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May 18th, 2017



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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...

     May 17th, 2017

Finished reading Fundamentals of Applied Probability and Random Processes by Oliver Ibe. Very good book---it's been a while since I read a text-book on probability and statistics, and this one was pretty damn good---good enough to read cover to cover.

- Alex; 20170517
May 17th at wikipedia...

     May 8th, 2017

Finished reading Think Bayes: Bayesian Statistics in Python by Allen B. Downey. Awesome book! It would be more awesome if it didn't use Python, but went with something like Perl (eh, yah!) or Scala. The example problems and the approaches in this book are amazing. Often you encounter a problem and have no idea where to start---the computational approach taken in this book (e.g. just create an array of numbers to approximate the distribution---and work with that) is a pretty clear and easy to understand method.

- Alex; 20170508

     May 6th, 2017

So apparently starting last year, the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting is actually live-streamed by Yahoo! (Yahoo! Finance website). So no need to physically go to Omaha... Spent most of the day glued to the computer watching the meeting :-)

- Alex; 20170506

     May 3rd, 2017

Visiting the Statue of Liberty!

So there's a queue to pickup/buy tickets. Then there's a queue to the boat building. Then there's a queue to get through security (airport style metal detector). Then there's a queue to board the boat. Then there's a queue to get off the boat. Then there's a queue to get off the boat. Then a queue to get into the ticket building. Then there's a queue to pay for a locker. Then a queue to put stuff into locker. Then a queue to get yet-another-ticket check. Then another queue to go through yet more security (another metal detector). Then yet-another-queue to enter building. Then it's pretty clear path up-the-stairs all the way to the crown, which was almost empty (at least it was just Suneli and I there for at least 5-10 minutes).

...and then a queue to pickup stuff from locker, and yet another queue waiting for boat, and onto the boat, and off the boat. It's a day of queues!

The statue... I must've been in 7th grade when I went to the statue crown as part of a school trip. Awesome touristy place.

- Alex; 20170503

     May 1st, 2017

Finished reading Mastering Scala Machine Learning by Alex Kozlov. Not really sure what to write about this book---it's not very good. There's some few interesting nuggets here and there, but for the most part, there are much better books out there, on both Spark, and Machine Learning. In other words: skip this one.

- Alex; 20170501

     April 28th, 2017

Registered for Fall 2017 semester. Hopefully will get research moving in the next few months.

Dev Rant: Attempted to implement a UserDefinedAggregate function in Spark/Scala today, and the API for it is just terrible. For one, what's up with the WindowSpec? I mean, if I define a moving window, say 20 minute moving average, how do I implement that using UserDefinedAggregate API? There's no call to roll things off the window, just append... (e.g. stuff should be inserted at the start of the window, and when the window rolls off, there should be an API stub that rolls values off). In other words, as it is, Spark's UserDefinedAggregate cannot be used as a general purpose user-defined-windowing-function. (and I don't think there's an API for user-defined-windowing function---I searched, and didn't find one).

Another gripe is that the ``state'' of UserDefinedAggregate has to be a Row... I mean, really? Can't I maintain the state in something other than a "Row"? Apparently not. This is something they should've wrapped around... I understand they want to be able to treat these as serializable-immutable objects that they can recover-from-errors-with... but this is just rediculous. For example, I want to create an ArrayBuffer (mutable-array), and while I can define the buffer storage as ArrayType, there doesn't appear to be a way of getting back the mutable-ArrayBuffer on the aggregate update API call (since... you get a Row back---which is just stupid).

When I wrote stream.pl, I needed an API for a user-defined-windowing-function, and ended up defining 4 functions: init, push, pop, get. That's it. They all get inputs that are ``perl types''. Not some Row object. E.g. The init function initializes the state (which can be anything!), push adds a value (not a Row), shift (identical signature to push) shifts the value off the window, and get evaluates the window. There's no reason Spark API for this should've been any more complicated than this: just init, add things to aggregate, remove things from aggregate, and get value :-/

- Alex; 20170428

     April 27th, 2017

Finished reading High Performance Spark: Best Practices for Scaling and Optimizing Apache Spark by Holden Karau, Rachel Warren. Pretty good book. One of few books that emphesizes use of Dataset API (all of the recent ones do that) and Iterator-to-Iterator transformations (not many).

- Alex; 20170427

     April 17th, 2017

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20170417

     April 16th, 2017

Flying out... but before the flight, visited the turtle beach (Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park) for a few minutes of chilling out.

- Alex; 20170416

     April 15th, 2017

Starting day by going to Greenwell Farms. They sure hiked prices since last time I was here. Now prices range $37/lb to $50/lb. (private reserve is $45/lb, peaberry is $50/lb, etc.).

