Oh yes that’s right.

Oh yes that's right.

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A Memorial-able Weekend

As it happens to a lot of us, recently it was my birthday. After an entire week spent chasing ludicrous programming bugs at work, my thursday was suddenly rendered great by my lovely colleagues giving me a card and a stack of chocolate: it was bound to be a great weekend (credits to FVB for the t-shirt).

Especially if you consider that I had my first 35 (24+9) hours long birthday, courtesy of the timezone shift.

After trying out pizza places all day with Carlo in downtown San Francisco, Anthony and I flew down to Los Angeles in the evening of my actual birthday (a friday) where we arrived horribly later than planned thanks to an unwitting chain of FAIL that included an airplane declaring emergency in front of us, thus leaving our flight on hold on the tarmac in LAX for nearly an hour, just a few metres from our arrival gate. Frustrating? You should ask the woman who jostled her way across the aisle from pretty much the last row all the way down to the exit, to shouts of “LET ME THROUGH I HAVE A PLANE TO CATCH”.

The door is still closed, madam.

So anyways. A long wait at the car rental after, I had decided I was hungry and I wanted pizza. Guess what? I HAD TO BLOODY WAIT. AGAIN. But the reward was yummy:

Not long after this I glamorously concluded my birthday passing out on Glenda’s couch. Again.

Here are some more highlights:

Me and my friend Louis reading his hate emails. Yes, that’s right.
If you are wondering why he gets any in the first place, you may want to find some answers on his twitter (@louispeitzman). Spoiler alert: it’s legendary.

Los Angeles (downtown in the foreground) as seen from the Hollywood Bowl Overlook.

And more…

And even more. This is looking east: you can see the Hollywood sign in the distance (yay!)

A precious snapshot of me in the morning.

Anthony being generally a pimp.

A cock.

Me, Anthony, Cynthia and Janet after an epic barbecue on Memorial’s Day. (Oh yes, it was also Memorial’s day. Hence the title. Wow, I amuse myself.)

Another precious snapshot of me on the way back. The bruises on my face are the testimony of my victorious fight with evil motherfucking space nazis from the moon. No, just kidding: I got in a fight with Chuck Norris over a bill he insisted to pay; or I have dived with a passion. I don’t remember: I was too busy shooting a rapper.

Maker Faire

Maker Faire is a celebration of everything. Literally. From plastic 3D-printed Stanford-flagship bunnies to thunderbolting awesome robotics, this event organised by Make magazine brings together geeks from all ages and provenances into a two-days feast where makers can show off their endeavours. It took place in San Mateo, south of San Francisco, on May 19th. Needless to say, I was there.

The event spanned over a 5-acre (20,000 mˆ2) outdoor midway, with six exposition and workshop pavilions, and it hosted literally all sort of Do It Yourself stuff. A lot of attention was given to electricity of course, and in force of Maxwell’s equations, this guy was demonstrating the awesomeness of Van Dre Graaf generators (not the band).

A good reason to pay the entrance fee was Arc Attack! DJ set featuring Tesla coils (technically dual-resonant solid-state tesla coils, basically  high-frequency high-voltage resonant transformers; more info here), which basically consists of base music played through PA speakers on top of which the sound produced by the coils  creates an effect reminiscing of early synths. But more importantly, it’s done with LIGHTNING. It would’ve been just the best time of my year if it hadn’t lasted for only about five minutes, preceded by the wankiest introduction in which some wanker went on talking to some fake robot for about half an hour thinking he was more entertaining than Nikola Entertainment Tesla. Oh didn’t you know? Entertainment was his second name. True story.

In the same pavilion Intel was boasting quite the show with their $160.000 Robotic Orchestra: a jaw-dropping project of computer-controlled vibraphones, xylophones and other assorted instruments capable of playing with staggering precision. Intel reports that the seven embedded Atom computer systems operate a video security camera to sense accuracy of the moving parts, a digital synthesizer for the sound, digital signage and a multi-touch interactive display that allows people to see what makes the whole operation hit the right notes.

