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May 27th, 2021

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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...

     May 12th, 2021

Happy 6-months Kiddo!

- Alex; 20210512
May 12th at wikipedia...

     May 9th, 2021

Visiting the Great Falls Park. It's actually quite nice. Awesome for picknicks.

Hit 100k miles on our 4runner!

- Alex; 20210509

     May 8th, 2021

Driving through Shenandoah National Park.

- Alex; 20210508

     May 6th, 2021

Flying a kite with kiddo on Virginia Beach.

- Alex; 20210506

     May 1st, 2021

Driving out for a week to Virginia Beach.

- Alex; 20210501

     April 22nd, 2021

Interesting video: Judea Pearl, 2012 ACM A.M. Turing Award Lecture "The Mechanization of Causal Inference"

- Alex; 20210422

     April 19th, 2021

Got a kick scooter: It's awesome to kick-scoot right next to my 3-year-old :-D

- Alex; 20210419

     April 10th, 2021

Visiting the Taughannock Falls Gorge. It's awesome. Kiddo scootied most of the way from parking lot to the waterfall.

- Alex; 20210410

     April 5th, 2021

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20210405

     March 27th, 2021

Apparently java.sql.DriverManager does not support dynamically loaded driver jars. It only picks up drivers that are in the classpath---which is fine for most scenarios, but if you ever find yourself needing to connect to the `same' database but using two different drivers, it becomes difficult. For example, Starburst is essentially Presto(Trino), yet Presto/Trino drivers won't work with it, and vice versa---yet the connection URL is the same. Depending on what jar file is first in the classpath, it will often try to instantiate the wrong driver.

Anyways, this was causing some headache for SQLRunner, and I've been thinking about having the database jar dynamically loaded for a while, just never got around to it until today.

The solution apparently is simply not to use DriverManager. I played around with dynamically loading the driver, then registering it with DriverManager, but that blows up (can't use custom loaded classes with DriverManager). There are solutions on the internet to create a wrapper ``Driver'' class that is loaded from classpath, but during run-time can proxy requests to arbitrary loaded Drivers (google for DriverShim). The approach I picked for SQLRunner is simply to instantiate the Driver, and get connections from the specified driver, simply bypasing the whole DriverManager business.

- Alex; 20210327

     March 25th, 2021

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20210325

     March 20th, 2021

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20210320

     March 17th, 2021

Crazy idea: spinning ring. If a ring is spinning at relativistic speeds, it causes distances between atoms to shrink---such that from any direction you view the spinning ring (as opposed to the non-spinning ring), we observe more atoms per unit of area. (less distance between atoms = more atoms observed?). More atoms leads to more observed mass... so does this mean that a spinning ring has more mass than a non-spinning ring? (well, relativity wise, it has more energy, and more mass---but is that due to the shrunken distance between ring's atoms?).

- Alex; 20210317

     March 16th, 2021

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20210316

     March 15th, 2021

Neat paper: Subspace Method in Pattern Recognition by Satosi Watanabe and Nikhil Pakvasa.

- Alex; 20210315

     March 14th, 2021

Happy Pi day!

- Alex; 20210314

     March 13th, 2021

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20210313

     March 11th, 2021

Happy Anniversary! Time sure flies...

- Alex; 20210311

     March 8th, 2021

Happy March 8th!

In other news, got the tooth implant removed. Apparently in about 18 or so months, the entire bone that was holding it in place just sorta gone away---only about 1/4th of the implant screw was still in the bone, the rest of the jaw bone just disappeared. Have no idea how that happens, and why it was this rapid.

- Alex; 20210308

     March 7th, 2021

Got to walk on the frozen Lake George. Kiddo was very excited.

- Alex; 20210307

     March 6th, 2021

Spending weekend by Lake George.

- Alex; 20210306

     March 2nd, 2021

Urgh, the implant is starting to hurt more and more :-/

- Alex; 20210302

     March 1st, 2021

Went for an ``emergency'' dentist visit to see what can be done with the implant. Apparently not much. Got referal to the implant specialist---to see if they can save it.

- Alex; 20210301

     February 27th, 2021

Hiking up Mount Marcy. The forecast called for ``warm'' weather and 60mph winds at the summit. The warm temperature made it rain at lower elevations, so by the time I got to the summit area, all that damp layer froze solid. It was very weird to be fully covered in a layer of ice.

The wind was ridiculous---stuff just froze on the spot. Visibility was bad---almost gave up twice on getting to the summit. But after backtracking and losing trail twice, somehow managed to find the trail marker leading to the summit. The plan was to walk over the summit and to loop back to the Loj via Avalanche Lake, but the wind was so bad on the other side of the mountain that it was impossible to descend---or even peek beyond the summit rock.

The way back was again rainy. So got soaked. Good thing I brought three pairs of gloves/mittens, since they all got wet-frozen-cold.

- Alex; 20210227

     February 26th, 2021

The tooth implant I got in 2008 started to move :-/

- Alex; 20210226

     February 20th, 2021

Spending weekend in Saratoga Springs.

- Alex; 20210220

     January 26th, 2021

How do our brains learn? It certainly does not seem that our wetware brain learns in the same way that artificial neural networks learn. Often, my kid learns something from 1 instance... imagine a neural network learning something from just 1 training instance.

