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

Fairness of Process vs Outcome

July 15th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
You seek fairness, yet you'd rather we all fail together and never reach our dream than allow any suffering along the way. How is that fair?
564 unique view(s)

Politics and the English Language

July 6th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Recently Read | #
541 unique view(s)

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]
629 unique view(s)

San Francisco Bay Bridge View

July 1st, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
The only thing I'll miss from my years in SF.
400 unique view(s)

Jurassic World Piano and Cello Cover

June 24th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
433 unique view(s)

Clair De Lune

June 23rd, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Clair De Lune by Azuria Sky
439 unique view(s)


June 23rd, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Time by Azuria Sky and AIMM
390 unique view(s)


June 23rd, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Stellaria by Azuria Sky
390 unique view(s)

Natural vs Western Posture

June 21st, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
Thought this was a very interesting article, special thanks to Kwelstr at xrptalk for originally sharing.
Why Indigenous Cultures Don't Have Back Pain

It reminds me of the several occasions where I actually stressed my neck and back trying to follow advise for sitting up straight (I'm a short guy and tend to sit with legs folded, which then leads to the usual "sit up straight" advice).  IMO it makes the most sense to stick with what felt most natural/comfortable as a child rather than *think* about what your posture or lifestyle should be like.
355 unique view(s)

Tech vs Film Culture

June 20th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
Thought this was pretty hilarious but spot on with the tech culture I've been dealing with for the last three years.
The Real Culture Wars or Hollywood Vs. Silicon Valley

Very typical quantified, tech thinking to want to watch more movies as opposed to actually appreciate movies.
413 unique view(s)

The Perfect Storm for Silicon Valley

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
"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 upon changing their mind, others who take Uber to work everyday for sheer convenience (what's next? an app to do laundry?), and many who are living paycheck to paycheck spending every dime they get as if they'll always have a job.

Before I get too far into this discussion, I want to be clear that I do not think tech is necessarily a bubble.  There is a lot of actual new technology out there worth paying attention to.  This year in particular is shaping up to be the year of Fintech (cryptocurrencies, payments, financial software) and Virtual Reality (Rift, Leap Motion, Magic Leap, Hololens) in terms of what is coming to fruition and where attention is focused.  A more distant 3rd would be healthcare/biotech, but one doesn't really walk into an event in Silicon Valley and hear as much about it.  In later years, I expect we'll also see more of artificial intelligence (the real deal, not just linear regression that so many startups are selling right now), quantum computers, robotics, nanotechnology, and energy/transportation (self-driving cars, solar power, jetpacks, etc).  These to me are actual new technologies and developments as opposed to simply using existing technology in different ways or repackaging old ideas into new environments.

What I do think is that there are many subcategories of tech which are in a bubble and that the flow of easy capital will be slowing down across the board.  The type of companies I would be careful about are those that are not really building anything new or are just riding trends rather than creating their own.  Services or products that are merely convenience or solving strictly first-world problems (too lazy to do x) are also, in my opinion, things to be cautious about.  There are many in the Valley itself who will absolutely deny this, but I think that is hard to accept when companies are getting so easily funded at high valuations, many of which do not even have a prototype let alone revenue.  Many will try to value themselves on the number of users (or even just potential users) over the actual business model (or worse, adding users *is* the business model).  It is utterly backwards.  Figuring out how to increase users and traction is optimization and refinement that one does at a later stage in the business when things are up and running.  You can't optimize your revenue when you don't have any.  You don't worry about retaining users when you haven't figured out what you're even going to do with them.  It's a common case of confusing correlation and causation.  It's affirming the consequent.  A successful product may come with many users, but it's logically fallacious to think the reverse is true.  In the meantime, VCs continue to approach startups that build user traction and value them as if the monetization is guaranteed to happen.

The pitches I see now either for getting a startup funded or even marketing to consumers often come across almost like scams, if it weren't for the guys giving the pitches actually believing what they were saying.  I'm sure we've all heard the now cliche "making the world a better place" pitch.  It sounds grand until one realizes the product is just an on-demand butler service or a button that sends "Yo" to your friend.  Some don't even try to explain why their product is useful or helpful to anyone.  Instead their pitches basically amount to who has money and how to get such people to spend it - in other words quite blatantly how to trick and scam people.  Does no one remember growing up with the horrible "buy it now" commercials and wondering who would ever fall for that? Or perhaps reading novels in school about dystopias, where conformity is so rampant that people practically live their lives being told what makes them happy, and then us wondering why we bother reading stories so absurd?  Yet here we are now with so many unable to even walk into a restaurant without first checking the rating on Yelp.