The event had a sharp educative edge, giving the chance to kids to experience science is a less intangible and boring way than they would at school. Despite being horrible creatures at large, kids do deserve a new and improved education framework than the one they are force through today, and it’s abstractly a great idea to bring them to events like this one. Just not when I am there, please, please, please.

Here you can see a super-sized Digi-Comp II, an educational mechanical binary computer, capable of performing most of the same operations that take place inside of the device that you are using to read this. Yes, you. This. Now. YES!

Kermit. Made of Lego. Do I need to say more?

The final event of the day was the Coca-Cola and Mentos show by the uber-famous eepybird guys. I trust you all on knowing this, and if you don’t I advise you to just basically drink a lot of diet coke and then eat a packet of Mentos. Make sure you’re with friends; it’s gonna be awesome (for them).

Bay to Breakers 2012

If you don’t know what it is, all you have to know abou Bay to Breakers is that 1) it begins at 7am on a Sunday morning and 2) it involves physical activity, two things I am notoriously very fond of. Yes, I am actually talking about a footrace that stretches for 12km across San Francisco, from a few blocks away from Embarcadero (Bay-side) all the way to the Great Highway on the Pacific coast (where breakers crash onto Ocean Beach, hence the name).

Blessed as I am with extraordinary motor skills, you may wonder why I would even consider bestowing my sunday morning on such an endeavour. These pictures will have you wonder no more: as it turns out, only a few hundred creezy mofos actually run the race (San Francisco is hilly, remember? And even more importantly,the race is on a sunday morning, remember? ON A SUNDAY. MORNING.), whereas the rest of us humans are just content with parading in THUNDERCLAPPING FUCKING AWESOME COSTUMES!

B2B

Oh yes.

B2B-41

And yes.

B2B-24

Oh, fuckyes!

B2B-38

And even more motherflipplin’ rollerbladin’ YES!

B2B-28

Then things suddenly got weird…

B2B-29

Until they got awesome again!

B2B-14

B2B-17

In case you were wondering, we are NOT sailors, but manly, hardcore, greasy Navy NUCLEAR ATOMIC SATANIC mechanics.
Clearly.

You tell me

Californ-i-a

It’s not been a week yet. I am not sure I have even fully adjusted to the time zone shift, so take this short report for what it is: tentative. I just wanted to give some decent news to all of you who showed so much love and support in wishing me well on this little american adventure and generally update anybody who may be interested. So, here’s the juice.

I landed in San Francisco last friday (May 4th), and it was a good thing to have a couple of days to get over the jet-lag before starting my new job on the next monday. Of course in my mind I don’t get jet-lagged any more because I am such a seasoned traveller, but as it happens, reality sometimes begs to disagree. It’s not all for the bad, though: some of you, especially my Dutch family, may be aware of my appalling sleeping patterns, and if you don’t, let it be known that I tend to go to bed really late and wake up relatively early (in the style of Stephen Wolfram – http://blog.stephenwolfram.com/2012/03/the-personal-analytics-of-my-life/), but as my cyrcadian clock is still a little screwed up, I now conveniently wake up every morning at 6 – perfect to stretch out a decent morning routine and be on time at work – and by the time the sun goes down I am usually as passed out as a crackwhore. Very glamorous indeed.

Work is great! Not only this university is really terrific stuff, but I’m also blessed with incredibly skilled, work-oriented and -last but not least- nice colleagues. On day one I was given a couple of computers, all the reference material I could dream of and a neat working booth with a view on the sunny hills of Berkeley. As there was a nine months build up work prior to my arrival here, what I am working on is not really that new to me; right now, however, I am doing a rather intensive background research on the technologies I will be working with, before I actually get started on the modeling (which is, as often happens, by far the most theoretical and interesting part of this project). One may question as whether anything done in Java – yes, I know, don’t – actually qualifies as “technology” instead of “inane bullshit”, but we are not having this discussion right now.

