Tag: School

A Personal Indictment of College, and Next Steps

By: Danny Geisz | June 25, 2020

Project: #Life

Hello readers. I know, I know. Two posts in two days? Is that some sort of record?? Well, astonished readers, it actually isn’t. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it was my intention upon the great digital birthing of this blog to write a post every single day. Intentions, pershhmentions is what I say to that.

Anyyow, (I’ve been saying “Anyhoo” far too frequently for either of our tastes) you may remember in a somewhat distant post that I threatened you poor innocent readers with a whiny post about why I don’t like college. Well, I’ve decided it’s high time to follow through with my threat, even though I’ll be making a good professional effort to keep the whininess to a minimum. As much as it might surprise you, I can actually be professional when necessary.

I think a good place to start with this whole business is to have a frank conversation about the purpose of college. The way I see it (and do yell at me digitally if you disagree) college has four primary purposes:

  1. Fill our bright young heads with all sorts of wonderful knowledge that will either enrich our lives or help us in our careers.
  2. Help us meet and network with other passionate, motivated students who can either be useful connections or lifelong friends.
  3. Get a degree in something or other that will help us get jobs someday down the line.
  4. Be the last final refuge of enjoyment and fun before officially starting our careers.

Now, as we all know, college is expensive. However, from the way I see it, not only is it expensive in terms of the money that is spent, but it’s also four whole years of my life (because I can’t really graduate in three years doing physics/CS unless I want to have a mean Junior year). So, if you’ll let me pop on my cute ‘lil economist hat real quick, the thing that is on the forefront of my mind is this question: is the time and money worth it?

Ok let me start from the top of my list: the academics. In order to understand my frustration with college academics, let’s take a fun stroll down yon memory lane back to my high school years. Basically, since eighth grade, it had been my dream to go to MIT. To make a complicated story overly-simple, I basically decided that the way to get into MIT was to get super good at math and physics (the longer story entails me pulling a theory of everything right out of my butt and proceeding to convince a bunch of high school admins that the only way I could prove it is if I skipped a couple math classes. Wow that sounds so much wilder when I read it than it did in my head).

MIT rejected me, on an academic, personal, and spiritual level, so perhaps you could say that the whole enterprise of me skipping into higher math and physics classes was a bust. However, in the process, I realized something interesting. Basically all throughout high school, I was always teaching myself something about math or physics, be it linear algebra or relativity, directly out of text books. As I did this more and more, I realized that I was able to achieve a significantly higher level of mastery of a subject that I taught myself independently. I also was/am able to retain far more information when I’m learning independently than when I’m in a classroom setting.

Not only that, as Berkeley has so lovingly taught me, I’m straight-up bad at learning in classroom settings. I basically intake zero information from lectures, to the point that I stopped going to most of them (exempting my humanities classes, where the lecture is the class). In terms of academics (and let’s be real, life), textbooks are my best friends because I can move at my own pace and focus more on topics I find particularly interesting.

Additionally, in a competitive and high-energy environment like Berkeley, it seems like academic performance always takes precedence to the content of our classes. And to a certain degree, it makes sense: employers are going to see GPAs, not detailed syllabi of the classes we’ve taken. It’s also been hard for me to escape that mindset because it feels like in order to make the most of the time and cost of college, I should do my best to get the highest GPA I’m capable of getting.

One of the biggest negative consequences of this mostly-toxic mindset is that subconsciously, my focus tends to shift from “oh wow this topic is so interesting, I’d love to learn more about it!” to “what’s the minimum amount of effort I can give learning this topic to still get an A.” While trying to minimize my whininess, let me suggest that the latter doesn’t lead to academic nirvana.

I also find that very frequently in my CS or lab classes, we’re being continuously tested on topics that are incredibly theoretical and don’t have much practical application in industry. Computer Science is such a broad and rapidly evolving field that they can’t really teach us much more than super theoretical topics without lecture content continuously becoming obsolete, but it’s personally quite irritating to spend a bunch of time learning about some super niche topic regarding machine structures that I’m fairly confident will never arise in my life again.

