- Alex; Mon Nov 11 00:44:09 EST 2013
How To Better Verify Scientific Research. There are a couple of problems with this, major one being stats presented. It is extremely difficult to get to 95% confidence, much less 99%---yet just about every paper is pretty damn confident...
- Alex; Mon Oct 28 08:57:57 EDT 2013
Hiking Mnt.Washington (in NH) on Saturday and Mnt.Marcy (in NY) on Sunday.
- Alex; 20131019
Finished reading: His Master's Voice by Stanislaw Lem. Wow---wasn't expecting this kinda book. This is my first Lem book, and certainly not the last (already started on the next).
Sometime last Spring, I bought a National Parks annual pass... with intention that I'd actually be going to national parks every month or so... now, due to this gov shutdown, I haven't actually planned any trips in a few weeks. Will they refund me 1 month of my annual pass? :-/
- Alex; Tue Oct 15 02:25:39 EDT 2013
Finished reading: The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us Hardcover by Noson S. Yanofsky. Pretty good book. I read a draft of it a few years ago, and must say that the final version came together very nicely. Highly recommend! While large chunks of it are interesting, I particularly liked the non-scientific (more philosophical) topics found towards the end, like in chapter 8. Discussion of problems of inference could've been a bit longer... that's like the core of our knowledge limitations---we learn by inference, means most things we learn (knowledge outside of deduction) is potentially iffy. That's the limitation on scientific method itself! One would think that `science' (if done right) leads us towards truth of some sort---but that's not guaranteed! For all we know, there may not even be a `truth' to move towards. While I should've enjoyed the computer science bits, it seems those ideas have hit my brain too many times over the years; there's only so much halting or np-completeness that my brain can take.
In other news, apparently I'll be teaching Advanced Database Systems this Spring. Yey.
- Alex; Mon Oct 14 01:08:41 EDT 2013
Boehner vows no deal on budget or debt limit without spending talks with Obama. Do these clowns realize what kind of fire they're playing with? If US defaults on its debt, that would be *BAD*. Everything that cares about stability (e.g. bank accounts, insurance corporations, retirement funds, etc.,) is more or less required by law to use US gov bonds. Imagine if that weren't as stable as everyone believes...
- Alex; Mon Oct 7 07:14:21 EDT 2013
Apparently I'm a year younger today! So here's how this wonderful fountain of youth works: Last year, I miscalculated my age (probaby counting from 0 as opposed to a 1), and for the entire year, I thought I was 1-year older... So today, perhaps with youghful senility, recalculated my age again... and bam, now I'm younger than I was last year!... or rather, I'm same age as I was last year, again.
- Alex; 20131005
Apparently the latest Apache Hive has more or less full support for analytical functions! It's pretty amazing---you can do more in Hive than you can do in Amazon Redshift! (range queries, etc.).
Still no common table expressions though (at least I haven't been able to get'em to work).
- Alex; Fri Oct 4 16:57:29 EDT 2013
U.S. government shuts down as Congress can't agree on spending bill. ...and nobody cared, except folks who want to visit national parks, or renew their passports.
Closing national parks is such a cheap shot... as if the few rangers really impact the budget all that much, or as if they're not collecting a ton of money from visitors. I also can't imagine how they'd shut down places like Death Valley or Grand Canyon... (do they put up a fense around the whole thing?).
- Alex; Tue Oct 1 01:16:04 EDT 2013
Ran up Mnt.Mansfield. Visited the local brewry ("the Crop" restaurant/brewry), and apparently with new owners, the beer has turned to crap. All 6 different kinds! What's the point of brewing your own if the generic store bought stuff is way better?
- Alex; 20130928
In Seattle, the flight to NYC was delayed by like 2 hours :-/ So my crazy plan of getting back to NY at 7am and running off to work didn't pan out. So wr0ked from home :-)
All in all, a great trip. Not as much fun as I would've liked---not enough hiking---a bit too much sitting on my behind in some form of transportation (e.g. total of ~20 hours of flight time, perhaps 9 hours of boat time, maybe 9 hours of bus time... and the rest is mostly car-driving time... in a 3-day weekend).
- Alex; 20130903
On way to Tok, saw the Alaskan pipeline (or at lesat something that looks like a big pipe).
