We’re disgusting and barbaric

https://backchannel.com/the-future-called-were-disgusting-and-barbaric-aac9d3ab2b90#.qj9umc4dw

I often wonder what people in the future will find barbaric about my life. We tend to look back on our ancestors with a mix of amusement and disgust: amusement that those poor fools managed to survive without things like toilets, electricity, and selfies; disgust that their lives were filled with things we find vile.

But are we any better?

Well there, a great title and quick article that describes what I’ve been feeling lately, well perhaps not just lately, but oftentimes I bemoan to my wife on the terrible state of things around us – from big things like the horrific traffic system, governments, religious systems, to little things like human habits, speech patterns, etc. I can’t remember half of what I complain/whine about.

She says it sounds like I’m complaining about everything, that I’m unhappy about everything, and always seeing the negative side of things. (I love that she’s such a nice person, who is nice to everything, unlike me.) Every single thing I touch and come across, I have some negative comment of its flaws and how it could be better, much better. It’s true, I do sound like this, which is really unfortunate because my mind just picks up on things, understand it, how it works (that happens immediately as usually it’s trivial), and I imagine how it could be better at doing what it is trying to do. Just a reflexive thought, as they say no hard feelings.

But the fact is that it’s true, alot of things could be better. The status quo is not good enough. It might be doable for now, if we don’t care about making it better, faster, cheaper, more efficient, more optimised, more elegant, more beautiful. It doesn’t negate all the effort we’ve taken to come this far. Motorised cars are a lovely achievement from horse drawn carriages (HDC). Yes recently I had this huge thought-process on horse drawn carriages. Looking back, HDC were obviously a stupid, inefficient, smelly, slow, expensive, inefficient system. I can’t even imagine all the horseshit in the streets – which the movies don’t show you. But how did we manage to get from HDC to motor cars? So many technological advances. If only, if only, we can learn how we took that step, examine it, and learn to make the next step, toward the next super technology. Not just self driving cars, but some radical new design, maybe flying cars (another separate thought process), maybe rocket powered, maybe anti gravity, maybe something I cannot even imagine today. And this will give us 10x, 100x, 1000x the improvement over the current system.

We have to make these jumps forward, we cannot forever stay in this crappy system of fossil fuel cars, traffic lights, human drivers, rubber tyres (did you ever see a horse carriage with rubber tyres? or a car with wooden wheels?), etc. As terrible as the horse carriage design was, that is how terrible the motor cars look to a future human being. Intolerably bad. Something that belongs in a museum.

If all humans just accepted the status quo, we would never move forward.

 

Here’s an article that describes how geniuses are sometimes similar to the crazies. Nice. http://nautil.us/issue/46/balance/if-you-think-youre-a-genius-youre-crazy-rp

Oh, and about that flying car thing, what the answer is not flying cars, but smaller aeroplanes?

We’re disgusting and barbaric

Lost in Translation / poignancy

Kelly: Listen, I’m under Evelyn Waugh. Shh. Okay?
John: Okay, yeah!
Kelly: Okay, arigato. [to Charlotte] Aarigato.
John: [laughing] Moshi moshi!
[Kelly walks away]
Charlotte: Evelyn Waugh?
John: What?
Charlotte: Evelyn Waugh was a man.
John: [shocked] Oh, c’mon, she’s nice. What? You know– You know, not everyone went to Yale. Its just a pseudonym, for Christ’s sake.
Charlotte: Why do you have to defend her?
John: Well… why do you have to point out how stupid everybody is all the time?
Charlotte: I thought it was funny. Forget it.


Charlotte: You ever switch seats?
Bob: Uh, I like this one. If I fall, someone will notice.
Charlotte: Yeah. So, you having a nice time?
Bob: Can you keep a secret? I’m trying to organize a prison break. I need like, what, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?
Charlotte: I’m in.
Bob: Good.
Charlotte: I’ll go pack my stuff.
Bob: Get your coat.
Charlotte: See ya. [walks away]
Bob: I hope you’ve had enough to drink. It’s gonna take courage


An Olympic pool is framed by tall glass walls with the Tokyo
view. Bob is handed a swim cap and goggles.

Bob watches a Japanese BUSINESSMAN swimming, he looks like
an over-grown baby.

