Well, it’s been a year since my last blogpost, which caught us up to 2017. Let’s bring us up to speed again, shall we? Here’s the month-by-month highlights once again: Jan 2017: Visited my father in Eugene, where we went hiking at Spencer Butte. Feb 2017: Pretty quiet month! Mostly just classes at SF State. Mar 2017: Went to Cal Academy and the Musée Mécanique, which is an arcade filled with old-school arcade games.
It’s been a long time since my last real update in July 2014. What’s happened since then? Here’s the highlights, month by month. August 2014: Visited Rose Turck in Springfield IL, had a blast hanging out September 2014: Visited my dad in Eugene OR and helped him move into his new place for the first two weeks or so. We went crabbing, which was really fun and ended up being a terrible way to feed ourselves but a great bonding experience.
The blog has been down for a ~long~ time, as you may have noticed. Most of my personal sites have fallen into various states of disrepair, and I migrated things over to a new server, which took everything down permanently until I found the time to restore things. But now we’re back! You may still notice some broken links or what have you around the place; let me know when you discover these and I will try to fix them as soon as I can.
Our family flew to Europe this summer for a little over two weeks of vacation time. We ended up visiting Paris and three cities in Italy, for roughly three-four days apiece. It was beautiful and eye-opening, but a lot of things ended up happening, and as a result I thought it’d be a good idea for me to wait awhile before writing the trip up. The things I want to say will make a lot more sense if I recount our trip day by day in a series of posts, and I think it’ll be lighter this way, so let’s get started.
As part of what is hopefully my last term of my undergraduate education, I’m taking a political philosophy course. As part of the general outline of the course, our professor introduced the broad overarching conflict that we’d be studying in several works, one that he phrased as Individual Rights versus Community. The idea, then, being that every individual person wants to preserve their own rights and freedom of action, but at the same time every individual person is part of a larger community that must enforce certain rules (and therefore prohibit certain things, restricting individual rights) in order to enable these individuals to live together.
So people who’ve known me for awhile know that I’ve taken a long time to finish undergrad - this spring marks my 12th quarter in my sixth year at the University of Chicago, and along the way I’ve taken two leaves of absence spanning a total of more than a year to work and figure out what’s wrong. Last year I finally admitted that there was something going on that I might not be able to handle on my own, so I started talking to a psychiatrist downtown to work through my problems.
I just happened upon Analytics Made Skeezy, a blog written by John Foreman, Chief Scientist at MailChimp. He posts every so often detailing various techniques used in analytics, ranging from revenue management using price elasticity estimation to clustering and community detection. But there’s a twist - all of the posts are written from the perspective of a (presumably fictional) college student who finds himself working business analytics for an international druglord!
Well this is a few weeks late! My father and I went to Chile for my spring break for about a week - between March 22nd and March 29th - to go hiking in Torres del Paine National Park. We both had a lot of fun - normally when our whole family goes, there’s a lot of planning and extensive packing ahead of time, but since it was just the two of us, it was a lot more ad-hoc.
It’s been a long time since I talked about this, but I’ve been re-writing Animurecs in PHP, having gotten fed up with feeling like I was working around Rails to get things done. Wasn’t an easy decision - there was a lot of work already done, and I hadn’t written an MVC framework before. I’ve had a lot of fun, though, and I feel like my programming skills have benefited from it!
So I’m taking classes this winter and spring; finally on track to finish my BA in math. One of the classes I’m taking is an intro sociology class - one of the overarching goals of the course is to understand the interplay between parenting and education, and how these two factors help children become successful later in life. As part of this investigation, we’re using data gathered by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten cohort (or ECLS-K).
I’ve been an active member of an online social forum called End of the Internet for a few years now. The site is particularly interesting because it’s both closed off to the public and has been relatively long-lived despite the lack of new users; the active posters on the site have been around since the site’s founding in early 2004, and watching the topics of discussion shift as the userbase grows and ages has been really interesting.
Representative Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) led a House vote on Thursday to pass an amendment prohibiting the NSF from funding political science research. His primary reason for prohibiting this funding is largely out of concern that the current budgetary climate makes it irresponsible to spend this money on something that has, in his eyes, little chance of producing important results: So what kind of research is NSF charging to our credit card?