Had lunch at Kamana Kitchen. Pretty good food, service, etc. I'd rate it 5-stars...if only I wasn't lazy.

Then onto Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay)---to walk around in the sun :-)

Followed by Kikaua Point Park to chill out. This one you need to get a free `pass' at the security office (gps of security office: 19.808569, -155.992106)---they can then guide you to the beach.

Then onto Mauna Kea for star gazing. Very clear awesome night!

- Alex; 20170415

     April 14th, 2017

Again starting day with Jagger. Lava is more awesome today. The lava lake is now bubbling from a different side. It's a shame can't stay longer.

Checking out of TWP, and heading back to Kona.

Suneli found a Lychee tree in Hilo. It's right behind KTA Superstore (gps to Lychee tree: 19.694722, -155.070379). So we ended up eating a few Lychees on the way back to Kona :-)

Drove to Wailuku River State Park, to see Rainbow Falls. Or rather, to see the rainbow. It wasn't too sunny, but... eh, the rainbow wasn't there. So much for that.

On way to Kona, stopped by Hapuna Beach State Park. Had a few minutes of fun in the waves :-)

In Kona staying in Kona Bali Kai Resort. Very nice place. Room is facing the ocean, so can see turtles and sunset right from the balcony. The place has a hot-tub and a pool. Rooms have a kitchen, and a laundry machine (and dryer). All in all, a much better place than Kona Sheraton.

The pool is deep-er. Most if it is 7 feet deep---and I can't swim well (mostly barely stay afloat :-/

- Alex; 20170414

     April 13th, 2017

Again starting day with Jagger. Lava is in awesome mode. Can see bubbling lake of lava right from the observation place at Jagger. It's amazing. I've never seen it that awesome before.

Then driving to Kalapana to walk to the black-sand-beach, and to see the Landing pad for extra terrestrials in Kalapana. Yep, it's actually there!!! (right on the walk to the black-sand-beach).

The steam plume from lava-ocean-entry is apparently ~4 miles away from the end of the road---so walkable, but pointless, as Jagger is providing a much cooler view of the bubbling lava.

Doing another hike on Mauna Kea tonight, then another session of stargazing. Though kind of clowdy at the Mauna Kea visitor's center :-/

Finishing off the day with a trip to Jagger. And it's *more* awesome than before! This is lava putting on a show just for our visit.

- Alex; 20170413

     April 12th, 2017

Starting day with Jagger. Can actually see a bit of orange lava on the side.

Then Thursten Lava tube, etc.

Driving to Mauna Loa trailhead via the Moana Loa Access road (gps: 19.538092, -155.575222). It's been raining almost the entire way---and cleared up towards the end.

After Mauna Loa, drove up Mauna Kea. Went to visit the Mauna Kea lake Lake Waiau, and ran up the Mauna Kea summit right before the sunset. Then drove down to the visitor's center to see stars, etc.

Then off to Jagger to see lava. It's actually getting much bigger.

- Alex; 20170412

     April 11th, 2017

Early morning helicopter tour from Hilo with Paradise Helicopters. It was raining really badly just 20 minutes prior to the tour, yet somehow by the time the tour started, it was clear and even sunny.

From helicopter, saw lava entering the ocean, and the lava lake, etc.

Then onto Akaka Falls. On way to Akaka, Suneli spotted sugarcane growing right on the side of the road... so we broke a bunch, and had a hard-chewy snack for the rest of the trip.

We then spotted folks selling coconuts-pinable-sugarcane by the side of the road... too bad most tourists don't realize that sugarcane is the stuff they drive by without thinking :-)

Then onto Umauma Falls, which we didn't locate. Talked to a random local, who turned out to own the property on which Umauma falls is located, and apparently (according to him), the waterfall everyone advertises as ``Umauma falls'' isn't the actual ``Umauma falls'', as that one isn't publicly accessible (it's on his property). The zip-line folks who do Umauma zipline actually string the zip-line over a different waterfall, that they choose to call Umauma falls... anyways, he guided us towards Kamae'e Falls (gps: 19.893516,-155.148011), which were pretty neat (nobody around---awesome place to just chill out).

The viewing area by Kamae'e Falls was filled with Mimosa pudica, the `touch-me-not' plant. It was fun touching entire patches and have them close up :-)

Next stop: Waipio Valley. Actually drove down all the way to the beach. Wonderful experience.

And then onto Rainbow Falls...

...and after chilling out at TWP for a bit, onto Jagger to see the glowing crater :-)

- Alex; 20170411

     April 10th, 2017

After a bit of water-sliding and pool... driving out of Kona and to Volcano.

