Blabberbox:Random blog-like posts from pftq.Share on Twitter

Stretch of Mind

July 9th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
Your body can only stretch so far, but your mind can stretch forever.
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Butterfly at the Windowsill

June 30th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
A butterfly lay dead at my windowsill this morning, inside, having been unable to escape to the world just beyond the glass.
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Ambiguity of Race

June 30th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
     This is a funny thing that's dogged me since I was a child, but for whatever reason, people often seem to have a really hard time identifying my ethnicity by my appearance.  I've had people who were the same ethnicity as me literally tick off every race they could think of except their own race, of which I was the same, despite having known me for years.  I guess it doesn't help that my last name is one of the rarest in the world, and it is all the more ironic that it actually translates to "nobody" in the original language.*

     Just the other day though, someone completely off the streets of NYC just bumped into me and actually tried to speak Spanish to me first before switching to English (spoilers, I'm neither Spanish nor Mexican).  That was a surprise even to me (and perhaps to the other guy as well who kept talking for 5 min before realizing I didn't understand a word he was saying).  It's one thing for someone who's known me for years not to know we were the same ethnicity.  It's a whole new level for a complete stranger who is not the same ethnicity to mistake me as one of their own.

     It's not even like I'm mixed heritage or anything.  Both my parents are straight up full-blooded natives from their home country, the same country.  Maybe it comes from the way I grew up.  For one, I'm not religious nor do I have any cultural traditions.  It doesn't mean I just do whatever though or that I'm atheist, just that I'm agnostic about a lot of things and adopt what makes sense to me.  The irony is that people who are white or Americanized would frequently think I'm not Western enough, and people who are not would constantly accuse me of being white-washed.  I get criticized for being too conservative in the way I live my life, yet those same people then say I'm way too crazy and risk-taking in my endeavors.  Maybe I'm just the only normal person left (note: sarcasm - apparently it's too much to assume people have context clues now - also sarcasm).

     The funniest part is people often think I have an accent, but I grew up with and can only speak English.  I mean, it'd make sense if I had another primary language that I was more proficient at, but if you take away my one and only language, then uhm... I mean, what else can I say?


* I get always get people who are skeptical on this point, but I've had complete strangers who are actually native to my family's home country, meet me for the first time, both read and pronounce my last name, and then ask me what kind of last name is "nobody." If someone (and many people over the years in this case) from the original language thinks it means nobody, then there really is no "technically it is this or it just sounds like that."
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Life is Strange OST

June 19th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
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Just Atoms and Electrons

June 15th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
Just ones and zeroes? You're just atoms and electrons, but I don't see you equating yourself to the rock on ground.
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Sound and Light

June 14th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Sound is vibration across space. Light is vibration across time. You hear sound from everywhere at once but only one point in time. You see light from one direction in space but literally across all of time.
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Arc of Life

June 14th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
In the comfort of youth, I long for the worlds beyond.  In pursuit of the unknown, I yearn for the older, simpler days of familiarity.  In realizing the world I seek does not exist in reality, I run away into my dreams, only for them to fade into memories of what I tried to leave behind.  Hence, God created death.
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Stereo Mic Recording on Creative Sound Blaster Z

June 12th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
This wasn't immediately clear to me and all search results seem to point at this being a bug that the Creative Sound Blaster Z cannot actually record its mic input in stereo, but after some messing around, it turns out that the solution is to just switch the jack configuration to "Line-In" in the Sound Blaster control panel.  It actually even clears up all the buzz/static/noise as well that normally comes with microphone input.  I'm guessing mic mode itself is mono, but literally the cabling and audio is the same whether you are on mic or line-in.  You might as well always leave it on line in and even get the benefits of no static or noise.  Hopefully this saves other people the hassle and starts clearing the confusion on whether this card can actually record in stereo (it can!).
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False Modesty

June 9th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
Calling yourself pathetic is not being humble. It's actually being pathetic.
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The Lies We Tell Ourselves

