You'll find these in reverse chronological order because I'm not insane
Good tidings, brethren! Brethren seems to be a masculine word. My university would be most displeased if I only used masculine greetings. Berkeley actually outlawed the use of gender-specific words in legal settings like ‘manhole’ and ‘manmade.’ It’s really quite something that Berkeley prides itself on free speech. What would the female equivalent of brethren be? Sisthren? Well then, good tidings my brethren and sisthren! Why are the tidings good, you ask? Because I have been putting in a good deal of work on the XFA site, and as the title suggests, it is looking simply gorgeous! I realize that these particular posts are a bit meta because I’m writing posts about the creation of the site that I will use to post these posts, but I suppose that’s just one of the beauties of life.
I am planning on putting several pictures of myself around the site (to confirm that I am in fact a human being, and not just another sexy poltergeist) but these pictures haven’t yet been taken, so I’ve had to use random surrogate pictures from the internet. I only mention this because the picture I grabbed from the clutches of google images for XFA’s homepage makes the homepage look like an ad for a makeup company. I’m coming for you Kylie! They told me a straight male physicist/computer scientist/mathematician with no experience in fashion would never be able to start a successful makeup brand, but I’ll show ‘em!
Interestingly enough, I’ve actually thought that I would actually really enjoy doing hair/makeup. This was a passing thought/feeling I had a couple years back that I clearly haven’t done anything about, but perhaps at some point if I ever achieve fame and riches, I’ll give it a go. What I do know is that I have an incredibly hard time keeping myself from bursting into fits of birdlike laughter whenever I watch makeup tutorials on YouTube. I haven’t watched that many, but for some reason I absolutely can’t take them seriously. Now that I think about it, I doubt that I’ve watched any more than two throughout my entire life. I don’t remember much about the first one, but the second one was by Belle Delphine. As a concerned reader, you might be wondering why on God’s green earth I was watching a video by Belle Delphine. If you must know, I believe Pewdiepie mentioned her at one point (yes, I have watched several of Pewdiepie’s videos. I’m honestly not a huge fan. YouTuber culture is a truly bizarre phenomenon) and when I looked at her channel, I was astounded at her subscriber count. Everything made sense when I did a bit more research and realized she essentially makes softcore porn. Nothing like porn to get you a massive internet following. It may not be crystal clear from reading this, but I would like to formally state that I do not condone the practice of using porn for generating a massive internet following. If you are actively doing this, I would suggest you perhaps find a counselor of some sort or perhaps a therapist.
Good heavens, how on earth did I get onto a high horse about porn? Ah yes Belle Delphine. Always the troll.
Anyway, in a desperate effort to stop writing about porn, let me tell you about my day. I think that even I have the right to share my feelings with the emotionally psychotic, entirely chaotic lifeforce that is the internet.
So today I woke up in the mountains, and my brother and I went skiing at A-Basin in Colorado. I had a free day pass at A-Basin because last summer I went skiing in a lightning storm at A-Basin, which resulted in me being awarded a free day pass. It was a superb day of skiing, aside from the fact that it was a complete white-out, and we literally couldn’t see the ground. It’s always a bit disconcerting when you think you’re going to move in a straight line and then suddenly you’re skiing up the side of a mountain by accident. At one point my brother and I were on the chairlift, and a girl skiing beneath us yelled, “Where is the ground!?” I think that pretty well sums up the day.
As with most nature activities, I can only fully enjoy skiing for about three hours before my mind starts drifting to other matters. Today, for instance, I thoroughly enjoyed skiing in the morning, and then my twit little brain started zoning off trying to figure out how I can use category theory in the math software I plan to begin developing.
You can bet your sweet petunia that this math software is going to be an XFA project, so I won’t give too many details away just yet.
Goodness me, now I’m just blabbering about my day. I will have you know that I don’t plan on posting about my everyday life very frequently because why should I? Isn’t hearing about someone else’s life half the point of friends? If that’s what you’re looking for, maybe you should go make some friends. Now then, I’m off to bed. Until tomorrow night my sisthren!
Sup, pup. I neglected to write an XFA entry last night which was quite irritating because the whole point of this blasted site is for me to write an entry every night. Well no matter. I’ve already punished myself Dobby-style for my error, so hopefully it won’t happen again.
Now then, I really think the title says it all here. However, because I want to write more, I feel it would be prudent (and at the very least fair to you, my treasure reader) to give some context for my claim regarding the nature of music.
