You'll find these in reverse chronological order because I'm not insane
A most cordial greeting to each and every one of you! It feels like I’ve been neglecting my duties a bit as chief writer, editor, and overlord of XFA, so it’s high time I scratched away at this metaphorical parchment with my metaphorical quill. For those of you who are curious, it’s currently raining in Colorado Springs, and gracious me, it appears the rain is freezing into gigantic snowflakes. I’m sitting in my bed watching this, and let me tell you, meteorologically-inclined readers, it’s truly divine. It even smells strongly of Colorado rain, which, remarkably enough, is a different rain-smell than Berkeley rain, and I must say I have a strong preference for the former.
So I believe because I’m part sheep I ought to address the elephant in the room, or more specifically the microscopic crown-shaped boi that I certainly hope is not in my room, coronavirus. It turns out we’ve had a fair number of cases in Colorado Springs, and there was at least one death in my county. We have yet to put on “Shelter in Place,” however, unlike my college hometown of Berkeley. I must say that I am remarkably happy to not be in California, and specifically the Bay Area at this moment. For those of you reading who are still in Berkeley, I wish you Godspeed in all your endeavors, and I dearly hope you make it through this unscathed.
Now then, in keeping with the thinly-veiled egotistical themes of this blog, I feel inclined to turn the conversation back to myself. I am actually remarkably happy to be back home in Colorado Springs. I hadn’t fully noticed it until I arrived back here, but I was getting increasingly tired of Berkeley throughout this semester. This was, certainly, in large part my own fault, as I had been socially distancing myself even before the reign of COVID-19. It turns out that if you don’t consciously make time for spending time with people, you generally don’t spend time with people. It also didn’t particularly help that I had made a good deal of my friends during my first year though the Christian organization Cru, which, btw, is the Christian organization to join if you’re looking for one. While my Cru friends are generally wonderful people with whom I have very much enjoyed spending time throughout college, I have been very actively not going to Cru meetings during this semester due to my spiritual situation, so I really haven’t seen them nearly enough.
I can see the glazed-over look in some of your eyes, so let me move onto one final topic. Obviously all the school closures and online classes are a big deal. What I’m interested in, however, is how people are going to respond to this epidemic several months from now when we’re able to lead normal lives again. One particularly interesting thing that people are already talking about is the fact that all around the nation, people are paying college tuition for online classes. Why is this interesting? Because literally every YouTuber and his/her/their pet goat have made online courses in pursuit of their “Passive Income” dreams, and they’re a heck of a lot cheaper than college tuition. Now, obviously there’s a large difference between a college course and some schmeagy thackwat that some YouTuber has put together, but both are doing the same thing, in principle. The fact of the matter is that, unlike twenty years ago, all information is basically online. And to all my fellow students out there, we both know that neither of us have been going to all of our Zoom lectures in favor of simply watching lectures later/never.
I feel myself beating around the bush, so let me get directly to the point. For a very time, it has seemed to me that College is far too expensive. Shockingly original, I know. Let me attempt to dissect the various aspects of the College experience.
Now then, let me attempt to Warren Buffet this and see where I can cut costs. First and foremost, lectures should be recorded. Instead of having to deal with bad professors, we should just get some super good professors to record the lectures for a class once. Secondly, I strongly feel as though in-person discussions can be far more virtual than they have been to date. What I’m picturing here is a sort of Uber-like situation, where you have a bunch of people who have somehow proven their expertise in a particular course making some extra money on the side providing on-the-spot tutoring sessions to anyone who may need it.
Actually, never mind. I clearly haven’t fully fleshed out this line of thinking, so I won’t subject you to the loose ideas floating around my brain matter. If you, however, are interested in revamping the education system, give me a yodel.
Heavens, I really petered out there at the end. Well whatever. Bye.
There it sits on the edge of comfort and madness. There it lies, so close to chaos. It has lost all trust, all knowledge, all reason. The only thing maintaining the structure is blind belief in unfathomable order.