Suzy Khimm ran an article today about an interesting study done by the Center for Public Integrity showing that, contrary to commonly-held beliefs about party values and lines, Democrat and Republican citizens alike would choose to cut huge swaths of the defense budget: The author of the study attributes this to the increased information and flexibility afforded to study participants; when people are made aware of the diversity of spending within the military and the levels of spending within the military, they are much more receptive to the idea of budget cuts than if they mentally conceive of the spending as one monolithic category.
I’m currently with my parents for the weekend, and things have been really busy. As a result I haven’t had the time to write this post I’ve been turning over in my head; trust me, though, if we’re at all acquainted it’s worth the wait. I’ll be here until Sunday, after which I’ll be headed back to Chicago and should be able to give this post the thought it deserves.
I recently came across Science-Based Medicine, which is an absolute treasure trove of articles about a plethora of topics in medicine written by an all-star lineup of physicians in a variety of fields. I have immense respect for physicians who take time out of their very busy days to try to educate the general public and contribute their expertise and knowledge to the public discourse; having lived with a physician for essentially my entire life, I understand just how difficult it is for someone who comes home late at night, mentally and physically drained, to muster the willpower to spend even more time delivering what amounts to a free consultation worth thousands of dollars to the internet.
Last day of links for now. I’ll be on a bus tomorrow for about eight hours from 3PM to 11PM, so I’ll make up for lost time and content then. Apparently the Inception approach to kidnapping negotiations is deeply flawed - A fun Atlantic article about decision theory and economics behind hostage negotiations and ransoming. It’d be really cool to get into some theory here but the article is great as-is.
Holy god I’ve been ridiculously busy today. Believe me, there’s good reason for why there’s no blogpost today. I’ll have plenty of time either tomorrow or the day after to type up a couple to make up for it. And there’s been a lot of good stuff to write about, so please stay tuned! The top 10 papers in Computer Science by Mendeley readership - Some of this is really surprising (LDA topping the list, for one thing).
So today an interesting headline passed across my feed - yesterday the Washington Post ran an article detailing the efforts made by startups as part of a hackaton to ease the suffering of San Francisco’s homeless. Barry Roeder, a San Francisco management consultant, wants to eliminate the lines by creating a neighborhood-wide network of touch-screen kiosks where people could make and check reservations themselves. The system could also notify people by text message if they received a bed — the Creative Currency survey found that while few residents have smartphones, about 60 percent have access to some kind of cell phone.
Hey everyone! Sorry about the placeholder entry earlier today; I got caught up in hanging out with my sister (and making some delicious pork ribs) and totally forgot about the blog entirely. Won’t happen ever again. I think I went a little too far yesterday with regards to length, so I’ll be doing some shorter entries to prevent myself from getting too long-winded. Since it’s so late today, I’ll just post some links and leave the meaty material for tomorrow.
Today I turned in the paperwork for my job! Hopefully I’ll start soon. Something that’s been bugging me for awhile about the communities around the hard sciences and tech fields is that very frequently, you’ll encounter people who are dead certain that their opinions are absolutely correct and that anybody who disagrees with them is not only incorrect, but also flawed as a human being for disagreeing with them. You see this all the time in software development - I’m sure you’ve met someone who would snicker at anyone who was running a non-Linux OS, or using PHP, or not camel-casing their variable names.
Today’s the first day of this daily blogging thing that I’m going to do for the conceivable future! I figure a good way to start off is to talk briefly about a topic that I’ve been thinking about each day, and then at the end I’ll post some things to interesting articles or blogposts and a brief summary of things I’ve accomplished that day. So let’s get down to business, eh?
So this blog has been dead for the longest time! I’ve just now gotten to reviving it and have resolved to make one post every day from now on, no matter what it’s about. I’ll try to stick to the stuff that’s in my Google Reader and side projects I’m working on, so that’ll primarily be US policy and Rails/Python development. Anyways, just wanted to touch base with y’all. The site will be pretty ugly for awhile (I think it’s sort-of passable now) so please bear with me, and please look forward to the posts from now on!
Today (well, technically yesterday) was the start of our trip to Jiuzhaigou and Chongqing. We flew down at ~10am and arrived after a three-hour flight. It was 38C outside, and today was considered a cool day by Chongqing standards. After checking out our hotel rooms, we rested for a bit in the heat until another family arrived - I think the kid’s name was Thomas? - and then we went to have dinner, which turned out to be the spiciest hot pot I have ever had in my life.