Then there's the assumption that just because a startup is doing things differently from the status quo, that it is being "disruptive," it is automatically in the running as the next big thing.  I've come across so many entrepreneurs who don't even have a clue how traditional financial systems work, yet they're trying to "overhaul" finance and actually wear proudly the fact they are completely ignorant of the industry (or in marketing terms, they're an "outsider").  I've seen exchanges built with fields like "price you want to buy" and "price you want to sell."  When I ask why they aren't simply "bid" and "ask," the guys running the company ask me "what's bid and ask?" I have seen claims like a startup's potential market being virtually the entire industry for which the company belongs to.  Too often, if a company is making mobile games, what I end up hearing is that their market potential is then the entire mobile gaming market.  Of course, they try to soften it up and sound modest by then saying they would only expect to get some fraction of that.  The problem here is not that they're being overly optimistic on how much of the industry's market share they can capture but that they have absolutely no idea who their market is.  As a very simple example, if you were to start a lemonade stand, your target market would not be the entire drink industry or even the lemonade industry.  It would be the neighborhood in which you are setting up your stand and among that the individuals who are thirsty, like to drink lemonade, and would actually come by your stand.  Then you take a fraction of *that* and work from there.  However, the former is sadly the kind of logic we see most often now, and it builds a feedback loop where others then follow up with increasingly absurd assumptions.  What many guys are doing are counting their chickens before they hatch, describing the goal reached when they haven't thought out the first steps past square one.  They draw correlations between their company and their industry as if they're already established.  They assume that by simply participating or being "disruptive" they are guaranteed a slice of whatever market they're in.  At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if the next startup tells me their market is the human race and that their potential market is entire global economy.

The hardest part about calling a top is that markets tends to have a herd mentality.  Even if things are in a bubble, it may climb higher for quite a while on the piling in of everyone else before things begin to crumble.  Think of 1999 or even 2000 before the actual Dotcom bust; betting against that, while right in the longer term, would have been completely wrong for the first year or two.  Again, I don't think we necessarily burst like the last one did and there are real technological innovations this time around, but there are definitely warning signs that things might at least start to slow.  Reality will kick in at some point.

There's the fundamental side, the actual startups themselves running into problems on in their execution.  For one, the cash burn rate on a lot of startups is getting pretty extreme.  I've come across startups that were only seeded a few million to begin with, yet are burning over half a million a month on expenses without even having a revenue stream yet.  Some flat out buy what almost looks like a vacation home as the company office, without having even a prototype of their product yet.  It's extremely lavish spending and not sustainable.  At some point, investors will no longer be willing to just gamble away on speculative plays like this.  Already, I've come across quite a few companies in the bay here myself which are finding it more difficult than past years to find capital and stay liquid.

Then there are the legal/political grounds which are slowly becoming less favorable to startups.  Regulations are also picking up, whether it be in crowdsharing services like Uber (now being pushed towards treating drivers as employees, which will become a huge expense) or financial innovations like Bitcoin (now requiring licenses and other credentials to operate with).  I've met quite a few folks who point out how something like Uber is making transportation so cheap without realizing how much of it is Uber operating at a loss per ride at the expense of VCs and that the pricing is often temporary or promotional to just grab market share.  The same goes for many other companies offering unrealistically cheap services; it's usually for market share.  It's very easy to live and create startups now because things are in untested territory, but it's not going to be this easy again once regulation catches up or funding is not as easy to come by.