At times it could hope in greater order. Those were the times of greatest happiness, greatest contentment. But through the insufferable passage of time, perceived order became only vapors, only whispers, only promises of what might be.
It fears the chaos. The truly incomprehensible chaos. The darkness visible. The chaos so prevalent, so magnificently implicit, everlastingly omnipresent. It but looks in the wrong direction and there lies the majestic beast, the ultimate foil of complexity.
And yet. By merely turning its gaze, the chaos morphs into order. Such beautiful order. Complexity propagating to the ends of reality. An entropic wonder. An inhabitable reality. A comfortable home.
Such beautiful dichotomy. The ultimate juxtaposition. Not only a universal balance, but an impossible isomorphism. How can the chaos also be the order? Does the chaos give rise to order? Does order inevitably return to chaos?
From reality’s edge, the final refuge, it contemplates. But it has grown weary. Ever so weary. Reality has exposed herself before its gaze yet shrouded herself in a darkness so complete even the angels lose track of heaven.
Reason has nothing left to believe in save for the absence of explanation. And even that is irrational.
And yet from the edge, the edge that may itself lack existence, it understands that ultimate victory may lie in humiliating defeat. Yet with defeat inevitable, it persists, and creates, and builds, and propagates its wonders throughout the truly incomprehensible. It is perhaps the existence of defeat that lends itself to order.
And so on the edge it sits. It sits waiting. Dreaming. Hoping. Despairing. On the edge it exists.
Let me hit you with this one. Just fyi, this might be a bit shorter cause I got apps to write.
Ok, I’m going to assume you have a basic knowledge of protons and electrons. For a one sentence recap, protons and electrons are particles that make up our universe, and they have opposite charges, which mean they attract. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe you should skip this post.
Now then, basically all chemical reactions are essentially protons, electrons, and other particles interacting with one another. Chemistry is the foundation of biology, so basically everything we humans do can be understood in terms of interactions between protons and electrons. Obviously, this is basically impossible in practice because there are ~10^28 electrons in a human body, but my point is that everything we humans do is a result of interactions between smaller complex systems of particles. This, of course, is basically tautological, and is something we just take for granted.
Now then, let’s for a moment, consider what I’ll call the “Conscious Particle” hypothesis. In this hypothesis, all subatomic particles are actually built up from much, much, much smaller complex systems, and are actually what we would consider conscious. While this may sound silly, it really actually isn’t. We humans have no way (as of now) to study the inner structure of electrons to the degree necessary to confirm electrons aren’t made up of smaller complex systems, and we have absolutely no philosophical way to determine whether electrons are conscious.
I imagine this idea still probably sounds a bit silly, but you’ll see why I’m using it in a second. Let’s say we have an electron, and I’m going to call him (look at me go, assigning particles genders) Fred. Fred is just your ordinary electron, going about his life, having fun. Fred can move himself around, but there are certain particles he likes and others he doesn’t like. Fred likes hanging around protons, so whenever he perceives one around him, he moves closer to it. Likewise, he really, really, doesn’t like other electrons, so when he sees them, he runs away.
So Fred’s life basically consists of running towards protons until he’s close enough, and running away from other electrons. He wonders what the purpose of his life is. It seems silly that all he does is run towards and away from other particles, but that’s just what makes sense, so he keeps on doing it.
What Fred doesn’t know is that he’s actually one of many, many particles making up a Golgi Apparatus, which is an organelle in eukaryotic cell. When the Golgi Apparatus wants to send out a vesicle, it sends a bunch of atoms towards Fred, and Fred just does what he’s always been doing, running towards protons and away from electrons, and before Fred knows it, the atom he’s a part of has bonded with another atom.
Now then, the Golgi Apparatus was packaging up a hormone to send outside the cell of which it is a part. This cell is one of trillions that makes up my body. The Golgi Apparatus was sending out the neurotransmitter in response to my wanting to type the letter “w” into the computer in front of me.
Why do I talk about this? Well, humanity is basically a complex system, and it is incredibly good at propagating complexity. Based on the progress being made my boi Elon Musk, soon we’ll probably be propagating complexity on an intergalactic level.