On way to Volcano, stopped by to visit Green Sand Beach. The drive there was much tougher than I anticipated---I never drove that road before---and it's one crazy drive. Had to follow another car on the way back---as a few wrong turns could get you seriously stuck (or flipped over).

Arrived in Volcano, and checked into The Wright Place. Awesome tiny place. Has everything one would need.

- Alex; 20170410

     April 9th, 2017

First `main' day in Hawaii: drove to a touristy place to get breakfast, and found a submarine tour place---so did a submarine tour (Atlantis Adventures).

Then drove to Kekaha Kai State Park (Makalawena Beach), hoping to see Turtles. Saw a few in the water.

Then drove to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, and saw a lot of turtles on the beach...

Sadly didn't find the turtles who took my sunglasses all those years ago :-/

- Alex; 20170409

     April 8th, 2017

And off to Hawaii: two hop flight, from NYC to Phoenix, then from Phoenix to Kona.

Landed in Kona, rented a Jeep, and off to Sheraton to chill out for few days. Alamo Jeep rental sux... even though I prepaid for the rental, and flight arrived a bit late then the `pickup' time, they didn't have a Jeep ready to go, and made us wait over 30 minutes before they got one ready for us. In other words, Alamo sux---even on prepaid rentals :-/

Didn't do much on this first day (arrived in Kona around 3pm). Just passed out in the hotel.

- Alex; 20170408

     April 6th, 2017

Neat idea: Moving histogram! Instead of a moving average (and standard deviation), imagine a moving histogram... Using that, can figure out outliers, or normalize data into 0 to 1 range, etc.

- Alex; 20170406

     April 3rd, 2017

...and back in NYC :-)

Feels like I'm sleep walking :-/

- Alex; 20170403

     April 2nd, 2017

Doing Carlsbad National Park. Long walk down and elevator ride up.

Then off to the UFO ``research center'' in Roswell, and back to ABQ airport.

- Alex; 20170402

     April 1st, 2017

Arrived in Albuquerque. Rented a Chevy Malibu, and headed to Trinity Site.

Climate change must've cooled New Mexico quite a bit, as it's VERY chilly. Don't think I've ever seen Trinity Site that cold.

After Trinity drove to Guadalupe National Park. Got there by around 6:30PM---ran up the Guadalupe Peak; 90 minutes up, and 90 minutes down. Missed the sunset by just a bit.

- Alex; 20170401

     March 31st, 2017

Flying to ABQ.

- Alex; 20170331

     March 22nd, 2017

Is our universe a simulation?

Lets imagine that the fabric of space-time, and the matter that occupies the known universe are actually components of a computer, and the physical laws (as we know them) are the rules for how the state of this computer changes... then our reality (the way the universe is and works) is a simulation of reality running on this cosmic compuer (reality unfolds in this medium, and we're choosing to call this medium a simulation).

Not the way a simulation if often defined? Reality does unfold. There is a computation going on. It does appear to be following some rules. It is happening here and now (in reality). How is this not a simulation?

Is there a non-simulation-based reality? A place that isn't like ours---perhaps missing some artifacts of this simulated universe. For example, speed-of-light limit makes simulation easier (local things stay local), and quantum mechanics allows for errors in numerical precision---how would the `real' (non-simulated) universe look like without the speed of light limit, or without uncertainty principle?

Would the universe still be possible if you could instantly touch every part of the universe? (faster than light travel?). For one, energy requirement to getting to speed of light would need to be reduced (you cannot require infinite energy to get to the speed of light---as that's there in this universe). So if lets say it doesn't require infinite enegy to accelerate to the speed of light, just a "large amount" of enegy... then the first supernova would destroy the rest of the universe.

What if energy-for-acceleration is completely enliminated? What's to stop everyhting from accelerating out of control instantanioiusly?

And that's just the speed of light. What would the universe look like without uncertainty principle? Would there still be chaos anywhere?

Yes, chaos would still be around. No step would be ``random'' but some behavior would still be arbitrarily complicated, and unpredictable long term.

- Alex; 20170322

     March 21st, 2017

Google is shipping a replacement Nexus 5X :-D

So a while back (post on 2015-12-24) I speculated about how information could get out of a black hole. Today I've been thinking more about this, and suddenly a thought struck me... perhaps information *does* get ``lost'' inside a black hole. After all, that wouldn't be the only place in the universe that loses information.

As the universe expands (accelerates), something that's almost surely is happening, parts of the universe will eventually leave our neighbourhood, and will accelerate away from us, going at faster than light speed---effectively forever lost to us. How would we ever recover that information?

