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They're all trying to make this wonderful place (i.e.: the net) in to hell (i.e.: real
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News, Updates, & Rants...
Finished How Smart Machines Think by Sean Gerrish. An executive summary of how ML was organized in the last few years for public challenges. e.g. How the self-driving car modules are organized (sending, reasoning, etc.), or what strategies the chess playing programs used, or what approaches the folks who analized the Netflix dataset used. Not a waste of time, just not as deep as I would have liked it to be.
- Alex; 20191001
Ran up Katahdin. Awesome hike. 3-hours up, and 3-hours down. Walked the length of the Knife Edge as well. The Katahdin Stream bridge is ``closed'' (well, the bridge is just 1 stick across the stream). It's jumpable. So I jumped it... the alternative is to walk 1-mile back to the parking lot, and 1.1 miles back to the stream via the detour trail. On the way back I took the detour route (it's a much longer walk through muddy forest).
Saw lots of mushrooms, and 1 tiny snake :-)
- Alex; 20190928
Kiddo finally started to pronounce his own name. He was able to say lots of names (and name lots of things), but not his own name. Now he's saying "Ian" pretty clearly. Yey!
- Alex; 20190926
Fixed my car's tail light. The culprit turned out to be a loose plug connection to one of these: Right Tail Lamp. After moving the plug around, the light came on---so bending the pins on the connector a bit with a screw driver, then forcing the connector in, seems to have fixed the broken light that's been on my brain since June's road trip.
- Alex; 20190924
Finished reading The AI Delusion by Gary Smith. It's much much better than I was expecting: no FUD, just very honest and true points about how AI isn't anywhere close to intelligence.
- Alex; 20190916
Read ``Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk'' by Daniel Bernoulli. This is one good paper! Essentially risk is subjective: cannot be evaluated without taking into account of who is taking the risk.
Key quote: ``Somehow a very poor fellow obtains a lottery ticket that will yield with equal probability either nothing or twenty thousand ducats. Will this man evaluate his chance of winning at ten thousand ducats? Would he not be illadvised to sell this lottery ticket for nine thousand ducats? To me it seems that the answer is in the negative. On the other hand I am inclined to believe that a rich man would be ill-advised to refuse to buy the lottery ticket for nine thousand ducats. If I am not wrong then it seems clear that all men cannot use the same rule to evaluate the gamble.''
So lets break this down: the lottery ticket is worth either $0, or $20000. So the expectation is 0.5*$0+0.5*$20000 = $10000. So selling it for $9000 seems stupid. Or does it? Lets consider the utility from this paper.
Suppose A's total net worth is $1000, with this lottery ticket, A's net-worth will either remain $1000, or go upto $21000. Doing a geometric mean, exp( 0.5*log(1000) + 0.5*log(21000) )=4582.6. Removing our initial $1000 from it, gets us: $4582-$1000 = $3582. That's the value of the ticket to A. If A can get $4k for it, A should go for it, but shouldn't sell it for less than $3k.
Now, suppose B's total net worth is $100,000, with this lottery ticket, A's net-worth will either retain at $100,000 or go upto $120000. Doing a geometric mean, exp( 0.5*log(100000) + 0.5*log(120000) )=109544. Removing our initial $100,000 gets us: $109544-$100000=$9544. That's the value of the ticket to B.
The ``value'' never touches (or goes above) $10000, no matter how much net worth we start with. It's never a good idea to buy a ticket that's overpriced.
So we have both A and B, where A values the ticket at $3500, while the B values the ticket at $9500. That's a range of prices at which A can sell the ticket to B and both would benefit (win-win situation). Below $3500, A should hold onto the ticket (or buy it, if needed), above that it should sell it. Below $9500, B should buy (or hold onto it).
It's the same idea behind insurance. Suppose individual A has assets of $100k, and there's a 1% chance of them getting cancer within a year. Suppose cancer treatment costs $250k. The individual ends up bankrupt (going down to say $1). What's the expected net-worth after a year without insurance (again, using geometric mean): exp(0.01 * log(1) + 0.99 * log(100000))=89125.
So spending $10k or less on insurance makes sense. If insurance costs more than that (say $11k), then they might as well go without insurance.
On the flip side, the insurance company has ``unlimited'' assets (lets imagine $1-billion), how much should they charge? exp(0.01 * log(1000000000 + x - 250000) + 0.99 * log(1000000000 + x)); So for x above 2500, they're good to sell the insurance.
Now, where insurance actually falls between $2500 (the company's low limit) and $10k (the customer's high limit) is due to marketing and competition. The win-win price range. Notice that if individual has 10k in assets, then their high number drops to $800 or so, at which point they cannot get insurance.
Lets examine a ``fair'' bet: Both A and B decide to flip a coin, tails A gets $100, heads B gets $100. Lets say A has $1000 in assets, while B has $10000.
