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August 20th, 2019

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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!
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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...

     August 20th, 2019

Uh, Oh!

- Alex; 20190820
August 20th at wikipedia...

     August 19th, 2019

WTF: The CEOs of nearly 200 companies just said shareholder value is no longer their main objective. ``Investing in employees, delivering value to customers, dealing ethically with suppliers and supporting outside communities are now at the forefront of American business goals.''

Ok, not sure I agree with any of this, and I'm amazed some CEOs would be on board with this... actually, probably not ``surprised'' as CEOs are employees, and ``investing in employees'' means what exactly? Probably means rewarding officers of the company at the expense of shareholders :-/

- Alex; 20190819

     August 18th, 2019

Concept space: how do we define things in concept space? Statements that partition the concept space into parts that are true vs other parts. For example, saying "even number" partitions the concept of all numbers into those divisible by two. The statement "divisible by two" also needs clarification, as divisible needs to have meaning, as well as the number "two".

Everything written down expresses a concept. Like every sentence partitions the concept space where that statement is true vs other. A story is essentially the sections of the concept space that are true for all sentences in the story. (ignoring tricky statements, such as "this statement is false").

First thing is first: there are more concepts than there are statements to express them. The argument for this is identical to the one that is used to prove computability: there are more subsets out there than there are programs (or sentences) to express them.

But of the concepts that are expressed as sentences, what can we say about them? For one, the concept should not be contradictory: statements should create a concept sub-space---if statements are contradictory, the space will be empty.

- Alex; 20190818

     August 17th, 2019

Opinions on continuous entropy, Limiting density of discrete points.

I'll just go right out and say it: there's no such thing. A continuous distribution has infinite (or undefined) entropy---any estimation from finite samples will produce a quantized (discrete) entropy, which is not the same thing.

The key here is that the quantization boundaries (quantization buckets) matter---entropy will reflect this ``arbitrary'' choice, and not some underlying distribution property. For example, if you pick 1000 buckets, then after enough data has been collected, the entropy will be related to one-in-1000 choice, or about 10bits.

The adjustments (such as counting number of zeros, and adding log of that to entropy) also do not produce a correct result.

How then to measure entropy (or information content) of a continuous distribution? Perhaps there's no objective way to do that?

- Alex; 20190817

     August 15th, 2019

Long speculation ahead:

``The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time.''

So what exactly is entropy and time?

If we take a shuffled deck of cards, and shuffle it again, did we increase entropy? (perhaps, but because we can't tell the difference between before and after, perhaps not?)

What if we start with an ordered deck of cards? Shuffling obviously increases `disorder'.

How would we measure this process? We'd need to capture some notion of order before and after shuffling, and then compare them. If we cannot tell the difference (both orders look `random') then entropy hasn't increased---if we can (ordered deck becomes random-shuffled), then entropy increased?

If the original deck of cards isn't ``random'', but was actually generated by a pseudo-random shuffling, would shuffling it leave entropy the same? It seems like it would increase entropy if we can somehow attribute more `order' (even if it's pseudo-random) to the before state than afterwards.

But now it gets arbitrary: shuffling will increase entropy according to our knowledge of the initial state (we're biased towards what we consider ``order''). But by another measure the deck may become more ordered. Yes, the number of orderings is astronomical, but the key is that our memory of the before state is just an arbitrary arrangement, and any shuffling from there will take us farther away from that original observation.

Which is why it seems the farther in the past we look, the more `ordered' things were. Perhaps it's just our perspective playing tricks on us.

And what if we remove memory: we cannot remember (nor compare) the past state to the after-shuffling state. Does entropy increase? No. So memory is key to entropy.

How about time? If entropy doesn't increase without memory, then the concept of time shouldn't make sense without memory.

So the second law of thermodynamics should read: recording the order of things consumes memory, and when that order changes, more memory will be consumed to record those changes. There's no time except for such changes.

Where is all this being `recorded'? (where is that memory?). In the positions of things---if we can observe the universe now, and play it back to determine what it was like in the past, then we effectively have a `memory' of what it was like. Where does that leave the universe before the big bang?

If there's no time without memory, then what does that do to the speed-of-light limit?

- Alex; 20190815

     August 12th, 2019

On way to Lake Placid decided to check the weather, and it would rain all night long: no star gazing, and wet-tent camping---so decided to turn around and head home instead.

- Alex; 20190812

     August 11th, 2019

We're bored of sitting home again: went to camp by Seneca Lake (one of the finger lakes in upstate NYS).

Perseids meteor shower is going on, and we picked a remote place with clear skies to observe it. Set alarm for 3am (once the moon disappears). Got up, wondered out of the tent into the dark forest, got to a clearing, and lied down on the ground. The milky way was amazingly clear. Saw about 5 meteors (3 very clear ones).

- Alex; 20190811

     August 5th, 2019

Finished Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. Pretty good book---would've been better with more techy (as in, computery) examples, but the biotech examples were ok too.

Still very jetlagged from India trip. Kiddo still seems to wake up at 4-5am, and once he's up, everyone's up.

- Alex; 20190805

     July 29th, 2019

...and back in NYC :-)

Swapping tires on car at BJs (had appointment since 3 weeks ago).

- Alex; 20190729

     July 28th, 2019

...on the way to Delhi airport.

Dinner at Amrik Sukhdev.

- Alex; 20190728

     July 26th, 2019

Another day trip to Chandigarh; dinner at Barbeque Nation.

- Alex; 20190726

     July 25th, 2019

Day trip to Chandigarh.

- Alex; 20190725

     July 24th, 2019

...and back to Ambala.

- Alex; 20190724

     July 23rd, 2019

We're all doing a trip to Kasauli (it's a short drive from Ambala).

So... compared to Shimla... Kasauli is... well... sucks. Definitely not a place to visit twice.

Booked hotel via hotwire.com, and got a cheaper deal than the locally quoted price (though hotwire.com said we'll get Sheraton or Hilton, and we ended up getting ``Kasauli Exotica''; which is probably the best hotel in that area).

Kasauli has a lot of monkeys! Tried to visit Manki Point, but apparently foreigners aren't allowed---it's near or on a military base, and they check passports :-/

- Alex; 20190723

     July 21st, 2019

Feeding folks in a temple.

Big people (adults) get big portions, kids get smaller portions. I must've served a hundred folks that day.

Awesome food. Hot weather.

- Alex; 20190721

     July 20th, 2019

Mostly recovered.

- Alex; 20190720

     July 17th, 2019

Whatever food poisoning kiddo has we all got :-/

- Alex; 20190717

     July 16th, 2019

Catching the morning Amritsar Shatabdi from Delhi to Ambala.

- Alex; 20190716

     July 15th, 2019

Wow, it sure rains heavily here.

Missed Shatabdi train to Ambala, ended up spending night near train station.

Kiddo not feeling well---probably food poisoning.

- Alex; 20190715

     July 14th, 2019

Spending a day in Gurgoan, at the Golden Tulip.

Kiddo loves the pool :-)

- Alex; 20190714

     July 13th, 2019

Flying out to India.