What if we got it all wrong, regarding neural networks that is. Perhaps all those interconnects in the brain are not meant to be interconnects (weighted connections between neurons), but some other mechanism.

- Alex; 20210126

     January 20th, 2021

Happy Birthday!

- Alex; 20210120

     January 6th, 2021

Well this was certainly and interesting day. A crowd stormed the United States Capitol building.

A lot is being said about the "security failure", but I actually think this was a security success (mostly). Imagine the scenario if "security" didn't "fail", and a hundred people were shot? From the videos, there was no lack of weapons on the site... the guards simply refrained from shooting the crowds. As bad as this was---embarrassing that this kind of stuff actually happens in this country---it could've been much worse if guards opened fire on the crowds.

- Alex; 20210106

     January 1st, 2021

Happy New Year!

- Alex; 20210101

     December 25th, 2020

Merry Christmas everyone!

- Alex; 20201225

     November 24th, 2020

Was googling for covid19 vaccine trials data (haven't found it; if you find it, please let me know), and stumbled onto the clinical protocol writeup: A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Phase 3 Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Ad26.COV2.S for the Prevention of SARS-CoV-2-mediated COVID-19 in Adults Aged 18 Years and Older. (strangely marked ``CONFIDENTIAL'', yet appearing on the website).

- Alex; 20201124

     November 19th, 2020

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20201119

     November 17th, 2020

First pediatrician visit for Liam.

- Alex; 20201117

     November 14th, 2020

Happy Diwali!

In other news, checking out of hospital: taking Liam home :-)

- Alex; 20201114

     November 12th, 2020

At exactly 12:24PM, my son Liam was born. Happy Birthday kid!

- Alex; 20201112

     November 7th, 2020

Got a flu shot at Walgreens. First time getting an injection at a pharmacy.

- Alex; 20201107

     November 5th, 2020

Happy Birthday Ian (a/k/a Kiddo)!

- Alex; 20201105

     November 2nd, 2020

Rewatching the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on AWS. Haven't seen it in a long long while. It's awesome.

GPP: Genuine People Personality; Ghastly...

``The major problem---one of the major problems, for there are several---one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.'' ---Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

``The President in particular is very much a figurehead---he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had---he has already spent two of his ten presidential years in prison for fraud.'' ---Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

In other news, took my 4runner for inspection, and had to replace front breaks :-/

- Alex; 20201102

     October 28th, 2020

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20201028

     October 10th, 2020

Rode a ferry (inside our car) from Burlington,VT to Plattsburgh,NY. GPS got us to the ferry terminal---I guess we didn't disable "ferry" as an option. Spending night in Plattsburgh NY.

- Alex; 20201010

     October 9th, 2020

Heading out for the 3-day weekend. Spending night in Brattleboro VT.

- Alex; 20201009

     October 5th, 2020

Happy b-day to yours truly :-)

- Alex; 20201005

     September 27th, 2020

Visiting Niagara Falls.

- Alex; 20200927

     September 26th, 2020

Doing a road trip to `upstate' NY. Spending night in Corning.

- Alex; 20200926

     September 21st, 2020

Microsoft is buying Bethesda's parent company for $7.5 billion. So... indirectly, Microsoft now owns id Software, the creators of DOOM and Quake :-)

- Alex; 20200921

     September 12th, 2020

Doing a road trip to New Hampshire, mostly to drive from Lincoln to Conway. Awesome place, with lots of trailheads on the side of the road.

Kiddo walked about an hour on a flat trail someplace in the middle of that scenic drive.

- Alex; 20200912

     September 5th, 2020


- Alex; 20200905

     August 29th, 2020

Happy b-day!

Interesting documentary: The Largest Nuclear Bomb Ever Detonated, recently declassified. Reminds me of an awesome book: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes.

- Alex; 20200829

     August 27th, 2020

Fed Chairman Powell speaks about monetary policy. Didn't they do their best to increase inflation for a decade? Is he saying their methods didn't work because everyone was expecting low inflation, and that expectation caused low inflation?

There's a lot of confusion about this. Fed is saying they're gonna keep interest rates low---and they want inflation to be higher. Now, if you're a lender, and inflation is high, you'd want more return, which seems to push the interest rates higher, no? Or is FED saying that they will be the ONLY lender? (everyone else will just have to accept lower-than-inflation returns?).

- Alex; 20200827

     August 23rd, 2020

Inspired by Lich King solo, went through all the WoW last-raid-bosses. Just killed Antorus, The Burning Throne---never done it until today.

- Alex; 20200823

     August 16th, 2020

Finally got around to defeating The Lich King :-)

In other news, shaved my head.

- Alex; 20200816

     August 10th, 2020

Random thoughts: What if black holes have negative time on the inside? On the inside, instead of space falling into a singularity, it would be expanding out faster than the speed of light. Stuff falling into the black hole---making it bigger, would act like dark-energy does on the universe---accelerate its expansion.

- Alex; 20200810

     August 9th, 2020

Random thoughts: light emitted by a distant star (in another galaxy) is red shifted, because the galaxy is moving away from us---the space is ``expanding'', so the light wavelength got stretched (wavelength got longer) as space expanded. Since wavelength is energy, where did that energy go?