Hmm. I’m drifting onto my fourth page. I’m getting dangerously close to embarking on an all-out diatribe, so let me try to be succinct with this. Meeting students and having fun is great, but I have a very difficult time doing those things when the temporal and monetary price of college is looming in the back of my mind. In practice, while in college I’ve observed myself spending an egregious amount of time studying for topics that mostly infuriate me due to their inapplicability, and then almost immediately forgetting everything about said topics when the class finishes.

Ok, enough ranting. Wait hold on. Belay that order, let the ranting continue: ya wanna talk about degrees, kids? From my (probably naïve, 20-year-old) perspective, it seems like degrees are just nebulous abstractions used to convince employers that you’re a hard worker and have some knowledge in a particular field. Fine. Great. Whatever. The only problem is that after the last couple years, and my internship last summer I learned that I reeaaaaaaaalllly like writing software and I reeaaaaaaaalllly want to be my own boss. Yeah, I know, I can’t just magically be my own boss. But I can try.

Anygree (…you like?), gather round the campfire and let me tell you my future plans. Moving back home for the semester after Corona hit was actually kinda beneficial for me because it jarred me out of my machine-like lifestyle at Berkeley, and I was able to be more honest with myself about my collegiate experience and the activities in which I was involved. After talking about these things with my parents, and also after Berkeley’s decision to do “Classes in the Cloud” (* Danny is heard puking into a nearby trash can *), my parents have graciously allowed me to take a gap year back home in CO. What will I be doing, you ask? Well, the gremlins in my head are constantly trying to convince me that I’m making a mistake by not going back to school in the fall, so I’ll be making my best effort to work the entire time. Work on what, you ask? Stop asking. It’s annoying. Just kidding I live for your feedback, readers. Your words are the sourdough that keeping my heart beating. Anyway, I’m going to be a bit vague about this, but I’ve had a couple ideas I want to pursue, and they most certainly involve web apps. I’ll be coding for days!!

Well, enough of this. I suppose the tl;dr of this post is that I pretty much hate college, and will be doing everything in my power within the next year to achieve a position in which I don’t have to go back. Wish me luck, honey!

Ok, bye.

So I’m back in Colorado

By: Danny Geisz | March 19, 2020

Project: #Life

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.

Who am I kidding. It’s not like you care about my social situation. Let’s get onto some projects. While I haven’t put this post under Super Secret App Project, let’s talk about Super Secret App Project. So remember during my post about entering into the code haze I said programming in JavaScript is an anarchical pursuit because it’s unclear when anything is happening? I have since learned that that is literally just the truth. Unlike the other languages with which I have experience, JavaScript is an intrinsically asynchronous language, which generally means in real-person-talk that it executes your code whenever it possibly can, and it doesn’t necessarily wait for certain commands to finish before it moves on to the next one. Anarchy, my friends, anarchy. While all the Promises and Awaits are a bit of a headache, my node.js server is wicked fast. And let me tell you, I’m a big fan of wicked fast servers.

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.

  1. Lectures
  2. In-person discussions (Office hours, recitation, etc)
  3. Hands-on classes (Labs, Manufacturing Classes, whatnot)
  4. Research
  5. Social Organizations/Clubs

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.

The Glorious Adventure that is Research at Berkeley (not)

By: Danny Geisz | February 27, 2020

Project: Quark Gluon Plasma or whatever

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.


A Very Light Shade of Blue

By: Danny Geisz | February 24, 2020

Project: Orchid

Jambo! My oh my have I neglected to write these posts. My glorious vision for XFA was to write a post every single night. Well, guess what. That didn’t work. It turns out life takes time.

It’s truly been a minute since I scratched the metaphorical nub across this metaphorical piece of parchment. What has happened during that time, you ask? Well, non-existent reader, I had various emotional nadirs.

But before that, why did I name this post the way I did? Because, gentlemen and female gentlemen, I am stream of conscious-ing this post like I have never done before. Some of you particularly befuddled readers are probably wondering what the rest of this flippin’ site is if not for a stream of conscious montage, and to that I can say…nothing. You would be absolutely correct.

