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Talking with an Ivy Leaguer on Wall Street

February 15th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
Another memoirs of sorts, this time reflecting the Ivy League alumni I've been meeting in NYC, both in the startup community and on Wall Street.  I've been spending more time in NYC instead of SF for a change of location (and people), but ironically, I'm running into sort of the opposite situation to that I had in my short story, Talking with an Engineer in Silicon Valley.  Whereas many I met in Silicon Valley lacked empathy, considerateness, and other traits but at least wanted them (even if superficially), the circles I'm getting into in NYC seem to simply accept that these traits don't genuinely exist and are always superficial.  Maybe it's just my luck that I'm just somehow always meeting the most 1-dimensional people, but the frustrating part is they always start off seeming normal in the beginning.  As with my other short story, the conversations below are nearly cut-paste from my personal experience, besides obvious name changes and other details to keep individuals anonymous and the story somewhat coherent.  For those easily offended, this obviously doesn't reflect every person from Ivy League or in Wall Street and is just a likely biased, limited subset of the real world from my own experiences.

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Sam: Hi, I'm Sam.  Nice to meet you.
Ivy Leaguer:...[More]
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Buried Memories

November 9th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
Another dream I had that played out like a movie.  Seems to be how all my ideas to come to me now.
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I am living off in the country side for some time.  There, I have a small isolated plot of land that I planted a farm on and regularly tend to for fun, but the house near it is pretty high tech and is where I do a bunch of more serious work for coding and other hobbies.  One day, some guy shows up while I'm out on my farm and tries to tell me I ought to work for his company and get a real job or something.  He starts telling me how it will be good experience to build resume and get real software skills, etc so I don't have to live on a farm anymore.  I ask if he knows what I actually do, and he says he can't tell, which just annoys the heck out of me that he'd dare even tell me what I should do with my life.  I show him that my farm is actually also a grave for past lives I've had and previous bodies I've...[More]
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Wasting Through Time

October 3rd, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
This was another story idea I got as a dream.  I suppose it reflects my mood lately with everyone seeming to get older around me, not just physically but mentally as well.

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Two friends have known each other all their lives.  They are able to time travel but only by skipping forward in time.  They've been doing that for a while and have experienced centuries of history past by, but one day, one of the friends loses this ability.  The other is torn between staying with the friend or leaving the friend behind to continue skipping forward.  There was a sense before that both of them were destined to see all the Earth's history to the very end until the world goes dark, but now that seems less certain.  They end up splitting ways, with one living through the years instead of skipping forward while the other continues to jump forward every few years.  Each time they catch up, one friend gets much older while the other remains...[More]
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Skydome Theater

September 13th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Imagine an open, dome-shaped theater the size of a football stadium, where instead of looking towards screen on the far wall, everyone looked to the sky.  It would be like stargazing, except as the movie is about to start, the stars fade away and another world fills the sky for as far as the eye can see.  People would be lying on their backs instead of sitting hunched forward on their seats.  It'd almost feel like being in a rocket about to take off vertically.  Perhaps there would be chairs that rotate backwards to a lift-off position and actually elevate slightly off the ground as the movie begins.

This is something that's been churning in the back of my mind for a while.  From a design standpoint, the theater would obviously be limited in capacity and can only show one movie at a time for the all the space allotted, but I think the experience would be phenomenal, especially for very visual, cinematic films.  Capacity is also used in a very technical...[More]
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The Power of Fate and Irony

August 26th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     With the advent of my newest project Autodidactic I, which premises itself on harnessing the power of "fate and irony," I thought it'd be timely to explain just what that means and how it is actually more literal than one might think.  At its core, it's about setting up the least likely situations to always be in your favor, what others perceive to be your worst case scenarios to actually be your best case.  You set yourself up such that the most ironic thing that can happen to you is the best thing that could happen to you, and everything else falls in line behind that.  This is a lot of the thinking that bleeds into most of my endeavors, whether it be in my trading, planning my life, or even just making sure I get from point A to point B on time.

     It sounds a bit like superstitution or voodoo, but it really is more about planning, psychology, and just staying ahead of the game.  When planning any sort of event or organization, for example, the biggest mistake one often makes is leaving open that 0.0001% chance that things go terribly wrong.  Instead take that and flip it on its head.  Make the 0.0001% case the case where everything goes terribly right.  In practice, I often *seem* like the more conservative risk taker on any team (despite my super left-field ideas and approaches to things),  but when the unthinkable happens, it's to my favor.  What better irony than the safest plans thriving in absolute chaos? And there's nothing to say you can't simply be so in control (or so impervious to a lack of control) that it just looks like you're passive when you've actually already set plans in motion to take over the world.  It's about always knowing your edge cases and putting them in alignment with your goals.  It's about eliminating chance from the equation and only leaving open possibilities that help your cause.  When the unthinkable happens, you win, and when it doesn't, life just continues as usual.