Imagine there's a hard-drive with lots of data, and it's on the most distant galaxy we can currently see---in short order (cosmological time), that farthest galaxy will be moving away from us so fast that not even light from it will get to us. That hard-drive is essentially lost from our universe.

Same process may lose the hard-drive if it falls into a black hole. It's lost to our universe---the information may be there, inside the black hole, but it's not accessible to us, in the same way that the hard-drive that accelerated from us at faster than light speed is not accessible to us.

Hawking radiation then wouldn't contain information (unlike my post on 2015-12-24) but would be ``true'' randomness. There's still the matter of two photons interacting to create matter...

With that, there may be a free-lunch in the universe. That means energy may not be conserved (if the universe will eventually lose all of its matter to expansion, then certainly total amount of energy in `the universe' will decrease).

- Alex; 20170321

     March 19th, 2017

Suneli's Nexus 5X phone entered a reboot loop :-/

(and warranty for it expired 3 weeks ago :-/

- Alex; 20170319

     March 14th, 2017

Happy PI day!

Happy landing anniversary!

Blizzard-in-NYC day---schools are closed, and I'm working from home :-)

- Alex; 20170314

     March 12th, 2017

Got to the elephant seal viewing area around sunrise (and moon-set). Saw a bunch of dead (and alive) seals... I never realized that there are dead seals right among the beach-full of other seals.

From the distance, those huge seals look like dinosaurs... some of them are gigantic!

Set out to San Fancsico via Pacific Coast Highway, and... after about 10 miles or so, came to a road-closed sign... apparently PCH is closed due to two land slides. The whole area around Big Sur is not easily accessible. There goes the plan for a relaxing slow drive up highway 1 :-/

Driving back the same way we got there... circling around back to Route 101.

Drove to SF center (at least what the GPS identified as the city center), and found a Popeyes near by. Then drove to Golden Gate Bridge, followed by friend visiting, and then back to the airport.

A bit too much driving this trip... :-/

- Alex; 20170312

     March 11th, 2017

Happy Anniversary :-D

Trip: Right past Eureka, got to Redwood National Park---the part that has "Big Tree". The road to the big-tree is closed due to a "big tree" (another one) falling onto the road. The trail is pretty nice though.

After a few hours of walking, set out to elephant seal viewing area south of Big Sur... (yah, that's one loooong drive).

- Alex; 20170311

     March 10th, 2017

Flying out to San Francisco :-)

- Alex; 20170310

     March 8th, 2017

Happy March 8th!

- Alex; 20170308

     February 21st, 2017

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20170221

     February 20th, 2017

Arrived at Death Valley by sunrise. An hour later, by bumpy dirt road, arrived at The Racetrack (that's the place where rocks ``move''). The Racetrack is half flooded---the part with the moving rocks is not accessible due to water. Can't even see the rocks that far out. It's not deep, but you start sinking in mud if you try to step into the flat.

The other half of the Racetrack was fairly firm, and we got to walk around quite a bit (perhaps walked a few miles total). Only saw 1 ``moving'' rock though (rock with a trail behind it).

Drove to Badwater, which too was flooded. But this time, the ground isn't mud, but firm salt... so the ankle deep water was very walkable---and both Suneli and I walked out quite far on the mirrory surface. It was awesome. Warm water. Very few tourists ventured out ``into'' the water... it was just great. I've never seen Badwater flooded like this, so it was a unique experience.

Then into Zabriskie point for pictures, and then to Dente's overlook, and back to Las Vegas... for more touristy stuff.

Arrived at (and parked by) the Venitian. Free parking---unlike Luxor :-/

After walking around a bit, went around the ``Highroller'' (the huge ferris wheel).

- Alex; 20170220

     February 19th, 2017

Arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park, and it's all snowed/fogged in. The roads are open, but very slippery (good thing for Ford Expedition 4wd). The fog made it impossible to see anything---very disappointing.

Snowman construction was fun though :-)

Next stop, Zion National Park. No fog this time. But problem with Zion is that there's very little to do without going on a long hike, and we didn't feel like hiking this trip. So took the shuttle to the end and back, and that's that.

Next stop: Vegas

Doing some touristy things, such as shooting guns, and going up the Eiffel tower.

At `The Gun Shop' shot the Dirty Harry gun, an AK-47, a shot gun, and a .50 caliber sniper rifle---that thing was almost as tall as I was.

Next stop: Death Valley

- Alex; 20170219

     February 18th, 2017

Arrived in Las Vegas, rented a Ford Expedition, drove to Luxor, and walked around a bit. Got Popeyes. Changes since my last visit: Luxor started charging for parking! (first hour is free though).