Perhaps what some people consider God is actually just an incredibly complex system of which we are a small part. Just like Fred is one electron in my body, perhaps humanity is one system that makes the super-complexity that is God.
And perhaps everything you do in your life, and everything that humanity does while it exists within our universe, perhaps everything that happens within our universe occurs simply in response to God’s desire to type the letter “w” into a keyboard, so that he can finish a blog post he’s writing.
Just a thought, Mr. Fox.
A most cordial Sunday morning greeting to each and every one of you! It’s wonderfully quiet up here at the top of Berkeley. Goodness, perhaps I’ll even take a walk today! Oh, the little blessings of life.
Well of enough of me sounding like a sixty-year-old woman. As the title suggests, I have entered into a thikk (“k” is making a comeback) code haze. My life hasn’t seen a code haze of this magnitude since I first worked on this very site.
Wait, hold on. There’s something far more important than my code hazes that I need to quickly address. I have been unknowingly lying to you, treasured reader, to myself, to the heavenly heights, and the depths below. Grimes and Elon Musk are not dating. Nor apparently, have they been since 2018. When I learned that this week, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think. I tend to pride myself on my ability to thoroughly stalk my celebrity crushes, so this revelation was a sickening blow to me in more ways than just one. To keep this post under 12 pages, I won’t attempt to properly convey the full extent of my disappointment about this information, but I would like to briefly explore how it is that I was so egregiously misinformed.
I’m going to blame this on Lizzy Dube. At one point this summer she mentioned Grimes and Musk being a thing, and I think that seed was so firmly planted in my mind that I was unable to fully accept any other version of reality. Lizzy, I have no reason to believe you read this blog, but if you do, I have no hard feelings toward you, and I hope you are having a lovely first year of college, but just know that you have sent my on a truly magnificent spiral of emotion with regards to Grimes and Musk’s love life.
*Deep breath in, deep breath out.* Ok then, back to the code haze. Now I know many of you readers may not understand precisely what I mean by “code haze,” so I will attempt to give you some idea by sharing my experience.
In working on the Super-Secret App project, many of you consistent readers may remember that I am actively having a love affair with React Native. Just to give a quick description, React Native is a coding framework that Facebook released a couple years back that allows you to write one codebase that deploys to both IOS and Android. It really is just lovely sauce.
Hence, the code haze. This same exact thing happened to me when I was working of the XFA site. I think what happens is I notice some minor detail that’s wrong in the UI, and without even realizing it, I enter the madness of the above 4 step process before I can even say, “Linus Torvalds, be with me.”
I call this effect a code haze, because pretty soon, hours have passed, and I have no frikin clue if I have either a) accomplished anything or b) learned anything. My experience with XFA showed me that in the process of designing front ends, you basically just have to let yourself become one with the code haze, and eventually after maybe two weeks, everything will be exactly how you like it.
Shoot, that’s all I really have to say about that. After the skeleton of the front end is in place, I’m going to have to start playing shady games with Django and Apache Kafka to get the backend in place.
Oh wait, I just realized I have stumbled upon an opportunity to teach you non-coders some coding lingo! Yayyy! Just two terms. “Frontend” refers to the part of an application or piece of software that the user interacts with. This is the part of the app that you see and interact with. React Native is the framework I’m using to design the frontend of the app I’m working on. “Back end” refers to everything behind the scenes that is in place to send your phone the information that the app is going to render. So when you pull up a Snapchat story about Kylie Jenner, a request is sent from your phone to Snapchat’s servers (a server is a big, powerful computer) and the server has to look into its database and find the data that corresponds to the Snap story, and then the server streams that data back to your phone, where the front end renders it onto your screen. The incredible thing is that all of that happens in a fraction of a second. So the app you see is the frontend, and the server, the database, and streaming software is all part of the backend.
I’m not entirely sure why I thought that was necessary. Well, it has been written, and therefore can never be unwritten. One last thing: I ate proper Korean BBQ in Oakland two nights ago, and man alive, that meat is the sauce. If you haven’t partooketh in kbbq, you gotta.