Similarly, lets say we accelerate to nearly speed of light, then decelerate back. Someone observing us at the destination would observe us in visible light, then observe us blue-shifted (uv light), then back to visible light. We spent energy getting "us" to go at nearly the speed of light then decelerate--where did the energy for that energetic light that's detected come from?

So anyone observing us from the direction where we're traveling needs to observe higher energy light than what we're emitting while stationary. Obviously we're responsible for the energy of that light---our energy reserves are used to turn visible light into uv-light...and the faster we try to move, the higher that uv-light energy has to be... creating a sort of resistance to going faster and faster, with the speed of light limit (we can't be observed via light to be moving faster than light).

- Alex; 20200809

     August 3rd, 2020

Took kiddo to the park. He stopped at an intersection, screaming "STOP". Apparently he noticed the "STOP" sign, and needed to stop in front of it. He had to be convinced to move forward after stopping.

- Alex; 20200803

     July 30th, 2020

Watched most of the Tech CEOs testify at House hearing on Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon. It's kinda interesting that Microsoft isn't invited... guess they're no longer an anti-competitive monopoly?

- Alex; 20200730

     July 20th, 2020

Good short story: The New Utopia by Jerome K Jerome.

- Alex; 20200720

     July 12th, 2020

Uh, oh! It seems covid19 is just exploding in Florida.

- Alex; 20200712

     July 9th, 2020

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20200709

     July 7th, 2020

WTF: U.S. to force out foreign students taking classes fully online. ``Foreign students must leave the United States if their school’s classes this fall will be taught completely online or transfer to another school with in-person instruction, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced on Monday.''

- Alex; 20200707

     June 8th, 2020

Amm... New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio says the city will move some of its funding from the New York Police Department to youth and social services. Wait a minute... are they moving excess funding (how did they have any? Mismanaged resources?) or funding funding (as in, less officers in NYC?---assuming NYC had excess officers to begin with? Mismanaged resources?).

As with bus drivers, sanitation workers, fire department crews, emergency rooms, etc., it takes a certain number of the population to perform those services. I'd be surprised if NYC was an outlier in the ``Officers per 10K Population'' number (and it doesn't seem like it is... the outlier is Washington DC!).

Anyways, I'd imagine the 911 response times are directly dependent on number of officers. Googling a bit, it is 6.37 minutes for what were considered ``critical'', and 8.59 minutes for lower priority calls, which are designated ``serious''. I know it's fashionable to be angry at the police these days, but cutting their budget will almost certainly mean longer response times when seconds count (and I'd imagine every second saved correlates with lives saved).

Perhaps budget for more training, stress therapy, and turnover of officers who don't live upto the high standards? Investigate complaints more thoroughly, don't let things slide, etc. Reactionary and politically motivated budget cuts aren't the answer...

- Alex; 20200608

     June 2nd, 2020

OMG, it's actually happening: Citywide Curfew in Effect 8pm to 5am Until Monday Morning, June 8.

- Alex; 20200602

     May 31st, 2020

What really exists? There are lots of things we think exist, but some of those things may not be measurable or observable. For example, does happiness exists? Lets say we're clever data scientists and our goal is to improve customer happiness, how would we go about doing that?

For one, we may ask customers if they're happy. That will probably not give us the correct answer---some customers will not tell us the truth, etc. We cannot observe happiness, as it's in the customer's mind. So how would we measure customer happiness? (or other such concepts).

Now, we may be able to create a list of attrbiutes of what happy customers generally do... and some of those things may be observable. For example, happy customers may come back to the site more often, return products less, have frequent purchases, and infrequent calls to support. None of thsoe things are "customer happiness", but collectively, the customer has a higher chance of being happy if they have those properties.

So as a concet, happiness may not exist, but the list of semi-observables may indicate that the customer is happy.

Which leads to the idea of optimization: if we want to improve customer happiness, we may try to improve one of those observables---if customer happiness causes less calls to helpdesk, perhaps optimizing operations such that customer makes less calls to help desk will make them happier?

- Alex; 20200531

     May 29th, 2020

Happy Birthday!

- Alex; 20200529

     May 26th, 2020

Corn farmers: A quick google search tells us that farm land cost per acre is around $5k (with average corn-farm at 430 acres). Each acre will generate about 135 bushels of corn (googling), and current price of a bushel of corn is $3.18 (again, googling, May 21, 2020 number). In other words, an acre of land will generate 135*3.18=429.30 of revenue. Google also tells us that non-land costs per acre is $550. How in the world are corn farmers making any money?

- Alex; 20200526

     May 25th, 2020

This has been the most uneventful Memorial Day Weekend in a long long time. There's literally nowhere to go this time around---so we didn't. We considered driving upstate someplace, but it's just not the safest thing to do these days---especially with a 2-year-old. So here we are, spending the whole 4-day weekend (got Friday off) at home---which is pretty much the same thing as the last 3 months, except I didn't login to work :-/

- Alex; 20200525

     May 24th, 2020

Wow, time just seems to fly by when there's nothing to do.

- Alex; 20200524

     May 4th, 2020

May the 4th Be With You.