Bob swims laps in the pristine pool.

He continues his laps. Under water he sees the jumping legs
of MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN.

A disco mixed tape starts, and above water we see a WESTERN
INSTRUCTOR in tight shorts leading an aqua-aerobics class to
the group of WOMEN, They jump up and down to Sister Sledge.


Bob: How long you’ve been married? [lights Charlotte’s cigarette]
Charlotte: Oh, thank you. Two years.
Bob: Try twenty-five.
Charlotte: You’re probably just having a mid-life crisis. Did you buy a Porsche yet?
Bob: You know, I was thinking about getting a Porsche.
Charlotte: Twenty-five years. That’s, uh, well it’s impressive.
Bob: Well you figure, you sleep one-third of your life, that knocks out eight years of marriage right there. So you’re, y’know, down to sixteen and change. You know you’re just a teenager, at
marriage; you can drive it but there’s still the occasional accident.


It’s odd that I like this movie. Never heard of Bill Murray before that, nor particularly liked his other work much. I think this movie is full of very quiet, precious moments, and dialogue. It does so well in capturing fleeting moments, in-between moments. Sweetly bittersweet. His dry witty remarks, her smiles. His indecipherable whisper, her gazes.

These movies with one-off stories…well those that actually work out, are gems. Plenty other movies fall flat.

“a smart and thoughtful movie”

I think I also love films dripping with poignancy. (what a lovely word. poignant.) like Boyhood. so beautiful, so real. films that simply take my breath away.

a review quoted “Had we but time and world enough, ”
woah that’s quite a poem https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44688

Lost in Translation / poignancy

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season

“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all. People die. Old orders pas. New societies are born. When we say “the world has ended.”, it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.
But this is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
For the last time.”

Also, her second book in the series The Obelisk Gate. and a third book yet to be published.

A pretty good effort at science fiction. The first book was enrapturing. It could be more detailed, and could be even more eloquent (like how Ada Palmer’s Too like the lightning was downright amazing), but this was good enough, and also a lighter read.

The second book was too much of a filler, and dropped the ball significantly. Hoping the last book in the series would properly fill out the storyline.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season

https://hackernoon.com/the-three-machines-da612d1220dd#.5xq1uhao3

https://m.signalvnoise.com/restoring-sanity-to-the-office-d9d35dd8689e#.7swawv4hx

https://hackernoon.com/50-things-ive-learned-about-product-management-300cc67ca6ee#.q8n4vrjqr

friday 6 january 2017

There are so many different types of people in the world,
And we stumbled into each other.
I could never have predicted you would be the one for me,
Neither me for you.
We were a world apart, in many ways similar,
And in as many ways un-similar.
In the books Wheel of Time there were weaves after weaves in the thread of the fabric,
Apart yet coming together in moments.
In our infinitely complicated lives we had our own weaves,
And our own impossibly improbable together.
I strain to recall our bus rides,
Our blackberry messages,
Our encounter at night at the Raffles Hotel,
Our evenings at Istana Park,
Our Mexican dinner at Holland Village,
And the unique tiramisu,
Our airport dinners,Tjhender
And always being by each other side these years.
We would never understand why this is our book,
But this is our story,
And you would be my family unto forever.

friday 6 january 2017

Too Like The Lightning – Ada Palmer

 

A good book, if a little long winded, and story is still not concluded. till Book2.

 

Pg 121.

Some people talk down to children, as if they assume a small body houses a small intellect. Some people talk past them, bludgeoning them with unfamiliar words until the kids accept what they can’t understand. Chance or Providence, whichever you prefer, had sent Bridger a sensayer who treated the child as an equal intelligence, just blessed with newness, ready for difficult things, so long as they were presented honestly.

 

Pg123.

Child “The Major and the soldiers and Mycroft told me what war is like. They say it’s the second worst thing in the world.”.

Man: “That’s an interesting definition. What did they say is the worst thing?”

Child: “Not having anything worth fighting for in the first place.”

 

Pg 125.

