Category Archives: Random Stuff

Random thoughts (ep 1)

I’ve always wanted to jot down random thoughts as my brain functions throughout the day so this series of blog posts is meant to keep track of tidbits and stories and I randomly picked up and processed. Also, I realized that the action of blogging actually helps me remember the stuff that I wrote, since the amount of blogs that I wrote is a reasonable finite number.

So every time I have a conversation that is related to my work, whether it’s with a technical, remotely technical or non-technical one, the topic of “what does it actually do” typical comes up. Quite frankly I like talking and do in fact talk a lot. Strangely enough I found explaining to non-technical folks more interesting and rewarding than others, mainly due to the fact that they always question the very fundamentals of computer and computer science. Sometimes when I can’t answer those, my inner curiosity forces me to go look it up, and there goes the momentum of knowledge.

A few weekends ago a friend of mine, whose field of expertise is not remotely related to coding or computer at all, asked me this: “I really don’t understand how you can write code to do stuff. How does that happen?” It is indeed a fundamental question. I recall taking my 1st computer science class and not questioning such thing, but follow the instructor’s directions instead, earning points like a little kid.

It is not until after taking quite a few amount of courses that I realize computer architecture and design mimics the very same concept as human thought process. After all, it is human who evaluates and assess how well certain algorithms function. So how do you write code to do stuff?

“Code”, IMHO, is a set of instructions that, in turn, instruct certain entities (can be machines, humans or animals) to complete certain tasks. Now imagine machine as a Brazilian (or pick any country man who doesn’t understand your language), Portugese, at some level, to me is just like code. It’s a mean of communication from an entity to another entity.

A machine can only understand binary, so there’s definitely a “translator” from codes to binaries, which I won’t go into details. Binary also very much represents human thinking in terms that there’re only 0 and 1, yes and no, true and false, right and wrong. I believe that every human question can be answered with simply yes (1) or no (0). The method to do that is to break down the question into atomic decision, which in turn will guide the machine to a final decision and execute certain operations.

For example: “What’s today’s weather?” can be achieved from yes’ and no’s based on a set of knowledge: Is it raining? Is it sunny? Is it windy? Is it snowing? How does machine define “raining” and such? It doesn’t. Such information can be input as a fact or derived from a set of conditions, such as the humidity, temperature…

The list of decisions build up to a form of a “decision tree”, where a set of answer can lead to a different output, or same output depending on the level of distinction. So given that “stuff” is a piece of knowledge that was given and “do” is a final output from a series of decision tree, that’s basically how I instruct (code) another entity (machine) to do (make decision) stuff (on a certain piece of information).

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Me likey eating!!! Eat those if you’re in NY!!!

So I moved (close) to NYC half a year ago and although during college I’ve been to the Big Apple quite a few times, I haven’t got a change to hunt down places with decent Asian food (I said decent cause, u know, it’s the States, not Asia). I pretty much take my friends to the places listed below and they’ve been pretty satisfied so far with the list. This was gather through various friends’ recommendations along with my own personal experience. I normally talk about those as “best <something> in NY”:

1. Poomes Frites (near St Mark Pl and 2nd Ave): This place is crowded most of the time and it’s at a really good location (St Mark – NYU, right close to Baoguette). It’s actually not French Fries but Belgian Fries and serves up to 25 different kinds of sauces, 1 of which I always order (that’s right, Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo cause… u know why)

2. Baoguette Cafe (St Mark & 2nd Ave): Also pretty popular although the sandwiches are just a lil over priced but they’re actually good. I normally grab the Classic and Sloppy Bao. They’re also cool w/ u bringing outside food in so get some Pommes Frites close by!!!

3. Oh! Taisho (also St Mark between 2nd and 3rd Ave): They got plum wine. Actually all the Jpnese restaurants close by have plum wine but this is the 1st place I get plum wine from so credit to that. They have the Party Set (packed w/ meat, my favorite) and decent Takoyaki

4.Saint Alps Dessert (9th Street and 3rd Ave): This place has my favorite bubble-tea-but-tastes-like-sugar-cane-juice. Lol their green tea toast is also decent and it’s in the same area as the other 3.