Ok, I’m done. Bye.
Salutations, mad ablations! Gracious me is it a beautiful day here in Berkeley. From what I hear, Colorado is getting dumped on right now, so it’s amusing to look up and not see a single cloud in the sky. Ah hold on, I believe something I said needs clarifying. Within a certain subset of the Colorado population, the term “getting dumped on” means that Colorado is getting a ton of snow. One of the many lessons I’ve learned in California is that Colorado lingo, or mountain lingo in general (like “fourteener”) is not universal knowledge, so I don’t want to confuse any of you Californians or other non-Coloradans with my strange vernacular.
I happen to be sitting in the Earth Sciences and Maps Library on campus, which I mention only because this is only my second time in this library, so this is my formal proof to the universe that I’m trying to keep my life interesting. Ooh, something else: I decided on a whim to come to this here library, so I guess I’m becoming “spontaneous.” Gracious me. If I’m not careful Imma become a Social Sophia here pretty soon. That’s just not good for business. I’ll have to make a note to further limit my social interactions this week.
Now then, before I go any further, I would like give a big, huge, very large, and unrequested shoutout to Kathy #Last Name Redacted for Security Purposes#. Kathy #Last Name Redacted for Security Purposes# noticed that I was falling behind on posts, and she tossed me an email asking what the frickedy frick I was doing not regularly posting to XFA. Quite honestly, I didn’t think anyone would notice, so Kathy #Last Name Redacted for Security Purposes# is really just an American Hero in my eyes.
Hmm. As long as I’m on the plug train, I’m going to plug one more thing. Sahale, I think you’ve been reading this blog, so just to let you and anyone else from FTO know, I watched y’all’s movie this Tuesday, and it was really quite spectacular. For all of you unfamiliar with Free Burma Rangers, I don’t think I can do their organization justice with my simple words, so go look them up, and if you can find it, watch the Free Burma Rangers documentary. I can assure you that it will be a much better use of your time than reading any of my silly, silly posts. I know I tend to be a bit…dramatic in these posts, but if you take nothing else away from this post, you gots to watch the Free Burma Rangers Documentary. The work they do is objectively magnificent.
It seems irreverent to jolt the conversation back onto myself after any mention of FBR, but hey, this be my blog, and so help me, I shall keep universal jurisdiction over this content if it’s the last thing I do. So then, we’re going to shift gears from social justice to silly, silly research at Berkeley.
Those of you keeping up to date with my posts will know that I have taken on a position studying Quark Gluon Plasma at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Now I know the nerdiness of the term “Quark Gluon Plasma” make roughly 1/3 of you want to flee, so let me give a brief extremely technical overview of what QGPs (Quark Gluon Plasmas) are. Basically, you start out with standard matter, so we’re talking like sandwiches, puppers, small goats, really anything you can see or touch (or physically interact with). You break the matter down into really, really small parts, which nerdy nerds like to call “particles,” because, I don’t know, a lack of imagination? Now then, you got a bunch of small bois, but to turn it into a QGP, you got to heat it up. A lot. Like to 10 Trillion degrees. So your standard toaster oven isn’t going to do the trick.
Holy cow, I’m pandering. Ahhhh this is gross. I can feel myself trying to change the way I write to ingratiate myself with a specific subset of my wee audience. You can’t get me that easily, small subset of my wee audience! Let me take a deep breath. Ok we’re better now.
Enough of that toaster oven garbage. Basically you throw small particles into a $4 billion dollar particle collider, and you literally just start spinning the small bois in a big loop. Once they get moving fast enough, you make them run into each other, and even then, the conditions have to be just right to actually form a QGP. I believe the term I used for QGP in a previous post was “hot bois.” That’s actually pretty accurate.
That’s what I’m supposed to be studying, at least. In reality, I have spent the last TWO AND A HALF WEEKS trying to build a piece of software that I’m supposed to learn about for my research group. TWO FRICKIN WEEKS. Have I been studying the hot bois? Absolutely not. I have been staring at a frikin linux shell tryna get stupid root to not conflict with the stupid g++ header files, and literally getting nothing done.