- Alex; 20190713

     July 9th, 2019

Installed QuakeII, and ended up playing for a few hours. That game is damn good. The rail-gun mechanics are awesome.

- Alex; 20190709

     July 7th, 2019

The tire is completely flat :-/ It's amazing it lasted all the way till home.

Pumped it up, found the hole with soap-water. It's actually 2 tiny holes right next to the plug I put in last week. My guess is the rubber plug was old (not sticky enough), so once the rubber cement dried off, it started leaking. Anyways, ordered a new set of tires---will install after the trip to India. (It was time to replace old tires anyways, they have over 80k miles on them).

Finished Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee. To summarize this book: FUD. FUD. FUD. Also, stop using Facebook. That's pretty much it. Not saying the book doesn't have good points, or that any of them are wrong, or incorrect. But you shouldn't expect some things of corporations. I don't have a FB account (nor own any shares), but even I know they monetize every bit of data they have on everyone. That's just business. If they don't put interests of shareholders first, they won't be in business for long. Yes, as individuals, we can choose not to buy their shares, or use their services (giving them data AND eye-ball-hours).

- Alex; 20190707

     July 5th, 2019

Spent the day driving home. The tire appears to be holding just fine.

- Alex; 20190705

     July 4th, 2019

There is an interesting must-see place near by: Hopewell Rocks. We got there just in time, walked in the sand/mud, saw the rocks at low-tide, saw the tides (which apparently rise at 1-foot per minute!). Saw the park folks close off the beach due to the tide, etc. All in all, this is the best part of this visit to Canada.

Next "small" stop is Reversing Falls. This is nice, but not worth the stop (except maybe as few minutes of rest from driving).

Entered US a bit late, and there's 50-miles of nothing. Next "big" town is Bangor. Found a campsite on the way (Parks Pond Campground) and spent the night. They had July 4th fireworks over the pond at 9pm :-)

- Alex; 20190704

     July 3rd, 2019

Realizing that Nova Scotia is essentially a tourist trap. Things to see include lighthouses, cities, restaurants, museums, etc. (this is from the information desk at the visitor center).

So we picked a lighthouse and went there: Peggy's Point Lighthouse. It's nice. The rocks around it are nice. The whole place is packed with tourists.

Low-tire-pressure-indicator-light. Urgh. The same tire I plugged last week. 20psi. Good thing we had the tire pump with us. Got it back to 32psi, and moved on.

The next stop is Halifax, to a deceptively named: Point Pleasant Park. It's pleasant. It's nice. I jogged the circumference of the whole park (my guess a mile or two). Nice jogging park.

That's that for Nova Scotia. If you know of any other must-see things there, let me know.

Ended up in a hotel back in Moncton, mostly because hotel prices are generally outrageous.

- Alex; 20190703

     July 2nd, 2019

Driving to Canada, and then through Canada. It's one big place!

Staying in a hotel in Moncton, just outside of Nova Scotia.

- Alex; 20190702

     July 1st, 2019

After a week of being back, we got bored. So off we go on another road trip: Nova Scotia,

First stop: Acadia National Park, where we got an awesome campsite, overlooking the ocean.

- Alex; 20190701

     June 30th, 2019

Trying out Overload. Seems to be a pretty faithful recreation of Descent. Seems awesome. Level design sucks though---but mechanics are awesome.

- Alex; 20190630

     June 29th, 2019

Today is officially my last day at Goldman. It sure was an interesting year. I was head of Americas compliance data---so got exposed to everything. Learned a lot about front-office and back-office data and operations, the US market making desk, treasury operations, etc.

- Alex; 20190629

     June 27th, 2019

Fixed the flat tire via `the plug'. I've seen it done about 10 years ago, and had the kit in the car forever. So took off the tire, located the puncture (it was a big screw), used that tool to make the hole bigger, put rubber cement over the plug, then shoved the plug into the tire... used a bike pump to inflate the tire. So far so good. Drove 30 miles on that tire already, and it seems to be holding.

- Alex; 20190627

     June 24th, 2019

Got a flat tire. In NYC! After a month of driving across the country and back, had to come back and get a flat right near home!

- Alex; 20190624

     June 23rd, 2019

After a month on "the road", we're finally home.

9281 miles. $1263 on gas (33 fill-ups). $892 on hotels (16 nights; primarily via hotwire.com). Probably ~$200 on tent-camping (cash payments). $482 at Walmart. $126 at McDonalds. $23 at Subway. Probably ~$150 at other food places.

- Alex; 20190623

     June 22nd, 2019

The FairBridge hotel in Wickliffe, Ohio wins the award for being the worst-hotel-of-this-trip. Yes, even worse than Motel6. Motel6 is cheap, styles itself as a cheap hotel, so any expectations are null. FairBridge modeled itself as a 3-star hotel---but it's actually worse than Motel6 in just about everything.

It's within driving distance of Niagara Falls, which is where we went.

Niagara is awesome when the weather is awesome. The place was packed. Very hard to find parking. the main parking lot was closed, so we got a spot in the overflow lot on the other end of the island. About half a mile walk from the main waterfall.

Did a loop walk around. Clicked pix by Tesla statue. Did BBQ right there. Day well spent.

At the end, decided that we should probably drive home instead of staying someplace on the way.

- Alex; 20190622

     June 21st, 2019

Heading to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It's the last national park that's on the list.

It turns out it's not a very interesting park. There are a few places to see waterfalls (we visited a few). That's about it.

Kiddo loves running around. He ran down/up all those stairs in all the walkways around the whole park.

Ended up in a hotel in Wickliffe, Ohio. Very strange hotel (FairBridge). Their pool closes at 7pm, and opens at 12pm. Pretty much guaranteeing that anyone who checks-in in the evening won't be able to use the pool :-/

- Alex; 20190621

     June 20th, 2019

Due to rain, decided to skip Cloud Gate in Chicago.

Heading directly to Indiana Dunes National Park. It's the newest national park this year. We ended up in the "state park" by accident. After finding the visitor center, did the scenic drive along the coast.

This is my first time at the lakes. It's amazing. The beach looks identical to an ocean, but if you taste the water, it's fresh. Non-salty. There's no sea-water smell either. It's pretty neat.

On the drive to the hotel, windshield wiper fell apart, so we made an ``emergency'' stop at walmart to replace those. These were the original ones that came with the car---the 10-year-old wipers. New wipers are awesome, they actually lean the windshield, almost forgot how clean windshield looks like!

At the end of the day, ended up in a hotel in Elkhart, Indiana.

- Alex; 20190620

     June 19th, 2019

Austin, MN is apparently home of SPAM. They even have the Spam Museum. So had to drive by that on the way to Chicago.

Another long day of driving through fields and fields of stuff.

Ended up in a hotel in Itasca, Illinois.

- Alex; 20190619

     June 18th, 2019

...And so begin the most boring few days of the entire trip. Driving from South Dakota to Chicago (cloud gate).

It's one long drive. It just keeps going and going and going. There's nothing there. Scenery is just the same---forever. I90 sucks.

In a work-zone (1-lane reduced-speed no-overtaking zone), a truck overtook me using the shoulder(!!!). While he was doing that crazy thing, a rock flew up and cracked our windshield :-/

Right out of the work-zone (about 11 minutes after he overtook me), we saw that truck pulled over by the state troopers. I really hope it was for that overtaking (and not for speeding, which he was).