Expectation for A after the coin toss: exp(0.5*log(900)+0.5*log(1100)) = 995.00
Expectation for B after the coin toss: exp(0.5*log(9900)+0.5*log(10100)) = 9999.50
To summarize, in a fair bet, where we wouldn't expect any side to have any advantage: both sides lose (you shouldn't participate in fair or unfavorable bets; you need to have an edge). Also, the participant with most assets risks less (the more money you have, the less risky things become [even in completely symmetrical situations, such as coin flips]).
UPDATE: Kelly criterion!
Suppose we are lucky enough to find a game where we have an edge. The game goes something like this: There's a probability p of winning. We wager a certain amount. When we win, we get back the wagered amount plus fraction b of it. When we lose, we lose just the wagered amount.
Kelly started with, supose we are certain we will win. p=1. Then it makes sense for us to bet everythign we have, meaning that every time we play this game, we make 1+b return. In a simple scenario where b=1, we double our money with every round. This is the maximum return we can expect.
Now, in most scenarios we aren't certain to win. If we were to wager everything we have, we are certain to lose everything very quickly. On the other hand, we do want to take advantage of the favorable odds, which leads to betting some fraction of our wealth. Ok, so what fraction should we bet?
(another alternative to avoid ruin is to bet a small fixed amount, say $1 every round. But it turns out that is not an optimal way to grow capital).
Our return is: S * X1 * X2 * ... XN
where S is our starting wealth, and X1..XN are random varibles (our returns). We wish to maximize this product of X1..XN.
Any product can be expressed as a sum: e^(log(S) + log(X1) + ... log(XN))
Xs are random variables, and so are log(Xs). They have expectation E[log X], leading to:
e^(log(S) + N*E[log X])
It's clear that if we are to maximize the outcome, we need to maximize E[log X]. If probability of winning is p, and losing q=1-p, and we bet fraction f of our money, then the expectation per round is:
With probability p, we multiply our wealth by 1+fb, and with probability q we lose f fraction of our wealth. So how do we maximize
We take the derivative, and set it to 0, then solve for f.
p*1/(1+fb)*(b) + q*1/(1-f)*-1 = 0
pb/(1+fb) - q/(1-f) = 0
pb/(1+fb) = q/(1-f)
pb*(1-f) = q*(1+fb)
pb-pbf = q+qfb
pb-q = pbf + qbf = f*b*(p+q)
f=(pb-q) / b = (pb-(1-p)) / b
So if we come across a scenario that will double our money on a bent-coin flip (p=0.6), we should bet: p=0.6, and b=1, f=(0.6-(1-0.6)) / 1 = 0.2, or 20% of everything we have.
...if only it was that simple!
First a word on what exactly this fraction means: This fraction is the fastest way to grow capital. There is no other method that grows faster than this. Betting smaller than this fraction adds safety, but wouldn't maximize growth. Betting bigger than this fraction would likely cause ruin long term.
Now for the problems: real life doesn't present us with clear variables to stick into a function. Most bets (say the stock market) are hard to quantify in these terms. The probabilities aren't fixed: it isn't a well defined game of chance---we need to estimate probabilities, and those estimates can be off.
The other major problem is that we're maximizing long term growth, not lower volatility. With every bet being very aggressive (in relation to our wealth), our fortunes could go up and down dramatically---and if there's a minimum betting amount, we could face ruin.
More in this book: Kelly Capital Growth Investment Criterion: Theory and Practice. It's a collection of papers on this stuff. Well worth reading (well, most of them anyway).
- Alex; 20190906
Finished reading Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eya.
Essentially there are 4 steps to building addictions (well, habit-forming products): step 1: trigger. Get something to initiate interaction. Can't go forward without some interaction---something pushing folks to do something. chill out, have a coffee. or a smoke. 2: action. Folks must do something. Press a button. light up a cigarette. anything. 3. variable reward. action must give rewards. But not just a reward (folks don't get hooked with regular rewards). it has to be variable reward... every time it's different. Keep folks guessing on what they'll get when they press that button. you can't crave something you always get. 4. investment. time. money. attention.
The more you put folks through this 4-step loop, the more they get hooked to using your product.
In other news, I've been playing World of Warcraft Classic lately. I feel chilled out in the game (trigger), I get to click buttons, run around, complete quests (actions), and I get rewarded (experience, loot, quest rewards), and I invest back into the game by playing (time, and potentially money). addictive?
- Alex; 20190904
Trying out WoW classic. So far so good.
- Alex; 20190830
...and back in NYC!
Today is also the first day of class at Brooklyn College :-)
- Alex; 20190828
Don't have anything planned for the day---so ended up driving to Pike's Peak for a picknick. Unfortunately the park is in some country that has a "fire ban", so no open fires on the mountain (though they have fire pits).