For the past few days, I have been alternating between working on the XFA site and learning QFT by means of Srednicki’s book. I feel a deep existential compulsion to do both activities because I am a fallen human, but today I thought it might be nice to take a wee lil break from my regular activities to try to write some music. I have been listening a copious amount Grimes’s works lately (which should come as no surprise to those of you who read my post about my tragic, unrequited, animal-like love for Grimes), and I have been feeling inspired to convert some of my emotions and experiences into audible sauce, namely music.
As a quick side note, I learned today that Grimes is pregnant with Elon Musk’s baby. I have of course joked with my friends that Elon Musk’s children will likely rule us all one day, but come on. Grimes and Elon? I’m not sure the world is ready for their child. I’m honestly not convinced we’ll be able to classify the child as a human being.
I could probably write several more posts (or novels) about the supernatural powers Grelon’s (couple name) child will have, but I know you’re just itching to hear more about my musical endeavors. Fear not, patient reader, I will oblige.
I began my music-making sesh (short, of course, for session) today by listening attentively to a metronome pulsing at 84 bpm. After I had deeply internalized the beat, I began searching for compelling chord progression using a built-in synth in Ableton. After a couple minutes I found an intriguing combination of chords involving a very tempting Eaug chord and deliciously moving E7 chord. At this point, I was bit lost as to how I ought proceed. I eventually decided to write a rhythmic line for the chord progression, and then do my best to find a sick, sick beat over which I would lay the chords. It took a bit to finally get all this in place, but I eventually slide the chords into place over a hip-hop-like beat.
And let me tell you, it was awful. Perhaps someone else may have enjoyed it, but to my ears it sounded like a lifeless pile of oatmeal sludge.
The interesting thing is that I have in fact written several songs in my day. In my experience writing music, either the music you have written is either dead, passionless, and nauseating, or it’s the emotional equivalent of injecting ecstasy directly into your veins. Either it is everything, the only true reality, or it is absolutely worthless garbage.
The piece of sludge I had written therefore neatly fell into the category of worthless garbage. This was, of course, discouraging, and I generally lost all motivation to continue birthing audible sauce.
But then I found the chord.
As a last-ditch effort to try to feel something, I grabbed a virtual violin section and played around with the chord pattern I had found earlier. And then I stumbled upon the Fmaj7. And that is when my dying emotions found salvation. Pure ecstasy, my friends, pure ecstasy.
Finishing the original chord progression with an Fmaj7 generated an emotion of intensive sorrow mixed perfectly with intense hope. How do I better describe the emotion? Let me give an analogy.
Imagine a military commander of a small nation is under attack from the Roman Empire. This particular commander is an absolute genius, but he knows that eventually his nation will be defeated by the greater empire and be forced into servitude. Nothing does this commander desire more than for the freedom of his nation, and so he orders a small portion of the population to flee into the wilderness away from the Romans. He knows, however, that if unimpeded, the Romans will overtake the refugees, and so this commander begins a series of strategically masterful attacks against the Romans to divert their attention from the refugees. After months of strategic genius, the Romans eventually break through the commander’s defenses. During the final battle of this war, the commander is stabbed through stomach, and slowly bleeds out on the battle ground while the Romans meticulously deconstruct the last of the small nation’s defenses. In his last moments, all the commander can see is destruction and chaos. Men lie slaughtered on the battle field next to burning defenses. It is a scene of utter desolation.
Yet the commander knows that because of his masterful campaigns, the refugees from his small nation have a chance at survival.
It is precisely the emotion of this commander in his last moments of life that is captured in chords I found.
I had been planning on going into a large-scale discussion of the analogous nature of writing music and organic life forms, but I am immensely tired, and I need to sleep. Perhaps some other time, potentially faithful reader. For now, I will end by remarking that music is indeed fundamentally powerful. It is truly remarkable that music “sounds” like emotion. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that music evokes emotion.
Because of perception of reality can generally be broken up into logic and emotion (I realize that’s an overgeneralization, but it’ll do for now), in order to fully communicate our perception of reality to another individual, you must convey both the logic and the emotion. Conveying the logic is easy. We have oral language and the written word. Conveying emotion is much more difficult, because emotion cannot easily be quantified. Thus it is truly remarkable that we are able to communicate emotions with one another by means of music. In that sense, music perhaps is as fundamental a tool to humans as the written word.
I guess that’s why I have so much respect for Grimes.
Order and structure. Structure and rationale. Rationale and rules. Rules and order. Order and structure.
These are my life blood, my drive, my passion, my pleasure.
By fate’s design we are kept from fundamental truth. Within fundamental truth lies fundamental order, fundamental structure, fundamental rationale, fundamental rules. And thus the fundamental has and will forevermore evade our tireless grasping.