Got to Tok around 4am, refilled gas tank, and onto Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
On the way there, two moose (big mom-moose and smaller baby-moose) were walking on the road... Me approaching them at 65-ish/mph... good thing I had high-beams on, so slammed on break, and corolla stopped surprisingly quickly (almost on a dime). Maybe 10-20 feet in front of the moose. If I was driving a bigger car (even my 4runner), it wouldn't have managed to stop in time (I slammed on break in my 4runner a few times, and it never stops so definitely as that corrola stopped). So horay for corolla!, probably saved my life.
Turned into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and decided to drive the whole 42-mile road into the park. However, after mile 10, the paved road became dirt road, and by mile 15, a crappy potted mess of a road. Being in a corolla, I decided it's best to just turn back---getting stuck there would mean missing the flight back.
The road to Anchorage is very scenic. The first part of it is kinda lame, but the last 4th or so (form Tok) is pretty nice---like driving through a park. Glaciers on various sides, mountany curvy roads, etc. Really nice drive.
Saw another pair of moose on the road (also crossed the road in front of me---just not as close, and I wasn't going 65... so took a buncha pictures this time).
Drove to Safeway in Anchorage---to get Starbucks coffee. Was looking for a gas station, and noticed a "starbucks" sign across the street, which turned out to be a safeway :-)
And then back to the airport... on the way to Seattle.
- Alex; 20130902
Got to Denali around 5am... Went to visitor's center, and it's closed. After a bit of reading around, realized that I need to get a bus ticker for something---at the outdoor something or other center. So drove there.
That place was surprisingly open. But the ticket sales don't open until 7am. There are busses leaving much sooner than that though. Took me a while to figure out what I need and where... The place is packed with people---everyone has reservations, etc. (wish I researched this a bit more... could've reserved a ticket, etc.).
Around 6:40am, the dude who sells tickets showed up, and luckily enough, sold me a ticket. Unluckily enough, the 92-mile and 85-mile tickets were sold out (the 85-mile ones were sold out until 9:30am---I figured that if I took that one, and it's 5.5 hour drive one way, I'd only manage to get there, and then would have to take the same bus back a few minutes shortly after arriving).
So got the 66-mile green bus ticket for 9am. It's a 4-hour drive, so I figured I'll have an hour or two at the destination before having to take return bus.
Denali is a funny place to visit; unless you've done it before, it's kinda hard to figure out what's where and where you're supposed to go or do. So here's a short summary: There's like 1 road in the whole park. Private cars can go upto mile 15 on that road. There's not much to see there. To go beyond mile 15 (and yes, there's a park ranger guarding the road), you need to be on a bus. There are different kinds of busses with different fares. The "green" bus is what most folks use... you buy outbound ticket and take the bus out. On return, you can take any bus. You can also get off/on at any point on any green bus (if it has space). They also got camper buses (those suposedly go to camp sites), and tour busses (those narrate the whole trip about nature, or something). If you want to get anywhere early, you gotta reserve the early bus.
The bus was *cold*. I even put on gloves, 2nd jacket, that hand-warmer pack, and was contemplating taking off my boots and inserting those feet warmers. So there was 4 hours of that.
In a crowded bus, someone screams "STOP! Moose on the left!" and everyone runs to the left of the bus and fights for window room. And then 10 minutes later, it repeats again, except with some bird, or squerrel, or more rarely, a bear, or goat, or something. There really are a lot of animals there.
Got to destination... signed up for a "difficult" 2-hour ranger led hike, (about 900 feet elevation gain and about 1-mile long) thinking it would be something special... Scenery wise, it was great. Difficulty wise... eh. The ranger stopped every 2 minutes for a breather---so this 2-hour hike could've been done in like 10-20 minutes. On the way down, I just ran down, and made it in 8-minutes (e.g. 1-mile jog). I think I needed to burn some energy---was nicely warm for the rest of the day afterwards :-)
From Denali, drove to Fairbanks (I wonder if it has fair banks?). My gps `center of town' feature guided me towards the middle of an army base. Good thing I noticed the armed guards and a gate :-)
Fairbanks is a surprisingly large city. I was thinking it would be tiny, but it wasn't tiny. It was enough to get lost in. It's strange, but it had adults biking around on kid-bikes all over the city.
And now, onto Tok!