- Alex; 20200504

     May 3rd, 2020

Yey, Rick and Morty is back!

Went for a drive this afternoon. Just around the neighborhood for no particular reason.

Finally got around to seeing Contagion. That is one creepy movie to see given the current context. Even the terms they use throughout the movie is what we're hearing in the news... e.g. social distancing, etc., it's all in the movie! (but in the movie, they found a vaccine---so we're not at the ``happy ending'' yet).

- Alex; 20200503

     May 2nd, 2020

Watched the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting on youtube. Buffett was talking for 4.5 hours straight. No breaks.

Here's a short summary: US has been through worse, this time is not different: we'll come out of this.

That said, the airlines (which BRK sold) are in for a tough time, because the "world has changed". Paraphrasing: even if we get back to 70% capacity after this pandemic, that leaves a lot of airplanes sitting on the ground---which is a huge cost.

Lots of businesses cannot operate at "reduced" capacity. E.g. if a restaurant has to operate at 70% capacity, it probably won't be able to turn a profit.

So while Buffett was saying how optimistic he is about US getting out of this, his "wait and see" approach on investing is telling a different story. e.g. when BRK did a share buy back in January, it was because it was a good deal... now shares dropped quite a bit, but according to Buffett, the fundamentals are mostly the same (in other words, BRK itself is valuing its shares less).

- Alex; 20200502

     May 1st, 2020

Happy May Day!

- Alex; 20200501

     April 30th, 2020

...1 year anniversary of my last day at Goldman. So far, not missing it at all :-)

- Alex; 20200430

     April 29th, 2020

This is worth seeing: Michael Moore Presents: Planet of the Humans.

Today is 10 years since I got my first car :-)

- Alex; 20200429

     April 19th, 2020

World of Warcraft corrupted gear: stupidest thing ever. Most of my deaths are by my own gear :-/

- Alex; 20200419

     April 17th, 2020

Yey, Friday.

- Alex; 20200417

     April 15th, 2020

Eh, tax day... or not. This is the first time my taxes aren't done yet :-)

In other news, been browsing through Wolfram Physics. Way back when, (2003-11-18), I picked up A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram. It was interesting, and over the years I've came back to it a few times. Basically the whole world can be modeled as Cellular automaton---or so the book goes.

(Unrelated; John Horton Conway, the creator of Game of Life, passed away from COVID-19, on April 11th, 2020)

This Wolfram Physics business seems to be generalizing more on Cellular automaton by creating rewrite rules that can be used to compute anything... The basic idea is rules of the form: {{x,y}} -> {{x,z},{z,y}}, which is applied on a graph, and replaces every occurance of different x,y, with two links, one goes from x to z, and another from z to y. Anyways, these rules can be arbitrary complex, and most of them illustrated on the website are pretty simple. The idea is that you can apply them over and over and over again---creating fractal like structures of computation.

Mr.Wolfram claims that such `rules' can be setup to compute anything (they can be used as universal computer). With the same properties that all universal computers have. And just like anything that can compute, it can also compute stuff we know about physics, since it's basically math, and these `rules' can do anything. At least that's what I got from browsing this Wolfram Physics.

Ok, now here's my view: Wolfram seems to have re-invented Lambda calculus, and is very exited that it can do everything he sees as computable.

- Alex; 20200415

     April 12th, 2020

There's a lot of hype regarding Contact Tracing. Both Google and Apple are involved.

I suspect this won't work. The app will either not work at all, or it will flag everyone as potentially infected. e.g. ride NYC subway to work (e.g. getting back to 'normal'), and flag thousands of people near you that are within the bluetooth radio distance. Either way, the advice from this app will be useless.

- Alex; 20200412

     April 11th, 2020

On 2018-03-09 fixed the weld on an Ikea bed by drilling and securing things with bolts. Now the other welded piece fell off. Went to home depot, waited in queue to enter, bought nuts & bolts, and fixed the other side of the same bed. The prices changed: In 2018-03-09, bolt was 11 cents, now it's 12. nut was 6 cents, now it's 8, and spring washer was 17 and now it's 19 cents.

While drilling, the drill slipped and... I guess I'll be wearing a large bandaid for a while.

- Alex; 20200411

     April 8th, 2020

Drove outside for a bit... wow, the traffic is gone!

- Alex; 20200408

     April 1st, 2020

Happy April Fools day...

- Alex; 20200401

     March 19th, 2020

Uh, oh!

- Alex; 20200319

     March 18th, 2020

About 90% of the folks at JFK are wearing face-masks.

- Alex; 20200318

     March 16th, 2020

NJ implements a voluntary curfew. Stay in-doors after 8pm.

- Alex; 20200316

     March 15th, 2020

Visiting Washington, D.C. It seems everything in-doors is closed. Walked by Lincoln memorial, Washington monument, White House, and Capitol. Lots of free parking everywhere.

...and back to NYC :-)

- Alex; 20200315

     March 14th, 2020

Happy Pi Day!

...And another anniversary :-)

Driving to Luray Caverns.

- Alex; 20200314

     March 13th, 2020

Trump announced ``we'll be doing more testing'' and suddenly the markets go up up up.