We look into the darkness, and we cannot distinguish chaos from order. We can only perceive hints at greater order, but because we cannot distinguish the anomaly from the truth, we are blind even as we see.
Yet the miracle of our reality is our ability to construct our own truth from the darkness. Even as we grope blindly throughout the reality which houses us, we create our own realities with their own fundamental order. And through this order comes structure, rationale, and rules.
Blind as we are to the potential presence of howling chaos, we strive forward, tumbling over one another as the imperceptible storm continuously, remorselessly threatens everything we have ever created.
It is only by a faith fundamental to our existence that we press onwards. This faith is so fundamental that many do not even consciously perceive it, and yet is the only thing that keeps us from succumbing to the potential of invisible chaos.
This fundamental faith is the faith that there exists either fundamental truth or a stable representation of fundamental truth. Only the supernatural, the deities, the incomprehensible could purport to verify the existence of truth. The rest of us can only cultivate faith in the existence of truth because without this faith, we are unable to create our own personal truth, order, structure, rationale, and rules.
My eyes are open to the gift our fundamental faith has given us. Our life, our interaction with reality, these are the true gifts. This gift allows us to cultivate truth, order, structure, rationale, and rules where they may not even be able to exist.
Order and structure. Structure and rationale. Rationale and rules. Rules and order. Order and structure.
These are my life blood, my drive, my passion, my pleasure.
Unless you have been without internet for the past four weeks, I’m sure you all are at least somewhat aware of my situation. Many people have rightly conveyed their concern about my returning to work so soon, and I feel obliged to address this topic. In keeping with the culture of honesty we have worked to cultivate throughout our company, I have decided to share with you all the details of what happened in the Grand Canyon in addition to my motivations for returning to lead XenaCorp again so soon.
Rebecca, Harley, and I spent this Christmas with my parents in New Mexico. It was my plan to take a week of vacation and then promptly return to San Francisco on January 2nd. Before returning I had promised Harley that we would visit the Grand Canyon, as she had been badgering me about doing so for the last four months. Harley would have turned nine this March, but she had already proved herself to be a bit of a daredevil, so I was excited to surprise her with a helicopter tour of the Canyon. Rebecca was less than enthusiastic about the idea, but we both knew how much Harley would enjoy the experience.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon early on December 28th, and Rebecca and I could hardly keep up with Harley as she bounced around the overlooks in excitement. True to our predictions, Harley nearly exploded when Rebecca and I showed her the helicopter that would be taking us over the canyon.
I feel no desire to belabor the details about what happened in the Canyon, as these details are immensely painful for me to even think about, much less write. All I will say is that the pilot believed we were having some form of malfunction with the rotor hub that led to her loss of control of the helicopter.
We were with another young couple in the copter, Pranav and Neha. The sole reason Neha and I were able to survive the crash and be rescued by first responders was because we both were sitting on the right side of the helicopter. That is the only reason. A simple choice of seat. In order to promote my personal well-being, I would appreciate if there was no more talk of this subject. To be more precise, I will fire anyone who speaks of these events in my presence without good reason.
Now then, I believe it would be fruitful to discuss my reasons for so quickly returning to lead the company. Many board members have expressed concern that I am throwing myself back into work as a defense mechanism against my grief. This is a perfectly valid concern, but I assure you all, this is not the case. The loss of my wife and eight-year-old daughter is without a doubt the single most difficult event that I will ever face, and I spent two weeks in the hospital immersed in a sense of inescapable darkness. I do not believe it necessary to divulge any more information about my mental state during the weeks after the Grand Canyon. However, to quell your doubts, I will remind you that I underwent a tremendous amount of mental conditioning during my time in the military. Additionally, I will have you know that I have spoken to three psychiatrists and two trauma therapists, each of whom has deemed me mentally and emotionally capable of returning to my duties as CEO of XenaCorp.
The central reason I have returned is precisely the same reason I founded XenaCorp in the first place: I am absolutely certain that the analysis and services we provide will fundamentally change our world for the better. Rebecca shared this conviction, and it was only through her steadfast support and business savvy that XenaCorp was able to survive its first few years of life. I can therefore only see my continued work leading XenaCorp as a dedication to Rebecca and Harley, and a promise to bring about the change of which Rebecca and I always dreamed.
I have one final note to add. Many of you knew Rebecca closely. Rebecca was gifted with immense intelligence, yet the quality that drew people to her was her unfathomable love for humanity. Regardless of your position with XenaCorp, I ask you to strive to mirror this love in everything you do. I have chosen to dedicate my remaining work with XenaCorp to the memory of Rebecca and Harley. I ask that you would do so as well.
