2013-01-19

No great way to block a smart knife

There are a lot of bullshit videos on YouTube. This one seemed a bit more realistic. What to do, and not to do, perhaps, if you bring bubblegum to a knife fight, or vice versa.

KFM

Some girl's got me thinking about kungfu fighting. As far as named styles go, the last one to catch my attention was Keysi Fighting Method. I watched a few silly videos on YouTube to learn more about it - I got that the pensador position is important, but there did not seem to be much information on how one protects the core and groin.

The answer was more obvious as soon as I rewatched the clips from which I originally learnt of the existence of KFM some time ago - from a documentary on Nolan's Batman.



The clips apparently show the inventors of KFM assuming the pensador position *
* one palm on head, other palm on back of first hand, both elbows thrust forward to form a protective structure
and bending over to bring the pensador between one's core and the adversary. You block with your head. This is cute. (It's also a pseudo-cute martial arts idea for a pseudo-intellectual, because the pensador stance means "thinker stance.") Aside, they also do the obvious, and pivot the groin away from the adversary in a straight fight, unlike in the silly MMA videos where they appear to be often in a missionary position while fighting. (Yeah, grappling, whatever... I'm sure it has its virtues.)

KFM style assumes a lot of power, or rather, it provides many options for the free use of powerful moves. In order to ever do anything like that, I would need to bench / crunch a lot more weight, :P, or do the equivalent bodyweight conditioning. The latter is probably preferable.

Wing Chun for dummies

Search through my posts, and you'll find a reference to a 20-foot-long 4-inch-thick plastic pipe that I bought to test a hypothesis about energy-efficient lighting design. The initial experiment failed to produce a usable implemetation of the lighting design, but I have a few more ideas that have yet to be tested.

Meanwhile, I just sold my air-conditioner, and was thinking to use the pipes to build a cooling tower, with running water and an electric fan. Then during evening meditations, a more pressing need occured to me... how about building a Wing Chun dummy?

These guys have published basic plans for such a device.

Hanging with the father

So my dad decided to add an air-conditioner to his house, and since I was selling one that I wasn't going to use (it came in a package with a load of other stuff), I sold mine to him. He dropped by my place, and we took a walk up a mountain down the street, which I had been meaning to show him. Then we got dinner, and while he was making himself a cup of coffee at my place, I moved the machines into his car.

He's a Methodist pastor/theologian, on his final year of furlow, before retirement. He will then put more time into writing papers on theology and political participation. I am a career student, in my first year in a new, hopefully permanent, base of studies. I argue that the bits inherited through both of us from his father, are a sense of Confucian myopia, "keep house in order, everything else is side-effect." He hopes that I will inherit a bit more than that from him.

I like this subset of my family.

We're all pissy people

ACHTUNG! This ejaculation is about a sense of emotional entitlement, in mobs, in social activists, in criminals, in Americans, in Malaysians, etc.. And if you don't like the thought of false abstractions being drawn over human beings in general, particularly with regards to their personalities, psyches, and emotional lives, it may be in our mutual interest that you do not proceed with reading this. (All abstractions, are naturally false.) I seem to get suspended from Twitter often enough, for talking about these things there, directly to the perpetrators.

I just spent a couple of hours analysing a problem, shopping for parts, digging out wallplugs badly implemented in my bathroom, and hacking my "showerhead holder," back into its rightful place, on the wall. Totally worth it.

What totally wasn't worth it, was undoing and redoing the work of guys I paid USD 465*
* that's 14 weeks of groceries, on my watch -_-
to, just three weeks ago, to fix up my roof and plumbing. I also had to finally caulk the roof myself. At least, half their work was clean. What can I say? I was in a rush to move into this flat, and it has been my first realestate refurbishment project. I should have haggled with the contractor on price, and then paid only a partial amount upon initial completion of the job. But as he too said, it is good for a young person to learn.

The showerhead holder was of course a rather boring problem to solve. While I was working on it, "ADHD multicore me," was thinking about social dynamics that had been highlighted to my attention over these past weeks. Most of my social interaction these days is via Twitter, as I am studying alone in a small town, on a low budget. In the past few weeks, certain high points of negative emotional engagement **
** "the butthurt," as a brogrammer acquaintance of mine might put it
in the folks I follow have been:
  • a woman was leered at by a security guard, and she went on a tirade against leery men, to the point of expressing the thought that leering was a social ill, symptom of gang rapists, such that leering at women, by men, should be quashed (no word however, on any structured, ethically or legally feasible, method for doing so)
  • Malaysia's general elections are coming up in a few weeks, and so the past months have been extra-full of our normal racial politics, accusations of insult, demands for apologies, threats of violent madness, etc.
  • rape, has taken the world by storm, thanks (and I do mean thanks, albeit in a sad way) to that incident involving a busload of monsters in India; and a few weeks ago, TwitterJaya, portmanteau for the Malaysian Twitter community, was abuzz with a hashtag which translates to #tipsToAvoidBeingRaped, and the classically horrific reaction from each of various parties, along their respective vectors
All this brings me back to the brief time I spent in the United States pursuing my bachelor's degree. I was at Bates College, a school that valued egalitarianism above many other values. There, as such, civil rights and x-ist "butthurt," were popular topics within, and without, the classroom. I spent most of my time outside the classroom trying to figure out the history and rationale for the AAC&U's (or rather, its members') contemporary implementation of the so-called "liberal arts," and frequently found myself musing about how much of the Culture Wars remained. It was always in my mind that the US and Malaysia shared many cultural parallels, themes of race, and domination, liberty, etc.

From there my thoughts went again to remembrance of the phrase "amok," a "Malay," word, invented by the people of this archipelago, and adopted at some point into the British lexicon. We invented amok. Our politics, during the Mahathirism that I grew up with, was rhetoricised on the notion of a people going amok. Amok was the name of our boogeyman. "Piss someone off? Pay the price - it's not their fault, they're out of control."