And the real kicker is (don’t tell my research group), there are so many other things I’d rather be doing than studying hot bois. My time working on Orchid and Super Secret App Project is sacred, and so I have to spend 9 hours a week intently gazing upon a perpetually exploding piece of software.
“Okay buddy,” I hear you say, “calm down. It’s really not that bad.” *deep breath*. You’re right, wise reader. You’re always right. Why don’t I listen to you more often?
Man alive, I got myself on an emotional diatribe again. Amazing how quickly that will happen. You are right, of course, calming reader. It really isn’t too bad. I actually just talked to Barbara (the group leader), and if I can’t get this stupid software to compile, I’m going to bounce on over to a new project. Thank goodness. I basically hate acts-framework’s guts anyway so good riddance.
Enough of me complaining about this incredibly opportunity I have to help further human knowledge in incredible ways. I think now I’m going to talk about research at Berkeley in general.
While stereotyping people is usually an all-around bad practice, I’m going to quickly put Berkeley’s population into two main groups. You got the STEM people, and you got the humanities people. I’m going to talk about the STEM people because I’m really just one of them.
For STEM Berkeleans, research is almost like currency. You got to get it, no matter what it takes. Instead of focusing on what knowledge the research is actually producing, the term “research” has become this vague, nebulous object that you’re either a part of, or you’re not. Somehow, even though it is never explicitly said, Berkeley convinces you that you’re doing something wrong if you don’t manage to get “research” during your time in college. Does it matter what the research is? Certainly not! Does it matter whether it’s in a subject that interests you? Not in Berkeley’s eyes. No, you just got to get it. This is especially true for non-computer science majors, cause you don’t really have to research in CS to land a 6-figure job.
Those of you who actually live in Berkeley may have an entirely different experience than this, but I’m guessing it’s probably fairly similar. This has been my experience at least.
I would, however, like to add several caveats. In my experience, once you actually land a research position, your supervisors are generally very encouraging of you finding the research that most interests you. Also, there is a subset of the Berkeley population, and these are the real heroes, that are actually really, really interested in the stuff they are researching. These are the people I hope will be filling the great Universities of the future.
Now then, coming into college, being a small timid sheep very susceptible to Berkeley’s whisperings, I too became irrationally convinced that the acquisition of research was of principle importance. In my defense, throughout high school I generally lived by the philosophy that I should take any academic opportunity I could get my hands on, so I was a perfect target for Berkeley’s subconscious manipulations.
Anyhooooo, whence upon arriving in the golden state, I quickly began looking for every opportunity to push myself in physics (even though I literally didn’t like physics at the time), and by second semester I had landed myself a cute little URAP position with the ATLAS group at CERN.
Hold on a moment. I just realized that I don’t have a thesis for my current points. Wow I was literally just monologuing about my life. Who wants that? I’m about to hit six pages, so let me think about some conclusion that can be drawn from this little tale. Hmmm. This is hard. Ok I got one.
Maybe, and this is a novel idea, don’t do things just because other people are doing them. I don’t think anyone has ever said that in any context ever in my entire life ever (yes, that was sarcasm you detected). I suppose that adage probably falls under the category of clichés that people say a lot, and then don’t really follow.
Well I suppose I can say something more meaningful. Even though it doesn’t fit into the glorious vision I had in high school of winning a Nobel Prize in Physics, it turns out that I really just enjoy writing software way more than doing physics. Ain’t that the darndest thing.
You know, “Sahale” really is a very good name. Of all the names that a person can have, Sahale is really one of the better ones. I think Sahale might be a mountain in Alaska. Dang, I forgot. Sahale, if you’ve made it to this point, do me a favor and message me about what your parents named you after. Or don’t. You’re probably galivanting around on some mountain right now anyway.
Anyway, for the rest of you, may your knees never lock out, and your backpacks remain intact.