Skorjs and Stenchpukes
The interesting thing about my brain is that there seems to be many sub-minds that act like mini-AIs with some level of autonomy, and are more or less cajoled and threatened to cooperate with the rest of the brain by the big sub-mind that seems to be the conscious thread. One of these sub-minds decided to write a random chapter of a sci-fi-ish story. The following text is an excerpt.
Yes, the Skorj has some differences compared to Baseline humans. For instance, they seem to have engineered some evolutionary advantages into their collective DNAs, in which most Skorjs are now immune to their versions of “colds” and “flus”. As another instance, they have four arms instead of the usual two. Quite handy for those long sessions of multi-sensorium game playing. They also seem not to be able to perceive the same color spectrum as humans can, so a rainbow is merely an ugly tri-color band to them, a bane to all Skorj amateur photographers after a rainstorm on their homeworld. But regardless of what one may say about the Skorj, they are for the most part almost humanity’s galactic cousins down the interstellar street. Obsessed with latest fashion accessories? Check. Endless debates about the how the new Politician is just like the old Politician? Check. Perpetually mired in deficit and tax issues? Check. Changing diets every 3 weeks on the latest hot thing? Check, of course.
So you see, one should never utter “Skorj” and “Stenchpuke” in the same sentence. The Stenchpukes, as their name implies, exist in a violent, predatory, and smelly orbit of their own. 231 years after humans and Skorjs started their joint exploration of the Outer Realms, the intergalactic cousins stumbled upon a charred, ruined world near Charybdis IV. What they discovered when the scouting party landed in what appeared to be the civilizational core shocked both humans and Skorjs, and ignited a historic media firestorm in their respective civilizations. Over the course of 72 hours, they quickly amended their mutual species agreements to eliminate any remaining points of dispute over economic and military cooperation. The Stenchpukes, in short, managed to do what two odd centuries of legal and economic negotiations between stuffy, self-important human and Skorj diplomats failed to do: a Human-Skorj Union (or a Skorj-Human Union, depending on which side you asked on a given day).
[To be continued…]
If I ever manage to own a bona fide spaceship, one that can actually sling me from here to Alpha Centuri, I want the ship to have one of these names:
- Voided Warranties
- Null Pointer Error
- Where Is My Singularity
- Discount Spacefares
Tumbling onto the iPad
Just testing Tumblr from the iPad. So far it seems to go pretty well, but then I won’t know for sure until I hit the “Publish” button, no?
“Flow” is one of those brief spurts of time in life that is not unlike the rare breezes on a stifling day. During these interstices, it feels like all time and space has warped down to a single thing — whatever it is that makes you feel the “flow”. To formalize (a la Wikipedia):
[Flow is the] mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity
Formal definition, yes, but does not quite capture the essence of flow. Maybe it’s deeply personal, but I feel it should be much more than a mental state of being that one could itemize on a piece of paper. I was completely, utterly focused while running after work today at the gym. I couldn’t remember a single thing the CNN newscast was saying on the monitor not 10 inches in front of me — but I could clearly remember the feeling of almost overwhelming focus and purpose, where nothing else mattered but the rhythmic motion of my legs at 6.4 miles an hour and the attainment of 3.02 miles of distance. It doesn’t feel quite so great afterwards as it was during the flow, which is why flow has such an unobtainium quality. Maybe one could replicate it through a cocktail of injected neurochemicals, and maybe a psychologist could provide a helpful bullet list of conditions for flow, but I think it remains one of those things that makes life worthwhile and also perhaps a bit mysterious.
Still reading Contrarian Investment Strategies by the author mentioned in the previous post. Although I’m familiar with the concept prior to this, reading about it pushed that concept to the forefront of my mind: nonlinearity of life:
1. Getting positively surprised by many things we don’t expect to be as good (“wow, that movie based on the tacky video game was much better than I thought!”).
2. Getting totally caught off guard on things that supposedly can be managed well in advanced (Fukushima, Gulf Oil Spill, Debt Ceiling, and now unfortunately, the so-called “fiscal cliff”).
3. Crazy gyrations of the stock market (if trading algorithms were so smart and stable, how can all of them simultaneously push the Dow down by 998.5 points?)
4. Traffic accidents (“I swear it happened in an eyeblink!”)
5. Magnitude(Hurricane Sandy) > Predicted_Magnitude(Hurricane Sandy), and all the tragic events that happened and are still happening on the East Coast.
We aren’t designed for nonlinear thinking, at least not all the time. Occasionally, we will have a flash of brilliance that’s completely out from the left field. Ironically, this too, is symptomatic of the nonlinearity of life. Maybe all of this is tied down all the way to the quantum mechanical level, where electrons aren’t in fixed positions or energy levels, but rather, in probability clouds. This isn’t linear. So scale this up and pretty much all of life can be potentially nonlinear.
I’ve been reading David Dreman’s Contrarian Investment Strategies and have been struck by the synthesis of rather disparate fields (or maybe they shouldn’t be so disparate): of financial markets, economics, psychology, and neurochemistry. I’ve always loved synthesis of disparate fields, such as marketing and computer science, because those areas that folks give little attention do usually yield outsized benefits. What’s also great about Dreman’s book is the ample amount of (good) statistical studies that backs up his hypotheses and assertions.
So if you’re looking for abnormally good returns in the near future, that may just be the 492 pages that will do the trick.
Errant CSS rules
Tip #1213901319401: Don’t leave errant CSS element-specific rules in your stylesheet. It can have rather hazardous effects on your CSS debugging, like spending half an hour wondering why two sets of identically marked HTML code snippets behave rather differently. Oy.
Is Apple sliding?
I can’t help but notice that there are cracks in the otherwise polished, Gorilla-glass covered shell called Apple. A few observations:
- Botched the Apple Maps launch (it’s not like the antenna issue, which couldn’t be tested on a scalable basis).
- Glitches in the App Store (for example, the Category tab doesn’t work at the moment).
- iPad Mini - yes, yes, I’m sure it’s executed per Apple standards and it could be a disruptive technology like the original iPad and iPhone were, but still…not quite there. There’s something missing about the Mini product line.
Could Apple truly thrive without Jobs?
Experimented with Pixelmator’s quick mask mode and (color) curves mode. Turned my calm blue car into an angry red one.
Out of whack
Since I was 14, I’ve read a rather unhealthy volume of financial and business-related books. A selected bibliography:
- The Whiz Kid of Wall Street by Matt Seto
- One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch
- Beating the Street by Peter Lynch
- Buffett: The Making of An American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein
- Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers
- Hot Commodities by Jim Rogers
A small portion, really. But what I actually gained from all of these volumes is a sense that Wall Street is perhaps…unbalanced. You know, herd mentality != profitable. So it always interests me when (as Jim Rogers say) things are Out of Whack (supply != demand but is about to have a nasty correction). As in recent days:
THE MARKET: Dow is near 52-week highs and *also at 5-year highs*.
THE FUNDAMENTALS: Can’t possibly justify 5-year highs (or at least, can’t justify a Dow 15,000, say).
How come? See the following evidence:
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Because I’m extremely lazy, I haven’t gotten around linking to stories such as US unemployment inched up to 8.3%, the US Fiscal Cliff (in 2013, if not this year), automated trading algorithms gone berserk, and a few other “minor annoyances”.
Black Swans anyone?