After a long day of driving, ended up in a hotel in Austin, MN.

- Alex; 20190618

     June 17th, 2019

Headed out to Devil's Tower in South Dakota.

After hours of driving, got to Devil's Tower in South Dakota, and realized that the correct Devil's Tower is in Wyoming. Yeah :-/ So much for "being on the way" and searching google maps by name.

Heading to Mount Rushmore, which is surprisingly close to the South Dakota's Devil's Tower.

It's raining, so clicked some pix, and ran back to the car.

Next stop: Badlands National Park. It finally stopped raining. Weather is awesome. We used the south entrance into the park, and drove the large chunk of the dirt rim road. Saw lots of bison, etc.,

Were planning to camp by Badlands Campsite, but that site was full, so ended up camping about 5 minutes out of the park on the edge of I90.

- Alex; 20190617

     June 16th, 2019

Decided to take a vacation from our vacation: staying in this Ramada hotel for a day and ``doing nothing'' the entire day.

Nothing includes: going to the pool, visiting the few kid friendly parks in the city, napping during the day, watching TV, and generally just "doing nothing".

Day well spent in Gillette!

- Alex; 20190616

     June 15th, 2019

In the ``morning'' (early afternoon), visited Artist Point and Mud Volcano, and that's that for the Yellowstone attractions. We left the park via the East entrance. It's a very scenic drive.

Was very pleasantly surprised by Bighorn National Forest. The shortest-path (gps picked) road was apparently thorugh these scenic mountains. It was an awesome drive.

We headed for the next population center, which was Gillette, Wyoming, where we got a hotel/resort.

Arrived pretty late, so just passed out.

- Alex; 20190615

     June 14th, 2019

Set GPS to Indian Creek Campground. It's in the northern part of the park.

While on the way, Suneli had the bright idea of dialing up the reservation number again, and... suddenly they had a spot, in Bridge Bay Campround. Booked it over the phone.

With no need to rush to grab a campsite, decided to take it easy. First spot: Mammoth Hot Springs. The road crews closed the road, and had it closed for about 30 minutes, while the queue of cars were waiting to pass the 2-mile section. On way back, decided to not go through that again, and used the east road down the park. But that's a much longer path, and the day was getting late, so we decided to check into the campsite, then perhaps see other things on the way.

At Bridge Bay... the checkin process is... well... you park the car right on the road, go into the office, where there's a queue... you wait in that queue for 30 minutes (no kidding, that's how long it took), then you get a sticker for the car. That's it. And it literally took 30 minutes to get that sticker.

After getting the campsite, we decided to do the lower south west of the park (old faithful and prismatic geiser). So drove there. It was awesome. Kiddo was running around everywhere.

By the time we got to old faithful, it was 10-minutes until it was about to go off... so very good timing there.

Gathered a lot of wood on the way to the campsite. They sell a box of wood for $8, which is silly because in Yellowstone you're allowed to burn dead wood, and it's everywhere (just not in the campsite). We had nearly all of empty space in the car filled with dry twigs by the time we got to the site. Ended up using most of it during cooking :-)

- Alex; 20190614

     June 13th, 2019

Visiting Shoshone Falls. Water flow level: low :-/

Then onto Craters Of the Moon. The whole park has the most amazing smell of flowers. It's just surreal.

Then drove through nickel-sized hail storm.

Staying in a camp site right in the center of Idaho Falls.

Tried booking camp site for Yellowstone, but no luck. Everything is full. Current plan is to drive into the park in the afternoon, and immediately go for one of the four first-come-first-served camp-sites. Indian Creek or Mammoth Springs.

- Alex; 20190613

     June 12th, 2019

Tentative plan for the next few days is to visit Shoshone Falls, followed by Craters Of the Moon. Unfortunately that's quite a while away. So spent most of the day driving (and stopping, and driving, and stopping, and driving, etc.)

Eventually ended up in a hotel in Nampa, Idaho. Hopefully will get to the Shoshone Falls tomorrow afternoon.

- Alex; 20190612

     June 11th, 2019

Starting day with a drive to Mount Rainier National Park.

Apparently we're about a month (or few) too early, and there are no trails that go up the mountain from the visitor center---everything is full of snow. So we clicked some pictures, and onto the next hotel in Yakima, WA.

- Alex; 20190611

     June 10th, 2019

Drove to Hoh rain forest, had a picknick, a short walk.

Then to Rialto Beach, which was very windy and cold.

Then to La Push Beach, which was similary windy and cold.

Then out of Olympic, and to a hotel in Lacey, WA.

- Alex; 20190610

     June 9th, 2019

Drove from Eugene, OR to Olympic National Park. Long drive :-/

Staying in a South Beach Campround in Olympic NP. It's amazing. Very chilly and windy, but you're allowed to burn drift wood for fire, and there's a ton of it---and it burns amazingly well (it's very dry). It's awesome.

There's a dead seal on the beach.

- Alex; 20190609

     June 8th, 2019

Drove from Weed to Crater Lake. Very short drive. Then spent another 30-minutes waiting in queue to get into the Crater Lake park.

The road is closed at "discovery point", so drove there, clicked pix, then to the village, then clicked pix, then out of the park.

Awesome views. In the park, the snow is about 15-feet high in some places.

Staying in a hotel in Eugene, OR.

- Alex; 20190608

     June 7th, 2019

Skipping places we've already been at. Next stop is Crater Lake.

Drove all the way to Weed, California. Staying in a Motel6 here. Terrible terrible motel :-/

- Alex; 20190607

     June 6th, 2019

Drove to Yosemite Glacier Point, and then into the Yosemite canyon... walked to the lower Yosemite waterfall.

Had a picknick/lunch in Yosemite.

Got a hotel in Merced, California.

- Alex; 20190606

     June 5th, 2019

Drove to Kings Canyon national park, and got a tent camp site. Then drove to Sequoia national park to see General Sherman Tree.

Did the scenic walk from parking lot with kiddo, and a shuttle-bus back.

Kings Canyon camping sure has a lot of bugs :-/

- Alex; 20190605

     June 4th, 2019

From Las Vegas, drove to Titus Canyon at Death Valley. Apparently it's a one-way road from outside Death Valley---so good thing we didn't drive to Death Valley to enter it.

That drive was amazing. One of those single-lane road on-the-side-of-a-cliff kind of drives. Very exciting. Glad I was in our 4Runner :-)

Stopped for a picknick in a place called Lone Pine.

Got a hotel in a place named Bakersfield, California.

- Alex; 20190604

     June 3rd, 2019

Drove to Grand Canyon, North Rim. Did a short hike down Kaibab trail (to first viewing area, about 15 minutes down), and a walk to Bright Angel point.

Kiddo was behaving ok until the Bright Angel, and then the entire grand canyon heard his crying... (maybe scared of heights?). We quickly got to the car and drove to Las Vegas.

Staying in Stratosphere hotel, that was ridiculously cheap when booked through hotwire.