Moving up to KTown:

5. H-Mart (32nd Street and Broadway, near Herald Square): Not a restaurant but u can get almost any type of Korean food here (Kimchi, Jajjangmyun, Galbi…). I normally take a sweep here every weekend to restock my fridge. My friend from DC goes nuts every time she comes here lol

6. Kunjip (32nd Street KTown): This place is ridiculously crowded most of the time. It has really good Korean BBQ but keep in mind, your clothes will smell. If u don’t wanna get Korean BBQ (Bibimbap or sth like that), don’t waste ur time lining up, u can get those anywhere else.

7. Pocha (same street): This place looks kinda sketchy on the outside cause it’s a tiny staircase up. The inside is also kinda tiny but this reminds of Korean street bars I saw in those dramas. They have really good watermelon Soju, casserole and the stuffed squid thingy…

Watermelon Soju

Watermelon Soju

The portions are HUGE!!! Unfortunately it’s not very cheap (still average in KTown) so…

Down to Chinatown! Keep in mind that you definitely need cash down here!!!

8. Jing Fong (Elizabeth Str & Canal Str): Best dim sum in NY, always crowded and winds down at around 1pm or so. They only serve dim sum from like 11am – 3:30pm but by 1pm everything is almost gone so come early!! Speaking Cantonese is a huge plus here.

9. Thai Son (Baxter Str & Canal Str): This is a typical Vietnamese restaurant with pho and everything, also very reasonably priced. I always got pho Xe Lua cause it’s easy and decent here. For some reasons my friends said Pho Co Ba is better and I honestly think that place is tiny, overpriced and the portion is too small. It got a better atmosphere but hell, I come to eat.

10. Pho Bang (Mott Str & Grand Str): Everything here is pretty much on par with Thai Son/Nam Son except for their Bun Cha Hanoi. Its actually decent!! However the waiters have the habit of slapping the receipt right after they deliver your food which annoys me a lil bit.

11. Cong Ly Restaurant (Hester Str & Chrystie Str): This place got CHAO LONG!!! I was impressed, really!! I just tried it today and it’s actually gooood!!! Also, chao long and bubble tea don’t mix… Learned it the hard way >.<

12. X.O Kitchen (Elizabeth Str & Hester Str): If you’re here, get the Congee and Fried Dough (quay) ONLY!!! The fried dough and congee portion are pretty big (2 is enuf for like 4 ppl) so don’t underestimate those.

13. Banh My Saigon (Mott Str & Grand Str): This place has the best Banh My IMO but it’s like in the back of a jewelry store so it gets a bit tricky to find. Also very cheap for its value!!

14. Tao pho (Grand Str & Bowery Str): I always get tao pho (tofu fa) from this one old woman’s shop at the corner of Grand Str & Bowery cause it’s like super cheap for a huge portion ($2.5). The thing is the shop closes pretty early so by the time I get out of my office to get there, she already closes >.<

Scattered around NY:

15. Shakeshack (23rd Str & Madison Ave): Don’t even try to come here during lunchtime, it’s impossible. The line is ALWAYS ridiculously long, even in the winter. Best burger in NY!!

16. Menkui tei (56th Str & 5th): Really good and cheap ramen!! They got alcohol from the store next door though which is kinda weird. I haven’t tried Ippudo cause the line is always damn long but my Japanese friend recommended this place!

17. Kyotofu (48th Str & 9th Ave): This place has really good dessert although a bit overpriced and the service is slow. Their signature sweet tofu is the best. The atmosphere is also very suitable to bring a date (which I have none T_T)

Jump over Hudson River to New Jersey:

18. Pho Thanh Hoai (Newark Ave, JC): This place is right close by so I come here for my Vietnamese food craze for a while. Things here are decent and cheap enough that I’d soooo rather get this than Chinese food.

19. Mitsuwa (Edgewater): Not a restaurant but a huge Japanese marketplace that has a bunch of ramen shops and dessert inside, along with grocery shopping. They have, guess what, PLUM WINE and LYCHEE SAKE here. Def my 2 favorite alcoholic drinks 🙂 They also got grilled eel and sushi and bento and a bunch of other really good Asian stuff!!