- Alex; 20130901
Landed in salt lake city... During the landing, saw a glory via airplane shaddow. Was the smoothest landing I've ever experienced---the airplane just came to a stop on the ground---without actually any feeling of `landing' on the ground.
And then onto Anchorage. Got there around midnight. Funny that all car rental corps had a HUGE line, except Hertz, which had no line at all... and my reservation was with Hertz. They were nice enough to confuse me (I had two reservations with them) by offering me either a big Ford SUV or a Toyota Corolla... so ended up with a corolla.
Decided to drive straight to Seward [plan is: day1 seward, day2 denali, day3 loop road]. On way to Seward, stop by tunnel to Wittier :-)
Stopped at gas station to get food/water stuffs. Noticed a power cord dangling from under the hood... Perhaps I ran over an extension cord? Nah, it's stuck in there good... Perhaps Hertz gave me plugin hybrid of some sort? Hmm... Much later, I learned that it's a power cord to keep engine warm during winters... ah. Alaska sure is funneh! (eh, plugin hybrid indeed!).
Got to Wittier tunnel around 2am...and it was closed :-/ Apparently the hours of operation are from 5am till 11pm. So... later.
Got to Seward around 5am. That's the town with Kenai tour companies. Walked around a bit, visited the local hardware store, got breakfast (pancakes & icecream), and just waited until tour companies started to open around 8am. Booked a 9-hour boat trip to Northwestern glacier. Then waited some more, etc.
The big boat was surprisingly quick... The weather was surprisingly cold, wet and windy. But, eh, good thing I had my winter gear with me.
During the boat trip, saw a buncha animals, birds, etc. Just about everything that's in the area (killer whales, humpback whales, bald eagles, differnet kinds of seals, all sorts of birds, jellyfish, etc.).
The Northwestern glacier was pretty nice and relaxing. Nothing amazingly nice, but, eh, it's a glacier, what's more to expect?
After the boat trip, decided to drive directly to the Wittier tunnel, since someone on the boat told me it closes at 10pm (e.g. I'd have to get there by 9, so I'll have enough time to drive there and back---so that's cutting it a little close).
Got to tunnel, and bam, it closes at 11... so I gots a whole hour to spend at Wittier. It's a surprisingly tiny town. The whole thing is just 1 road, and a parking lot next to the peer. At least that's the part I saw.
Went to restaurant to get local grilled salmon. They sure prepared it well, but it seems they don't do such things often, as the fillet had bones in it... :-/
...and onto the long drive to Danali :-)
- Alex; 20130831
OMG, how could they... half-life 2 episode two! They just...amm...left it. Such a dramatic ending, and that's it. It's like TO BE CONTINUED...and it's not continuing. URGH. Did they hire Neal Stephenson to do their stories-without-endings?
- Alex; Thu Aug 29 02:54:44 EDT 2013
`Finished' half-life 2 episode one. Pretty damn amazing. This is a game in itself. Now, I couldn't do it without Buddha mode and around middle of game, impulse 101 (all weapons). For some reason, they just starve you for ammunition. Half-life2 game itself, if you collect ammunition, you hardly ever run out (except rockets). In episode one, you get nutn... you get a shotgun sometime later in the game, but then there are never enough bullets; it's wave after wave of mobs, and you got nutn to shoot'em with...
In any case, looking forward to episode two :-)
In other news, CNN: Missile strikes on Syria likely response to chemical attack. What the hell? Doesn't this chemical attack at least *appear* like a false flag operation to anyone?
- Alex; Tue Aug 27 01:41:10 EDT 2013
Spent the weekend mostly playing Half Life 2 (well, besides hiking, bbq, etc.). For an old game, it still rocks.
In other news, got myself a new toy today: Asus X200CA. For a $350 laptop/netbook, it's pretty nice. First thing I did was wipe out Win8 and install Linux Mint 15. Everything works beautifully. The keyboard is pretty comfortable for a netbook; it's small, but everything seems to be in the right places when I type. The touchpad is a bit annoying (my hand tends to rest on it when I'm typing), but I could always disable that.
Win8 still sux. A lot. Even with touchscreen :-/
Saw secure boot for first time in this laptop: just go into bios, and disable it, and everything works great (boots from usb stick and installs linux without issues). There's a way to manage boot keys in the bios, but I didn't bother with that.