- Alex; 20200313

     March 12th, 2020

Brooklyn College Update: COVID-19: Brooklyn College is Closed on Friday, March 13 ``Dear Brooklyn College community, I write to inform you that a member of the Brooklyn College community tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) this evening. ... The student takes two classes on Tuesday evenings and she was last on campus on March 3. She did not develop symptoms until Thursday, March 5, and tested positive this evening.''

The market dropped again, down 9.99% in a day. My prediction: this will get much worse before it gets better.

Went to BJs, and folks have gone crazy... Huge queues. Empty shelves all over. Boring stuff like macaroni is sold out, etc. No flour. Cleaning products, anti-bacterial hand soap, etc., all gone. Wonder if that's happening in other places. Last weekend at Walmart was also very crowded (and no hand-sanitizer).

- Alex; 20200312

     March 11th, 2020

Ok, it seems stuff is getting serious. CUNY is moving all classes to `distance learning'. My work already encourages folks to work-from-home, but now mostly telling everyone to do so. Trump suspends travel from Europe (not including UK) to US for 30 days. The markets went into bear territory---and probably go much lower in the next few weeks.

In other news, happy anniversary to yours truly :-)

- Alex; 20200311

     March 10th, 2020

The coronavirus news is ramping up quickly...

- Alex; 20200310

     March 9th, 2020

Wow: Dow posts biggest single-day loss since 2008.

Northern Italy quarantines 16 million people. Imagine if all of NY tri-state-area was placed in quarantine... all roads/highways closed, all gas stations closed, all trains/fights suspended, etc., for 3 weeks...

- Alex; 20200309

     March 8th, 2020

...and back to NYC.

Interesting video: Exponential growth and epidemics. So extrapolating, 10% of the world will be infected by end of May.

- Alex; 20200308

     March 7th, 2020

Driving to Niagara Falls. The place looks deserted. Almost everything in the area is closed---hotels are cheap, etc.

- Alex; 20200307

     March 4th, 2020

To continue with the "physical universe is essentially memory" idea (2020-02-28): How do planets move around the sun? Planets have a sort-of memory of their state (location in the gravitational field)---that state evolves in such a way that the planet appears to move around the sun. Everything about their ``memory'' is encoded in that state.

Why should we expect the universe to have any sense of "physics" as we know it? As opposed to a random mess? Here's my guess: Randomness is very elusive. So any non-random system will exhibit some form of structure, at all levels. In other words, "non-random" is simpler than random. Non-random state will evolve via some non-random process---leading to what we percieve as the "laws of nature" (?).

More thinking ahead.

- Alex; 20200304

     March 3rd, 2020

The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates by half a percentage point. Hmm... Now I'm wondering what they're not telling us.

The markets by themselves are already flying sky-high... stimulating them like this is just crazy---unless they're expecting some crazy sh*t to go down. (like... coronavirus' 6% death rate to hit most of the world population... 1918-flu killed ~50m world-wide, and that one had 2.5% mortality rate)

- Alex; 20200303

     March 1st, 2020

Here's what Bernie Sanders' 'Medicare for All' proposal actually says.

I must say I'm impressed. This is definitely better than the current system (Obamacare, or what came before). But I'd go a bit farther, I'd change: ``Every individual who is a resident of the United States is entitled to benefits for health care'' to ``Every individual is entitled to health care.'' My version is simpler :-). And percentage spending wise, it would be marginal.

This bill should have a similar wording to ``We hold these truths to be self-evident''... applying to everyone. After all, if someone is having flu-like-symptoms, I really don't want them to be thinking ``oh, I'll wait it out and save a few dollars by not seeing a doctor.'' That's like a recipe for coronavirus epidemic. Maybe this coronavirus will wake up everyone to the fact that our collective healthcare is not about individual coverage---if we selfishly want to maintain good health, then we have to ensure everyone around us is also in good health.

e.g. you could have the most expensive insurance plan, and some poor dude in the subway could sneeze coronavirus into your face... if we want a healthy society, everyone's gotta be treated.

A few sneaky things in the bill that may not be ``obvious''. The bill makes it illegal to duplicate coverage (so private insurance corps cannot cover already covered things). Now, everything gets coverage by default---so just about all medical coverage is "already covered", making it illegal for other corps to spring up and offer duplicate coverage. Which is where the sneaky thing comes in: if a doctor wants to be "outside the system" (not participate in this thing), they'd have to have patients who are willing to pay cash---because no insurance company would be able to duplicate-cover a patient just so the doctor can charge the private insurance company more for something that the patient is already covered for under this bill. But I guess that's the point: to eliminate private insurance as an industry, which IMHO is a "good thing".

This has about 0 chance of passing though, even if Sanders gets elected.

- Alex; 20200301

     February 28th, 2020

Been having interesting thoughts about the universe; mostly a continuation of what I was thinking around 2019-08-15 regarding the nature of time.

The more I think about it, the more it seems memory plays a central role to our perception of the world. Observations by themselves aren't that meaningful unless we compare them to things we've observed before.

For example, the way we know something is moving is by making 2 observations; and recalling the first observation when we make the second.

It all starts with observations, and memory of such observations. Suppose we remember estimates of probability distributions, then every event/observation will only make sense in that context (an event/observation that is either likely or not given our estimate of the distribution).

