Monday, September 11, 2017

LOLvest


So Jared Kushner, the unpaid White House aide who's now tasked with handling Middle East peace, opioid addiction crisis, and American innovation(TM), used to be a Baltimore-area slum lord.  But he dumped all those in favor of a $1.8bn Fifth Avenue building that can only attract investment from shady origins.  No wonder DC elites don't care much for them....

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Is the electric guitar dead?


A few thoughts on Washington Post's latest article on the woes of guitar companies:

  • An article about guitar spends so many paragraphs on Taylor Swift? I guess that's where we're at right now...   Also it's not all about Clapton or BB King; there are younger guitar gods around: Derek Trucks and Gary Clark Jr. are probably around my age.  Also worth mentioning, musicians dont need to be Eric Johnson-calibre talent to make cool stuff; I respect guys like Ed Sheeran who writes music prolifically and can lead a full-length concert with just his Martin acoustic and loop pedal (no band!). 
  • Millennials don't like/can't afford to spend money in general, thanks to (among others) student loans.  Not just a guitar problem, but look at decline in home ownership. Declining interest in golf. And so on. 
  • Speaking as a terrible guitarist, it's really hard to justify buying a $3,000 American Fender when I can spend $400 (or $200 used!) on something Indonesian-made that sounds just as terrible on my hands. And I reckon 95% of guitar buyers are probably not good players.
  • Music nowadays feels more about the production that about playing instruments, with software such as Ableton and Garage Band. Which makes me respect for musicians and vocalists who really spend the time honing their skills -- people like Mark Tremonti, whose riffs I can probably never play, not even one.




Sunday, June 25, 2017

... that time the Mountains kicked my arse...

Friday (6/24/16) -- H-1 (the day before)
5.00PM - Board Citilink flight BPN-CGK
6.30PM - Land at CGK
8.00PM - Arrived home, had dinner.
9.00PM - Kissed the baby, put stuff in backpack, went to bed
11.00PM - Regretting the ice coffee I had at lunch.  Read last week's Tempo again.

Starting point

Start of the hike

Saturday -- D-day
2AM - Finally got some shut eye
3.15AM - Alarm vibrate goes off.  Get up and shower.
4.00AM - Quick bite, off I go on the loaned Toyota Camry
4.15AM - Picked up friends at Ritz Carlton hotel, off to the freeway
7.00AM - Arrived at Gunung Salak - Gathered at the starting point.  Elevation 700m.  Started our hike up
8.00AM - Left behind, lost track of most poeple in our group
11.30AM - Completely out of breath, almost out of water.  Gave up at Checkpoint 3 - Elevation 1,700m (Peak would be at 2,800m).  Sat down for 15 minutes, decided that resting in the cold is a terrible idea.  Made my way back down
13.00PM - Out of water.  Tapped the mountain spring water pipes.
13.30PM - Got lost, couldn't find tracks.  Thought to myself, "OMG, am I gonna die here?", several times.
14.00PM - After backtracking, rendezvous with groupmate who had already reached the top and went back down
15.00PM - Reached starting point.
16.00PM - Collapsed at a local house.  Got some shut eye for about an hour while waiting for the rest of the crew.
18.00 sun finally sets. Two in our gang still haven't reached the starting point.  A sherpa is sent for rescue.
20.00PM - Left for home
23.00PM - Arrived at KFC - Bought a bucket (9 pieces) for 4 people + sides.

Around the point where I threw in the towel

All I could see is green

Sunday -- The aftermath
2.00AM - Arrived home. Collapsed. Didn't wake up until 11.30AM.

Lessons learned for future hikes (ha!):
  • Bring tons of gear -- more than you think you need.
  • Situational awareness is your best friend. 
  • Bring lots of water, canteen 4 Liters minimum -- I sweat a ton, other people may not.  Regardless of your sweat, you lose water through your sweat glands.  Dehidration, exposure to the elements, are deadly.  Even mild cases of dehidration does wonders to your decision-making.  Find sources of water.  Mountain spring, streams, leaves, moist plants, anything will help you.  Diarrhea later is preferable to dehydration now
  • Bring change of clothes - wet clothes will get you cold faster
  • Don't veer off path
  • Keep track using GPS -- use things like Google's My Tracks, Endomondo or something like that so you can track your way back
  • Altimeter - something as rudimentary as a Casio G-Shock.  Again, situational awareness is key.  Having a sense of how far you are from the top, or from the bottom, allows your mind to re-adjust and ignore the voices that come along with dehydration. 
  • Power bank (battery pack) -- obvious
  • Food (something light): carbs, proteins, sugar. Sweets to get your sugar level back up.
  • Rubber tubing or a small straw - to get water from streams or pipes.
  • Get yourself into shape.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to read Scholarly Journals efficiently

Pulitzer-quality, if there's such a thing in scholarly journals


If you're in academia, or in the middle of a postgraduate program, you are going to have to read and write a lot of research papers.
It's important to understand how these papers are structured.  They are not the same as the kind of essays we write in undergraduate classes.