- Alex; 20190603

     June 2nd, 2019

Drove to Capitol Reef national park. Did a tiny hike (the sunset point walk).

On drive to Grand Canyon (north rim), were planning to camp at Jacob lake, but the weather there was predicted to be low-40s overnight, so stopped over in a hotel in Kanab. Did laundry in coin-operated laundry (now have a hand-full of quarters :-)

- Alex; 20190602

     June 1st, 2019

Drove to the Black Canyon visitor's center. There was an astronomer there with a solar-telescope, looking at the solar CMEs. It was pretty amazing to see the sun having those arches, etc.

Drove to Capitol Reef National Park, and the campsite was full. Ended up at a campsite about 10 miles west of the park---with running water, showers, and wifi :-)

- Alex; 20190601

     May 31st, 2019

Starting day with Great Sand Dunes National Park. Got a "warning" when a park ranger pulled me over in the visitor center parking lot for driving the "wrong way" (the parking lot had arrows showing which way the traffic should go---and I kinda went the "wrong way" when I noticed a parkig spot and drove to it direct). Had me worried there for a bit.

After sand dunes, we drove to Black Canyon National Park, and got one of those walk-in-campsites (without a reservation). It was awesome. Except at night it was very very cold (apparently that campsite is about 8500 feet or so elevation). Kiddo kept waking up at night (he doesn't like sleeping with a blanket, and it was a bit too chilly to sleep outside the sleeping bag).

By complete luck, we got there on a friday night, and they had astronomy might---a few astronomers brought their gear to the summit to observe the stars. Saw the M4 galaxy, as well as multiple images of Jupier.

- Alex; 20190531

     May 30th, 2019

And suddenly we're in Colorado (drove most of the night to get here).

Suneli drove up Pike's Peak, and later in the day we ended up in Garden of the Gods.

Got a Motel6 in Pueblo, CO, and it was by far the worst-hotel-ever. The room was an OK basic type of room, but it had no microwave and no fridge (and they didn't have a central one for guests to use---like to reheat things). This may not seem like a big deal, but when traveling with an 18-month-old-kid, a microwave is often needed. The hotel had a pool, but it was freezing (outdoor). Anyways, probably will avoid Motel6s from now on.

- Alex; 20190530

     May 29th, 2019

Visiting the Gateway Arch in St.Louis. They changed the entrance a bit from what it was a few years back.

- Alex; 20190529

     May 28th, 2019

The camp at Abrams Creek was pretty good. They got running water, and the tent site is right next to a small creek. It's pretty awesome. Can hear animals at night... even the growling of bears.

Spent the day getting out of Smoky Mountains NP and closer to Colorado. Drove though Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois. Ended up in Metropolis (yes, the superman city) a hundred miles south east of St.Louis Staying in hotel.

- Alex; 20190528

     May 27th, 2019

Getting from Wytheville (Virginia) to Smoky Mountain NP.

After getting to Smoky, it turned out that all the nearby camp sites were sold-out, and the only one that had a spot was Abrams Creek, which is all the way on the west side of the park (about two hours drive from the Gatlinburg entrance). Called recreation.gov, and booked one of the tent sites there.

The site is awesome. Very remote. Has running water. Drinking water.

We booked spot A06, but the tent square was a bit slanted, and A05 was empty (folks left early), so we moved there.

- Alex; 20190527

     May 26th, 2019

Leaving on a road trip tour of US national parks. Rough outline of plan is to go to the west coast via southern states, then up the west coast, then go back to NY via northern states. Skipping north east (Maine) and Florida. Also skipping some very-out-of-the-way parks.

First stop is Smoky Mountain National Park.

Set out from NY at 4am, and drove-drove-drove far-far-far, and ended the day in Wytheville (Virginia). Not quite Smoky mountain NP, but close enough. Staying in hotel in Wytheville.

- Alex; 20190526

     May 24th, 2019

Done with grading and classes for Sprint 2019 semester. Yey!

- Alex; 20190524

     May 16th, 2019

Finished reading A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market by Edward O. Thorp. This is one awesome autobiography. Highly recommend.

- Alex; 20190516

     May 10th, 2019

Finished Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson. Entertaining. Not especially enlightening---just entertaining. This book tries really hard to be politically correct.

- Alex; 20190510

     May 4th, 2019

Virtually attending Berkshire Hathaway meeting... on Yahoo Finance (which stupidly enough doesn't allow Linux web-browsers to view the livestream; had to dig out my Surface Go to view the thing).

- Alex; 20190504

     April 30th, 2019

Uh, oh!

So today, very suddenly, was my last day at Goldman: reorganization has impacted my position :-/ Exactly a year since my first day!

Officially I'm still an `active employee' until June 29th, just don't have to show up (and obviously can't work elsewhere). After that, severance kicks in, with benefits until September. All in all, an awesome circumstance.

Taking this summer off for travel!

- Alex; 20190430

     April 29th, 2019

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20190429

     April 28th, 2019

Flying out at 2pm. Kona to LA. It seems we were the last ones to arrive to the flight.

Then LA to NYC flight.

- Alex; 20190428

     April 27th, 2019

Drove to south point.

Fed horses on the way.

- Alex; 20190427

     April 26th, 2019

Drove to Akaka falls, and didn't see anything due to fog. Broke some sugar-cane on the side of the road though. Kiddo seems to instinctively know how to chew it...

Drove to Rainbow Falls (near Hilo).

Stopped by Mauna Kea visitor's center on the way back to Kona. It was overcast, and drizzling rain. Good thing I went on the big hike earlier in the week---it seems it's snowing on the summit.

- Alex; 20190426

     April 25th, 2019

Visiting the Volcanoes National Park Kahuku Unit. It's right next to the south point road.

On the way there, got a tire puncture (yeah, the Jeep, big fat tires, eh). Spent the rest of the day driving back to Kona, and re-pumping the tire at every other gas-station.

Got a replacement rental: Chevy Equinox (not 4wd).

- Alex; 20190425

     April 24th, 2019

Drove down the Waipio Valley, and built sand castles with kiddo on the black-sand beach.

On the way back, we were searching for Umauma falls, which we thought might be down Mana Road. That's the road that circles the Mauna Kea on the East, and it goes through some amazing landscapes with zero people. The drive is above the clouds though lively green grass on a dirt-road. It was just amazing.

Unfortunately, the road came to a gate---and we didn't know if it was private property or not, so decided to turn back. The road does terminate at the Saddle Road (according to google maps), but somewere could pass though a ranch or few. Anyways, amazing drive.

- Alex; 20190424

     April 23rd, 2019

My big hike day.

Headed out at midnight from Kona, and drove to Mauna Loa observatory (at 10k feet). Got there by 2am. Slept in car until 6am (to get aclimated).

At 6am, headed to summit. 3.5-hours later, got to the summit. Very sunny and awesome day. Another 3.5 hours later was back in the car. Picked up a big (perhaps 20lb?) white-lava rock from the summit.

Decided to drive up the Muana Kea summit. After a short drive, and a quick run to the summit, desposited the big white-lava rock at the summit (I occasionally translplant rocks from mountains just to confuse future geologists: there's a piece of Mnt.Mansfield on Mnt.Washington :-)

- Alex; 20190423

     April 21st, 2019

Doing the chain of craters road at Volcano National Park.