Who cares? I have a difficult time believing anyone does, so onward to glory, to victory, to death, and the grave (that’s for you Dr. Ridings).

Oh gosh. There is so much coursing through my mind-icles right now. WHERE DO I BEGIN. Oh I know.

So I decided that my life isn’t nearly busy enough, so I have taken on a super-secret project. The person with whom I am working on this particular project wishes that I keep everything hush hush, so to honor her wishes, I won’t divulge any juicy details.

What I will say, however, is that it involves building an app. FRIK YEA. Ya boi ex fizz has been looking to get into the app dev business for a couple and half minutes or three. At one point in high school, I very unsuccessfully tried to start building Android Apps using Android Studio, but that was a cataclysmic failure, mostly cause I didn’t really know Java at the time.

But times have changed, brethren. No longer are we humans confined to the dark ages where people had to write two separate code bases for Android and IOS apps. No, my friends, we hath progressed. Whilst we lay stewing ignorantly in Xcode and Android Studio, the glorious gods of Facebook bestowed upon humanity the most glorious creation man has ever witnessed: React Native. No longer would the common man have to know Objective-C/Swift and Java in order to build a cross-platform application. After the glorious arrival of React Native, humans need only write their codebase in JavaScript, which would then be exported to either IOS or Android Applications.

If any of you reading this are actually app developers, you are probably shaking your slimy heads and grinding your moldy teeth because I’m so behind the times. Yes, I know FB released React Native 4 years ago. Whatever. I don’t care about you haters. Let your boi enjoy the wonders of React Native in peace, OK?

The rest of you probably have literally no idea what the flip shack frack I’m talking about. Look at me go: in one simple paragraph I have lost the attention or respect of app developers and non-app developers alike. For those of you keeping score, that partition of humanity is in fact the entirety of humanity. I guess I’ll just be lonely. I am, after all, alone in my room, typing away at a blog post that very few of my friends will ever read. Ha. Life is just the funniest thing.

Any discussion of my current loneliness provides a wonderful Segway to my next topic: mental health! Oh boy! Because I know the internet is a trustworthy place full of caring, loving individuals, its time to get personal. I, Daniel Matthias Jehoshaphat Geisz, am going to a therapist this Thursday. Apparently, there’s some sort of stigma associated with therapy, but I think I have done such a tremendously laudable job distancing myself from the rest of humanity that I feel rather immune to societal judgement. That is, of course, until someone judges me to my face. Then I’ll just wilt away like a dainty lil’ fuchsia under the gales of a Missouri storm.

Why am I going to a therapist? Well, I suppose that is the question. Many people throughout my life have told me I should see a therapist. Actually, in retrospect, maybe I should have taken offense at that. Eh, who cares. Life is too short to be offended. And, I mean, maybe they were right.

The real reason I’m going to the therapist is because, for a variety of reasons, I took Berkeley’s online screening for bipolar, and my test answers were very consistent with someone who has bipolar. Now then, do I think I think I have a serious case of bipolar? Absolutely not. I happen to know someone with this condition, and I cannot even begin to imagine what bad bipolar is actually like. Be that as it may, I suppose the narcissistic side of me is quite interested in talking to someone about myself and seeing what they have to say. Hopefully it will be…therapeutic. Ha.

I have been quite emotional lately. I suppose now is as good a time as ever to discuss that in some level of detail. Those of you who know me (let’s see, that’s all of you) will probably know that I was raised in a Christian household by my truly wonderful Christian parents, and that I took Christianity very seriously my entire life. My childhood essentially had the effect of baking in a belief in God to my very existence. With this belief in God came a certain belief in the afterlife. Regardless of whether I made it to Heaven or Hell, I was guaranteed existence after death.

Now then, even though I logically decided two months ago that I do not believe in Christianity, my body basically still did. What I mean by that is that for 20 years I became so used to believing in Christianity that my brain wasn’t really emotionally ready to accept my decision, and so I’ve basically been subconsciously believing in the afterlife for these last two months, even though I logically don’t believe in anything.