Arrived by Grand Canyon south rim around sunrise. Took shuttle to Yaki Point and back. Then another shuttle to Bright Angel trailhead, and walked back to visitor center (it's a very scenic 3-mile [about an hour long] walk).

Set out to Antelope Canyon, but got there a few minutes too late (perhaps missed the last tour by 10 minutes or so). The upper antelope canyon was closed (perhaps due to rainy weather), and lower canyon closed just a few minutes before we arrived :-/

Went to Horseshoe Bend... (very scenic place by Page, AZ).

Next stop: Bryce Canyon National Park.

- Alex; 20170218

     February 17th, 2017

Flying out to Las Vegas :-D

- Alex; 20170217

     January 24th, 2017

Back in NYC :-)

The immigration portion of the trip took no time at all. No line (1 person ahead of us). Same for customs. No issues anywhere. Then spent the entire morning stuck in traffic. Belt parkway sucks in the morning :-)

- Alex; 20170124

     January 23rd, 2017

Day after wedding.

Flight back to NYC is in the evening (1am actually), so quickly pack-pack-pack and drive-drive-drive. It's a good 4-hour drive from Ambala to Delhi---and we didn't know what to expect at airport. Every time I fly, there's a HUGE line to get through check-in, then through passport control, then through security, etc. So wanted to avoid all that.

Made it to airport pretty early---had to wait for check-in to open. No surprises anywhere. The Air India check-in desk (and later pre-flight passport check) asked to see Suneli's immigration-visa envelope. That's about it.

Boarded airplane without issues. We had isle seats---and some technically challeneged lady sitting by the window (she was trying to plug tiny usb-c plug into usb port).

Shortly after boarding, the window-lady disappeared (perhaps she found a matching usb-c port in another seat?). So we had the entire row of seats to ourselves :-)

- Alex; 20170123

     January 22nd, 2017

Main wedding day.

Prayers. Lots of them. For me, for Suneli, etc.

Towards the end of one of such prayers, I got a very heavy crown (5kg of silver?) put on my head. Then all the guests put garlands made out of cash on me. First few were interesting, but then it got hillarious: as I thought I'd be the first groom in history to be crushed by cash... was literally covered in those things.

Then the horse ride (with all that cash on me). The horse ride guy started to negotiate for the horse ride (while I'm on it). It's kind of hard to tell him that I have no idea what's going on, and that I don't actually have any money (though I'm kinda covered in that stuff). Finally someone stepped in with a few cash bills and the ride (and fireworks) went on.

Since it was just me and my mom in India for the wedding (groom's gang), Suneli's friends provided good company for all this excitement. Very grateful to them for standing by me all that time.

Ribbon cutting: Apparently the girl's side girls block me from entering the wedding place... not letting me cut the ribbon to enter. There's a negotiation going on. I knew what was coming, but didn't know what form it would take. Considering my negotiating skills are very limited (due to language barrier) I got off easy: they made me eat apples and then let me cut the ribbon :-)

Party: I was placed on the stage, center of all the attention. Not a fan of being at the center of it all---face is seriously tired of all the smiling :-)

Then Suneli arrived, and suddenly the party got a lot more fun. It's great having her by my side. We sat for a while, then went for a short dance---by then head/neck started to hurt a bit from the crown (and Suneli was dancing with that heavy dress on).

Ceremony: The `actual wedding ceremony' started very late, by which time most of the guests have left. It didn't take long, and was very interesitng. I learned that pure Ghee is not good for the health...

Suneli and I went around the fire seven times, and that was it. We're married, again. Something we've both been waiting for for over a year.

...And then my shoes were gone! I was expecting that too, but they were very sneaky...

- Alex; 20170122

     January 21st, 2017

Lots of pre-wedding stuff.

Suneli (and everyone else) got hands painted.

Big dance party in evening. Dancing is not my thing, but somehow I managed to dance for hours to the Panjabi Dance Mix (you can youtube for that, and find most of the music that played at the dance party).

- Alex; 20170121

     January 20th, 2017

Official first day of wedding-events :-)

Doing prayers and trying out wedding attire.

- Alex; 20170120

     January 19th, 2017

First day of wedding-related-events starts.

Doing a pre-wedding photoshoot :-D

(this is the 2nd time in the last decade that I'm wearing a suit).

- Alex; 20170119

     January 18th, 2017

Arrived in Delhi. Cab ride to Ambala.

- Alex; 20170118

     January 17th, 2017

Flying out to India...

Haven't seen Suneli in like 3 months.