At the end of the chain of craters... there's a... new road. So the road continues. My guess to Kalapana. It's closed to traffic, but open to hikers.

- Alex; 20190421

     April 20th, 2019

Visiting beaches near Kona.

There's one that requires a 4WD right next to the airport.

- Alex; 20190420

     April 19th, 2019

Went to see turtles by the... turtle beach (next to Kona airport).

Drove to Volcano National Park, and saw the ``road closed'' sign to Jagger museum.

Stopped by Mauna Kea on the way back to see stars. Apparently the nightly star-gazing thing at Mauna Kea visitor's center is no more (at least until they finish construction).

- Alex; 20190419

     April 18th, 2019

Flying out to Hawaii. Just the big island this time.

Checked into a hotel in Kona. Will spend the rest of the trip here (note to self, get a room with a better view next time; partial ocean front isn't as good as "ocean front").

- Alex; 20190418

     April 15th, 2019

Urgh. Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

- Alex; 20190415

     April 12th, 2019

Finished reading Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. I've heard about OKRs from other books (mostly about google ones). So if you're into that sort of thing (management driven goal setting devices), then by all means read this book---it's filled with all sorts of anecdotal evidense that many will find convincing.

- Alex; 20190412

     April 5th, 2019

Finished reading Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street by William Poundstone.

An awesome book on history of the Kelly criterion, as it's applied to gambling, stock market, etc., highly recommmend.

- Alex; 20190405

     March 27th, 2019

Regarding the broken Intel NUC7I7BNH: ordered a replacement fan on amazon, got it today, and replaced it. The NUC appears to be functioning perfectly again.

- Alex; 20190327

     March 24th, 2019

The CPU fan in my Intel NUC7I7BNH died (24/7 since May 2017; barely 2 years of operation :-/

Strangely enough, the much older NUC D54250WYK is still functioning flawlessly (24/7 since April 2014).

- Alex; 20190324

     March 22nd, 2019

Ok... so the yield curve has inverted. Why should we care? Bond prices are a good proxy for future sentiment---high prices (low yields) indicates folks don't think there's economic growth ahead. So inverted yield curve means short term bonds are priced more than long term bonds... that pretty much says: everyone's expecting volatility short term, and lower growth long term.

- Alex; 20190322

     March 15th, 2019

Finished Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes. It's an awesome history book---focused quite a bit on energy derived from wood, coal, and oil, with a very tiny bit focused on nuclear, solar, wind, etc.

For a history on nuclear stuffs, a much better book is: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. I must say I've enjoyed the atomic bomb book much more than the energy book.

- Alex; 20190315

     March 14th, 2019

Happy Pi-Day!

- Alex; 20190314

     March 11th, 2019

Yey, Anniversary! 3-years!

- Alex; 20190311

     March 9th, 2019

Finished The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli. Pretty good book with some new ideas. We think entropy (disorder) increases with time, but perhaps it's due to our perspective. For example, if we take an ordered deck of cards, and shuffle it, it's unlikely that we'll get the original ordered deck (yey, shuffling increases disorder!). But what if we shuffle the deck, then treat that shuffled deck as being particular in some way---shuffling will similarly not return it to that particular initial order. The difference is that shuffling rearranges things, but in the second instance we don't assume that there's any particular order to things in the beginning. (yes, it's true that shuffling moves us further way from the initial configuration---but it doesn't mean that the original configuration was more or less disordered than later).

There are other neat thought experiments, such as what would the world look like without time? Would things stop happening? Perhaps there would be notion of local time (if there's no global time?). Relativity pretty much says there's no such thing as global time---all time is relative, etc.

Other neat things: Entropy could be related to correlated coincidences. For example, tea cup falls on the floor and breaks. Time moves forward. We don't see pieces come together and form a tea-cup. Why? There's nothing in physical laws that is preventing all those pieces (and sound, and heat, etc.) to come together and form a tea-cup, and yet it just doesn't happen. If we reversed everything (literally everything) then the cup would un-break, but that would be a very improbable coincidense. So whenever we notice correlations (stuff that appears to be related in some way) we assume that there's a single [perhaps not first order] cause that's behind the correlation.

- Alex; 20190309

     February 28th, 2019

Finally got around to microwaving a grape... and it pretty much looked just like this.

- Alex; 20190228

     February 27th, 2019

Finished reading Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Very similar to Antifragile. Both pretty good books. I've yet to find things that I'd strongly disagree with in most of his writing (he's a bit full of himself though, but all in all, whatever he writes about is interesting to read and makes sense), though I liked the style of Fooled by Randomness more than this `new' bloggy-rant-kinda writing style.

- Alex; 20190227

     February 19th, 2019

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20190219/small>

     February 18th, 2019

Orlando day. Started out of the hotel a bit late (enjoyed the pool, etc.), and then decided to go sight seeing. One of the places we tried to visit was Disneyland. Not knowing anything (and this being our first trip here), we just drove there---thinking there's some places to visit. Apparently not. You can't get in without a ticket, and that's $130 per person. There's no place to "walk around for two hours". Urgh.

So we went to Wekiwa Springs State Park. It was awesome. We didn't know what kind of park it was, so weren't prepared. This park is best visited in swimming wear, and go on a kayaking trip. But eh, it was fun to walk around for an hour or so before the flight.

- Alex; 20190218

     February 17th, 2019

So apparently the best beaches in Florida are near Tampa. The ``sand'' there is powdery white (very weird compared to conventional sand elsewhere). We went to the beach that's right next to Clearwater, thinking it would be less-crowded than Clearwater. It was very very very crowded. Took us a long while to find parking, by sheer luck (a car was pulling out right where we were).

Kiddo played in the water, in the sand, etc. It was awesome. All of us got sun-burns.

- Alex; 20190217

     February 16th, 2019

Visiting Everglades National Park. Saw aligators and crocodiles. Aligator: fresh-water, crocodile: salt-water. In Florida that is.

On the way out of Everlades, stopped by Everglades Gator Grill and had aligator burger, and frog legs with rice. Always wanted to try those. Frog legs taste awesome (much better than I was expecting). They're a bit of a pain to eat due to tiny bones. Aligator meat... eh, not as good as chicken.

Next stop: Tampa.

- Alex; 20190216

     February 15th, 2019

Landed in Oralndo, rented a Jeep Renegade, and long drive to the tip of Florida.

First thing, the Advantage car rental sucks. I reserved a mid-size SUV for the trip. Prepaid. When I get to the counter, all they have are minivans. ``sorry''. Nothing but minivans. Nothing else. That's that. So... if I reserved a cheap-box-on-wheels sedan (half the cost), I'd still get a minivan... so assume my reservation is for a cheap sedan and give me the price difference? (if I'm gonna end up with a car I didn't want, be nice about it). No, they don't operate that way. Then I get to the garage to pickup the minivan, and... they got other cars there. They got a Toyota Sequoia! But that's a $40/day upgrade, and they won't honor my "I want an SUV that I prepaid for!" claim. Then I notice other SUVs, Toyota Rav4, etc. But ah, those "aven't available". Why not---I did reserve exactly this kind of car and I even prepaid!!! "there's some mechanical problem with all of them, so we can't rent them out". Yeah, right! In the end, they gave me a Jeep Renegade (which was also initially on the "mechanical problem" list, but then turned out to be perfectly fine). This is the crappiest rental car behavior I've ever seen: if you have the damn car, just give it... especially since the customer pre-paid for it!