- Alex; Mon Aug 26 01:50:28 EDT 2013
Microsoft says CEO Steve Ballmer will retire within 12 months. No successor named. Stock surges. Yah, investors really liked that guy. NOT. Must've been the tablets and the whole Windows 8 thing.
- Alex; Fri Aug 23 09:11:19 EDT 2013
Looks like I'll be going to Alaska in about two weeks. Plan to do a day-hike in Denali, and do the loop from Anchorage, north to Fairbanks, then east and south back to Anchorage, with some stops along the way. If have time, stop by Seward as well. Should be interesting.
In related news, contemplating a January snowshowing/backpacking trip to Grand Canyon North Rim (tentative: day1, from south kaibab to cottonwood campground, day2, north rim and back to phantom ranch, day3, out of canyon via south kaibab). Anyone join?
- Alex; 20130818
Last night, my 18 year old cat passed away :-/
- Alex; 20130815
Got tickets to/from Hawaii for next January. Will likely hike Mauna Loa again.
- Alex; Thu Aug 8 00:48:41 EDT 2013
...And back in NYC :-)
- Alex; 20130805
Arrived in Phoenix. Wow is that place hot... even at night :-/
Ending up renting a Ford mustang (instead of a cheapo compact I generally try to get).
Stopped by Walmart to get a knife (e.g. no luggage for flight---so need to buy sharp things after flight). Noticed a `Snake Bite Kit', and got that too---would be silly to get bitten by a snake after *seeing* the bite-kit in the store. Walmart had a pretty good folding pocket knife for $1. Yes, just $1!
Got to grand canyon ~3:30am, and started down the South Kaibab trail ~4am.
Tried running down... but the South Kaibab trail is kinda too steep for running (gets a bit dangerous). So walking fast. Got to Phantom Ranch pretty quickly---from there, it's flatness for ~10 miles or so... those I ran.
That running just about killed me. It's not absolutely flat... it's uphill... and running uphill for almost two hours isn't my idea of fun... (at least not anymore). In retrospect, running was a horrible idea. Never doing that stupid thing again. It almost ruined the whole trip. Last time (in April) I comfortably walked the whole rim-to-rim-to-rim trail, in 18 hours. This time, running wiped me out for the rest of the day. I would've had a much better time if I just walked.
It's HOT. VERY. Almost to the point of needing to stop and stand still to prevent head exploding from heat.
Eventually made it to North Kaibab trailhead. From there, decided to visit the visitor's center...and that's another 2 or so miles of mostly level ground. Got food/drinks in restaurant there, and relaxed for quite a while.
The view from Bright Angel Point is amazing---nothing on the south rim comes close.
To avoid altitude sickness (e.g. north rim is ~9k feet), I took a buncha aspirins, and I might've overdone it or something; my hands/feet/face etc., got all swolen up during the trek... skin burning (like a really bad case of sunburn... [maybe it was the sunburn?]). In any case, after relaxing for a few hours at the north rim lodge got quite a bit better.
Back to the trailhead...and from there, back down the North Kaibab trail... saw a rattle snake on the way down. Good thing I had that snake bite kit... I thought.
Decided to run the flat bits again. Mostly since walking was reduced to maybe crawling speed, and running was actually about average walking pace. That trail just keeps on going on and on... and what took just 2 hours to do in the morning took like 5 hours at the end of the day :-/
Back at Phantom Ranch relaxed some more. Sat there for maybe an hour, chatting to other hikers. Apparently temperatures at Phantom Ranch reached 128 degrees. Lots of folks were apparently not prepared for that... trip of a lifetime---into an oven.
There are a ton of animals around the Ranch---all of them come out at night to see if any campers left anything edible. After about an hour of sitting down and wondering what to do (by this point, completely dead tired; can barely move), decided it was time to go... and in moonless night step by step moved forward.
The next 4 hours were...interesting. Tons of scorpions on the trail. Amazing skies (no moon). Completely dark. Did a large chunk of the hike with red-light headlamp, so could see the stars, shooting stars, the milky way, etc., it's amazing. Wish I could lie down on the ground and watch the skies... but... scorpions and snakes... urgh.