Shalom, brethren. I have spent this week of winter recess in Arizona with my family, which means I have had time to obsessively build the XFA site. I understand that many of you readers may not be programmers, but let me tell you, if you’re looking for a hot, passionate night of shameful pleasure, learn Python and then build a web app with the Django framework. I can barely contain my feelings toward Django. It is juicy, juicy sauce. If you are in fact a programmer, and have previously used Django in your endeavors, I’m sure you share my sentiment.
My compulsive programming this week has also been a time of self-learning for me. I know all you readers care deeply about even the most minute details of my work life, so I won’t hold anything back. Actually scratch that, I am going to hold some stuff back. Otherwise, many of you might be concerned I’m an egotistical sociopath, which isn’t good for business. Anyways, I have specifically been paying attention to my micromanaging tendencies. When building a web app you generally have to keep track of several moving parts (models, views, CSS styling, whatnot), and I very much tend to spend far too much time perfecting small details when much larger pieces aren’t in place. For example, you know how sometimes you go to a news or blog site that only displays part of an article, and then the text fades out with a “Read More,” button at the bottom? For some reason, I had a spontaneous love affair with incorporating that effect on the XFA site, and I honestly think I spent an hour (“…A full hour!” –Crazy Craig) getting everything right. Now, this wouldn’t have necessarily been the end of the world, except for the fact that the entire site looks like garbage right now because I haven’t started styling the site yet. The engaged reader might be tempted to ask the question, “Why oh why, Danny, did you spend so much time perfecting the text fade away effect when you haven’t even started styling yet?” Well, my wonderfully engaged reader, I don’t really have a good answer for you, aside from the fact that I derive an irrationally large amount of utility from having perfect control over small details. Some might say I’m a perfectionist. Others would be wrong.
I think because I’ve spent the last five years mostly doing physics (not hard stuff like QFT or GR or String Theory. I’m not Wolfram sigh) I’ve generally been rewarded for being cripplingly OCD about the minute details of derivations. However, recently I have been attempting to tackle more complex theories (the hard stuff like QFT and GR), and I have been running into issues because I tend to spend way too much time trying to understand the incredibly minute details of every equation instead of trying to grasp the central tenets of the theories. It's also hard because the minute details of the mathematical theory usually give me the most pleasure (the details are a bit fuzzy, but at one point I believe I was accused of having romantic feelings for eigenvalues. I can’t say that’s too far off the mark. Honestly, eigenvalues are the Django of basic linear algebra). The issues I’ve been having with these theories specifically have genuinely caused me to wonder if my brain is already slowing down, but I think it’s far more likely that my perfectionist tendencies are finally catching up to me.
So then, the ~groundbreaking~ (really pretty obvious) conclusion I’ve come to is that I have to be much more militaristic with myself when it comes to my organizational approach to learning new subjects or working on my projects. As a practical example, I will have to force myself to implement the architecture of the XFA site before I go about trying to style the thrice-fracked thing. This organizational approach is pretty obviously the best way to go, but my time of self-reflection has really showed me how shamefully unorganized I’ve been with my past projects.
As an example of this shameful, shameful behavior, for the past two semesters, I’ve been doing a research apprenticeship for the ATLAS group at Berkeley (For the uninitiated, the ATLAS detector is a detector in the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, which just so happens to be the largest particle collider in the world). I won’t go into the specifics of my projects with ATLAS, but this last semester I was primarily working with the incredibly elaborate data readout system used by ATLAS.
It’s honestly a bit painful to think back to my project this semester, because I really did a poor job learning the necessary material to do the project I was working on. The fundamental issue was that in order to understand anything about anything, you had to first develop a basic understanding of the system as a whole. This was an issue for wee physicist Danny because I’m used to reading out of a physics textbook, understanding equations line-by-line, and then watching the main ideas unfold before me like the glorious phoenixes they are. When confronted with a subject that wasn’t possible to learn line-by-line, I hopelessly floundered about like the weird fish in Harry Styles music video for Adore You.
The moral of the story is that if you’re a perfectionist, you’re annoying and I don’t like you. JK, we’re all friends here. The moral is that in the future, I’ve learned that I need to make a much more concerted effort to outline whatever it is I’m working toward, and only dive into the details when I can see how they support the bigger picture. Unless I’m just looking to trip out on some delicious math. Then I’ll just shamefully and giddily open Weinberg’s QFT book to the section about the topology of the Lorentz Group. Until next time, my friends.