Anyway, drove all the way to Fort Zachary Taylor. Kiddo went for a walk in the ocean. Awesome drive. Got a hotel in Homestead.

- Alex; 20190215

     February 14th, 2019

Flying out to Orlando, FL. Planning to do a road-trip all over florida.

- Alex; 20190214

     February 12th, 2019

Finished reading Death's End: Remembrance of Earth's Past by Cixin Liu and Ken Liu (Translator). This concludes the 3-body problem trilogy... there really is no way to continue the story beyond this point (the universe ends, the end).

All in all, an awesome trilogy. Starts out very slow, but then speeds up quite a bit. Very imaginative, and has some concepts I haven't encountered in other places. Imagine startrek universe with nothing borrowed from startrek.

- Alex; 20190212

     February 4th, 2019

Caught something on the weekend---passed out the whole day Monday.

- Alex; 20190204

     February 3rd, 2019

Visited some of the Catskills trailheads---such as Peekamoose mountain. Can't realy hike with a 1-year-old... just click some neat snowy pix.

- Alex; 20190203

     February 2nd, 2019

Spontaneously decided to spend the weekend upstate---in the Catskills. Booked a hotel (with a pool), and within a few minutes, we were on the way there.

- Alex; 20190202

     January 31st, 2019

Wow: Stock Exchanges to Fire Company Building Stock-Market Supercomputer: Finra to take over the Consolidated Audit Trail from Thesys Technologies. Wow! All those years of trying to get this thing, and now... wow, just like that.

- Alex; 20190131

     January 28th, 2019

...and back in NY.

Also, classes start tonight, and I'm a jetlagged zombie running on caffeine :-)

- Alex; 20190128

     January 27th, 2019

Drive drive drive to Delhi...

- Alex; 20190127

     January 26th, 2019

Kiddo's belated b-day party.

- Alex; 20190126

     January 25th, 2019

Kiddo's ceremonies.

- Alex; 20190125

     January 19th, 2019

Arrived in Delhi, and drive drive drive to Ambala.

- Alex; 20190119

     January 18th, 2019

...and off to India I go. At the Air India checkin counter, they assigned a middle-of-the-row seat to me, when I'm pretty sure I pre-paid for the extra-leg-room seat. Naturally I didn't have a reciept, and had to dig up my credit card bill (online) just to prove that there was a charge on the credit card from air-india for the seat. Sp what happened is that they gave up my seat to someone else... and apparently gave an extra leg-room seat to someone else for free, and had to move that other passenger and give me their seat.

That seat hassle wasted about an hour of time, so by the time I got through security the flight was already boarding :-/

- Alex; 20190118

     January 14th, 2019

... and back in NY :-)

- Alex; 20190114

     January 13th, 2019

Yosemite wasn't as closed as I thought. Highway 120 (which I took from death valley to Yosemite) was actually closed---but then a bit farther north highway 140 was open and very accessible (no issues with snow). The rangers at the booth didn't collect fees, and were very helpful in letting visitors know what's open and where.

Bathrooms in the park are closed (as well as visitor centers). There's poop (almost certainly human) on the trails---so there's that. What did they expect when they closed bathrooms?

Anyway, didn't spend much time in the park. Did a short walk to the lower yosemite waterfall, clicked some pictures from the valley, and headed out.

Visited a few friends in SF area, and headed to airport.

- Alex; 20190113

     January 12th, 2019

Got to SF, and with a bit of hindsight, upgraded the rental car to a Jeep to avoid repeating last week's incident. Headed to the Telescope Peak trailhead.

...and guess what, about 12 miles or so from the trailhead, the road is closed. As in the gate is closing the road. Stupid government shut-down!

Seeing that I can't do telescope peak (if I walk up the road, that will mostly double the length of the hike, and triple elevation gain, and I only have one day for this day-hike, so no feasible), decided to do a tour of death valley---starting with a visit to the Racetrack (got a jeep, might as well use it).

Many roads in the park are closed. Drive ins to places like sand dunes are closed---because the public toilets (which are essentially a hole in the ground) are ``overflowing''. Most places in the park are accessible though (can park on the side of the road and walk).

The Racetrack road is open. Set the jeep into 4wd-low mode, and headed down the road at barely-safe pace. That road from the pavement to racetrack takes about 40 minutes---keeping that barely-safe speed.

Here's a tip to driving off-road: set car into 4wd-low mode (by going through neutral; this is the same process that's on the toyota 4runner). Then, maintain 30-50mph speed limit. Anything below that means lots of bumps (the slower you go the more bumpby the ride). Anything above that is way too fast... It's important to realize that 4wd helps in acceleration, not stopping. So if you're approaching a curve at 40mph that you feel isn't "safe" at that speed, the natural reaction is to tap on the breaks (which will probably skid you into the curve). The correct thing to do is to tap the accelerator and steer into the curve, that way you're using your 4wd acceleration (and traction) to go in the direction you want to go, instead of skidding to a stop into side side of the curve... It takes a bit of practice, but you can float into curves at great speed just by using accelerator and the natural drag/friction of the road for stopping (e.g. do not use car breaks---think of breaks as going back to 2wd mode).

Anyways, at the Racetrack, couldn't find rocks with trails. Or at least couldbn't find many. Maybe it was just the lighting conditions, or that it rained recently, but most rocks there didn't have a trail. Very different from previous visits.

Fron there, decided to do the west-side-road. That's the road that goes behind the badwater basin---I never had enough time to do it, and this weekend is going for a toss anyway, might as well just drive it. It's not very exciting. It's just a dirt road similar to the racetrack road, but without the neat sightseeing at the end. Oh, and goes on for 3-hours! Yes, that west-side road is damn long!

Seeing that the weekend was mostly wasted on death valley road trip, decided to drive to Yosemite to see if there's anything there. Fully expecting the roads to be closed :-)

- Alex; 20190112

     January 11th, 2019

Flying out to SF, planning to hike Telescope Peak in death valley. Bringing snow shoes, snow hiking gear, etc.

- Alex; 20190111

     January 7th, 2019

...and back in NYC! :-)

- Alex; 20190107

     January 6th, 2019

The following morning a bit more snow fell. Woke up in the ``snowed in'' car. Had a few snacks for breakfast, and waited for the ranger to show up, which he did very promptly. He took me for a ride around the park, checking all the trailheads, all the camp sites, etc., everything for any other visitors. Apparently there was one crazy person to camp out (probably down by the colorado river) on that night. No other visitors in the park.

It's amazing, but the park rangers actually keep track of who is the park during these times. e.g. while riding along in the car, they keep track of what kind of car entered the park, whether there were tracks leading into the park, etc., very perceptive. In retrospect, I think they would've spotted my stuck car in the morning while they were doing their rounds of the park (they pretty much toured all the accessible roads of the park---unless you went well into the wilderness, they would've spotted the car or tracks). They probably wouldb't know what state the park visitor was in unless they noticed the actual vihicle, etc., but it's still neat that they try to keep a tally of who is in the park and where.