Lastly, macroeconomic conditions are starting to tighten.  There's the Fed having ended their Quantitative Easing program and it now looking for any opportunity to raise rates.  It was heavily criticized at first for the effects of their money printing not trickling down to the rest of the economy, but it took time for that to happen, as is clearly evident today.  Then there's Greece and its overall contagion effect on the European Union, which in effect puts a damper on the rest of the world as well.  Greece's financial instability has been a recurring issue as far back as 2010, but at some point, its problems will have to come to an end, which very well might be defaulting on its obligations to the EU.  The danger here is becoming used to hearing about Greece to the point it's no longer considered a serious problem when by any objective measure it is.  Greece alone may not be a significant portion of the world or even the European economy, but it's the domino effect, the extra straw on camel's back, the catalyst that highlights the true overall weakness in the world markets, that should be the greatest concern.  Yet whereas a single headline about the potential for Greece's default used to swing the global markets one way or another, the past couple years have seen a gradual complacency of the market on the assumption these issues will resolve themselves or continue to defer to later years.  Nothing has happened yet, but the danger here is being completely off guard and looking the other way.

Individually, these conditions are not that big of a deal, but what's interesting to me is that these conditions are all coming together at a time when Silicon Valley seems to be at its frothiest.  Again, this is not to say that things necessarily collapse; in truth, it is a great time to start a company and pursue careers that you actually enjoy rather than just what pays, at least for the next year or two.  My point is just that, rather than live lavishly like there is no tomorrow, it would be a good idea to start considering times when money will not be as easy to come by.  The chipping away at the armor for Silicon Valley and gradually hollowing foundation beneath which many of these companies are formed come across to me as what is a perfect storm, and from this, I think we'll start to see a separation of the companies that truly offer something worthwhile to the world from those that exist solely on the coattails of Silicon Valley.
439 unique view(s)

Leftovers of Denial

June 13th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
When you deny the existence of the rest of the world, the only things left in your head are facts.
350 unique view(s)

Sony RX100 IV - Pocket Cameras Nearing DSLR

June 11th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
The trend has been pretty clear I think.  We're going to get to the point where DSLR quality cameras can be small enough to carry in your pocket.  Three years ago when I suggested this, even with the release of the first Sony RX100, I'd have to answer to claims that getting that quality in a small camera is physically impossible, but it looks like that's slowly no longer becoming the case.

Previously, you always had the tradeoff of more noise with higher megapixels or camera resolution if the sensor wasn't large enough to accomodate, but now it seems Sony has managed to minimize this trade off so that it's no longer a consideration.

Obviously a high-end DSLR today is always going to be better than a pocket camera today, just as it always has been, but the difference is getting much smaller.
263 unique view(s)

Threaded Thinking

May 25th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
     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 that works on other tasks while waiting for one to finish.  The difference here is I'm not just taking tasks that have existing lead time but reconstructing even the ones that don't so everything can be run in a streamlined manner with minimal idle time.  Sometimes I get criticism for being too "shortsighted," that I don't pay enough attention to something that might happen next week, but it's because there's something that needs to be done by today or even tomorrow, for which there will not be a next week if not given full attention.  Other times, I am described as being too hands-off or aloof, yet those same individuals would constantly be surprised at how much I have things in control even after knowing me for multiple years; it's because I can see what needs my active attention and what just needs a push, some careful planning, before it gets itself off the ground and takes care of itself.  There's no reason to watch an egg until it boils; you will hear it when it does.  Sometimes people are so obsessed with giving their 100% at everything, they don't realize when they can give 10% to something and still get the same thing 100% result.  More importantly, it then frees you with the extra time and attention span to get multiple things done at once or tie them together in the bigger picture to create possibilities that weren't there before.