Of course, we often see the same dumbass pattern popping up in the discourse on rapists, today, as it ever has. "Didn't dress up? Pay the price - it's not their fault, they're out of control." While screwing the damn shower into place, I was just struck briefly by the analogy of the pattern - it's the same damn argument. And you know what: that pattern is found in those people who want to regulate how people look at each other, too. I'm putting anti-leerists into the same paragraph as rape-is-justified-by-our-urges rhetoricians, just to underscore this point. There's no immediate reason for anyone to stop leering at anyone else, just because the leerees (or, "leered-ats,") feel violated at the moment of being leered at. Stop such nonsensical attempt to regulate the act of looking at someone, with squinty eyes or whatever, right, damn, now. The only thing that differentiates criminals from non-criminals, is by what people actually end up doing. That, is the law.

*** "It's a failure of your individual character."
*** That is the proposition I want to make. If you feel that people should tip-toe around you, just because of your feelings, I really do want you to go and drown yourself. Though, I do understand that you probably won't, and I certainly won't do it for you, so perhaps you will be creative enough to go do something else, like think about this and come back with something interesting to say. Of course, I'm not expecting you to. Growing up where I did, I don't expect that people will change their ways just to make my life easier. I don't expect people to become good citizens. I don't expect people to be kind. Of course, it is nice when they are, but often enough, one can't even get a self-righteous dimwit to stop harping on their feelings of being insulted, and to actually come up with a fungible plan of action to fix themselves, and the world around them.

Folks are only angry towards others, when they fear that they will lose some part themselves. Resist emotional dependency. Merely be.

Pacing

Rule #1 of rationing - don't enforce cuts if cutting disporportionately slows you down.

Roofing

Light rain on a Friday night. I hear an unusual dripping pattern, and suspect that the roof has sprung a new leak. I move aside the water barrels in the bathroom, and set up the ladder, hook on my flashlight, and ascend into the darkness above.

No new leaks reach the ceiling, but a bit of insight into which tiles are leaky has been obtained.

I am still pondering the value of forking over a wad of cash to remove the tiled roof, and to replace it with something else entirely. There are many potential benefits, including an increase in security. This flat has none. (Yup, it's on my blog now.) First I would need to obtain such cash. Hah. Also, I would also need to ascertain the degree of permission available to me, for civil engineering modifications.

Meanwhile, in the movement to set up the ladder, the showerhead holder falls off the wall. Shoddy wallplugs. I will have to fix it later. I really did overpay that contractor. He also did the roof, and succeeded partially, though ultimately I had to locate and plug a final massive leak by myself.

2013-01-18

Fighting in the streets

I live in the developing corner of a surburb, Bandar Sungai Long, and all around me it is common to find immigrant workers who live here. Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, are represented by the usual folk. Then there are Malaysians, too, Chinese, Malay, Indian, etc.

Just now, in the drizzle of a Friday evening, I heard shrill screams, and knocks. I looked out from the balcony of my flat, and saw a chap running. Once he had gone some distance, I saw that there were two of them, running away. Another fellow came by, holding a broom. Somewhat behind him, a slowly walking man.

The chap with the broom looked around, complained to my neighbours from Jawa downstairs, then went back the way he came. He stopped to confront and strike the slower walking man behind him. Motorcycles came by, and they rode off in the direction of the first running men.

I went downstairs to inquire with my Jawa neighbours about the nature of the interactions. They said, Vietnamese folks had gotten drunk, and insulted some others. Confrontations occurred supposedly between them, and some Myanmar(ese). They said, on another occasion, blows were struck with wood, to the point that someone had fainted.

(I noticed that my neighbours' two-year-old daughter is playing with what looks like an 11" MacBook Air.)

By the time I have walked back upstairs, and am done writing these paragraphs, I look out again. In the distance, the motorcycles have stopped, and folk are talking in the rain, far away. More motorcycles ride out to join them, it seems.

Everyone's a busybody.

Ah, these are the time I love Malaysia.

Tuna calculator

In case you've never heard of "tuna calculators" - if you eat tuna, you probably should do a quick search on it.

Meanwhile, sardines, or smaller fish lower in the foodchain, seem like a better bet.

One meeleeon $GOOG-glers

Today an interview with Larry Page caught him in a thought experiment on what $GOOG would do with a million employees. ($GOOG currently has 60,000 FTEs, and a number of temps on the same order of ten.) Larry wasn't sure if Walmart had a million employees.

It turns out that Walmart has more than two million. Source: Wiki page on the largest employers.

Inflation

Taking a break from reading up on the fundamentals of number theory. Reading up on money supply. Terminology learnt: disinflation, the distinction between "monetary inflation," and "price inflation," (both already-known concepts), etc.

I need to study more closely the dynamics of stagflation, and of how moderate inflation helps to cushion the labour market during recessions.

Later in the evening, I read about Tsaing's work and the argument that: expectations of deflation may induce cash hording, and result in prolonged lack of consumption, punctuated by brief spikes in consumption, as consumers try to guess the end of the deflationary period.

Hyperoperation: sequence

So in school, I learnt about addition, multiplication, and exponentiation, just like most decent students. I did fairly well at math in high-school, but mostly by remembering what each operation did. It was certainly pointed out that there was some higher-order relationship between these operations, but our teachers did not go there.

Of course, the notation for each of these three common operations did not share a common schema, so it was impossible (at least for me) to deduce what comes after exponentiation, in this sequence of operations, just by looking for patterns in the notation of these operations.

A year or two years ago, I was introduced to the notion of tetration, the hyperoperator sequence, and Knuth's up-arrow notation, which indicated to me where humanity had gone about documenting the bigger picture on this matter.

I have much study to do here, and much more to learn, if I am to understand this properly.

Point of cognitive efficiency/ethics/pedagogy: I think we should unify the notation for the hyperoperations, so that the nature of the relationship between addition, multiplication, exponentiation, tetration, etc. becomes more obvious to users of mathematical language.