In most cases, scholarly papers cover just a small portion of a larger question and shows supporting/disputing evidence on a limited set of hypotheses.  For instance, an astronomy paper may cover the big question: "What is the climate like at Jupiter's moon Ganymede?", and the paper seeks to show that the atmosphere consists of 3.7% Helium gas (Editor's note: I totally made this up), in addition to other gases that have previously been shown to exist.  The "meat" of the paper would show the spectrum analysis of photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.  The paper would then end with what could be the implication of  finding He in Ganymede, conjecturing that the moon was made out of totally different materials from Jupiter itself.

My proposed strategy:

  1. Start with the Abstract.  Read in entirety.
  2. Read the opening section.
  3. Read the closing section.  By then you will have an idea where the problem starts, and where does the research end.
  4. For the middle section, start with all the charts and tables, see if any of these make sense to you in the scheme of the problem statement.
  5. Take a step back and review. 


The above strategy should give you a sense of what the paper's actually trying to accomplish.  If it's interesting, go ahead and read the paper in its entirety.  Otherwise, move on.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Russian in Poland


Vladimir Putin arrives at Warsaw airport and hands his passport to the immigration officer.

Officer: "Nationality?"
Putin: "Russian."
Officer: "Occupation?"
Putin: (smiles) "Not this time, just a short business trip."

h/t Foreign Policy magazine.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Primer on North Korea

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Fact Sheet


  • Supreme Leader: Kim Jong Un
  • Capital: Pyongyang
  • Population: 24.9mn (2013E)
  • GDP: US$25 bn (2015E)
  • GDP/Capita: US$1,000
  • Main industries: Mining & industrial (34%), services (31%), agri (22%)
  • Trade partners: China, Russia


Note:  South Korea GDP: US$1.3trn (2015)

History


918-1910 AD: Unitary Dynasties (Korean Empire) included parts of Inner Mongolia. Tributary system with Chinese empire
  • 1868: Meiji Restoration in Japan
  • 1894-1895: Qing-Japan War over influence in Korean peninsula
1910-1945: Japanese occupation of Korean peninsula
  • 1939-1945: WW2
1945-1948: Post-WW2 Division of Korean peninsula (Soviet occupies North, US in the South)
1948: Foundation of DPRK; Kim Il-Sung appointed as Chairman
1950-1953: Korean War:
  • Jun 1950: NK (supported by Soviet and China) invasion of SK.  US forces intervened to defend the SK.
  • July 1953: Armistice; border restored with DMZ
Post-War:
  • 1955-mid 1970s: Vietnam War
  • 1970s: China sought to reset relations with US, re-evaluates NK relations
  • 1991: Soviet Union dissolved; aid to NK stopped immediately
  • 1992: Kim Jong Il
  • 2011: Kim Jong Un

Korean War (1950-53)



The USAF dropped more bombs in North Korea than the entire WW2 Pacific Theater, including tens of thousands of tons of napalm.  Bombing campaigns targeted urban areas, key infrastructure and agricultural farmland.

Pyongyang -- Before and After the War


Over the three years, we killed off maybe 20 percent of the population [of North Korea]
- USAF Gen. Curtis LeMay (1984)

Modern-Day Military and Weapons Program


Size of Military (Pentagon estimates):
  • 1mn soldiers + 3mn military reserves
  • Short-range and intermediate ballistic missiles (200-2,000 miles); 400+ launchers (incl mobile)
  • Small arsenal of nuclear weapons (potentially 10-15)
  • No ICBM yet (+3,000 miles; nuclear payload)
Strategic Goals:
  • Leadership’s existential crisis; needs to demonstrate winnable war strategy; prevents coups and foreign interference
  • Propaganda and national pride
  • Industrial development
Source of Funding:
  • China (+75% of NK trade)
  • Overseas labor/remittances (China and Russia)
  • Weapons sales (several African countries, Iran?)
  • Drugs (methamphetamine)
  • Cyber crimes


THAAD Missile Defense System


Infographic - Lockheed Martin

South Korean objections:
  • Limited range of interceptors (~150km) cannot even protect all of SK
  • Missile defense not worth the massive hit in relations with China and Russia
  • National sovereignty undermined by the rapid and massive increase of US presence
  • “South Korea will pay $1bn [for THAAD]” –Donald Trump
Russian objections:
  • “Deployment of anti-missile system poses a threat to the existing military balance in the region” -Russian FM
Chinese objections:
  • Geopolitics: China remains an ally and major trading partner of NK
  • Advanced radar system has a range of >1,000km, penetrating into Chinese airspace