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The Social Network won 4 Golden Globe awards!! Duh!

Ok so I’m definitely a BIG fan of this movie called “The Social Network”, a.k.a Facebook so I’m pretty happy that it won 4 awards at the Golden Globe. I would say the movie dramatized a lot of Facebook history but what movie doesn’t. The thing I like the most about it can be summed up to “been there done that” (well for like the 1st 5 minutes of the movie, apparently I haven’t become mad rich yet).

The Social Network

The Social Network

So I’ll spoil a lil bit here: The movie is about Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and how it became popular. It started out as him getting dumped at the bar, then running back to his dorm and do his magic hacking (which I’ll explain in later posts) to create the site (along with some girlfriend revenge blog posts). The site totally attracted major traffic which brought him to Harvard’s Board of IT (or sth like that). After that he was approached by the Harvard twins and their friend to discuss about the idea of Facebook. They hope he would build that for them and it’s gonna be big, which it did just that its not theirs anymore.

I found the movie uber inspirational because dang, I was that kid. Actually any CS-major student (or at least the one I know) was that kid during college. In case u guys don’t know about the software industry, I feel like it’s 1 of those that doesn’t require a huge amount of capital to start with, unlike finance, manufacturing, engineering or pharmaceutical. All u need is pretty much a $1000 computer and probably a $5/month hosting service. In fact a lot of big software companies start with open-source (a.k.a free) tools. Once they got the hype, they offer premium services that start generating profits and such.

When I was in college doing open-source projects and research, I always hoped to make it big. I was often told that what I made was gonna be used by a lot of people and everything so design it that way, design the software for maintainability and extensibility. What that meant was to make something that when u leave, someone can take over easily (maintainability) and that would be extended easily (extensibility). But such things were very delusional which led me to choices I regretted later on.

One of the things I learnt while working is to quantify requirements. When I was doing work for my professors, I never asked so how many (in numbers) people do u think are gonna use this, how fast (in seconds) it should run, who (as in names/backgrounds) will take over my product. Why? Cause I was stupid and intimidated. I still am. But when it comes to product assessments, numbers rule.

But anw, after the movie, I felt like my friends and I were doing exactly what Mark was doing. Did we stay up till 4a.m coding while intoxicated? We sure did. Did we crash the CS server and wake the Dean of IT up at 4a.m? we also did that (just that we woke the CS Department Head up cause u know, he ain’t Dean. We didn’t know the Dean’s number anw). The thing is, Mark made it cause he took the risk. We didn’t (not to say that if we did we’d make it, but u got the point). Thus, the movie made me feel like that was my college life, in another direction…

I never took the risk cause I was Asian (not to be racist!) and I was raised to have the mentality of never taking risk. My parents rarely encouraged me to “go for it”. Instead, they always told me “what if u fail?”. Therefore, my whole life has been revolving around making plan B and making sure plan B works even when I have to abandon plan A. With that said, I’m gonna finance a Mini Cooper!

Issues!! Problems!!

I was just reading news and stuff and there seems to be some issues nowadays what are pretty messed up. This entry is not supposed to enrage you so make you feel depressed or anything so don’t shoot the messenger (ME!)

Gulf Oil Disaster: you’ve heard of it. If you haven’t, then you should. It’s mad scary. Basically BP’s oil tunnel got leaked and oil is just all over the place right now. It’s much much scarier when you look at this picture, which is taken from the satellite:

Gulf Oil Disaster

Gulf Oil Disaster

The grey-ish part is oil and the blue-ish part is water. Actually BP’s doing such a bad job with this that Obama made his own team of super geniuses to handle this. You can read more right here.

I personally think that BP, or any oil company should have thought of this scenario when they started. It should be in like Oil Drilling 101 under the section What To Do When You Mess Up. Well apparently it’s not there. Hopefully that’ll be handled soon.