     The other aspect is just mental, when you declare the most absurd things with no expectation they happen, when you jinx or counter-jinx things, when people give up at the exact moment they should have doubled down, etc.  This definitely sounds much more like superstition now, but think of all the situations in the past where you or your friends jinxed things and how often these ironic situations actually came true.  Words have meaning, whether they leave a guilt chip in the back of someone's mind or make yourself doubt your best judgement (too good to be true, unwillingness to go against what you just said, etc).  The key again is to let the things you think most absurd always be in your favor but also in a psychological aspect.  If someone else is doubting something (often you), let them be on the losing side of the ironic outcome and not yourself.  If someone is about to give up but thinks something will work out right as they quit, be on the receiving side of that luck.  Sometimes, it's almost like witchcraft, where in order to ensure my success, I purposely make sure there are enough people thinking or making a claim they'll regret, where they unintentionally jinx themselves such that, in the (misleadingly) remote chance they're wrong, it leads an outcome most extremely in my favor.  Think of famous last words; often times I purposely get someone to declare verbally the opposite of what I want just to jinx him.  This extends to all other activities mental and psychological - trading, poker, etc. If someone is about to exit a trade they think they'll regret doing so, take that as a sign that trade will probably work.  If someone thinks they'll fold a good hand, let that be in your favor if it comes true.  Often times, my reputation in poker is that of a blind better with beginner's luck, when in actuality I'm letting my opponents self destruct against themselves.  It's letting people's own irrationality and biases get the better of them... at least, that's the politically correct way of putting it.

    ...[More]
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Political Correctness is 1984's Newspeak

July 30th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
I recently read an article about the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" this morning.  At first, I thought it was a joke or satirical post of some sort on political correctness, as it seemed like something straight out of Orwell's 1984, but it was on the college's official site as an actual resource.  It's since been taken down, but it's hard to "unpublish" webpages now, especially if it's been up for years. I managed to save a static HTML copy here: University of New Hampshire's Bias-Free Language Guide (as of Jul.29 2015)

One novel that immediately comes to mind is Orwell's 1984.  When I first read it in high school, most my peers and I thought it very unrelatable, but now it's pretty scary how close we're getting to some of its themes.  Here are some comparisons to illustrate the point:

Orwell's ...[More]
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Hear the Pictures and Not the Words

July 5th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     "What do you see when you hear this music?" I once asked someone.
     To my surprise, he said, "Nothing."
     "Really?" I asked.  "Not even a story or anything?"
     "Nope.  I just like how it sounds.  Why? What do you see?"
     It still surprises me whenever I come across others who can be appreciating the same work before us but seeing nothing at all.  It never really occurred to me until after college that others might only hear the sound or see the word, the notes, or the colors.
     I still remember a conversation several years back where several coworkers were debating whether thought was organized based on what language one spoke.  "Of course not," I wanted to say, "Otherwise what would you be thinking as a child before you knew any language?" But the debate simply moved towards whether children had any real thoughts...[More]
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The Perfect Storm for Silicon Valley

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
"Thoughts on Exuberance in Silicon Valley"

The last few years have been pretty incredible for the San Francisco Bay Area.  You really have to have lived here as I have to see how easily capital has flowed into the area, the effects of it trickling into nearly every industry even remotely tech related.  Just two years ago, there was San Francisco being more expensive than most cities but not quite at the level of New York or other top tier cities.  Now an apartment that once rented for $2500 can command mid-$3000s or higher.  A place the size of a walk-in closet at under 200 sqft can be found at $1700 or more.  When I first graduated college in 2013, the predominant attitude I saw in my peers was still that of caution and skepticism about the job market.  Now I have peers who have literally switched full time tech jobs every 4 months, some who would buy up an armful of snacks at a convenience store only to throw it all away...[More]
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Threaded Thinking