- Alex; 20170117

     January 1st, 2017

Happy New Year!

- Alex; 20170101

     December 30th, 2016

Got keys to new apartment. Will partially move this weekend. I haven't seen it until today. So far, it looks awesome. Literally everything is "new". They even replaced the bathtub and closet doors... all electrical outlets, and even new lightbulbs. So far, pretty happy with the condition of the new place.

- Alex; 20161230

     December 27th, 2016

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20161227

     December 26th, 2016

Got to Santa Barbara, and saw something amazing... a sunrise, coming from the sea... on the west coast! (I thought it was impossible, but then apparently the way the road curves work, it was actually there).

From there, turned back North, heading back to San Francisco via Pacific Coast Highway---stopping by at every scenic area.

Stopped by to see Elephant Seals, and a bunch of other stops area, to get my feet wet on the beach.

Then starbucks, and SFO airport :-)

This trip was the first time I drove a Toyota Prius. It was OK. Not great. My driving style for these kinds of trips is mostly highway, so it didn't get to utilize the electrical system much... also, the places I go to are hilly, and Prius really struggles going uphill at highway speeds. With 1 person in the car (not much weight), I had to floor the accelerator just to keep up going 65mph uphill. Gas mileage wasn't spectacular---I think about the same what a non-hybrid Ford Focus would get. So no impressed. I'm sure it's not the typical driving scenario though---and for city driving, it would've done great.

One neat feature of Prius is running heat in the car. If you want to keep car warm, you just turn on heat, and that's it. The engine will come on, charge battery for perhaps a minute, then turn off for about 10 minutes, then come back on to charge battery, etc., with end result is that you're nice and toasty in the car, and the engine is mostly not running. Very nice feature---wish more cars had that.

- Alex; 20161226

     December 25th, 2016

Starting day by driving through San Francisco---and through the Golden Gate bridge---where the visitor area is closed :-/

Drove to Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It's awesome. It's huge, lots of amazing views, lots of old stuff, lots of WW2 stuff, etc. In all the places, there were a TON of people. Very hard to find parking, yet everywhere I went, I mysteriously got a perfect spot in just seconds.

After that, drove to Muir Woods. This is where parking situation was worse. The park parking lot overflowed. The overflowed lot also overflowed. The road-side parking was also busy---I had to park downhill like 30 minute walk from the park. Really. Like over a mile away from the entrance!

At the park, did the `canopy trail' (which leads all the way up the hill to the main road, apparently). So if you wanna skip paying the park entrance fee, just park by the sceneic area on top of the hill, and hike down into the park---it's the same trail...

Now... the park itself, sucks. I mean, it's nice. If you've never seen redwoods before, it's "ok". But... if you really want to experience a redwood forest, you'll need to visit the actual redwoods national park, just north of Eureka. So while it's OK for a touristy place, it's certainly isn't as nice as the Redwoods NP.

After Muir, drove north on Pacific Coast Highway until dark, then turned back and drove towards Los Angeles.

- Alex; 20161225

     December 24th, 2016

Got to Redwood National Park. There's a very nice trail that goes through and beyond Big Tree... and loops in the highland on the opposite side of the road... so did that loop. It's awesome. Best redwood walk anywhere---very few folks on the trail, huge trees everywhere, etc. Just perfect.

After the hike, decided to go to Death Valley. That's quite a drive. But I should've got there by early morning the following day. So set out down Route 199---that's the route through the mountains. It's very scenic. But unfortunately, about two hours into the drive, the road was blocked. (perhaps a land slide? or snow?). Anyways, drove back to Eureka.

A bit tired, decided against Death Valley, and going for something closer---like Yosemite.

After many many hours of driving, got to Yosemite entrance---and apparently due to recent snowfall, chains on tired are ``required'' (not optional). So... amm... it's already too late to change plan to go to Death Valley---no point in getting there in the evening the following day. So decided to spend the day aorund San Francisco area.

- Alex; 20161224

     December 23rd, 2016

Flying out to San Francisco for the weekend.

- Alex; 20161223

     December 22nd, 2016

Finished reading Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil. Much better than I expected---and I wasn't expecting much. I got the book for free as a review copy, and how often do those random books turn out to be good? Well, this one is. It's very thought provoking---data is everywhere, and often models are inaccurate, based on wrong inputs, or in many situations, deliverately evil.

- Alex; 20161222

     December 16th, 2016

Did some more upgrading on the black-friday laptop... Added a 2T SSD drive...