The park ranger called the towing company, and that was many many hours away (because they were busy pulling folks out of the snowstorm elsewhere). In the mean time, I got to spend the day riding along... and getting to experience some of their day-to-day tasks. Among which was cow herding. Occasionally, the neighbouring ranch cows get out from their enclosure and get into the park. The park rangers try to get those cows back into the correct place... moslty by intimidating the cow back into the enclosure. So I helped chase a cow back into the ranch... if it's more than a few (more than a single ranger can handle), they call the ranch to bring in the actual cowbosy (on horses!) to round up the wondering cows (so after managing to get 1 into the enclosure, we spotted dozen or so outside, and for those ranger called in the ranch for help).

Late in the afternoon the tow company folks showed up, in a pickup truck. Pretty much the same kind of pickup tuck the park rangers use. Anyway, we (the park ranger and I) escorted them to the car, where they attached a cable to the back wheel, and the other end to the rear tow wench of the truck---while one of the tow buys was in the car steeering right, the other one was in the truck pulling on the back right wheel.

All three wheels of the car went in the air, and the car was pretty easily pulled out of the ditch (sort of weird, because it had be put a bit more into the ditch to be taken out of the ditch); I was free of the snow!, and getting late for the flight back. So I paid the tow company, etc., and drive drive drive to Salt Lake City for the flight which I thought I'll have to miss...

Made it to the flight, all is well.

Note to self, if it's snowing or any off-road (dirt-road) driving, then get a 4-wheel-drive car next time. It's cheaper than being pulled out of a ditch in some remote place.

- Alex; 20190106

     January 5th, 2019

Arrived in Salt Lake City, and after a hour-wait long inside the airplane (there was no available gate to de-plane the airplane), set out to drive to Needles (the south-eastern part of Canyonlands).

For the trip, rented a Toyota Corolla, which was an awesome car---it has automatic high-beams... so it turns them on when needed, and turns them off when there's oncoming traffic. That was pretty neat. Also had adaptive cruize control, so if the car in front slows down or stops, the car will automatically slow down and stop, etc. I want that in my future car.

Anyways, got to Needles very very early, and... it's snowy. There's actually snow in Needles! Not too much, but about 4-6 inches everywhere. Proceeded to the trailhead at Elephant Hill---which is just a few miles down a very twisty steep dirt road.

So far, there was only 1 other car that I've seen in the entire park. I think the government shutdown and the fact that it's a snowy weekend had something to do with that. The visitor's center is closed---even the bathroom is closed.

For the hike doing the "usual" loop: elehpant hill to druid arch, then to joint trail, then to confluence point, then back to elephant hill. Started around 7 in the morning, and ended around 10-sh PM (it's not easy to walk over snowy trails).

Anyways, after getting back, started to drive out, and on that snowy twisty dirt road, the car stalled. On one particuarly steep hill, about middle of the way up, the front wheels slipped, and the car slid downhill, with it's rear wheels going into a ditch on the side of the road. (good thing it went into the left side of the road, as opposed to off-the-cliff on the right side of the road).

Getting a Corolla (front wheel drive) out of a ditch with only 1-front-wheel semi-on-the-road (which is covered in snow that made the whole car slip downwards) isn't easy. I tried everything. Car mats. Rocks. Even clearing snow under the tire. Moving forwards and backwards, etc. I even tried lifting the car... first by hand (yeah, didn't get far---a car is surprisingly heavy, couldn't even make it move with all my weight), then with car jack. Jack up the car, put a rock under the wheel, and then jack up again, etc. That didn't work--- the road is just too slippery.

After fiddling with things on trying to get the car out, gave up, and headed out in search of help. The other alternative was to stay in the car over night (and hope there's someone there in the morning). This being a remote dirt road of a fairly remote park, during a govermnet shutdown (I'm thinking no-rangers-on-duty kind), I thought I need to find my own way out instead of sitting and waiting for help.

So headed towards visitor's center. That's one long-walk. On a snowy night. After walking the entire day :-/

The visitor's center got nobody. It's closed. The park map has some residential-looking-streets, so headed towards those. Most things in those streets turned out to be warehouses. But after a few miles, there were actual houses... (my guess, for park staff). But most of those looked empty---probably due to government shutdown :-/

After knocking on about 20 doors, one house had a barking dog, and the owner was one of the few park rangers that was still on duty during the gov shutdown. So after midnight, the park ranger (lets call him Bill; not his real name) and I, went to try to get my car out.

Funny thing about Corollas... they have no attachment points. There's no hooks on the front, and there's no tow thing on the back, so we didn't know what to attach the wench to. So with that, Bill gave me supplies (MRE food, sleeping bag, water, etc.) and I camped-out (inside-the car) overnight.

- Alex; 20190105

     January 4th, 2019

Flying out to Utah; will hike in Canyonlands :-)

- Alex; 20190104

     January 1st, 2019

Happy New Year!

- Alex; 20190101

     December 15th, 2018

Decided to upgrade the graphics card too---got Nvidia RTX 2080. Unfortunately Linux mint (ubuntu) doesn't recognize it out of the box, and had to go through quite a bit to install the proper drivers. In order to install the official nvidia drivers need to kill X server, and doing that isn't as simple as it used to be... it just pops back up as soon as it dies. Need to disable the service, etc.

- Alex; 20181215

     December 6th, 2018

Got Cooler Master ML360 RGB CPU Liquid Cooler to cool the Threadripper. Installed everything and it seems everything works without issues. The only thing needed was to adjust ram speed in BIOS.

- Alex; 20181206

     December 5th, 2018

Rebuilding my home server. Basic config is AMD Threadripper 2990 with 128gig ram. One component I got that didn't work was: Corsair H115i PRO RGB (the liquid cpu cooler). In newegg website said it was compatible with TR4 socket, and it wasn't. Getting another liquid cooler shipped overnight.

- Alex; 20181205

     November 26th, 2018

...and back in NYC :-)

- Alex; 20181126

     November 25th, 2018

Visiting Badwater in Death Valley National Park.

- Alex; 20181125

     November 24th, 2018

Visiting The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park.

Here's something to try while there: run really really fast with eyes closed. It's a very weird feeling not knowing what's ahead and yet running at full speed.

- Alex; 20181124

     November 23rd, 2018

Doing a tiny hike in Bryce National Park.

- Alex; 20181123

     November 22nd, 2018

Flying out to Las Vegas :-)

- Alex; 20181122

     October 31st, 2018

Happy Halloween!!!

The future is not set. It doesn't exist until it happens. We remember the past, we don't remember the future. Yet past somehow seems to exist, we can refer back to it, we can look at and study historical events, etc. But is there really that much difference between the past and the future?

Whatever we know about the past is actually a recording. Unless we have something memorized in the present, then we don't know about it from the past. If there was an event in the past that nobody recorded, then it's just as mysterious to us as the event happening in the future. We can guess at the probabilities, etc., but in studying the past, only the present matters.