May 25th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     One thing I've come to notice is my thinking style tends to be much different than most when it comes to planning or managing how to pursue multiple tasks.  Some have suggested I think very linearly when much of the world is moving towards nonlinear or multitasking, but I'm not exactly the person one would consider tunnel visioned or laser focused nor is it accurate to say I only do one thing at a time.  Instead, it's more like I plant the seeds of each of my tasks in a way that allows me to shift my focus to other things while each continues in the background.  If you're familiar with business terms, it's like balancing lead time, where one does the things that just need to be started but not tended to for a while so they can be returned to later.  If you're more familiar with engineering terms, it is like pipelining to have multiple things done at the same time, not by having multiple processes but by having one process...[More]
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Death of Spring

April 25th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
This is another idea for a short film or animation (probably better fit) that I woke up with as a dream.  It was extremely vivid, like an actual animated film being watched.  The colors come off very strong, with death and decay being black and red while life is green and blue.  Both share occasional streaks of purple though.
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Two brothers are living in a somewhat burned down or devastated forest/wilderness/village.  One of them is out in the woods one day when they are cutting down a tree and release a water spirit.  The water spirit takes the form of an innocent child-like figure that heals the countryside.  

One of the friends get obsessed in dark magic upon realizing magic exists in the world and eventually starts becoming some sort of electricity or energy spirit, spreading smoke/decay and mutation but overall kept in a small corner of the woods because the water spirit would find out and destroy him.  He also doesn't...[More]
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Breaking People to Their Core

March 29th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Where do I find people like myself? That question has consumed me for as long as I can remember.  Over the past few years after college, I've managed to only come across maybe a handful of people out of the thousands I met who I can really relate to or consider like-minded.  In the eighteen years of school before that, there were maybe three, each at different times of my life.  What do I consider as being like-minded or similar to myself? For me, understanding a person is all about understanding the person's motivations - seeing through their actions, breaking them down and figuring out what really drives them deep within, what would cause them to crumble if they lost it but what would also make them truly happy.  While I have never considered this a formal skill or talent, I have gotten quite good at seeing into the motivations of those I meet.  This is a hard topic to discuss simply because it can easily be misconstrued as arrogance or...[More]
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Talking with an Engineer in Silicon Valley

March 17th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
A memoirs of sorts reflecting the talks I've had with most engineers that I met in SF the last few years.  It's funny to encounter at first, but when you're living it everyday, it really drains one's patience.  Maybe I'm having the worst of luck meeting people here, but this has been the bulk of my experience.  All responses are based on real conversations I've had; many are actually toned down from the original statements while others are pretty much direct quotes (besides obvious name changes, etc).  
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Sam: Hi, I'm Sam. Nice to meet you.
Engineer: Hi.
Sam and the engineer shake hands.
Engineer: Sorry.
Sam:...[More]
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Creating Sentient Artificial Intelligence

March 10th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Much of what people refer to as machine learning today is what's considered "weak AI", in that it is not actually thinking, hypothesizing, or behaving with a sense of self.  The latter is what some would call "strong AI," "artificial general intelligence (AGI)," or just plainly "artificial intelligence" (as opposed to "machine learning").  Below is an approach I've been rummaging for a while on how to create an intelligence that behaves like a person would in any circumstance.  It's something that I've loosely applied to my own projects, but I've not managed to fully explore it in the general sense due to time and resource constraints.  The term I've come to use to describe this approach is conative artificial intelligence (conative AI), in that the AI is intended to behave more like a creature or child than anything mechanical or data-driven.  If one reflects on intelligence...[More]
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Overemphasis on Numbers

January 21st, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
This is primarily a response to Erik McClure's blog post on age discrimination.

I'm of the same age, followed a roughly similar path through school, and also thought that young adults in general were fully capable if given the chance. I've since graduated and moved to the SF Bay Area though; you'd be surprised just how many new college grads actually cannot think freely and critically. I'm sure you must have seen at least a few headlines pointing out some of the absurdity in Silicon Valley now. (Having lived here for 6 years now, I'd say the media actually understates how nonsensical some of the thinking around here is, but that's for another discussion.) That's not to say we should box people up even more when they're younger, just that I can see where some of the prejudice is coming from (yet it can be argued that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy from treating people like drones in the first place).