I don’t have a house yet, but as I am looking for one Anthony is kindly hosting me in quite the location (downtown SF). I am likely to move to Berkeley in order to avoid all the commuter nonsense, but as it is looking right now, anything that is not the Golden Gate goes. I don’t have an american phone number either, and that’s mostly because I don’t yet have a credit card, which is due to arrive shortly, etc, etc. It’s all a work in progress, but I expect things to be sorted out pretty quickly. One thing that I have, though, is a Cal 1 card in which I look rightfully surprised; if you are me (which you most likely aren’t, but hey!) you have dreamed of having one of those since more or less the age of 12, so go figure (evidence attached).

San Francisco is awesome in every regard. The weather, which is knowingly as stable as the plate tectonics around here, has been downright gorgeous all along: clear sky, warm sun and no fog at all. I do not expect it to last, but so far so good! Taking advantage of such a blessed weekend, I went for a hike in Lands End Park along with Anthony and Vincent; the excellent weather made for quite the scenery.

Contrary to expectations, I have eaten amazing food so far, but that is mostly due to the good influence of Anthony and of the french crew in general. I do not expect it to last, and I know you don’t either, so let’s just leave it at that. In general, life is absolutely awesome and I am thrilled to be here. There is still some adjustment needed, of course, but overall I am one happy (albeit a little busy) motherfucker.

More will follow.

Stay awesome meanwhile.

Post-it from my mac #2

Content-based social networking: the algorithm shows you the post that are more likely to suit your interests based on their content and general tone. The idea here is that, in addition to the semantic it represents, the structure of your interaction on social networks may be used to deliver better information about your friends. In particular:

  • There exist elicitors for content of a sentence in natural language, mostly based on dictionaries or ontologies; these would do until a better neural-network approach could be developed after data critic mass for training (large data sets are the key to everything) is reached.
  • General tone means the “kind” of conversation people are having; categories could be found. It would be interesting to develop a full framework (a silly task to keep a socio-linguist occupied) that models the interaction patterns on social networks – e.g. conversation, fight, singleton, discussion, etc. Metrics could be the number of participants, the reaction time, length of posts, users tagged, etc. It is important to highlight how the “general tone”  doesn’t have any particular connection to the semantic itself (as the “content” is dealt with separately); however, the
    In addition, categories do not necessarily need to be explicit, as they can be modeled in the weights of a well-trained neural net. Also, a more formal but still partially emergent (self-adjusting) approach would be to study the n-dimensional model resulting from weighting relevant quantitative degrees of freedom of a dialogue over a large set of examples. Depicting the results in graphic form would result in patters, and hopefully categories. OkCupid has an algorithm that does something vaguely similar to what I mean. Obviously social informations should be elicited too.

Issues: needs a world-class algorithmist, would be in the interest of large content-oriented corporations such as FB or G, who are probably already well ahead on the track but can’t really do it because it would be creepy. A new network, started afresh, wouldn’t have to deal with this because young people can say profanities and be right at the same time. On the other hand, critic mass is… well, critic.

Post-it from my mac #1

Email: non va bene. Roba del secolo scorso. Non intendo dover spendere tempo inutile scrollando e cercando la mail giusta. Voglio mail tipo Facebook (per contatto, aggregate con altri feed/SMS/etc) e flessibilità tipo Wave. Distribuzione. Voglio tutta la grandezza dello schermo utlizzata, caratteri grandi e varie aree di lavoro e colori. Bisogna ottimizzare l’uso dei vari gradi di libertà della vista (colori, dimensione, poligoni, movimento, etc) per permettere all’utente di avere flussi di informazione multipli e continui sui pochi parametri fondamentali dell’applicazione (nuovi messaggi, gruppi di contatti, recenti, hot topics, recentemente acceduti). Cose così.