Update: Addition and Multiplication are commutative, but Exponentiation is not. Is the latter categorically different? More thought required.

LaTex: on Blogger, and iOS

Now I need to make some time to figure out MathJax (source), so that I can blog in LaTex.
MathJax test

inline:

\(x={-b \pm \sqrt{b^2 - 4ac} \over 2a}\)

displayed:

\[x={-b \pm \sqrt{b^2 - 4ac} \over 2a}\]
Well that's done it, then.

I couldn't add a gadget in Blogger, so I added the following to the Head tag of my HTML template:
<script type="text/x-mathjax-config;executed=true">
MathJax.Hub.Config({
  TeX: { equationNumbers: { autoNumber: "AMS" } }
});
</script>
</script>
(source)

On iOS I am using LaTex Assistant Lite, for quick LaTex reference, and I am using MathBot for drafting Latex. I am also using the PDF-d LaTeX WikiBook as a more general reference.

Exponentiation: notation

I've always wondered why we use the notation,
a^(-1) = 1/a
So after reading Euler, I tried it out, and figured it out.
a^b * a = a^(b+1)
a^b = a^(b+1) / a
a^(-1) = a^(-1+1) / = a^0 / a = 1/a

2013-01-17

Bandwith optimisations

I'm targeting 80MB daily - right now still regularly using 200-400MB daily.
  • Opera Mini has too many network failures - it's been deleted

  • Twitter on iPad native app, and web app, both run with images on-only - they're being avoided

  • Instagram is a low-priority distraction, it's being avoided

  • I'm still using Feedly for RSS, images can't be turned off, let's see how this goes
2340 hours. I've been testing this and that, with data monitors on my iOS devices. I think I'm turning off Wi-Fi, and putting it in storage for emergencies only. Work will resume without.
  • Blogger access seems best via API.

  • Mercury is, so far, the best browser for iPad: custom user-agent (turns off high-bandwith iPad web UIs), images off. Additionally, integrated reader, higher security options, and fullscreen mode.

  • Google Reader web, "/m" seems to be the lowest-bandwidth option, for reading RSS feeds.

Maintenance

So weak this fragile body. More exercise required. Heart pumping like a train after a few pull-ups. In the morning, there's nothing like a little exercise to get the lungs moving. My basal control is so "off."

There's a 100% chance that one day my friends will be rich, and a 33% chance that I'll be better at math - at least I tried to have fun :P

Math noobing

Euler's Elements of Algebra turns out to be excellent reading - for me. I guess it goes into such painful (?) details as, say, highlighting the fundamental difference between 1 and the other natural numbers. I wonder how many other ass-hats out there are postponing $-careers at the age of 30, to read arithmetic from Euler.

(As a result of reading up on Euler, I have been introduced to Diderot. Another fascinating chap, whose individualism and avoidance of institutional status is, I guess, mirrors my own, to-date, but perhaps not in the future. Or perhaps that is the eternal destiny of my career. Haha.)

I am gradually getting a appreciation for the distinguishing qualities of 0, 1, the primes, and the compound (natural) numbers. I keep reading. "Dividend, divisor, quotient," - I remember being estranged by these terms in college - I certainly hadn't learnt them in English, and I'm not sure if we ever referred to them in Malay. But the concepts were always easy.

In college, my bone with math was the language used to convey the concepts. I figured I would postpone studies of math till I had time to slowly iron out my appreciation of the language.

So here I am.

Noodles: how low can you go

Plain air-dried noodles, soy sauce, chilli powder, eggs, water. It works!

Later: soy sauce (again), pepper, beef, greens.

This solitary student chasing indecipherable knowledge thing - seems like on boring days, I spend most of my time cooking and cleaning up.

Various traditions of knowledge

When reading texts from outside the tradition of post-Enlightenment Standard Theory, one ought to test every proposition with the scientific method in as much as that is possible.

I was advising an acquaintance that eye-strain, from reading or viewing emissive displays (CRTs, backlit LCDs ,etc.), is just the phenomenon of stressed eye muscles. The kinesthesia of those muscles can be retrained, so that eye-strain is reduced, in general. This is practiced in meditation, and martial arts, and analytically we would say that it is the business of teaching people to pay more attention to their peripheral vision, and to be less "binocular," in the way that they think about what they see.

The field of data that the eyes capture is a superset of the field of data that the visual cortex process, abstracts, and passes to other parts of the brain, and ultimately to our faculty of reasoning in semantic form. This pathway can be hacked, but it requires close attention by the person who is being hacked, to do the hacking. (At least, to-date, in history... haha... we do not have much in the way of remote hacking for humans, yet, though of course, that has long been a point of military and other research.)

Anyway, reminded of all these fun psychosomatic studies, I dug up the books on qigong, kungfu, taichi, and Chinese traditional food cures which I had collected, but not yet read. Most of my reading in this area has, in the past, focused on analytically figuring out what "meditators," are doing inside their heads, and on the rather straightforward points of breath technique.

Test everything. Measure everything. Logic must prevail, but the substrate of logic remains the world of evidence before us. We are far from crunching all the data that we have, let alone done with farming all interesting data.

Eulerian origins

Over a breakfast of tuna congee (half a cup of rice, a can of tuna, soy sauce, pepper), I am reading the wikipage on Euler. So a lot of our modern mathematical notation is his fault. Aha. It seems we have a similar breadth of interest, and religious upbringing. We have plenty of differences, of course, he was far more specialised in mathematics than I hope to be. I download a copy of Euler's Elements of Algebra - it seems like a good place to start, since he's responsible for much of the current language.

Later I am reading up on economic reports that I cannot possibly fully understand. This year is to be spent mostly on math and stats, but after that I should dig into macro-economics quickly. Too many things to do.

On that note, it's bed time again. 0830 hours.