Got so sick of Clif bars, unwrapped and threw all remaining ones down the canyon. Yah, I know I shouldn't feed the wildlife... but I really needed to get rid of them, and they're biodegradable (and I'm sure some annoying insects will find'em tasty). And those insects are annoying... especially when you have your headlamp on... they fly right into your face. Kinda like humming birds (yes, there were a bunch of those in the canyon too; and they get just as annoying as bugs).
The South Kaibab trail really does take ~4 hours to hike up, with a convenient break (for mules) around every hour. At one point I found a rock that was seemingly scorpion free, and must've sat there for an hour just staring at the sky with my eyes closed.
Right out of the canyon... walking down the road, heard a far-away growl... with 200 lumen headlamp, turned into the forest to see a black bear maybe 50 feet away. Quickened my pace away from there, and took out my trusty $1 walmart pocket knife out of the backpack just in case---yep, that would've helped!
Pix from hike: [Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim].
- Alex; 20130803
Flying out to Phoenix, Arizona :-)
- Alex; 20130802
Getting ready for my grand canyon marathon this weekend. Figuring out what I'd really need in the backpack, vs what I can do without. (e.g. wallet? phone? keys? [besides car key], knife? hat? bandana? sunglasses? extra socks? duct tape? it gets strangely cluttery when I consider all the "what if" scenarios; and all I really want to carry is water and food, and nothing else).
In other news, finished reading The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan. Much better than I was expecting. Definitely kept me reading. The different universe does take a bit of time of getting used to... conservation of energy is kinda there and yet not, weird place.
In still other news, re-re-re-reading some books on quantum mechanics and quantum computation.
- Alex; Thu Aug 1 08:44:33 EDT 2013
Wow, been a while since my last update.
Not much is going on. Arizona trip is coming up in a few weeks, so training everyday for the grand canyon run. Running around 4 miles every day (great weather for it!).
Interesting news: Judge orders Detroit to withdraw bankruptcy filing. So a judge can tell you to stop being bankrupt... nice! I guess the judge will also have an idea where they can get the money to pay for all the stuff... oh, I know, I know... they can hike up property taxes... but haven't they already lost like a quarter of the population? Perhaps they can auction off city property... maybe turn all the roads in the city into toll roads... redlight/speed camera every intersection, sell street parking rights, make it expensive to set foot in the city, etc. It wouldn't take long to drive away the rest of the population.
In other news: Microsoft plunges 11%, worst day since 2009.
- Alex; Fri Jul 19 20:06:20 EDT 2013
Happy July 4th everyone!
Mystery Intergalactic Radio Bursts Detected. Hmm... That's it. This proves it. We're not alone. Aliens are out there, and they have visited earth many times in the ancient past: History channel does not lie!
In other news, Egypt thing. Frankly, I have no idea what's going on there. All I know is: dictator, revolution, election, dictator, revolution, followed by fireworks. Perhaps they can name July 4th (or 3rd?) Independence Day? But yah, it's not common for revolutions to be decisive after first one.
Europe's central banks step up dovish talk. So, lower rates are here to stay. The US Fed is mostly hinting at increasing rates.
Anyway, I've been thinking: What are the interest rates in a StarTrek society? Yes, I'm aware they have no money, and nobody is poor, there's no war, etc., everyone works to better themselves, etc., BUT, there's still got to be interest rate... or expected rate of return (of say, happiness) on stuff you do or invest time in. Now, imagine you have a replicator and unlimited energy. There's no need for factories, manufacturing (just have one replicator make more replicators), working class, etc. In other words, investing in factories or manufacturing (or any consumer goods) is a negative return proposition. Ok, what *can* you invest in to get a positive return? Not much, apparently... there's land, but that's worthless if everyone can just go to another planet at will... So on vast majority of things (at least those that I can think of), the rate of return would be nothing. It wouldn't pay you to invest (your time/effort, credit-units, or whatever) into new enterprise, since whatever you generate won't be needed, and/or can be copied via replication technology. In other words, real interest rates would be zero (and most likely currency will be your time---you have a certain amount of it, and you can't increase it, and you only waste it). So just picture a 0-rate society. Where literally everything has a close-to-zero rate of return. Whenever you exchange moneh for goods, you're getting *exactly* the value of goods worth---there's absolutely no way for you to resell those goods at a profit. Whoever sold you the goods, didn't make a profit (they just paid for their costs). And this applies to everything: You can't buy a house and rent it out... since that would cost you moneh (you'll come out underwater). You can't have your capital work for you (since it will earn 0% return), etc.