Drove through garden of the gods.
...and to Chatfield State Park (not very impressive).
...and back to Denver airport, where Suneli was padded down for trying to bring a bottle of formula milk for kiddo :-/
- Alex; 20190827
Driving through Rocky Mountain National Park.
The park rangers at the Aprine visitor center are jerks. They put a sign "no left turn" right by the entrance to the visitor center. So any east bound cars cannot turn into the visitor center---only west bound cars can turn (east bound cars apparently have to drive past to the next turnout, do a u-turn, and come back west bound). Cars that just turn left into the visitor center get a talking-to by the park ranger who very loudly says "no left turn, this is a traffic violation with a $250 fine" (didn't see anyone actually get written a ticket, but lots of drivers got that talking-to).
The parking lot had a lot of empty spots, so it wasn't like they were trying to control the crowds. No reason for that "no left turn" sign except to annoy east bound drivers.
Staying in Colorado Springs, at `the academy hotel'.
- Alex; 20190826
Long long long long drive to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Staying right outside the east entrance, in a Holiday Inn, in Fraser, CO.
- Alex; 20190825
Next stop Yellowstone. It's one of the places we've already visited this year, but I really wanted to see Artist Point again, so that's what we're doing.
Right through Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park. Visited Jenny Lake.
What I'm amazed about Grand Tetons is that almost every time I come here, it's slightly different. Last time I was here in 2016, hiking Static Peak (via Death Canyon). Didn't make it to the summit due to snow (June). That experience/scenery was very different from the views this trip provided. This park is just amazing. Wish I could spend more time here.
- Alex; 20190824
Arrived in Glacier National Park.
Doing to the sun road, etc.
Camping right outside west entrance of Glacier NP.
- Alex; 20190823
Long long long long long drive north.
Camping in North Browning, Montana
- Alex; 20190822
First stop: Devil's Tower national monument. The right one this time. The one in Wyoming.
During our month long road trip, we ended up at "devil's tower" in South Dakota (which isn't a national monument, but a state park).
Staying in Billings, Montana
- Alex; 20190821
Flying out to Denver, for a camping trip in Glacier National Park.
- Alex; 20190820
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
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
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
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
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
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
...and back in NYC :-)
Swapping tires on car at BJs (had appointment since 3 weeks ago).
- Alex; 20190729
...on the way to Delhi airport.
Dinner at Amrik Sukhdev.
- Alex; 20190728
Another day trip to Chandigarh; dinner at Barbeque Nation.
- Alex; 20190726
Day trip to Chandigarh.
- Alex; 20190725
...and back to Ambala.
- Alex; 20190724
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
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
- Alex; 20190720
Whatever food poisoning kiddo has we all got :-/
- Alex; 20190717
Catching the morning Amritsar Shatabdi from Delhi to Ambala.
- Alex; 20190716
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
Spending a day in Gurgoan, at the Golden Tulip.
Kiddo loves the pool :-)
- Alex; 20190714
Flying out to India.
- Alex; 20190713
Installed QuakeII, and ended up playing for a few hours. That game is damn good. The rail-gun mechanics are awesome.
- Alex; 20190709
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
Spent the day driving home. The tire appears to be holding just fine.
- Alex; 20190705
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
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
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
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
Trying out Overload. Seems to be a pretty faithful recreation of Descent. Seems awesome. Level design sucks though---but mechanics are awesome.
- Alex; 20190630
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
...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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Visiting the Gateway Arch in St.Louis. They changed the entrance a bit from what it was a few years back.
- Alex; 20190529
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
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
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
Done with grading and classes for Sprint 2019 semester. Yey!
- Alex; 20190524
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
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
...and back in NYC :-)
- Alex; 20190429
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
Drove to south point.
Fed horses on the way.
- Alex; 20190427
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
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
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
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
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
Visiting beaches near Kona.
There's one that requires a 4WD right next to the airport.
- Alex; 20190420
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
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
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
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
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
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
- Alex; 20190314
Yey, Anniversary! 3-years!
- Alex; 20190311
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
Finally got around to microwaving a grape... and it pretty much looked just like this.
- Alex; 20190228
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
...and back in NYC :-)
- Alex; 20190219/small>
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
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
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
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
Flying out to Orlando, FL. Planning to do a road-trip all over florida.
- Alex; 20190214
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
Caught something on the weekend---passed out the whole day Monday.
- Alex; 20190204
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
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
...and back in NY.
Also, classes start tonight, and I'm a jetlagged zombie running on caffeine :-)
- Alex; 20190128
Drive drive drive to Delhi...
- Alex; 20190127
Kiddo's belated b-day party.
- Alex; 20190126
- Alex; 20190125
Arrived in Delhi, and drive drive drive to Ambala.
- Alex; 20190119
...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
... and back in NY :-)
- Alex; 20190114
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