$GOOG Drive seamlessly bridges cloud computing to iOS user-interface

If I'm not mistaken, this feature wasn't included in the initial release of $GOOG Drive's iOS app. But now it appears that I can fully:
  1. open Sheets on the iOS app,

  2. that can call code in the cloud which I earlier wrote in $GOOG App Script,

  3. that yanks data from third-party servers (like $YHOO's),

  4. to then crunch data on $GOOG's servers,

  5. and finally throw processed results back to the Sheet on my iOS app,
... practically without blinking, as if one were viewing the sheet in the browser.

It looks like we're giving $MSFT a run for their money here.

HTML5: challenged challenger

I may be totally out of my depth on this, but in my limited experience, rendering a complicated DOM is the resource bottleneck. Keeping the DOM small, by moving items in only when they need to be rendered via GPU, and deleting them from the DOM when they're out of view, is key. I did use the infamous HTML5 $FB app, and I'm not sure if they addressed this issue - it always seemed like they kept the whole timeline in the DOM... scrolling then became a bitch.

As an afterthought, it seems that a static timeline should be rendered only once, and thereafter stored in RAM for buffering to the viewport, but I don't think that's how the HTML5 rendering engine for iOS apps worked.

Ah, whatever. What do I know about this, anyway.

Alphabets

Greek letters, Hebrew letters, LaTeX... what else do I have to look into, in order to study math? I started postponing mathematical studies in college because I figured most of my issues were at the morphological or semantic, and not at the conceptual level. Dum dee dum. Thinking of myself an information scientist is too grandiose, interdisciplinary, and obscure - it doesn't convey anything to most people. I'm just going to refer to myself as a sort of linguist. It's like a school teacher - sounds boring, but safe.



Update: repeatedly confusing my gamma and Upsilon - now I'm glad the Romans cleared that up.

2013-01-16

$FB's copywriters have been busy

Graph Search? It's a rebranding exercise. There, I called it.
If they honestly think it's a product move, then it's an act of desperation, or naivete. Which is worse. I also have been short $FB in the run up to their January 2013 earnings call, because I've been guessing that the October 2012 earnings call had its numbers pumped, for boringly obvious reasons. But all that is another story.
Search was always there. I worked for two years, 2009-2010, for a friend who has been wanting to build an online social network. This particular company started about the same time as Yammer, with the same target audience, but it made the decision to go broad, and aim somewhere between where the 2013 version of MySpace has launched, a full-blown social-layered multimedia CMS, and semantic search for personal/professional data on employees. As far as I'm aware, sales didn't move a cent the whole time I was there, but I wasn't in sales, and don't know for sure, so let's just say that whatever they're doing now, I didn't get to see them take off.

Search is the obvious point of monetisation for any online social network that doesn't have a horde of users. It's obvious, if you have the slightest inkling of what business intelligence does in a large corporation. It's just like what people do in their daily lives, when they talk to people who work for them, or to their neighbours, in higher resolution, with higher rigour, and essentially more quantification. And automation - but as we all know, varying degrees of automation in the querying of meaty humans still get you varying degrees of qualitative value.

Search is part of the giant civilisational revolution of "us," the meat, getting "them," the machines, to do our thinking for us. Data, is analysis, is intelligence, is knowledge, is wisdom, is goods and services, is money... you get the idea, I mean, the IDEAL, about where we're going with all of this.

Search was in $FB on day one. Search was in $FB when $FB was Facemash. I joined $FB's network the first time when I was in college, at a NESCAC school where I got a BA in 2005. Since then, I've deleted my $FB account twice, once for a lack of utilty from the service around 2006, and once for a lack of control over my data in 2012. I remember.

Search was there. Hell, it was in Friendster, the first MMOSN. Which strangely enough, had its product obliterated then sold for pennies to a company in Malaysia, where I'm from.

Search was what made Friendster truly, anthropologically, interesting. I surfed Friendster's unwalled graph of early users, through tribes of various deviances. And it was amazing to be able to see each strange tribe of users, culturally identified among its members.

Search is not a revolutionary product. For $FB to position it as such is not groundbreaking. It simply signals where $FB wants itself to be vis-a-vis the competition. I think $FB is a great product, and a maturing company, with a bright future, but "search," for what it's worth, is only the latest effort to copywright away the harsher sounding nature of what $FB has been forced to become.

The sale of meaty data.

Update: Now VOIP is an innovation? Refer to block quote above.

0242 hours

Even here on the fringe of surburbia, night is noticeably quieter than day. Perhaps soon I will move my study into the middle room of this flat, which is currently the store room, as it is most insulated from the periphery. Fewer people and machines inhabit the night. It leaves the bottleneck of my conscious cognition more open to strange subjects like mathematical symbols, for which I have (relatively) limited affinity.

The flat adjacent to my living room is used as a cellular base station, and its airconditioning rumbles through the concrete beams above my flat, on and off, day and night.

Equilibrium

The life I have now has been postponed for two to three years. Nothing can take that from me, not some half-arsed romance, not the pursuit of money, not the fear of work, not even the loss of this very environment. The least I have at the end of it, is the benefit of having achieved this mode, even if I am required to give it up. It's a game. You win a round, and then it's a new game. I already won the last round. We're actually in the early innings of a new one. Let's see how this one goes...

... meanwhile, I'm sick from :-(P) from a sore throat, so I'm going to veg for a bit, and hope that I feel better, enough to work well, soon.

Grocery tweaks

Nothing like an hour spent removing chicken meat from the bone, with a cleaver, then cooking it. I work slow, and in an unpracticed fashion. It is amusing, and delicious.

One of my pet peeves about Malaysia is the way chicken "thighs," are cut and packaged - the thigh bone is joined to the hip, and sometimes to a chuck of the rib cage. What gives?