0 return seems crazy, doesn't it?
- Alex; Thu Jul 4 18:34:17 EDT 2013
Scary times hit mortgage shoppers. Uh, oh. Rates go from ~3% to ~4%... uh, oh, $200/month extra... or is it? How about: I can afford $X per month, therefore, rates go up, house prices that I'm interested in go down. Simple, no? Rising interest rates DO NOT mean bigger mortages---quite the reverse in fact. Just price it as "for me, that house is $X per month" as opposed to "that's a $X house". If it doesn't work in the "per month" formula, just go find a different house.
- Alex; Fri Jun 28 20:51:32 EDT 2013
Finished reading A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss. Quite interesting book; essentially saying that universe has (and universes do) spontaniously form out of `nothing' (nothing is not a stable situation...). Things I liked are clear explanation of some quantum mechanical concepts, and a nice picture of how the universal expansion is offsetting the energy locked up in (dark) matter---for a total of 0. The book is a bit of on the phisolophical side though.
- Alex; Fri Jun 21 07:09:10 EDT 2013
Went for a day-trip to Maine to hike Kathadin. [pix from trip].
Original plan was to also hike Mt.Washington the following day---sorta kill two birds with one trip. But then decided that one big hike on a weekend is more than enough---(and gives me a good reason to drive to NH again sometime this summer).
Also learned that my car stereo only reads 255 songs per folder, and that's it. So my playlist of ~400 mp3s didn't fully work :-/. Toyota may be great at building cars, but their programming skills suck (and after 20 hours of listening to my playlist... my playlist also sucks :-/
- Alex; Sun Jun 16 02:05:58 EDT 2013
Crowd-Funded Radio Beacon Will Message Aliens. Go aliens go! These send signals to space aliens! Awesome!.
Finished reading The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind. A surprisingly interesting book. Though he denies it, Susskind doesn't appear to particularly like Hawking---best of friends indeed. Maybe, maybe, yah.
Anyways, the book is pretty good at explaning why black holes if allowed to destroy information (as Hawking claimed) would cause all sorts of nasty consequences for the integrity of physics itself. Before this book, I was in the "nothing gets out of a black hole" camp... after this book, I'm in the "yah, data is not lost" camp. Although I'm not sure I agree with the current explanation of the process of how information doesn't actually go away.
The gist of the idea is that black holes are altimate information packers, and holographic principle says that amount of information inside a black hole is directly related to the surface are (not volume) of the black hole. So the information about everything inside the black hole is somehow scrambled (but not lost) on the surface. The surface of a black hole is a very special place with all sorts of interesting properties that you'll need to read the book to understand (there's quite a bit of string theory witchcraft in there---which is why I'm not a big fan of this explanation).
e.g. Sending 1 bit of information into the black hole will increase it's surface area by exactly 1 plank square. Therefore, that 1 bit is not lost... it's somehow on the surface.
The book did provide some insight that hasn't occured to me before. A while back, I learned that you can't use geometry from high school to figure out stuff about reality. For example, a straight line on the surface of the planet isn't straight---it's a curve. D0h.
Similarly, a triangle's angles wouldn't add upto 180.
On cosmic scale, nobody yet knows if in the universe angles would add upto 180; lets say you stretch a triangle between 3 distant galaxies---will angles of that triangle add upto exactly 180?.
Similar to that, the radius of the Earth is actually longer than is implied by the sphere. There's more stuff in the planet than appears from the surface; earth stretches space---so more space inside the planet than the surface implies. If you make a triangle of straight lines between any 2 cities on the planet and the center of the planet... that triangle's angles would add up to *less* than 180.
A while ago, I found that mind blowing.
So in this book, I learned something similarly mind blowing: The mass of the planet is actually less than it appears. For example, lets say you're floating in Earth orbit: both you and the planet together have a certain mass. If you land on the planet---the combined mass is less! (energy = mass, and you on the surface have less energy than in orbit).
Or if you have two objects in space a certain distance apart. Gravity nudges them towards each other. As they get closer to each other, their combined mass decreases.