Bridger smiled at last, and I felt the warmth of the conclusion spread through myself as well. I am no sensayer. In Caryle’s place I would have just said that death is bad, and that of course he should bring Pointer back. But that would have brought a world of pain upon the child. Do you still not see it, reader? The moral consequences ten steps further along, which Carlyle forsees as clearly as signposts on a road? If Bridger had brought Pointer back on the theory that it’s always better to be alive than dead, then what about the other plastic corpses lost somewhere in the trench dust? He should bring them back. What about Emma Platz? Lesley’s Parents? The recently deceased sensayer Carlyle replaced? What about the stranger who died yesterday in a hospital on the far side of the world? Or every stranger, every death, back to the dawn of time? Soon the nightmare guilt that sometimes kept me up at night would kindle in the boy, and make him feel that every soul that ever died was on his conscience for not resurrecting them. But this way, deciding based on what the soldier personally would want, Bridger could bring Pointer back and still reserve the possibility of death being okay, and not take up the burden (yet) of saving all of us. At this point I sent my silent signal to Thisbe and the Major that I thought this sensayer could be trusted.

“But what if there’s a God?” Only a child could ask so bluntly, reader.

I will spare you the next part. You may assume that Carlyle stayed with Bridger in the garden for another hour, leading him through the hypotheticals of Nirvana, Gehenna, Guinee, Mictlan, Hell, of nothingness, of reincarnation, or souls returning, souls merging, souls evaporating, no souls at all, presenting many options and leaving many open doors. Their conclusions were neither solely Bridger’s nor solely Carlyle’s, but discoveries made striding hand in hand through theology’s well-trodden ground.

 

Pg 317.

Voltaire was also a Deist, which means they believed that all religions are different understandings of the same universal God. Who made the world but doesn’t really care what name or names He’s called by.”

“Late in life Voltaire built a small church on their estate. They put an inscription over the entrance, Deo Erexit Voltaire: built for God by Voltaire. After so many churches built to saints, they said, it was about time someone built one to God. In a sense it’s the high temple of Deism, strange as it sounds to say that a religion which combines most all religions could have a high temple’

Too Like The Lightning – Ada Palmer

Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

It was a intriguing descriptive of five close high school friends, and how their friendship meant so much as they were growing up, but the intensity fell apart as they went to college and the pain caused by the rifts and the strangeness of their eventual careers and lives was so hurtful/devastating/awkward.

“and this was what they did most often – they just hung out someplace, and talked for hours. It wasn’t like they showed up with a topic in mind – they just never ran out of things to talk about.”

It’s difficult for large groups of friends to stay together a long time. Especially as life, habits, and circumstances change. We should appreciate it while it lasts.

“Not everything was lost in the flow of time. … We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.”

 

 

Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

Poetic wisps

It’s been so long that I forget
The streets branching off Orchard Road,
The Wisma-Taka underpass
And oh the Lucky Plaza one too.
I forget the first Singtel shop that used to be in the basement where the first HTC phone was,
The old back door escalator of Kino that made is so fast to get out to the train station,
The first Garret popcorns, nah that wasn’t so long,
When Heeren used to be a youth paradise with warrens of stalls, now moved to bugis.
When there was HMV, now long gone, long past the time of CDs,
When there were younger simpler crowds,
When it was afternoon on a weekday,
When we thought we were finally old enough, but really still really not that old after all.

Poetic wisps

Google Home in real life environments

My two new Google Home have arrived. And it’s time to try out just how good (or limited) the launch version of Google Home is.

img_20161120_135139-1

The set up:

1 x Google Home : in living room
1 x Google Home : in bedroom (sometimes it moves around)
1 x Nexus 6p running 7.1 dev preview, modded with Google Assistant
1 x Nexus 5 running 6

Note that this is being used outside of US. Hence certain US-based services were not available.