Replace "estimate of probability distribution" with a more general ``model'', and suddenly we're talking about `laws of physics'. Note that there's no ultimate truth being derived or observed---just observations that we either recognize or not given our model (which was built using past observations).

At this point, we can ``observe'' things such as objects falling down and building a model of their speed as they're falling... leaving the details of defining ``objects'' themselves (e.g. objects are mostly empty space---made of atoms that we can't see---and those themselves made out of quarks that we currently have no way of ``observing'' direclty---meaning we can't form models of observing them).

So objects are collections of tinier objects that we cannot observe... yet we can observe objects themselves.

Now, if we stick with the idea of working at the same granularity as the observations (forgetting the ``inner structure'' that may or may not be observable), then we're OK. For example, we can model ocean waves... where individual water molecules are irrelevant, etc. There's no "more detail" down there---it's just the level of our observations that we are modeling.

In other words, our laws of nature are just observations mapping to future observations... (via some model that we learn from observations). It's a function... and our memory lets us build estimates of such observation to observation mappings.

(the observations themselves could be subjective, or of poorly defined aggregates, or averages---e.g. temperature.)

Quantum mechanics takes this "observation" idea quite literally. Everything starts with an observation---there is no existence without an observation. But there is still an assumption that "stuff exists"; that there's a truth to the universe out there... perhaps there isn't.

Imagine if WE had no memory at all. Then every event will appear random (no concept of physics is possible). We can't even note that time is passing. Would that mean that planets do not go around the sun, or that atoms do not exist?

All it would mean is that WE cannot model what we are observing.

Now suppose our existing senses (and limited brain capacity) is making us blind to some part of the universe... Does that mean it doesn't exist, or in some sense not real?

(It's quite arrogant of humans to think we can observe everything that is observable...).

Now, lets explore the other direction: of remembering as much as we can. We make observations, and use the best modeling and data compression mechanisms we can imagine---to remember as much detail as we can.

The primary goal of such detailed observations is so we can distinguish a similar but different observation sequences. So detail has to be "at the same level" as other potential observation sequences to enable that.

Anyway, the more and more we remember, the more our memory is being consumed... even if we just remember the count of observations---an incrementing integer---it is still consuming memory (perhaps we only need to distinguish lenght of sequences).

This ever-increasing-memory requirement is similar to Entropy. It cannot decrease. More observations "saved" means more memory consumed. Note that the observations themselves (nor the underlying processes for such observations) do not have to have increasing ``entropy'' or disorder... the entropy is entirely in our minds---if we started remembering things earlier, it would've been higher, etc.

Entropy direction is often likened to direction of time. Entropy increases with time---and time perhaps is a measure of entropy increase. But if it's all in our minds, then time is simply the result of our ability to remember things (by things we mean building models of observations).

Without memory, there's no entropy---nor time (at least for beings without memory).

Which means that perahps for the universe as a whole, time does not exist---without an observer who can form mental models :-)

- Alex; 20200228

     February 27th, 2020

Ok, the market is going crazy. According to the news, this is due to coronavirus.

But is it really? Pretty much everyone who is buying into stocks expects a 8-10% return a year. Last year was a crazy return... but "average" (they, the experts say) is 8-10%. Now, consider that earnings yield is ~4% a year now (meaning that if you buy $100 worth of broad market index, you'll get $4 in a year in company earnings---this is not YOUR money yet, this is just "within the company", managed by folks who have the power to pay themselves bonuses). Adjusting for bonuses and inflation, and you end up with a pretty bad yield on stocks... somewhat comprable to the yield you'd get on municipal bonds.

To bring expectations of 8-10% annual return back into the picture, stocks would need to be 50% cheaper, or every company in the market-wide index would need to double their earnings (which given coronavirus is unlikely). Maintaining the "long term" 8-10% returns is just not sustainable at current levels.

- Alex; 20200227

     February 23rd, 2020

...and back to NYC.

Kiddo played in snow on the way back.

- Alex; 20200223

     February 22nd, 2020

Drove to Delhi.

Since there's virtually nothing there, we stayed in Oneonta, which is seemingly a much bigger place.

- Alex; 20200222

     February 17th, 2020

Driving back to Atlanta. Plenty of time till the flight back to NYC. Or so we thought...

By the time we realized that time is getting tight, it was VERY tight. So we drove-drove-drove to the airport, filled up car, returned car, took train to terminal, checked in car seat, ran to security checkpoint (where they had to manually check ALL our bags), ran to next train (which came just as soon as we got there), went through all terminals A-D... ours was terminal E, then ran to the gate (E34, all the way at the end)... and about 10 gates away, we heard the gate announcement that it's about to close in 1-minute... so ran there, and about 30 seconds later got on the airplane.

It was literally 30 seconds away from "doors closed" that we got into the airplane. If any step along the way took just a bit longer, we would've missed the flight (e.g. lets say TSA agent took just a bit too long to open/close our bags, etc.)

- Alex; 20200217

     February 16th, 2020

Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Doing a loop around it. North to Gatlinburg via US441, then around the west side of the park via local roads, and back down to East Ellijay, GA.