- Alex; 20161216

     December 13th, 2016

Finished reading Big Data Analytics with Spark: A Practitioner's Guide to Using Spark for Large Scale Data Analysis by Mohammed Guller. Very good introductory book to Spark (and Scala). Explains how stuff works on the backend---specifically the locality of partitioning, and how groupBy operation works, etc. Good book to glean limitations of Spark :-)

- Alex; 20161213

     December 10th, 2016

Got the M.2 SSD drive, and upgraded the Black-Friday laptop. Acer Aspire E5-575G-55KK Intel i5 7200U & GeForce 940MX for $429.99, 32GB DDR4 RAM for $139.99, and now 1TB M.2 SSD for $249.99. Awsome cheap gaming laptop.

Windows10 re-install was painless (yes, keeping this machine a "windows" box; world of warcraft, portal & half-life2 machine :-)---download Windows10 iso from Microsoft website, created a bootable USB stick using "winusb" program (on Linux), reinstalled Windows... everything worked right out of the box, and windows managed to correctly activate itself without issues (didn't have to type in code or call anywhere).

- Alex; 20161210

     December 4th, 2016

After getting back to the car, decided to go to Zion National Park. There's an Observation Point hike that I've heard is nice, so that's on my list. Unfortunately, it's almost a 6 hour drive. As I drove out of Canyonlands, noticed I'm dozing off behind the wheel, so pulled over and closed eyes for few minutes. Five hours later, I woke up... and was very late to start out on a 6 hour drive to Zion. Decided to give it a try anyway... there's nothing much to do anyways.

While driving on I70, saw an exit for Capitol Reef National Park, and decided to hike there instead. Will have to come back to Oservation Point some other time.

At Capitol Reef, picked a hike that I've already done, Cassidy Arch, except starting from a different trailhead (highway, instead of the camp site---it's a different trail with the same destination). Cassidy Arch hike is around 10 miles... unlike the previous day's 38 miles :-)

This park is amazing, with absolutely beautiful trails. Very relaxing to just walk and walk, etc.

The thought process for this hike was the nature of reality. It started with relativity... and curvature of space time around a massive body... the question is: how is the space curved. For example, we know space-time is curved around a mass---the mass is generating some field (that travels at speed of light) that tells space to curve... now, what is that field made of? Lets say it's made out of photons (similar to electromagnetic field, or so I thought), then the question is how does a black hole generate that curved space around it---as there are no photons leaving that. Eg. how does a black hole curve space-time around itself? (what reaches out from it and grabs space to be curved around it).

So anyways, I was then thinking perhaps it has to do with motion... well, there's interial mass---which strantely equals regular mass... so there may be a relation. But what's the resistance to motion anyway? If I have a hydrogen atom, and I push on it with another atom, how does that resist motion? For one, electrons wouldn't touch each other, but they'd repel. Now, once electrons repel, they somehow must push on the proton at the center of the atom. Yet orbits cannot be fractional... So I push on an electron using another electron, what's exactly is the process of getting the whole atom to start moving...

So that took me off gravity (there has to be a photon like particle that creates the gravity "field"), and into electro magnetism... so spend some time thinking about that, being almost certain that the electricity is a "solved" problem----after all, Faraday and Maxwell figured out field equations over a hundred years ago----we have computers operating on quite advanced understanding on how electricity works... etc.

Imagine my surprise when I get back and start googling, and find What Is Magnetism? Apparently it's not a solved problem at all... I mean, yah, we can describe what's happening... similarly in how Newton described forces, etc. We know there's a field that has objective reality (we can measure it, etc.), but we apparently have no idea how it actually does what it does---how is that field generated. We *assume* there are these mysterious virtual particles that pop in and out of existence faster than plank time (so they cannot show up in any measurement), and yet they have an effect that makes it appear like magnets work... virtual particles!

Somehow virtual particles satisfied everyone. Yet when it came to gravity, somehow virtual particles weren't applicable, and we needed to create Higgs particles to explain curvature of space time... Seems a bit biased---if we dunno how the electric field exists and works, we appear to have a pretty big hole in our understanding of reality.

Anyways, need to read up more on quantum mechanics---specifially this virtual particle stuff.

After the hike, went to see the pictographs... which was right across road from the trailhead. Then very slowly drove back to the airport.

I'd like to mention (well, complain mostly) the car: I rented a Nisan Versa... it's not a bad car for driving around---but the power plug didn't work. So couldn't charge my phone...

At a rest stop, decided to "fix it"; opened up the owner's manual, and looke for fuse box... The picure showing how to open fuse box doesn't actually tell you where it is... it just doesn't have enough context. The picture just shows a panel, that is opened. Now where that panel is...