Days five and six consisted of us picking up one of my cousins (on my father’s side of the family) from the train stop and venturing around the Olympic grounds with her. My father’s been at the bi-annual China Heart Rhythm Society conference near the grounds. We had hotpot for dinner on the fifth day, and went to the Water Cube’s indoor waterpark for a couple of hours on the sixth.
Today was mostly a logistics and planning day. Nailed down our trip down south, went out to eat with a couple of family friends at a Szechuan restaurant. Lots of free time. Ironically enough I almost forgot to write up this post - it is now 11:30 pm. So I’m half conscious now; you’ll forgive me if this post is a little more rambling and less coherent than my usual writing.
Today we went to take some professional photos as a family. It took eleven hours. Thoughts: Being a professional model must be incredibly hard. Christ. The line between modernized and “old style” Beijing - red walls, sloped ridged green roofs, the like - is just that, a line that you can draw. It’s pretty jarring. I feel like the “blue sky” record that Beijing recently was proclaimed as having broken must have had a pretty loose definition of a “blue sky”.
I’m in Beijing, China at the moment, visiting relatives for about two weeks. One of the things that’s struck me is how much the city has changed from just four years ago. I’ll be writing up a couple of longer posts fleshing out my thoughts on the changes after the trip; in the meanwhile, I’ll try to post some things that stuck with me at the end of every day.
I recently came across an interesting paper on quantum information theory outlining exactly why superluminal communications via quantum entanglement - so-called “spooky action-at-a-distance” - is impossible. If you’ve got some time and an interest in popular science I highly recommend it. In the paper, the author makes reference to the idea that physical reality is merely illusion and that the only truly “real” thing about our existence is the communication and transfer of information between entities.
One of the most frustrating things about discussing US politics is the disconnect between politicians and “normal people” - whether or not the representatives who are, in theory, supposed to defend the interests of their local constituencies are in fact interested in defending or even aware of these interests. It seems to me that this is one of those questions where everybody assumes their own opinion as fact without further proof - all too often I see people start or end their arguments with some variant of “well, politicians are corrupt”, or as in David Frum’s recent article discussing how the Democrats “got the better end of the deal” with respect to healthcare reform, that our representatives are better-served by putting into place policy that serves their constituencies.
Via Matt Yglesias, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that the richer you are, the more likely you are to think that the economy is doing great: The wording is pretty suspect on this one, I think; there’s still a huge output gap in the American economy that won’t be closed for years or decades as a result of the recent recession, but the economy is technically growing. And thank god for that.
Er, once in awhile I run into a piece I hear that’s not designed for piano solo. So I arrange it for the solo piano (usually by cutting the heart and soul out of the piece). One such example I just finished with. “To The Same Heights”, or “同じ高みへ”, from the anime / visual novel Clannad, was originally designed as a piano duet. I spent a day slaving away on Sibelius to bring you this (admittedly awkward) arrangement for the solo piano.
I recently had a conversation with my father about income disparity and social mobility in the US. He’s always been a huge believer in social mobility in the US - you know, the belief that if you work hard, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. I showed him recent data that suggests the contrary - that the US is actually one of the least socially-mobile nations in the developed world, and he was legitimately surprised at the findings.
I’ve started a new project, entitled MultiGrid. It’s a 2D shooter written in C++/OpenGL. I’m writing it from scratch, and will hopefully implement internet multiplayer capabilities. Check it out!
… and I’m spending it at home, sleeping the days away. How wonderful is life? So it turns out that my return transportation was arranged under the assumption that my spring break was two weeks instead of one, which is really puzzling. So now I’m getting back to O’Hare at 10PM on Sunday night, and there’s about a two-hour bus and train ride back from there, so… I’ll be getting back late, yeah.
So we’re nearing the end of winter quarter. This week is finals, which means no classes but mass tests, and next week is spring break. Officially, winter quarter ends this Friday. It’s been a long road. Winter quarter feels the longest at UChicago, for several reasons - the first being that it is the longest, technically. The weather is also absolutely terrible compared to the other two quarters. This is objective, by the way - no matter how much you enjoy winter weather, having to cross the Midway to and from the dining hall is a trial I wouldn’t put anyone through.