So with that thought, lets imagine earth collapsing into a black hole. The smaller it gets, the *lighter* (well, less mass) it gets! The resulting black hole (if earth collapses into a black hole) would have a much much much smaller mass than the earth! A black hole is essentially the point when it can't lose any more mass/energy (since it has already lost everything).
Now, that makes me wonder: if sun collapses into a black hole, would that make the mass of the sun much much much smaller and have the planets fly off (assuming they survive the formation process).
Also, the super-massive black hole at the center of our galaxy... how much mass must've falling into it?... much more than the mass of the black hole, that's for sure.
Another thing: quantum mechanics... you can't determine both position and speed of a particle with any accuracy. That's very easy to visualize: to measure speed, you need to take 2 measurements and figure out the difference. To measure position, you need 1 measurement.
For example, determine position and speed of a car: you can either take 1 picture (that will give you the position accurately), or you can take 2 pictures (or long exposure), do a difference between positions, and figure out how fast the car is moving... but, you can't do both... you either take 1 picture or you take 2 (or long exposure). If you figure out speed, you kinda lose the position measurement, etc. (well, with a car it's probably simpler---with electrons, measuring it disturbs it, so you can't go back and take another picture---since you've distrurbed the electron with the first picture).
Anyways, what this book cleared up is that quantum uncertainty implies a LOT more than just speed/position uncertainty.
Position tells you about potential energy. Speed tells you about kinetic energy. If you can't measure both accurately, that fundamentally limits your ability to measure the *energy* (potential + kinetic) of anything!
In fact, that's how we know that `empty' space MUST have some non-zero amount of energy, since if it was zero, we'd be certain of how much energy there is... (zero!) and via quantum mechanics, we *cannot* be certain of the amount of energy, therefore, even boring completely empty space cannot be measured to have 0 energy.
That's also pretty much the reason why black holes evaporate... even their exeedingly low energy (and mass) level... it cannot be exactly 0.
- Alex; Thu Jun 13 00:31:58 EDT 2013
Went hiking in Harriman State Park; perfect weather, no people, great trail, etc. [pix from hike].
- Alex; Sat Jun 8 21:54:20 EDT 2013
Been contemplating trip to Mnt.Katahdin and Mnt.Washington (NH) this weekend, but it looks like it's going to rain all weekend on both of those (perhaps not a good idea to be on top of a mountain during a thunderstorm; that would be way too crazy, even for me).
- Alex; Fri Jun 7 07:20:42 EDT 2013
Jamie Dimon: Prepare for more volatility. Well... d0h. That's what I was ranting about... on... amm... May 24th post. With artificial interest rates, you can't value investments: they could be worthless, or they could be infinitely amazing---you just don't know when the market isn't setting interest rates.
In related news: Farewell 3% mortgage rates. Hello falling house prices? It's one or the other: either interest rates go up and home prices collapse, or interest rates go to 0 and home prices inch up. E.g. A $400k home at 3% interest rates is actually a $200k home at 6% interet rates... But it wouldn't just be home prices that will collapse with rising interest rates... intestments will similarly drop.
- Alex; Thu Jun 6 07:38:51 EDT 2013
Bill Gross: Hey Fed, your stimulus isn't working. Uh, oh!
Wait till it dawns on everyone that their retirement funds won't deliver the projected 8% annual returns... Pensions, etc., will suddenly find themselves severely underfunded. If you have a retirement fund, how much growth is it projecting? 4% or a more realistic 1-2% a year going forward?
- Alex; Wed Jun 5 07:03:51 EDT 2013
Rewatching The Matrix movies... They sure do get a bit too long after the first one.
- Alex; Tue Jun 4 23:00:01 EDT 2013
Who the hell wrote this obomination: CUNYFirst! So I enter all the grades, and then bam, it goes into some "notify" screen. I click back, and... bam, all the grades are gone! So I go through the list (of 41 students) and enter the grades AGAIN, and bam, it jumps to ``you are successfully logged off'' screen---and now I can't login! URGH!
- Alex; Mon Jun 3 02:52:12 EDT 2013
Rewatching all of the Lord of the Rings movies... wow they're long!
- Alex; 20130602
Finally got to sleep the entire day.
- Alex; 20130601
Urgh, checking homeworks...
- Alex; 20130531
Urgh, checking homeworks...
- Alex; 20130530
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