Whenever a recording device is involved, there's some bitrate---speed and accuracy with which it can record information. Similarly, there's a retrieval rate. The univesal recording device cannot possibly be recoding everything: it is very observer centric: unless an observation was made, then the event could've happened any possible way.

For example, an electron going through the double-slit experiment: if we record which way it goes, we have made an observation and a recording. We can refer back to that path later by saying ``yes, the electron went through the left slit''. But if we don't make a recording of which slit the electron went through, then the electron actually goes through all possible paths.

At a later stage, we cannot refer back to history and say ``ah, but if we look at the history (refer to the past), then the electron went through the left slit'', because there's no history, and we don't have a recording of it in the present... So as far as ``history'' is concerned, the electron went through all possible paths.

The same applies to the future. If we send an electron through a double slit experiment and explicitly don't look/make observations/recordings, then it appears to actually go through both slits. If we setup the experiment to check which way it goes, then it goes through the slit we observe, randomly of course. If it wasn't random, then there would be no point in recording the information (it would not be `information').

What would the universe without observations look like? Imagine if nothing was ``recorded'' in the present. Time would appear to stand still. In fact, it wouldn't ``appear'' anything, it just wouldn't be anything. So for time to move, events need to be observed and recorded.

Lets look at the dead cat in the box. A cat is locked in a box with some poison. A random event (truly quantum-random) may release the poison. Now, in our macro world, the cat is either dead OR alive. We don't know which one until we open the box. In the quantum world, the cat is "both" dead AND alive (it has yet-to-be-observed histories of it dead AND alive). There's no information yet. If the cat behaved like the electron flying through the left or right slit, then technically it would be flying through "both", which is hard to imagine for a macroscopic object like a cat in a box.

But what's the process by which the past gets recorded and gets turned into the present? How many bits of information can the present hold? (we've already seen that we cannot record ``everything''). Is that number of bits constant, or does it expand as we make observations?

If it's constant, then making left-or-right slit observation must ``forget'' some recorded bit somewhere. Perhaps the universe leaks bits on the edges (or black holes?).

- Alex; 20181031

     October 29th, 2018

Below are my views and do not reflect the opinions of anyone else:

Valuations: there are several ways of evaluating investments. For example, bonds give us a very direct way of evaluation: a bond pays us a well defined interest---so there are only three things we have to worry about: whether the bond will eventually be repaid, interest rates, and inflation.

In case of government (and many municipal) bonds, we don't need to worry about default, and in many cases inflation is correlated with interest rates, so there's only one thing we really need to worry about. High future interest rates means that our bonds lose value and vice versa.

If we expect interest rates to go higher, locking in a rate via a bond is a bad idea (on the flip side, borrowing at a low rate is generaly a good idea).

Bonds of corporations are best avoided altogether. Ask yourself, if you had a company and you needed to raise capital, which one would you issue, bonds or stock? The mathematics are pretty straight forward: if you expect to earn a bigger return than the interest you pay, you issue bonds, otherwise you issue stock.

In other words, if the company is sound, and they're issuing bonds, you'd make a better return from stocks. If the company isn't sound and is issuing stock, then you'd better avoid the stocks of such a comapny. Never buy bonds (or stock) if you believe the company is on its last leg. (unless you think they're a buyout target, or if liquidation of the company is expected to bring in more than the price).

For stocks, the evaluation is a bit tricky.

We can take the bond approach: treat equity as a contract that pays us some ``interest'' (dividend) every so often until the end of time. How much are those infinite dividends worth?

Money today is worth more than money tomorrow. Two in the bush vs one in the hand.

So we pick some reasonable discount rate (often approximately the current interest rate), and discount all the future dividends by that rate until we hit zero. The sum of all such payments is what the contract is ``worth'' (this is essentialy how much gain we expect to get out of the contract over its entire lifetime). Note that there's no principle in this scenario---there's just dividends, and nothing else. So that's the only thing we use to evaluate the worth of a stock certificate.

For example, if a company pays us $1 in dividends this year, and we expect that to continue, and we also expect interet rates to be about 3% or so (which is historically very low), we can say that each share is worth about: $30.

Obviously the price of each share could be $45 in the market. Or it could be $25. The $30 number just says if you look at dividend alone, you really shouldn't pay more than that. In this scheme, you ignore the fact that you could potentially sell the share for $45 next year: the basic idea is that if you owned the share for a lifetime, what financial benefit you would get from the company because of said ownership.

Many companies don't pay dividends. We could say such comapnies are worth exactly $0 (as we don't benefit from being the shareholders).

We could also use a proxy measure: earnings. Assuming earnings are reinvested and build up value of the company, each share should gain by the amount of the earnings. Discounted into the future of couse.

For example, if our company made $2 per share, how much would we expect such earnings to be worth? Lets assume 5% discount rate, or about $40 price.

Why did we use 5% for earnings and 3% for dividends? Guesses. But generally we should discount earnings at a higher rate than dividends, as money in our pocket is worth more than money in someone else's pocket. (money that we control is worth exactly what it is, but if some greedy/incompetent manager is in charge of our money, it's worth much less than the actual dollar amount).

In the above, valuation we ended up with P/E of 20. (price/earnings, 40/2).

Let's pretend that we had almost a decade (from 2008 til 2017) of extraordinary low rates (0-1%), and the discount that many analysts used was 1%. That company that earned 2$ a share would ``demand'' a $200 share price, or P/E in the 50-100 range.

Then Fed steps in and tightens the rates to 2%, now our valuation should point towards a $100/share price. But the intersia in the market keps markets afloat at $200.

The Fed tightens things a bit more: rate is 3%. Now that $2 earnings demands only $66 or so share price. The market is still up: the stock is still priced at $200.

Let's put this in perspective: if we buy a government bond at 3% (the 10 year treasury bond), we'd expect a higher return on our money than buying that $2 earnings for $200.

Yes, earnings could come up. But they could also come down. If a comapny has been earning $2 a year for a while, bumping that up to $4 is hard. Many companies are already optimize and squeezed quite a bit... bot pulling out more earnings out of the same process is difficult.

What happens when rates go to 4%?

That's why the market panics every time the Fed bumps up the rate number. Nobody wants to be the last one holding those shares at $200 when they fall back to $40 or so.

Revenue is another thing folks have used to evaluate stocks. But we got to be careful: revenue isn't the same as profit. High revenue could mean high losses.

Large enterprises with no earnings (and no dividends) is another thing to look out for. Yes, the company could be putting everything its got back into research and development (which often increases company value)---or they could be lavishly rewarding the management or funding go-nowhere projects or badly concieved aquisitions.

- Alex; 20181029

     October 28th, 2018

Decided to rebuild the desktop. Tentatively thinking of AMD Threadripper as the CPU.

- Alex; 20181028

     October 7th, 2018

My primary desktop quit. It shutdown, and now no indication of life when I press the power button. The board is getting power (there's a small LED on the board, but that's about it. No fan. No disk spin, nothing. Seems completely dead :-/

- Alex; 20181007

     October 5th, 2018

Happy B-Day to yours truly :-D

- Alex; 20181005

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