     It's very different from the multitasking that I often see from others both linear and nonlinear.  I'm not trying to focus on multiple things at once, even if across a longer time frame I am doing multiple things, nor do I lose sight of other events that are happening while I'm focusing on any one task. For those who understand computers, the best analogy is that I'm like a computer with one core but a huge amount of RAM, whereas others tend to have a large number of cores but a low amount of RAM.  It doesn't mean I don't do multiple tasks.  I just do them one at a time.  I switch between tasks but at any given time am giving my full attention to one as opposed to dividing my attention among many.  At the same time, my lack of focus on other tasks does not mean I forget where I'm at when I return to them, which is an important distinction to those who get caught up in any one task they're focused on.  To extend the computer analogy, it would be like if I had a single core but with efficient threading, where the core switches between multiple tasks to give the illusion of multitasking but never actually does things simultaneously.  The catch of course is that I need that freedom to switch between tasks, and I need to be focused enough on the task I am performing at any one time to both make sure it succeeds as well as set it up to run in the background without my attention when I do switch.  I cannot literally do multiple things at once and have them all do just as well if my attention is divided, hence those who observe this from me and do not actually understand what I am doing would on first impression just bucket me as a tunnel-visioned linear thinker who misses the big picture, one who specializes in one thing or never has more than one thing on their plate, when in actuality I've probably spread myself across more areas than anyone else I've ever met.  The computer with many cores but little RAM, on the other hand, would do many things at once but keep "forgetting" where it was at on each task if things ran too long or skip over things that are assumed (aka guessed) to be unimportant because they literally can't keep that much at once in memory.  While they may excel at doing many things at once on raw ability, they struggle with more complicated tasks or planning out a multi-step course of action due to that limited depth of memory.  That shapes the way they see the world as well as what they deem actually possible; to them, some things you can only learn through experience as opposed to actually being able to think it through, while other things will always be dependent on chance or fate.  And then there is the computer with one core and no threading, which probably isn't even aware of the existence of other courses of action until it's done with the current one.  It's sort of like the person who wastes 10 years going down the wrong path before waking up and realizing he should have taken the other.  The issues with this tunnel-visioned manner of thought should be obvious, so from this point forward, I'll mainly be contrasting my approach against nonlinear thinking styles.

     A problem I often run into with those in the many-cores-but-low-RAM group is they would try to do many things but can't think very far ahead or maintain much of an attention span for any one thing.  Often that person may not realize that the hundreds of things they're doing do not actually lead in any way to the goal they set out; the cause and effect chain is completely missing.  They just hope that they cast a net wide enough that at least something they're doing gets them there.  It's like playing against a chess player who sees all the possible moves on the board but can't think more than 2 steps ahead of any move they're about to make.  For me, however, I opt to think through one task from start to finish, go down the rabbit hole so to speak, before switching to another.  Yet, when I switch back, I will still remember where I left off.  So while I don't pay attention to all the moves immediately, I eventually get to them all after thinking through thoroughly the possible consequences of each and weighing them into one decision.  I may not see a hundred steps past each possible move, but I can see with enough depth and understanding to know what's possible and what's not on that path and to know how that path will interact with others down the line.  Something like this is most prevalent in conversation, when I can often remember and cite the original context of the discussion hours in when most others often can't remember more than the last 3 things said, let alone the context of the overall conversation. The more frustrating extension of this is when the conversation would go in circles because of the inability of the participants to tie new points to the original topic as opposed to just what was most recently said.  It's like watching someone go in circles trying to solve a maze due to only remembering the last 3 locations visited (and often in isolation rather than stringing them together into an actual map of where they're going).  I see this manner of thinking most with those who consider themselves more "analytical" or statistics-oriented.  Rather than actually walk through all the steps of cause-and-effect to explain why something happens, they would either point to correlated observations or some extremely macro-level statistic that "empirically proves" an observation.  It's almost as if they use research statistics as a crutch to compensate for their own inability to actually walk through the simulation mentally; they simplify the world into a bunch of heuristics and shorthands, observations paired with statistical significance, so that these simpler one-step relationships fit in memory.  Going back to the chess analogy, rather than actually think any number of moves ahead, they just memorize the best moves to make in any board configuration (again, a one-step thought process instead of many).  They cannot remember or break down the why, the chain of events in between A and B that actually happen, but they can remember the stats or that it was "proven" that A leads to B.  To them, the mere memorization of these relationships *is* the why.

     The uniqueness of "threaded thinking" is especially apparent when it comes to visualizing cause-effect or mentally simulating many things happening at once.  Some might know me for being a pretty heavy gamer in real-time-strategy games (Age of Empires, Starcraft) back in my early teens; these kind of games effectively require you to keep track of hundreds of things going on at once, an empire's economy as well as its warfare and literally what each and every solider individually is doing in battle.  You are forced to use threaded thinking here because you as a player only have one screen, one mouse, one point of focus at any time.  You have to be able to reasonably know the next 4-5 moves that might happen off of any decision you make, so you can turn your attention to something else.  What you end up doing is getting the ball rolling on hundreds of threads without actually watching them all through; you just know what each of those threads will end up doing in the back of your mind.  Yes, things will fail at times, but it is your job to plan out your decisions such that for anything that might happen along the way, there are checks and triggers in place for the situation to take care of itself without your attention, and only when necessary will it pull your attention back.  It's not so much about predicting the next 4-5 moves or even the next hundred moves as much as whatever you set forth having an automated course of action to handle any situation that arises with or without you.  This is all the more true when you are actually designing games and levels so that quite literally your scripts have to be operating without your supervision to beat other players.  Real life is arguably the same way.  As much as people would like to believe in multitasking, you as a person can only ever be in one place at any time and physically really ever doing one thing at a time no matter how much you interleave your task list.