This all changed this last week, however. My brain was finally ready to accept my change in beliefs, and for the first time, I was forced to emotionally reconcile with the notion that this life might be the only life I get. For those of you out there who don’t believe in the afterlife, this realization is old hat for you. For me however, I was basically stripped of the emotional security I have been carrying with me for 20 years.

Normally, I try not to be too dramatic about my personal problems because that’s literally so annoying, but honestly who the hell is actually reading this? I don’t think I’m going to publicize this post, so I think it’s safe to say it’s going to get about zero views.

To that end, stripping is terrifying. No one likes to strip, particularly when it’s the metaphorical stripping of emotional security. Basically, I was frickin terrified of the future. For those of you fluent in the enneagram, I’m pretty sure I’m a 6, and 6s really don’t like it when you take security away from then.

But, blessed readers, I emerged from that gauntlet like the offspring of a hippocampus and a griffin. The fear of what’s to come has been crippling me…So to your silhouette I turn once more. Gotta love Mumford and Sons. Anyhooooo, this minor emotional setback has really driven home the importance of living in the moment and enjoying the present. Wow I’m original. Slap that on a building and call it a plaque.

Well now. I think that’s enough stream of conscious for one night. I’ve been trying to get to bed earlier anyway, so tonight’s going to be a win, win, win. A phat W, if you will. An upside-down M, if you won’t.

Best of luck with all your endeavors, and may no goblins attempt to lick your pinky toes.

Yes, I would be Honored to Bring about the Apocalypse

By: Danny Geisz | February 3, 2020

Project: #Life

Greetings, Celestials! And, I suppose, hello to the rest of you intent on reading my blog. Goodness me, I can’t keep away the readers. It’s honestly a problem. I’m getting too big too fast.

Now then, right to the matter at hand: the bringing about of the apocalypse. A more accurate title to this post probably would have been: “Today I Learned Tensorflow.” But nobody cares about Tensorflow. Everyone cares about the apocalypse. And we both know that the only reason I created this blog in the first place is to fill the void in my life created by a lack of meaningful relationships with a mass following of faceless, digitalized human beings. Heck, maybe I should start taking to a chatbot. I think if that should ever happen, I would be contractually obligated by life itself to finally visit a therapist.

What is Tensorflow? Even some of you non-CS nerds probably know what I’m talking about. To put it in brutally technical terms, Tensorflow is the tool that computers will use to gain consciousness and take over the world. In less technical language, Tensorflow is a programming library that (you guessed it!) Google put together to facilitate the creation of a variety of neural networks. I’m guessing nearly all of you are at least peripherally aware of the term “Machine Learning.” Neural networks are basically the hottest thing right now in Machine Learning (and honestly in Computer Science as a whole), and Tensorflow is a good way to put them together. Goodness, now I’m just being repetitive. Am I high?

Anywhoooooo, Tensorflow is basically a gauntlet of power, and I myself, Daniel P. Geisz now yield this power (its literally free, open-source software. I just downloaded it). So what then is all this talk about me starting the apocalypse?

Well, faithful readers, for many moons now have I been deeply enamored with the idea of a piece of software that can itself write code. If chatbots can speak to us so well that we can’t even tell they aren’t human, it must be pretty easy to train a neural net to write code, right?

Wrong. Even though language and our ability to communicate is one of the central aspects of humanity separating us from animals, writing a chatbot is almost the “Hello World” of recurrent neural networks. Programming, however, is a much more complicated endeavor. If you’re programming a chatbot, you can essentially just feed it text from reddit or twitter, and eventually it will learn which words should go next to one another in response to a piece of text from an external (human) source. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy. If you want to teach the computer how to code, you have to provide it examples of code. But even then, we can already see the issues that might crop up. For one thing, I would imagine that a piece of autocoding software would probably be taking some form of a command from a human being. If it were otherwise, we’d basically be spelling out the destruction of humanity by the robotic hand. So then, in order to train the system, you have a large database of code with precise documentation about what the code is trying to accomplish. This is all well and good (it isn’t) but 99.9% of all programmers have this nasty habit of not documenting their code. So then, on github, we have a gigantic, gigantic source of example code, but there’s no way to tell the neural net what the code actually means.