Let’s move on! Ok I don’t know about other majors but for Engineers here at Lafayette College we have to take a course called Ethics. I think in the world of technology, Ethics is pretty much the biggest issue. One of the reason I like technology is that it tends to make the world better. Technology never downgrades, machines run faster, better, more reliable and all that stuff. However, normally human is the one who makes mistakes (just saying, I’m not a bot or pro-terminator). The time when machines make mistakes hasn’t come yet since A.I right now is pretty limited.

Ok so what about ethics? Hmm do you guys use Facebook? I’m addicted to it since it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends. But Facebook’s privacy is pretty bad. In fact all the social media’s privacy policies are controversial. FYI, Twitter is gonna donate their Tweet archive to a museum (I think it’s MOMA, not sure though) so your tweets will be indexed by Google real soon.

Gizmodo wrote a lot about Facebook’s privacy issue. If you do some google on the history of Facebook, it’s actually pretty messed up.

Facebook's messed up

Facebook's messed up

CEO of Facebook had a pretty bad record during his early days in Harvard. He illegally guessed a lot of people’s email passwords based on their Facebook passwords, which he maintains. The default privacy settings of Facebook pretty much shares your info with the world. And since it’s pretty confusing and long, few people went in and change them. It’s also pretty hard to delete your account. Yeah delete, not deactivate. I tried that once but I ended up googling on how to delete Facebook account. Facebook doesn’t want you to do that. And you never know whether they still store your info even after you delete it.

Google definitely faces the same issue. Its motto is “Don’t be evil” but that’s not trustful enough. I think that privacy issue is also a trade-off for convenience in technology nowadays. There’s a new trend in searching nowadays called Context Search.

What context search is, is that it can search for what you want (obviously) but in a more comprehensive way. For example, when you search for “restaurant”, normal search spits out all the asian restaurant, that’s easy. On the other hand, context search digs in your personal profile in Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Blogger, your IP address and everything relates to you online and factor them in. The results would be a restaurant near your location, with the type of cuisine matches your favorite food on Facebook, with the settings match your family cause you indicated that you have a wife and 2 kids on Facebook. That’s wicked cool, and wicked creepy also. Just think about it…

The last one I’m gonna talk about is stress level in Technology companies in pretty much all levels. In case you don’t know, it’s pretty bad in outsourcing countries like China, Vietnam or India. Take Foxconn for example.

Foxconn stress room

Foxconn stress room

Foxconn is the manufacturing company for Apple. Yup!! iPad, iPod, Macbook… all that stuff. The suicide rate there is so high that the company has to hire counselors and monks to do rituals for dead souls. Employees there apparently have to work long hours and the job is just like any manufacturers, very boring and repetitive. They actually intentionally drop stuff just to bend down and pick it up for change in 8-hr standing. The pay is bad also since the job itself is not had. You can read more about it here.

Yeah that’s for minimum-wage jobs. That doesn’t mean high-paying job is better. I’ve read numerous stories about work environment here in the US. Big companies here have a lot of fun stuff: free massage, free snacks, free drinks, free food, free gym, free salon, free laundry… That makes me think “I wanna work for those companies”. Well they have those stuff cause they don’t want you to leave your workplace. Benefits don’t come for free for sure. In fact, those companies prefer recent grads to experienced cause recent grads are fresh meat and are willing to do anything for money. We’re also physically and mentally healthier. It’s illegal for sure. So what they come up with is certain tests that statistically young people do better, in the name of “aptitude tests”. Solve 10 problems in 5 minutes is 1 of those. It’s technically not age-discriminatory but actually, it is.

However, it’s pretty logical when you’re young and of course have no family. All you’re gonna do is work and make your boss happy. A lot of people I’ve talked to worked their butt off early life then settle down in a lower-pay positions somewhere in a more laid back environment. Sounds like a downgrade but I think there’s more to life than work. It also kinda goes against social expectations of keep going up the career ladder. I personally think it’s a smart choice. When you have family and kids, you don’t wanna miss his football game and not care about family and stuff. That’s just bad!!

Anyway, I’m not saying I’m happy to give my life away but the next 4-5 years looks pretty hectic… Nah!! it’ll be fine. Have fun and keep on rolling guys!!

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