Between shopping at the large hypermarket on the highway, and the smaller supermarket in town here, I am now deferring to the former, on quality of stock. The former is also a little cheaper, given the amount of work it puts into packing its greens. The latter has a quicker selection of fruit, and bits of meat - so I can always go there when I need something urgently.

Trading $AAPL

This is not advice.

$AAPL closed yesterday day just above $500. When the KLSE closed today, my fund was down to -66.47%. Tis a month of reckoning! When the US market opened after that, Nomura had downgraded $AAPL significantly, and the price dropped below $490.

I don't gamble unless I'm willing to lose my capital. After 15 months of trading up and down... I feel nothing. My life savings are a tool. Tools are often lost. Meanwhile, I am happily catching up on math. Goes to show that last year's peak stress was more due to lack of an adequate study environment, than concern over how my fund was doing. Priorities, baby.

Or, am I just a myopic fuck up? You may be the judge of that. Back to math.

2013-01-15

Some basic mathematical notation

I started out today reading up on the "binomial coefficient," and proceded to drill into the definition of its terms, so the "factorial," came up. From there, the related concepts I wasn't familiar with were "double factorial," "multi factorial," and "gamma function." The notation for these involves a lot of '!'s and the capital Greek letter Gamma.

Thereafter, I had to go revise the notion of "summation," whose "capital-Sigma notation," I have always found confusing. Why can't these things be required to for some sort of geometric sense, instead of being arbitary arrangements of symbols, whose relative placement must be remembered for semantic context?

So I also learnt the capital-Pi notation for the product of a series, which corresponds to capital-Sigma notation's use to represent the sum of a series.

On we then go, to "finite differences," and a review of the classic topic of "mathematical induction." "Recurrence relations," and "seed values," round off the evening. Time for bed, at 0306 hours.

Coffee noobing

So far I've been making coffee from grounds, at home. I pour the grounds into a cup with hot water, letting them steep, then draining out the grounds with a cloth sieve.





The common way to roast beans in Malaysian and Indonesia appears to have 50%-90% beans, and the rest margarine and sugar. There's a varied mix of Arabica and Robusta beans in there.

I've realised that pure Arabica blends are often too fruity for me - if the roast is too light, a longer steep makes bitterer coffee, at the expense of unacceptably high acidity. I need to test more roasts. I seem to prefer blends with more Robusta. I guess I prefer a little less delicacy, in women, and in coffee.

Here's a little article on acidity in coffee.

The 100% Arabica margarine roast is much more mellow with a long steep. Yay. Much more mellow, after a few hours.

Current mathematical references

I started out the year on statistics, but segued into mathematics because of the way probability distributions are quantified using integrals. I am weak in both (by any serious standard) and have much to catch up on.

I have mostly been using the Concise Oxford Dictionaries of statistics, and mathematics, respectively, and Wikipedia. Additionally, I have Mathematics: its Content, Methods and Meaning (A,K,L), and a few other paper books lying around. Various digital resources have been available via the Internet. Some have been downloaded as ebooks.

In the current reading on binomial coefficients, I remembered to check Wolfram MathWorld, and found that its articles are quite succinct, and insightful, in their threading together of related and dependent subjects. It appears that some articles are written wholly by an individual, and may thus be benefited by a unifying clarity of form. It turns out that the CRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics is of the same original source as MathWorld.

Via MathWorld, I discovered today that there is such a thing as The Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, for all you number theory nuts out there. The Wikipedia list of online encyclopedias lists a few other sites. EqWorld is delightful to me, as I have formalist tendencies - so this should be a good reference. PlanetMath is also interesting because some articles have a "Properties" section at the top, which shows more explicit relations offhand.

Much to do. Much to do. I only hope I get to do it, before the next commercial adventure befalls me.

Just past midnight

It is again, that time of day. Much writing has occurred on this blog. That's probably what happens when you take a 150-tweet-per-day account offline.

Dinner was a congee made from rice thrown into herbal chicken soup - only fenugreek and fennel were used. I should have added some garlic and more vegetables, and perhaps I will, when I heat up the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow. I have a large pot which is never filled. I should cook in larger portions for efficiencies.

Over the weekend (I do not remember the day exactly, probably yesterday) I began focusing on the subject of the binomial theorem, and binomial coefficients. I have my usual four or five points of reference, and I will soon return to that study. But first, I must take out the trash.

Later on, after the next post had been written, I sat in the dark and thought that it had been a good day for thought consolidation, uninterrupted by requests for outside work of any kind. Let us see how long this lasts.

Separation of concerns: women versus the emotionally sensitive

Of late, too many feminist voices, which I have observed, have confused the following: the set of people who are emotionally sensitive, and the set of people who are women. These are overlapping sets of people, of course, and each set has its own special needs. It is something to bear in mind, for the next discussion on such matters.

2013-01-14

Reinventing $AAPL pie

If we've talked about investment much recently, you'll know that I've been an $AAPL bull, with regards to the period from April 2012 to April 2013. I have a long position on $AAPL which I will probably liquidate, if the January 23 earnings announcement misses analyst estimates by a lot. Otherwise, $AAPL is already trading at such a low PE that I believe that even a near miss is likely to lift the price by a little bit.

Meanwhile, reports of reduced factory orders for iPhone 5 parts are likely to send $AAPL below $500 in today's trading session. Yes, they're saying it's the same month-old news, but hey, folks are easily spooked about this sort of thing.

Speculation
Since writing articles for a friend's gadget blog, I've put a bit of thought into some likely product developments that $AAPL may soon reveal.

A cheaper phone:

The iPad Mini was released at 82% of the cheapest full-sized iPad. I certainly don't think that $AAPL will release a $99-$149 iPhone, unless they're willing to break their recent trend of conservative innovations. If they do stick with a conservative approach, then perhaps we'll see a new iPhone around $369, or 82% the price of the cheapest iPhone, perhaps sporting a larger screen, as rumoured.

Update: Business Insider thinks they could bump-down and make an iPad Nano.