- Alex; 20200216

     February 15th, 2020

The plan is to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So driving north... to Clayton, GA.

- Alex; 20200215

     February 14th, 2020

Flying out to Atlanta :-)

- Alex; 20200214

     February 9th, 2020

...and back to NYC.

- Alex; 20200209

     February 8th, 2020

Driving out to Concord, MA. No particular reason, it's just a place we haven't been to yet.

- Alex; 20200208

     February 2nd, 2020

And driving back home to NYC.

- Alex; 20200202

     February 1st, 2020

Driving out to Ticonderoga, NY (that's the north point of Lake George). Nice drive in wintry conditions.

- Alex; 20200201

     January 30th, 2020

Finished reading The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation that Predicts the Future is Transforming Everything We Know about life and the universe by William Poundstone.

I really didn't know what to expect when buying this book. It seemed to do with Bayes theorem, but it actually is quite a bit more. The basic idea is that self-sampling may often work.

For example, lets say you find a random widget, with a serial number 98. (small number for this exmaple). What you could think is that you're extraordinary lucky, and found the 1st percentile of the widgets ever produced... therefore there are actually a total of 98*100 or so widgets out there in the world, or somewhere aorund 10k.

Similarly, you could assume that you're extraordinary lucky, and you got the 99th percentile (the last 1%) o the widgets ever produced, in which case there are perhaps about 100 or so of such widgets.

Both guesses would be unlikely (you got 1 in 100 to get it "right"). what about over 50% chance? Well... you're found widget 98, which with 50% certainty falls within the middle 50% of the widget production cycle... in other words, 98 could be anywhere between 25th percentile and 75th percentile of production widgets. So with 50% certainty, you can claim that there are ~130 to ~400 of such widgets ever produced.

All that from finding just 1 widget!

I was reading about this concept before. Apparently allies during WW2 used serial number of tank parts to estimate the german tank production capacity.

Anyways, the reason the book has doomsday in the title is because we find ourselves among many humans who have ever lived. So just pretend that every human has a serial number (order of their birth on this planet). We can apply similar logic to guestimate (with say 90% certainty) how many humans there will ever be.... unless we're extraordinary lucky, we are not in the first 1% of the humans that will ever be born (e.g. what's so social about us?). Similarly, we are not in the last 1% of the humans that will ever be born... (again, what's so special about us?). So with any confidence level, we can create bounds on number of humans that will ever exist... and we're somewhere in that range (unless we're extraodinary).

Yes, it's kinda a silly argument, but the numbers are real. If true, it's unlikely human beings will venture out to the stars... which would explain why we haven't been contacted by beings from other stars.

- Alex; 20200127

     January 27th, 2020

First day of classes for Spring 2020 semester :-)

- Alex; 20200127

     January 26th, 2020

The hotel in Hartford had a pool, but by the time we ended up going, it was closed for maintenance :-/

- Alex; 20200126

     January 25th, 2020

Heading upstate to Albany. Ended up in Hartford, CT.

Rain rain go away come again another day...

- Alex; 20200125

     January 20th, 2020

Visiting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in DC. Half the buildin is closed due to construction (and will apparently be closed for 3 years). Then the other half will be closed for another 3 years. So it's gonna be 6 years until the whole thing is open again.

Neat fact: parking nearby is FREE on sundays and holidays.

- Alex; 20200120

     January 19th, 2020

Visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial. This place is much bigger than I imaigned. I also thought it was mostly on the beach (video of first flight seems to be on sandy terrain), but it's all grassy now.

- Alex; 20200119

     January 18th, 2020

Going on a road trip to North Carolina, the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center. That's the place the first airplane flew.

On way, stopped by Wallops Flight Facility visitor center (the place NASA launches rockets from). It's pretty neat :-)

- Alex; 20200118

     January 14th, 2020

Finished Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know by Jerry Kaplan. Pretty good overview. Not really revolutionary, just a good overview. Speculates on what economy would look like once tech takes over most jobs. Suggest stupid things like investment accounts for kids---where they can invest in whatever they want. This is similar to converting social security into an investment account like thing. The problem with those schemes is that if folks manage to lose everything, what then? No safety net? If there is a safety net, then there's no reason to be safe with investing---tails I win, heads you lose situation.

- Alex; 20200114

     January 12th, 2020

Visiting White Sands National Park. It just became a national park on December 11, 2019.

This is an awesome place---and definitely deserves to be a national park. The sand is like snow---and folks slide down hills. Our kiddo really enjoyed this place---drawing stuff in sand, running around sandy hills, etc.

There are picnic tables with bbq grills---so next time we're coming there we'll be prepared for a bbq.

- Alex; 20200112

     January 11th, 2020

As we were landing, we decided to visit Grand Canyon National Park. Apparently ABQ is only about 5 hours drive away from the place. So that's where we went. Took the shuttle bus to visit a few attractions.

Then headed to Walnut Canyon, an unforgettable trip.

- Alex; 20200111

     January 10th, 2020

Flying out to ABQ (Albuquerque). Gonna visit White Sands National Park.

- Alex; 20200110

     January 4th, 2020

Went on a trip to Atlantic City. Stayed in The Claridge. Worst hotel we've stayed at so far. In fact, most of Atlantic City is a pretty ugly place to visit. Very unlike Vegas.