Hold on. I feel like I’m rambling. This is dangerous. One could make a very strong argument that every single thing I’ve put on XFA thus far is me rambling, and to that I humbly urge you to frack off. However, I very much value my sizable following of digital humans, so I feel I should be more direct.

*Deep breath in, deep breath out*. Ok we’re good to go.

Why do I want a computer that can program itself? I suppose that’s the fundamental point I ought to address. And to that, I can provide a very clear answer. It would be deeply, deeply dope (you’re welcome, Joey) if I could tell the computer to write me an application, and it would just do it. Writing software takes a tremendous amount of time, and as I have learned from the Orchid project, it is a conceptual and organizational nightmare. Now usually, conceptually and organizationally nightmaric projects are my idea of a fun Friday night, but they are really incredibly time consuming.

Many, many people may disagree with me, but I think one of the most interesting things that humans do is propagate complexity. Compared to the rest of the universe, we’re really quite good at it. However, it’s really quite exiting to image what humankind will produce in the next 30 years at our breakneck speed of innovation. What’s really quite amazing about human beings, however, is our ability to generate new ideas. The implementation of these ideas is really just the time-consuming part. This is by no means a new idea, but if we can minimize implementation time and maximize our creativity, we can do cooler stuff. I suppose you can call that Geisz’s law. My back-subconscious is actively trying to come up with counterexamples. Bad dog, subconscious. Let forward-conscious have this one.

Gracious me, I’m losing steam. Holy cow, wait! I just wrote 2 ¾ pages in 35 minutes! By Jove, that a new record! I have contented myself with a 3 page per hour pace, but I just blew that out of the water! I guess I normally put more thought into the words I write. It’ll be interesting to see what I wrote this time. Amazing what happens when you practice something. Maybe I’ll take the AP Lang test again for fun. How I loved mercilessly tearing apart various authors in those rhetorical analyses.

As a closing note, in the immortal words of Harrison Kinsley, “Programming is a superpower.” I recognize that a large portion of the word probably considers programming to be a field that is too difficult to learn, but it really isn’t. Then again, I did spend most of high school trying to convince my peers that Physics isn’t difficult to learn (which it is, btw). Regardless, if you think your life could do with some spicing up, consider learning python. That’s all for now. Be sure to ring the bell. It really helps out the channel. Also if you have the means, consider donating to my patreon. It really means the world to me. Also, I’m happy to announce we just reached 2.3k subs. I can’t thank you all enough for your support. Hugs and kisses. I’m out.

We have Achieved Overdrive

By: Danny Geisz | February 1, 2020

Project: #Life

What is up, my people? It’s truly been a phat minute since I last posted to XFA. Actually that’s not true. I wrote something on Tuesday. It’s been exactly four days since I last posted. That isn’t a phat minute at all.

Well, regardless, as the title suggests, my life is now in full overdrive. One consequence of this, as alluded to in the first paragraph, is the fact that once again, my perception of time is actively failing. This tends to happen during the academic semester, so it’s not that worrying.

Now then, I feel compelled to explain the nature of the overdriven-ocity of my life, and I shall now do so. There are really six main contributors to the maximum overdrive:

  1. I am currently in 20 academic units. This technically equates to 80 hours of work a week for school, but we both know that I cut academic corners to get that figure down a bit.
  2. I am in one graduate class, namely General Relativity. The homework is actually not required, and the entirety of the grade is based solely on a 10-15 page term paper due at the end of the semester. Ori Ganor is teaching the class, and he happens to be a manifestation of fundamental good, so I’m quite happy to be in the class. And, I mean, it’s general relativity. GR is basically of equal artistic and aesthetic value as the Mona Lisa with some greater barriers to entry. And if you yourself dabble at all in Physics, you will know that regardless of what Ori says, the homework is absolutely mandatory and the class would be a waste without it.
  3. I am (finally !!) getting paid to do research. I’m doing research with Barbara Jacak’s group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Barbara’s group is doing research into Quark-Gluon Plasmas, which, for the unacquainted, is a system of super-hot bois bouncing off each other (By bois, I mean quarks, partons, and gluons, and by super-hot I mean 10 trillion degrees Fahrenheit). Now Barbara is basically the coolest cat in plasma physics, so that’s awesome. And this project is basically an excuse for me to finally learn how to work with Machine Learning, so it’s a win-win-win. I think I will probably make an entire XFA project devoted to my research this semester, so stay tuned for that! Yeet!
  4. While I’m probably supposed to be spending most of my time working on my classes or doing research, we both know all too well that I’m devoting almost all of my free time to Orchid. If you don’t know what Orchid is, I would humbly, yet extremely forcibly recommend you mosey on over to the “Projects” tab and take a look at Orchid. To give a quick overview, my plan is for Orchid to be the tool that fundamentally alters how people do math and theoretical physics. Anyway, building such a tool takes a tremendous amount of time. It is also the most difficult project I have ever undertaken from an organizational standpoint. That basically means I have a ton of decisions to make about how the software will work and it usually isn’t clear whether a decision I make is the best way to go. What that means is that I have to be incredibly disciplined creating and following a strict implementation plan for the project. But it’s going to be frikin’ neat when it actually works.
  5. I have my other XFA projects. The whole point of XFA was to keep me accountable to actually working on my various projects, so I generally feel inclined to work on these other peripheral projects.
  6. Relationships take time. Last semester, I was an Isolated Isabelle, and I learned (for the quadrillionth time) that I need good relationships in my life to be a healthy, productive, and non-depressed human being. As is such, I have been making a much more concerted effort to spend meaningful time with people this semester. I am remarkably happy to say that I have been more successful with this endeavor than at any point in college thus far. However, the semester has only really started revving up, so I have to be careful to continue this trend.

Funny story: when I started writing those bullet-points I thought I would only have three main contributors to maximum overdrive. Amazing how quickly three things turns into six things.

Now then, some quick notes about the above list. While 20 units is, I’m pretty sure, a fairly heavy course load, I’ve heard legends of some schmeags who have taken 40 (40!!) units in a single semester. I’m honestly not sure how that’s actually physically possible. All that is to say that I’m not trying to dump a weird flex on you unassuming readers by quoting my course load. Actually, that’s my only note. Next paragraph.

I’ve been wanting to write a couple short posts this week but I haven’t had time, so I think I’ll include the most important of them here.

This should fall under Project Supernatural, but whatever. Last Wednesday night I had a pretty deep conversation with one of my friends. Deep conversations are really just the sauce. Later that night, my baked-in Christian instincts kicked in and I almost thanked God for the conversation I had before I remembered that I’m not actually Christian right now. However, those of you who have read my posts for Project Supernatural will know that I’m making an effort to interact with the divine/unknown/transcendent/God/gods/flying spaghetti monster, because if that is possible it is something I would like to experience. This is a bit difficult to describe, but after I had fought down my instinct to mindlessly and guiltily thank the Christian God for the conversation I had, I concentrated my attention on the aspect of reality that is outside my comprehension and I thanked whatever superintelligence may exist outside of my perception for the conversation I had with my friend.

What happened next was even more difficult to describe. My normal baseline levels of stress and anxiety were siphoned out of my body, and the more I concentrated on this notion of the unknown, the more I began to feel some part of my being trying to pull away from my physical body. It was remarkably peaceful. The feeling was so intense that I actually became somewhat convinced that I was about to have a vision or some experience that would transport me away from my physical senses. Unfortunately, there was no vision this time. That would be quite neat. But it was a remarkably interesting experience.

I suppose as a parting thought, while the aspect of reality that we experience by means of our senses is an interesting and, in many ways, comfortable place for us to dwell, I would encourage you all to open yourselves to the possibilities associated with the unknown. If nothing else so that I can carefully log your experiences to aid in my own deductions. Au Revoir!