     This habit of being able to manage hundreds of threads but with the efficacy of virtually being there with full attention on every thread is especially key when trying to build, create, or invent.  Taken abstractly, you essentially fully understand each and every piece of a construct before zooming out to then see how they all interact together as one whole.  Because for each and every piece you've already seen what it'll do in any scenario at least 4-5 moves out, once you zoom out, you can see how the overall whole behaves for the next 4-5 moves with every possible interaction between its pieces.  This is in contrast to the more conventional multitasking, many-CPU-but-low-RAM mindset where a person would essentially throw paint on the wall to see what sticks.  Often they have no idea how the pieces would interact together until they actually set things in motion and observe.  They may do many things simultaneously but cannot see past the very next consequence of their actions.  

     This becomes especially frustrating in conversations on inventing new algorithms or discussing practically anything with many moving parts.  A question I would frequently get is how I can assume that individual pieces once put together would create the overall bigger picture I describe.  The inquirer often is trying to pinpoint the one condition or trigger that enables everything else, when in actuality and arguably most things with emergent properties, there is no such one enabler.  As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts; you cannot understand the whole by simply breaking it down into its individual parts and trying to find the most important one.  There is really no way to explain a process if the other in the conversation quite literally cannot see past the first move on the board across each piece.  Your point is that if these 10 pieces on the board each act accordingly, their combination will produce a result just through sheer cause-and-effect simulation in mind, but the other would ask how that is possible when each piece alone cannot attain the overall result of the group.  It's like trying to explain how to cook a great tasting meal to someone who just pulls apart the ingredients and says each ingredient alone does not taste that good.  It's like trying to explain that assembling the pieces of a car together correctly will make it move, only for someone who insists it's impossible if the individual pieces to the car themselves cannot move.  I've actually had a similar such conversation before where I was pretty much describing the mechanisms of how a car works, but it wasn't until I actually pointed out that the device was essentially a car that the other would accept it was possible. They memorized the fact that a car moves, but they cannot break down why nor recognize the pieces leading up to it.  If they were in charge of creating the universe, they would never get past turning atoms and electrons into molecules, let alone create life.  Quite literally, if they have not themselves assembled and observed the pieces working together as you describe, they cannot see it in their mind.

     As some can probably tell by now, I'm not a fan of trade-offs.  I don't see any reason why any strength you have *has* to be paired with a weakness.  I'd rather be neither laser-focused but tunnel visioned nor multitasking but scatter-brained.  Sometimes people seem to forget it's possible to be well balanced and actually in control even when you're not around.  Too frequently, I see the complaints that if you expect someone to focus, they cannot be expected to keep track of everything else going on and that if you expect them to keep track of the bigger picture, they cannot be expected to do any particular thing very well.  It's almost like people have forgotten that you can actually just do things *better* and not have to always sacrifice one thing for the other.  Moreover we seem to forget that it is actually possible to intentionally cause things to happen as opposed to just throwing paint on the wall and seeing what sticks.  Many people may depend on trying things out randomly to generate ideas, but it doesn't mean there aren't people who actually can see how things come together before putting that thought to action.
406 unique view(s)

Entering the Stronghold (2015)

May 21st, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Entering the Stronghold (2015) by Denny Schneidemesser
319 unique view(s)

Jobs and Networking

May 18th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in 42 | #

Besides Facebook...

Below are resources mainly and sites worth checking out for building up portfolios and projects... more for artists and people trying to start their own companies as opposed to just casual social sites.


866 unique view(s)

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.
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]
323 unique view(s)

Building the Ship

April 6th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
I'm trying to build the ship and take sail, yet I can only find people wanting to debate the existence of the water.
471 unique view(s)

Summer Cover

April 2nd, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Summer Cover by Kyle Landry and Josh Chiu
440 unique view(s)

Interstellar Piano Cover

March 31st, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
454 unique view(s)