Modding an existing product:

There seems to be room to stuff a mobile baseband and antenna into the iPhone 3G-esque frame of the near-retirement 4th-generation iPod Touch, which already sports the same display as the iPhone 4/4S. This intuitively seems like a quick way to roll out a cheap new product. Comparatively, it doesn't seem like there's room to stuff a phone-sized battery, a baseband, and a bigger antenna, into the relatively high-spec'd and diminuative 5th-generation iPod Touch, or the 7th-generation iPod Nano.

Creating a new form-factor:

In 2007, I bought my first notebook computer, and I'd only had a cellphone for two years, a Nokia 3310. I just wanted a single device that did both. Since then, no one has successfully marketed anything that does all that. Essentially I'm talking about a tablet, with mobile network connectivity, which I can use with a headset to make calls, and which I can use with a dock as a desktop, with support for basic desktop apps.

In 2010, while working at a web startup, in order to see how our pages were rendering on iOS, I got myself an iPhone 3GS, my first $AAPL product. A year later, I got myself a keyboard dock, and used to do server maintenance with the iSSH app, and edit documents and spreadsheets synced to the cloud, on my iPhone 3GS. It was close to my ideal device, just too bloody small. A little later, I got the iPad 2, in order to use GoodReader. The iPad 2 used the same dock that I used with my iPhone (upgradeability was the key reason I got the dock in the first place). However to-date, no iPad has come with mobile network connectivity, for voice and text messaging.

Last year, a tear-down of the iPad Mini revealed that it had relatively simple internals. It has a low-spec'd screen, and a massive battery. It could certainly hold a mobile baseband. You know what I really want this January? I want $AAPL to announce an interface that turns the iPod into a headset for the iPad, and I want them to turn on mobile network connectivity in the iPad. This would essentially make the iPad+headset my ideal device. I don't care if they don't bridge the link between the iPod and the iPad, and instead launch a funky new headset of some sort. (We've seen them apply for such patents.) I just want my one computing device that basically does everything. Of course, in order to qualify as "one device," whether it's a modded iPod, or a brand new headset, it's going to have to clip nicely together with an iPad.

Sir Ive, if you haven't figured this out already, I sure hope you're reading this.

$MSFT Surface Pro... TURN ON THE DAMN GSM CHIP !@#$%^&*()

From scratch with the violin

This afternoon, I opened up the violin that mother left me, for the second time since it passed to me. She said, she was growing to weak to play it, so I should take it. I did.

Given that sound travels very well within the block of flats that I live in, I close my front door. For future practice, I might close the balcony door at the other end of the flat, and enclose myself in the bedroom for further insulation. The violin will probably be audible to all adjacent units, but at least I can try to keep it down. The application of a folded business card to the strings, between the bridge and the fine-tuners, does not seem to have much of a muting effect, though I suppose I will become more sensitive to the difference eventually.

What I find strange is the requirement to use the fourth finger to play both the fourth and fifth note in each position. I am also unclear on differences in how the bow should be oriented against the violin, when the bow is touching the violin strings near the bow's frog (base), and when it touches the violin strings near the bow's tip.

I need more practice at doing all this. I have non-trivial practice with a guitar, but not a strong classical background in any instrument. I will need to study more tutorials on form, and watch professionals manage their posture. Youtube should suffice for that.

These seem to be the basics.



This focuses on bow-to-arm orientation.



This is a detailed look at left-hand position. (Can't be embedded.)

This is a detailed look at holding the bow.



My right pinky has a limited range of movement since it is shorter and has a fused joint (it is reattached) and so, figuring out how to work around that will be interesting.

Meanwhile, just doing basic percussive rhythms, fifths, chromatics, and little undulations, is fun... essentially playing stupid drama / rock music before I get fuller control over the instrument.

And already, it is time for dinner.

Electrical lighting optimisation

The flat I am living in came entirely with cheap 2-foot and 4-foot T8 fluorescent lighting fixtures. Electricals were one of the first aspects I had taken care of, so I had the least work put into it. Later, I started to wonder what alternatives could be used with these fixtures.

T8 Fluorescent Bulbs versus Fitted LED Lamp Replacements
T8 light bulbs are really, really cheap. On the order of MYR 2.80 for a 2-foot (18 W) tube. It turns out that you can get LED replacements for T8 fixtures which consume about half the wattage for the same lumen output, which cost on the order of MYR 42. (Caveat: figures from the UK, we may not have these in Malaysia.) So at the electricity cost of 0.26 MYR/kWh, at usage of 4 hours/day, you're saving about MYR 3.42 / year.

It would take 11.5 years to recover the cost of the LED light. But that's a somewhat naive calculation. Assuming that the T8 system has additional costs, for the ballasts and starter, say of MYR 1 / year, and you do have to replace the bulb once every 5 years, that brings our total cost of T8 hardware over 11 years to MYR 20 - now given those assumptions, it'll only take 6.4 years for your to pay off the cost of an LED lamp replacement.
DIY LED Lamp Replacement?
I did some quick searches, and it seems that you can order bags of white LEDs, of various warmths and beam angles, from China, starting at about MYR 0.06 each, for minimum quantities of a thousand pieces, before shipping. These would each run at 3.0-3.5 V and 15-20 mA, or 0.45-0.70 W. Bear in mind that the effect of stringing them together, and the requirement for further circuitry, would add to costs, as well as power consumption.

Back of the napkin calculation: assuming a 9 W LED lamp is what you want, you're looking at soldering or breadboarding 100-200 LEDs together. Ouch - what a pain. But worth it as a hobby, perhaps. No wonder the commercially produced equivalents are so expensive. On the other hand the cost for LEDs alone should then be on the order of MYR 7-15, which is a lot cheaper than an off-the-shelf 9W LED lamp for a T8 fixture (again, which may not be available in Malaysia).