Anyways, found the panel, and opened it. owern's manual said there are spare fuses, so... with any luck I can just replace the fuse for the power plug. Guess what: the fuse box doesn't have any labels of which fuse goes to which thing. There's nothing in the owner's manual! They do say that you can examine fuses for burned out ones... but there are a few dozen of the, so finding the burned out one would be VERY time consuming.

Stupidly, I yanked out one fuse, and it just hopped out of my hand and onto the ground. Searching for a while, it didn't turn up. So I dunno if I "lost" a spare fuse or if something important will not work now. Anyways, car started up fine, and I just closed the fuse box and stopped exploring---don't wanna get stuck in the middle of nowhere.

While looking for the fuse, found a whole bunch of bullet shells right under the car... apparently someone was doing some shooting at the rest area :-/

- Alex; 20161204

     December 3rd, 2016

Landed in Salt Lake City, and drove off to Canyonlands, the Needles section. There are a bunch of trails in that area---enough for a weekend of hiking.

Weather is VERY cold in Utah... there's snow on the side of the highway.

Got to Needles, and parked at Elephant Hill. The plan is to do a HUGE loop---going to Druid Arch, then Joint Trail, then going down to the river, then... walk back to the trailhead via the elephant hill road.

At Joint Trail, went into one of the cracks between mountains... Last time (last hike there) I saw kids squeezing through some passages that aren't big enough for adults. Apparently there are secret passages there---adults can squeeze into some off-trail passages, but then the rocks just get too tight. So unless you're a kid, can't proceed.

Next stop is going down to the Colorado river. That trail turned out to be much tougher than I expected... it's like a quarter of a grand-canyon hike---very similar terrain, going down well over 1000 feet elevation, etc., very steep.

Near the river, there was a trail leading to Confluence point, so decided to follow that. After about half an hour, realized that the trail doesn't actually have any footsteps, and only hoof prints. Yep, I've been following a deer trail :-). So relaxed by the river a bit, and headed back.

The place got dark as I was ascending out of the canyon (river hike). The temperature dropped. The stars came out... it was amazing. Walked for perhaps six or so hours in the dark---via Cyclone Canyon---nice and open sky all the way (though the darkness made my pants gather up all sorts of spiky things---those spiky plants hurt!).

Milky way is amazing. The temperature got rediculously low. During the day, it was perhaps 40f-ish degrees---chilly, but not cold (especially when walking at fast pace). At night, it was single-digits... and the dry air made it feel much lower. It was rediculous... I put in all the layers I had (quite a lot of warm clothing---stuff I felt "OK" with on top of Mnt.Whitney) and it was still super cold---so was shivering for most of the six hour walk to the car. [water froze, etc.]

Through the walk was contemplating research ideas... (for such long walks, I often fixate on some problem... sometimes it gets solved, most times it's just a nice way to concentrate on something for a while). Anyways, one big realizaiton... I'm doing resarch in modeling market participant behavior---e.g. is it possible to predict what traders will do before they do it. Well, the problem is that there's very little labeled data---the trader would not say "this is what I'm doing" on their market events. But what I thought up---is that they *do* label their behavior... every time they submit a market action. Their action is the label! It's kind of a backward way of thinking---before I was imagining labeling their actions and then potentially learning the labels based on their actions (supervised learning). They don't have such labels, so the thought process stalled. Now... what if the trader's action labeled the current market and trader state... For example, if the state of the market shows a buy imbalance, and the trader's open positions are mostly on the buy side... and their action is to throw market sell orders, perhaps they're trying to spoof the buy side of the market... Now, we can calculate the market state, we can also calculate the participant's open positions---and then their action (what they're doing in that context) is the label that can become the target in a supervised training method. In any case, I now have something to try...

- Alex; 20161203

     December 2nd, 2016

Flying out to Utah---hiking weekend.

- Alex; 20161202

     December 1st, 2016

Finished reading Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom. Well, all I can say is... we're all DOOOOOMED!

Well, that's the picture the book paints... and it's pretty damn convincing. Bostrom is a smart guy and thought the topic through quite thoroughly. The conclusion: Superintelligence will emerge, whether we try to control it or not... it will get out of our control, and then the big question of what it dies with us... would we be part of its cosmic plans, or will it just get rid of us---or perhaps just ignore us the way we ignore ants.

It's a very clever book---with a lot of thought provoking concepts. Highly recommend it---especially if you're interested in AI.

What the author didn't intend, and what I noticed while reading the book, were religious overtones. For example, the superintelligence would be so far beyond what we can even imagine, the whole situation is similar to humanity creating its own gods. Perhaps causing existential catastrophy in the process. It's hard to reason about something that you by definition cannot understand.

- Alex; 20161201

     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 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


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