Trivialities

I find somehow unsatisfactory the standard formula to calculate the future value of an investment i  with an interest rate of r and a horizon of t years:

PV(i)=i \times(1+r)^t

The reason is that I feel it somehow misses to represent the intrinsically recursive nature of compound interest (albeit being considerably more efficient to compute). After a quick research, I failed to find an explicit formulation of it. This seems appropriate to me (with some minor changes in the notation):

PV(i_{t_{n}},r)=PV(i_{t_{n-1}},r)+I(i_{t_{n-1}},r)

where I(n,k)=\frac{nk}{100} is the interest function, n is the argument and r the interest rate.

It is also interesting to notice that it is now trivial, by piecing things together, to define a function to express the growth of the interest earned yearly, as follows:

\Delta PV(i_{t_{n}},r)=PV(i_{t_{0}},r)(1-r)^n -PV(i_{t_{0}},k)(1-r)^{n-1}

= \Delta PV(i_{t_{n}},r)=PV(i_{t_{0}},r)\cdot r\cdot (r+1)^{n-1}

To-Do list – Summer

Go to Italy

It was pretty fun, although a little rushed: time was not on my side and I stayed for around ten days, give or take, that all my friends turned into some really great time. The same doesn’t necessarily apply to family, re-adapting to which was a little bit of a task; nonetheless, in the end it was lovely. The wombat came over too, hungry to taste the delicious alcoholic tradition Veneto boasts. Let it suffice to say that there was not a lot of it left, when he boarded the train back to Torino. Kudos to all you lovely people there. 

Take my family for a toss around London

Oh boy. We need footage here.

(This is gonna cost me.)

So. This here is my lovely sister in the act of entertaining her easily bored self whilst we were waiting to visit the London Museum of Anesthesia. Wicked, I know. I found out about the whole thing by absolute mistake, and it turned out to be one of the oddest experience a tourist can get in London without having to visit the police afterwards. Ah, the joys of being nerds.

So anyway, the story is that my mum and stepdad finally decided it was time to give London a chance, and just like that they rocked up over. It has been an immense pleasure to show them around the place, do all the touristy stuff and enjoy one of the most beautiful place in the world: Harrod’s.

Kidding (not): they loved London and London loved them. In fact, the day after we left riots started all over the place. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I also had the chance to see some of my lovely brits, and they were all adorable as usual. I didn’t see Elizabeth, or as she likes to call herself “The Queen”, because she was always too pissed to go out, the twat.

Find a new place in Utrecht

Next I flew back home (LGW-AMS, BA: a chavy nightmare), figuratively speaking, since I have to vacate the premises I am occupying right now by Aug 31st, when my tenement contract expires. So the aim was to find a crib in a week. Now, for those of you lucky enough to live in a straight-minded country, you should know that finding a place to rent in cities such a Utrecht, Amsterdam, Leiden or Groningen is just FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE. Not just impossible: HECKING IMPOSSIBLE. (I blame it on Simon Cowell: everybody here seems to be very into auditioning the future flatmates in an X-Factor kind of style, and the whole process is so ridiculously time-consuming and complicated that I’m not even gonna bother you with the details. Let it suffice to say that it’s so frustrating Nanni Moretti wants to make a movie about it.)

And you know what’s the most annoying thing? That every time someone brings up the topic in conversation, the FIRST answer EVERYBODY gets is: “oh it’s just so, so hard!”. And no, that’s not what she said, ’cause she is too busy hunting for a flat in Utrecht, to be making sexual innuendos.

Anyway, you get it: it’s hard, bla bla bla. Turns out: it’s not. All you need to do is walk into a real-estate agency, ask for a room to rent, pick one you like, sign the contract, get out (top tip here, folks!).

It appears, hence, that starting on September 1st I will be living in an fairly big house with the wombat, Chris, and a lot of space to spare. Invitations for the housewarming party will follow, bring your gin.

◻ Check out China

I’m leaving tomorrow morning for a week: will visit Beijing, Xi’an, Shangai. Can’t wait to find out how this one will go all tits up.

◻ Work out

oh, cock off.

Peace.