A techie cousin has also suggested LED strips, but those do not seem price competitive.
Noobish hackery
T8 Fluorescent lights are big, bright, aimless installations. I was wondering about devices for controlling the flow of light, so that instead of a single brightly lit area, I would be able to get many dimly lit areas, from a single lamp.

I was thinking of tubular structures. The first devices that turned up close in function were acrylic light tubes, that they use to transfer daylight from the surface of buildings, into the insides of buildings, such as subway stations. Acrylic tubes refract light, and result in a rather efficient transfer.

If instead you want to reflect light through a tube, your options start to dwindle. Even normal glass mirrors reflect only 90-95% of available light, per bounce, when new. (Side note: I didn't realise that these days, they don't often use mercury on mirrors - instead they're using aluminium or silver, with a few other layers of stuff for bonding the reflective layer.) Besides a glass mirror inner-tube, which is probably not an easy DIY option, flat white paints, and reflective mylar offer high degrees of reflectivity. (Another side note: it turns out that if you search for reflective surfactants on the Internet, the main demand for such stuff is from people growing marijuana at home.)

So, given limited options, being a bored smart-ass on vacation, I walked over to the largest hardware store on my street. I bought some junction connectors, and a 20-foot-long, 4-inch-thich, white PVC pipe, the kind usually used for waste water in Malaysian residences. I soon realised that this would not fit up the stairwell to my flat, so I had to saw it into two. After cleaning the pipes, I waited till nightfall, stuck a 10 W yellow CFL tube down one end of one pipe, and turned it on. I got a big yellow glow at one end, and a dim cast of light on the other. #fail.



I haven't tried painting the insides of the pipes yet - I may later. I am still looking for reflective mylin - the only place I have seen it for sale at a reasonable price around here, is on emergency camping blankets. Techie cousin has suggested chrome paint. I will have to look into that. Meanwhile, I am thinking to saw up the pipes, and to use them for the construction of relatively boring light defusal structures.

Optimisations

One can spend time on the pursuit of cash inflow (sales), or on reducing cash outflows, or on both. I typically focus on one or the other at a time. The period 4Q2007-1Q2012 was characterised by my trying to do both at the same time, while pursuing my studies. From March 2012, I severely deprioritised sales activity, and diverted my time to research, and minimising the cost of my daily operations. Here are some of the measures I employ:

Internet access
Cost of data has been covered in the previous post. With what data I have, my usage pattern is as follows.

Email: I use a static HTML web client, for proximity to the full-blown AJAX feature set of my email provider. To check email, I just hit a static link, or press F5 if the link is already open. Consumption of data come to typically 10-30 KB - quite a bit more it would be if I used a desktop client, but I do not check email on a minute-to-minute basis, and the ease of staying on the miminal cloud is worth it.

Chat: I use a desktop client to interface with instant-messaging services. I was on mobile.twitter.com, with profile images turned off, until my Twitter account was suspended. Previously, Twitter's mobile site was quite heavy, and dabr.co.uk provided roughly what Twitter's mobile site does now.

News: I use the web client of an RSS aggregator service. Again, minimising desktop clutter, and staying away from the website clutter of most online content providers. For the sites I wish to check directly, such as Bloomberg and Business Insider, I have them bookmarked to be accessed via Google's Web Transcoder. If you've never heard of it, you have to check it out. (I also have a bookmarklet that sends sites to GW-Transcoder (there's another, unrelated, entity called GW-Toolkit). Reading web content this way brings down the cost of accessing a website, often by a factor of ten.

Static references: I have been using Pocket since it had another name, and have found this to be an excellent way to store a textbook-sized block of website references, such as wiki pages, for offline reading. I have over five thousand pages bookmarked this way, and stored on my tablet and my phone. Desktop storage is also available, but I have too many hardware devices at this point, to require that. (On a side note, I bought a tablet 1.5 years ago because GoodReader for iOS provided the best way to annotated PDF documents. Between GoodReader and Pocket, that's 80% of what the productivity gains I get from using a tablet - syncing documents to the cloud, and editing them locally in a reliable fashion, remains, of course, one of the defining challenges of this hardware form-factor.)

I don't do much else on the Internet.
Food
Here are some aspects of how I deal with this major chuck of living costs. It's quite close to the guidance of "eat real food, not too much, mostly plants," with some numbers and tweaks thrown in to accomodate my high-protein requirements. All nutritional research said and done, I focus on the following heuristics.

(0) Dichotomy: minimise the purchase of processed food whenever possible.

(1) Scalar: maximisation of protein mass/price, or the quantity of protein I can obtain per Ringgit. Soya beans seem to offer peak value - I cook and eat them whole, since processed soy products are often lacking in density. I do eat meat. Frozen fish and tuna are easily obtained, occasional cans of tuna and sardines, dried anchovies (classical food of the Malay archipelago), chicken eggs by the 25-tray, frozen beef (or buffalo) imported from India, chicken keels (breasts on the bone) for protein density, and thighs for flavour (though I have not been able to quantify whether thighs offer more protein-per-price), etc. Pork is usually sold in an annexe of the large low-price supermarkets where I usually shop, and I rarely make the effort to home-in on it.



(2) Distribution: maximising colour, and species diversity - that's the variety of colours that my food comes in, and the variety of organismal species which provide it. (Point of interest: many varieties of green vegetables actually belong to the same species - check out the table of Cruciferous vegetables, by genus and species, on Wikipedia.)



(3) Distribution: observe a traditional "balanced diet," within the class structure of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, and vitamins. See, (3) is so abstract.

Residence and transportation
For many years, I rented in the cities of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, and commuted to work mostly by public transport, or on foot whenever that was possible. Finding a property in the city, that was cheap enough to purchase, was out of the question, since the career strategy which I was tracking did not offer much financial remuneration. However, at some point, resources were available for the purchase of a little car, and there were some social and commercial advantages to be obtained from this - so I bought a 15-year-old car for MYR 5,300. That being done, shopping for cheaper properties to rent or buy became a larger focus, as the reach of my travels was now far greater.