June 2nd, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Most people struggle to see past their own actions.  The world is dark, the light at the end of the tunnel dim.  I spent my life being told to doubt my intuition, to be more modest, humble, more open-minded, less naïve, to let go of what I think I know, only to realize later that was always the opposite of what I needed to do.  Others lie to themselves to grapple with what they don't know.  They convince themselves they are more knowledgeable than they really are and seek structure to shield themselves from the unexpected, to give themselves a false sense of control and certainty in their lives.  But my lie is to myself when I do know.  I close my eyes, purposely forget things, throw myself into the wind, whatever it takes in hopes that something might surprise me for once, to give myself a false sense of hope, the false hope that there might be more to the world than what I see before me, the mystery and excitement, the possibility of...[More]
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The Universe's Time Machine

April 12th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Suppose some time in the far future, we figure out how to travel great distances across space in a short period of time.  We figure out how to move light years away from Earth in mere seconds, whether it be through interdimensional travel or otherwise.  Our telescopes become strong enough that we can capture light from ground level activity of a planet or star light years away.  Our virtual reality and hologram technology become sophisticated enough that we can take that light from galaxies far away and cast it around us to recreate and experience a scene.  

At some point, a stargazer realizes he is so far from Earth that the Earth he sees in the sky is actually many years in the past.  He begins to experiment with this, repositioning himself either farther or closer to the Earth by light years at a time to see the Earth either older or younger.  It is entertaining at first, especially with telescopes being strong enough to see things on the surface like you...[More]
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Equality in Differences

March 25th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
You don't treat two people equally by forgetting both their names.  Equality doesn't mean removing what makes us different.
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Machine Learning is Not AI

March 24th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
It's pretty hilarious that Microsoft's AI chatbot Tay went "full nazi" in less than a day after coming online but not surprising.  I wrote before in my piece Creating Sentient Artificial Intelligence that much of what's considered "Machine Learning" right now is more akin your senses or motor skills - the muscle memory part of your body - than to your brain and that it's really not suitable to just throw these algorithms at more general problems and expect them to work.

Right now the algorithms learn solely on repetition and trial-error, but if we think about how we teach in school, the last thing we want is for students to learn by rote memory (parroting the textbook rather than understanding the concepts) - so why do we design our algorithms that way? It's because these algorithms are only a piece of the puzzle. When we as humans do things on repetition, it's to train it into muscle memory so we do not have to think about it.  In the same way that we are not conscious of every step we take or every muscle we use to swing our arm,  what we've built and dubbed machine learning so far are more like our muscles or senses; they have some level of learning to automate lower-level functions that the higher level intelligence (the mind, decision making piece) does not have to think about.  It's just that somewhere along the way (or perhaps we never really stopped to reflect on this), we forgot to look back on how our own intelligence works and see if it makes sense to how we're designing or using the algorithms we have so far.  You wouldn't touch a hot stove 100 times to train your hand to avoid it, even though that'd probably work to build up your reflexes - but that's the thing, these are your reflexes, not the thinking conscious part of your brain.

That said, I'm not against machine learning or saying it's not useful, just that it's not artificial intelligence; it's only part of the bigger puzzle.  We're less than half way there but flaunting it as it's all the way there.  We've come really far in creating a reflexive hand or eye with strong muscle memory, which is a great thing, but intelligence and autonomy is a whole other layer we've still got to add before we can expect anything meaningful on more general problems.  We've built the eyes to see the data but not the mind to think about it.
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Before My Eyes

March 12th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
The world I see when I close my eyes is clearer than the one before me.
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Noise and Splattered Colors

March 12th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
This cage that is my mind... The noise and splattered colors that is my reality... What good is it all if no one can see what I see, feel what I feel, in here... You want to escape but not into that world out there.
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Everything Stays (Instrumental)

March 7th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
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Temple of Heaven

February 16th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Temple of Heaven by Deane Ogden
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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.

======================

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

February 14th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Firebird by Deane Ogden
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City Guides

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Random Stuff | #
Just my thoughts and notes on where to go in each city, what's worth seeing and doing, what I enjoy in each city anyway.  Not so much a guide as much as a set of bookmarks for myself.  For a more anecdotal sense of what the three major coastal US cities are like, check out NYC vs SF vs LA.

United States

Chicago
- Best Area...[More]
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