Speaking on just my own experience in the SF Bay Area though, my thoughts are not so much that the issue is a prejudice against age as much as the issue is an overemphasis on credentials, test scores, and numbers in general. The problems with education today are what I personally see more as part of an overall lack of critical and creative thinking in society - too much data driven. People just want to look at some threshold, do an if-greater-then condition, and be done. If you look at some of the most talented programmers, as an example, many actually do not have a formal degree in Computer Science or are self taught; recruiting based on numbers like we do now would never find them and actually weed them out. On the other side of things, I've met engineers from Ivy League schools who can barely code but get the job nonetheless from great marks in school; some cannot build a program from scratch at all unless you give them the skeleton to fill in the details on, which is arguably the bulk of the work.  I've come across engineers from firms as prestigious as Google who would not even dare explore restaurants without some external confirmation of their decisions, justifying their decisions with "social validation" (their words, not mine); there's actual fear in their eyes at the thought of going somewhere that doesn't have enough Yelp reviews, fear of the uncertainty and making any decision not backed with numbers. Of course, this is flawed thinking, lots of appeal to majority, authority, and other fallacies, but the sad part is a lot of our peers who do this most likely are not even aware of what things like logical fallacies are (in a non-math context). If you've read books like "City and the Stars" or "Childhood's End", it is getting quite close to that at least in some pockets of the country.

I agree with...[More]
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Reflections on San Francisco

December 13th, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
It's been two years now since I moved to San Francisco.  It's hard to decide whether to move away as the people around will constantly tell you this is the place to be and how awesome it is.  Yet it's harder still to ignore that there's no real scene outside of tech as well as how unsophisticated (read - ghetto) many things are that you'd think would be taken for granted in a big city.

Some of the posts I've found on Quora are pretty spot on with my own experiences, though mine are limited more to the San Francisco side of it.

SF vs Chicago
    ...[More]
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Internet Community is Overly Saturated

September 2nd, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
Found this article here while just browsing web today.  It really hit home for me, since I've been around for quite some time.
The Internet is Opinion Saturated

I personally “grew up” on the internet back in the early 2000s (I was 12 then when I was part of various communities making games and other content together).  It’s funny because I remember people (including myself) would constantly get warned or even banned (at worst) by moderators for things as simple as being rude or lacking manners.  Now all of that pretty goes out the door when you connect online, which is very sad to see.  It’s as if all the effort back then to preserve a bit of dignity online pretty much went to waste.

Sometimes I...[More]
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Lack of Ambition in the Bay Area

May 29th, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
A year ago, I wrote of my frustrations in finding others who were hungry or wanting to take over the world.  I couldn't put my finger on why I was stuck in the situation (and still am).  I thought perhaps it was a generational gap, since my social circles mainly consisted of people who were often more than 8 years older than me when I was in middle and high school.  At other times, I thought it was perhaps society degrading overall and becoming more flakey, passive.

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I just don't belong on the west coast though, or at least in the bay area.  I've been reading more about the east coast (and just other places in general); this article, for example, mentions how ambition is often shunned in the bay and that really hit home for me as that is the treatment I get from most my peers:
http://www.therejectionist.com/2011/09/all-things.html

Likewise the herd mentality to do what's cool or trendy rather than find something...[More]
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Lack of Real Ambition

November 28th, 2013 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
I totally agree with a recent article here about many "ambitious" ventures nowadays being rather small in vision (or not really world changing as the author describes it):
http://www.mercurynews.com/michelle-quinn/ci_24582668/quinn-startups-lack-ambition-but-may-save-world

The article nails what has been bugging me ever since I moved to the bay area. The hard part about describing this is that technically these projects are ambitious since they're already going outside the set career path and all, but it's like doing the bare minimal community service hours to claim you volunteer actively.

It's hard to tell if it's a Bay Area thing or something trending amongst society as a whole. My hope is that it's just a regional thing, or else my moving away to start over will be in vain. Yet where do you move to find people who actually want to take over the world (as opposed to just making some app to help you find a taxi -_-)?
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Origins

September 24th, 2013 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
We started on a planet once located in the Asteroid Belt, but that exploded.  We came to Mars, but the atmosphere blew away.  Finally, we came here but hit our heads and called ourselves Earthlings.
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Some Inspiration From the Past

July 8th, 2013 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     These days I don't know what I'm doing anymore.  It seems completely illogical that I'd be on the path I am now given my history.  What am I doing just making songs or chasing stocks when I used to make games, movies, entire websites, etc?

     Sometimes I forget my frustrations, but every once in a while something like this shows up and just really tests my patience with myself:
     http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011/02/10/crash-bandicoot-as-a-startup/

     Besides the fact I use to play those games when I was younger, being able to form a team and produce something on that scale was something I've always dreamed of doing.  It's tough finding finding people of equal or better calibur though and even tougher to find those who share similar ambitions and drive.  Like the author, I also learned most of my programming myself (home-brewed), so it's really hard to relate to colleagues who otherwise...[More]
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