- Alex; 20200104

     January 3rd, 2020

Finished The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes by Donald Hoffman.

Ok, I'm not sure about this book. Some concepts are neat, others are just dumb. Here's a very brief summary of the book: since quantum mechanics says state doesn't exist until it is measured (e.g. Bell's experiment), that means that nothing exists until it is observed. e.g. There's no moon. There's no universe. There is no objective anything. Sciences that rely on observations are missing the big picture. Every observation is very personal, and is in your mind---and the mind just consumes the signals that are fed by our sensors. Our sensors are kinda like the desktop in the computer---we see what we wanna see to get through evolution (e.g. our perception of distance is directly related to how much energy it costs to catch something or run away from something). We see things that are relevant for evolution, not what's really out there.

The last chapter tries to merge religion and science... religion is the study of stuff that is not part of the physical world. Science is all about stuff that can be observed, etc. Since nothing really exists---perhaps the two should merge, keeping the scientific method (religion becomes rational), but discarding reality (science is no longer about observations).

- Alex; 20200101

     January 1st, 2020

Happy New Year!

- Alex; 20200101

     December 31st, 2019

This sure was an eventful year.

- Alex; 20191231

     December 28th, 2019

Microsoft's Andrew Shuman on the Cortana app's death, natural language, and Alexa.

The problem with Google, Amazon, (and I guess Apple, though I've never tried Siri), and Cortana, is that they aren't very useful when it comes to general AI queries, they always-listen and send back everything they hear (perhaps not Cortana, but who knows), and their existing use-cases are not that useful. Their primary use (for me, at least) is to: check time, check weather, play music or search something on the web, schedule alarms and timers. Anything outside of these limited functions have met with various failure modes. This is not that far from Prof.Phreak, and I wrote that in 1996!

Recently google has started to screen phone calls (automatically!); so that's something new, and actually useful.

I guess my primary gripe is that these agents should be MY agents. They shouldn't require internet access (unless I ask them to search the web). They should not be optimizing engagement or conversion rate (to turn me into a paying customer), but MY learning rate. Think The Diamond Age's Illustrated Primer, or the Librarian from Snow Crash.

In other news, spending weekend near Albany :-)

- Alex; 20191228

     December 21st, 2019

Finally tried out DOOM, the 2016 version. This game is awesome. It runs just fine on Linux via Steam (with all settings set to max).

The graphics are amazing, and mechanics are awesome---especially the gore parts. Ripping up monsters to shreds, etc., definitely more fun than DOOM3. Music is also good, kinda similar to Quake1 music.

- Alex; 20191221

     December 20th, 2019

Hmm... Robinhood trading app fined for 'failures'. Ok, this news story has very vague wording. It seems there's no definite proof that the routed orders really did get worse price (``may not have'' is not proof), and certainly no proof that orders got price outside the NBBO (national best bid and offer---that would've been a big violation for everyone involved). Also, it appears Robinhood doesn't actually do execution themselves, so best-ex is only peripherally applicable to them. The key seems to be: ``FINRA said that Robinhood did not "reasonably consider" factors such as "price improvement" that it could obtain from alternative markets.''

In other words, you submit an order to buy XYZ at price $10.00 or better, and you get an execution at $10.00... but had Robinhood tried their best, they may have found a place where your order may have gotten an execution at $9.99 (often against hidden interest that nobody knows about, not even Robinhood). But it seems Robinhood just routed the order to whoever paid them the most money. In other words, Robinhood should have known better, and should have been on the side of their customers, not taking advantage of them.

This is serious, and something that Reg BI would fix (once it goes into effect in 2020).

- Alex; 20191220

     December 13th, 2019

Finished The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll. This book has been sitting next to my desk since middle of 2018---if I knew it was this good, I would've gotten to it much sooner. Very enjoyable. Very well thought out.

- Alex; 20191213

     December 7th, 2019

Played a bit with the Amazon Alexa... and on first impressions, it's much dumber than `Ok Google' assistant. e.g. ``sing something for my 2-year old'' doesn't work on Alexa, but works on `Ok google'. Both devices are stupid, e.g. asking ``what's your maximum volume level'' didn't return a descired response in either, and google actually set itself to the maximum volume level.

- Alex; 20191207

     December 1st, 2019

Couldn't resist the Black Friday deal on Google Pixel Slate. It's surprisingly big. I somehow thought it would be the size of a Surface Go, but it's actually about the size of my X260 ThinkPad (about 0.5 inch less wide), and about the same weight (with keyboard attached). This ``tablet'' has the same portability profile as a laptop.

The good news is that aparently Linux stuff runs right out of the box, without any unlocking or fiddling. Stuff just works. Can apt-get anything you want, and it's there. Very impressive machine. Also been reading up on how security is handled in ChromeOS, and apparently it's ``fairly secure'' (each user account is encrypted, etc.,), though I'm not sure I'm ready to trust Google on this yet. Is it ``secure'' in a sense that nobody can get in, or is it ``nobody except Google'' can get in... them encrypting files using your Google account credentials seems like it wouldn't be very secure from google itself.

- Alex; 20191201

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