What’s known to work, and observations:

Single device situation:

  1. Google Home (GH) can be configured with 1 primary “linked” google account. This account is at the moment the single main account for that particular GH device. If you ask this device any account specific questions like “what’s on my calendar”, “good morning”, etc. It will answer using this account’s name and calendar info.
  2. You cannot link a second account to this device. The text label “linked account(s)” look like this will be introduced in the near future.
  3. GH voice recognition is not person-specific like your phone Google Assistant or Google Now is. There is no voice recognition training step.
  4. Remember that specific voice recognition is on-device only, it does not get transferred between your devices.
  5. Any person can talk to your GH device, including friends, kids, partner, etc. What I mean is that anybody’s OK Google will be recognized.
    1. Good: other people can try out the GH. it’s more community friendly.
    2. Bad: no distinction of personal info, this probably needs to be fixed
  6. Music account, locality account are all set as per main google account holder. If you have just one device, only one account can be set. This is definitely odd thing.
  7. Search History is saved into the history of the main account holder. This means you will accumulate a huge amount of junk queries as everyone try out the GH.
  8. Search queries are obviously almost always very very good. Assistant finds most answers and can read out longform answers from websites like recipes. That’s pretty well done.
  9. Did not test out smarthome commands as I do not have the ecosystem set up.
  10. Music controls are really basic at the moment. Anything outside the specified range of “play music”, “play x”, “next song”, “stop” will usually fail. Including really simple commands like “play something else”, “I like this song”.

Two Google Home devices

  1. So I bought two GH devices for reasons: to put one in each room, to try out dual accounts.
  2. Each GH is set up individually. They are not forcibly linked, even on the same wifi network. meaning each GH can be on separate Google Accounts. or each GH can be on the same Google Account.
  3. If separate Google Accounts:
    1. each device will answer according to it’s “owner”. as per above, all personal info, music account will be specifically linked.
    2. you can still cast music to each GH, regardless of their account, as long as it is on the same wifi network.
    3. you can still group them together inside the Home app. This allows you to cast music to both of them at the same time.
    4. If your phone is nearby a GH with the same account, it will offload responses onto the GH intelligently. If nearby GH is of a different account, it will not offload the response. I hope you understand this.
    5. Music playing is really screwy as both GH are linked to different accounts so when you talk to them, they access different music accounts.
  4. If same Google Account is used for both GH
    1. it works as you would expect. you can talk to any of the devices perfectly. your music plays perfectly.
    2. other people can still command the GH as like guests, but all info go through your account.

Other comments:

  • command pickup: pretty decent. no need to shout, but don’t speak too softly. it does not pick up whispers, ever.
  • loudness: the speakers go really really loud very fast. about 30 to 50% strength is enough. I wish it could go softer, Volume 1 is still too loud sometimes.
  • data usage: if you run it the entire day playing music, it can use quite a fair bit of data. mine can probably download like 1gb a day, perhaps.
  • touch sensitivity: bit of a lag. also wish there were other buttons on it for music controls. sometimes it’s too tiring to keep saying every little command out loud. “ok google next song” is a bit of a stretch to keep repeating.
  • As described in the above two sections, management of multiple Google accounts is a headache. Compared to phones where one phone equals one person (whether one or multiple accounts), a smarthome device has to be shared between multiple people. So we have new combinations that are very hard to manage, both for the computer and for the humans. Even as I know Google engineers and enable linking of multi accounts, it will still be a huge challenge for the user without any visual cues of which is the active account.

Imagine the combination and scenarios:

one Google Home | one user  | one google account
one Google Home | two users | one google account
one Google Home | two users | two google accounts
two Google Home | one user  | one google account
two Google Home | two users | one google account
two Google Home | two users | two google accounts

 

Best thing about Google Home so far:

It’s a very lovely music player. The convenience of having having an always-on music player, being able to just say “play music” and something decent starts playing. It’s been awesome instead of having to plug something in, turn something on, open some app and choose a playlist. I believe this is going to be the primary purpose of GH, followed by all the random search queries. In smarthome enabled households, home commands would undoubtedly be heavily used as well.

Music playing benefits heavily from having a premium music streaming service with unending songs, auto playlist, and machine learning assisted smart playlist generation.

Note: if you do not have a valid premium music subscription with Spotify or Google Play Music (or YouTube Red), you can still play music from Pandora (Free) or Google Play Music Free versions. You can only play ‘radios’, that is you cannot choose specific songs. But you will still have some form of music. You should still also be able to play your own uploaded personal Google Play Music files (in playlist form).

 

Would I recommend Google Home? Yes definitely. It works very well as a search query device, it listens well to your commands, it is a great music streamer, it’s relatively inexpensive. For all the money people throw into smartphones, this is definitely worth the money.

Google Home in real life environments