Residence: The saga of purchasing a property will be left out here, but to-date, I have secured residence (at least temporarily) in a location 25 kilometres from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, at a very low cost, relative to living in the city. It is an 800+ square-foot flat, fully maintained by myself, and it has been fun learning how to fix piping, caulk roof tiles, etc. Dishes are washed by hand. Clothes are washed in a machine, partially dried on hangers, then finished off in a dryer. Clothes are then sorted and stored in bins for reach-in access, under a hanger made from slotted angles.











Utilities: Internet access has been covered amply above and elsewhere. Electricity is partially subsidised by the government, and so is water. I have not yet been here long enought to obtain stable data on my usage patterns, but for the first month, when I moved in, I had to pay only some MYR 42.30 for electricity and water. Cooking gas (a propane and butane mixture costing MYR 1.90/kg) is also subsidised by the government, and I am curious to know how long a tank will last - I cook meals one to three times a day.

Transportation: The bus from my town to the city costs MYR 6 - and I live some distance from the bus stop, so this will not be a frequent option. I have a bicycle, and enjoy cycling to the shops in this town, Bandar Sungai Long, and to those in the adjacent township of Bandar Mahkota Cheras. Back to mein kleinen auto, I would actually be quite happy to park and ignore the car for weeks on end, as I have in the past. But the electricals and gas lines do not seem to function reliably upon ignition, if I do not drive it frequently. At this point, I have just had the alternator and battery replaced, and I intend to take the car for a short drive every two days or so.

Economics of Internet access

I am trying to minimise cash expenditure on data, so currently I subscribe to a mobile data top-up package of just 1GB/month. (Failing to top-up my balance would result in forfeiture of all unused credits accumulated in the past.) This package cost MYR 25, putting my incremental cost of Internet access at ~40 MB/MYR.

There are at least two restaurant-cafes with 10 mbps WiFi Internet connections, in the town two kilometres away. A reasonable drink or meal there costs from MYR 4 to MYR 14. So these days, whenever I anticipate Internet usage upwards of 200 MB in a single sitting, I get on my bike, or into my car, and take my gear to town.

I tend to over-order at restaurants, if I get finicky, indulgent, or just bored, and so I generally try to calculate when I can save RM 1-2 and then I ride the bike out - a complimentary benefit in terms of health and entertainment.

For example, this evening I picked up groceries, then had dinner at Cafe A and dessert at Cafe B. Cost of meals, MYR 16.25, data downloaded (5,000+ Wiki pages) 680 MB. About 40 MB/MYR, so a win, since on that accounting I'd get two meals and a social environment to sit in for a while, for free.

As for the time for downloads, weekday afternoons at Cafe B, until 6pm, seem best, following by weekday nights after 10pm. The Cafe B is open at 11am, and closes later than 2am. Cafe A is open at 8am, and closes later than 11:30pm, but is of a prestigious brand, and I am not yet sure how to anticipate traffic there.

3am on a Monday morning. It is now time for a shower, and the second sleep.

A time of fallow

I have been solitary-oriented for the better part of the last 14 years. Since 2007, I have been trying to make time for myself to study computer programming, mathematics, and statistics. The former has been achieved in the past year, and in the two to three years before that while on freelance jobs.

18 months ago, I had already signed the booking fee for a flat in a cheap location, where I would try to drag out the utility of my savings, while studying. The sale and purchase of the flat has been plagued by the ignorance and complacency of various parties, and is likely to be incomplete for yet another year. However, last month, I had had enough with waiting, and decided to rent the flat in the interim. Getting to fix and clean it up has been a fulfillment of the main reason for obtaining it: I wanted to study the refurbishment of this flat, in which I would then pursue other studies.

It is now a quiet, clean, and beautiful space, among neighbours of many nations, mostly of the poorer variety - this being in one of two ghetto rows in Bandar Sungai Long. I am currently, besides studying and keeping house, assisting a friend with a blogging project, but that is proving to be a slightly volatile job, and I will soon be giving it up. Just today I got back to trying my hand at the violin. We shall see, just how long this idyllicity can last.

After putting time and money towards the comfort of friends and family for two years, it is good to finally have my own home. Huge relief.





I write this at a Chinese dessert cafe, where I am leeching articles from Wikipedia to Pocket.

We're back to soliloquies, it seems

My Twitter account has been suspended for the second time in the three months since I rejoined the service at the end of October 2012. I had then rejoined Twitter this last time, as I had been invited by friends to attend a Tweet-fest, and it made little sense to attend one of those, if one was not on Twitter, I supposed.



The day after the Tweet-fest, my account was suspended for the first time. It turns out that these days, a number of strikes for being "blocked," or "reported as spam," along with a generally opaque algorithm, can result in one's Twitter account being suspended. The controversial conversation immediately preceding that first event, involved my criticism: of a local journalist who had been tweeting a string of complaints, against parents who let their children cry in public. Today's more controversial conversations have involved my criticism: of racist abstractions, and of appropriate treatment for the lewd conduct of males towards women in public. None of these conversations was outstandingly memorable from a scholarly point of view - just the usual riff-raff aunty, or activist, making unnecessarily abstract comments, and my objection thereunto.

Earlier, in October, I was forced by a resource crunch to shut down various projects that I was engaged in, a quasi-relationship - perhaps the most visceral loss, my Facebook account - as it was declining in usefulness as a medium of discourse, and my history of journals since the early 2000s. These were forfeited to provide me with a bit more space to think about my studies, in a cleaner room, so to speak. Earlier in 2012, I had previously left Twitter for the same reason that I later left Facebook. I suppose I can only conclude that Twitter, too, having now twice left me, is failing to provide me with a stimulating environment for conversations.

So I now return to talking to myself on this blog.

Update: Twitter says that it was suspended for sending too many unsolicited messages using the @ reply and/or mention feature.