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Mike Dinescu
deals in code
deals in code


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Seattle - sunny, as sunny as it can be..
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Surprise, surprise.. where you live in LA can add 15 years to your life expectancy
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Go figure
"It's getting hard to tell if a painting was made by a computer or a human." "The next step was obvious: a program that didn't copy old art, but rather actually created new compositions. Elgammal 'trained' his algorithm by feeding it over 80,000 digitized images of Western paintings culled from a timeline that stretched from the 15th to the 20th century. Using this immense corpus as the programming source material, he went about the task of creating a variation of the artificial intelligence system known as Generative Adversarial Networks. These so-called 'GANs' are great at generating images of handbags and shoes, but not so great at generating original visual art. So Elgammal came up with his own proprietary image-generating system: Creative Adversarial Networks (CANs)."
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Just let them drown

First Harvey destroys Houston... now Irma is heading toward Miami. Houston has had three so-called "500-year floods" since 1979.

But Scott Pruitt, the science denier running the EPA, says discussing “the cause and effect of these storms" right now would be "very, very insensitive".

Right. We wouldn't want to hurt people's feelings now, would we?

Just let 'em drown.

Cut funding for research on climate change. Don't plan for the future. Let the flood maps go out of date. Keep on acting like everything is fine:

Last week, researchers at the University of California, Davis, overlaid FEMA’s flood-zone maps on top of satellite imagery of the devastating flooding around Houston after Harvey poured more than 40 inches of rain across the region.

The preliminary assessment found that two-thirds of the inundation occurred outside the federal agency’s 100-year floodplains, where there should be only a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year. More than half of the deluge happened “outside of any mapped flood zone,” even including 500-year events, in areas that should face only “minimal flood hazard”.

This, in part, underscores the rare severity of the storm that hovered over the Texas coastline for days. But it also arguably highlights inadequacies in our federal flood risk assessments, since by some calculations Harvey “represents the third ‘500-year’ flood in the Houston area in the past three years,” as the UC Davis researchers note.

That “basically refutes suggestions that Houston has just suffered from random ‘bad luck,’” said Nicholas Pinter, associate director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, in an e-mail. “We scientists are ultra-cautious about reading climate change in any single weather event, and that caution is appropriate. But there is a growing suspicion that the U.S. may be creeping over a meteorological tipping point.”


A few cities, and some engineering firms, have already begun to adopt development standards that incorporate future climate- change threats. Notably, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection conducted a comprehensive assessment, and concluded that some $1 billion in assets were under threat from future sea-level rise and storm surges. The analysis added 30 inches of flooding on top of FEMA’s 100-year flood maps, adopting the high-end forecast from the New York City Panel on Climate Change, and ultimately recommended $315 million in facility upgrades.

Similarly, in 2015, President Obama issued an executive order that established new flood standards for federally funded projects that took into account the rising risks of climate change. It required agencies to either build two or three feet above 100-year flood lines, depending on the project type; base new development on 500-year flood elevations; or otherwise determine appropriate construction standards based on the best available climate science.

Less than two weeks before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, President Trump rescinded that order.

I really don't know these climate change deniers are thinking. Certainly it has nothing to do with being wise, or thoughtful, or kind, or prudent. Maybe they hope they'll be dead before things affect them personally? Maybe they don't care about their children, or grandchildren?

The quote is from the MIT magazine Technology Review:

Here is Pruitt claiming that we shouldn't talk about climate change now:

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Climbing the mountains of mathematics

Chris Olah and Shan Carter write:

Achieving a research-level understanding of most topics is like climbing a mountain. Aspiring researchers must struggle to understand vast bodies of work that came before them, to learn techniques, and to gain intuition. Upon reaching the top, the new researcher begins doing novel work, throwing new stones onto the top of the mountain and making it a little taller for whoever comes next.

Mathematics is a striking example of this. For centuries, countless minds have climbed the mountain range of mathematics and laid new boulders at the top. Over time, different peaks formed, built on top of particularly beautiful results. Now the peaks of mathematics are so numerous and steep that no person can climb them all. Even with a lifetime of dedicated effort, a mathematician may only enjoy some of their vistas.

People expect the climb to be hard. It reflects the tremendous progress and cumulative effort that’s gone into mathematics. The climb is seen as an intellectual pilgrimage, the labor a rite of passage. But the climb could be massively easier. It’s entirely possible to build paths and staircases into these mountains. The climb isn’t something to be proud of.

The climb isn’t progress: the climb is a mountain of debt.

Shan Carter and Chris Olah are serious about building a new institution to help tackle this problem. They call it research debt: research builds up faster than it gets clarified and explained.

Their project is called Distill. They seem to be focused on machine learning, not mathematics. But the problem affects every area of research.

They explain some causes of research debt:

Poor ExpositionOften, there is no good explanation of important ideas and one has to struggle to understand them. This problem is so pervasive that we take it for granted and don’t appreciate how much better things could be.

Undigested IdeasMost ideas start off rough and hard to understand. They become radically easier as we polish them, developing the right analogies, language, and ways of thinking.

Bad abstractions and notationAbstractions and notation are the user interface of research, shaping how we think and communicate. Unfortunately, we often get stuck with the first formalisms to develop even when they’re bad. For example, an object with extra electrons is negative, and pi is wrong. [The really important number is 2pi - jb]

NoiseBeing a researcher is like standing in the middle of a construction site. Countless papers scream for your attention and there’s no easy way to filter or summarize them. We think noise is the main way experts experience research debt.

The insidious thing about research debt is that it’s normal. Everyone takes it for granted, and doesn’t realize that things could be different. For example, it’s normal to give very mediocre explanations of research, and people perceive that to be the ceiling of explanation quality. On the rare occasions that truly excellent explanations come along, people see them as one-off miracles rather than a sign that we could systematically be doing better.

To tackle research debt, we need more distillers:

Research distillation is the opposite of research debt. It can be incredibly satisfying, combining deep scientific understanding, empathy, and design to do justice to our research and lay bare beautiful insights.

Distillation is also hard. It’s tempting to think of explaining an idea as just putting a layer of polish on it, but good explanations often involve transforming the idea. This kind of refinement of an idea can take just as much effort and deep understanding as the initial discovery.

This leaves us with no easy way out. We can’t solve research debt by having one person write a textbook: their energy is spread too thin to polish every idea from scratch. We can’t outsource distillation to less skilled non-experts: refining and explaining ideas requires creativity and deep understanding, just as much as novel research.

Research distillation doesn’t have to be you, but it does have to be us.

They're trying to build an ecosystem that supports distillers:

Like the theoretician, the experimentalist or the research engineer, the research distiller is an integral role for a healthy research community. Right now, almost no one is filling it.

Why do researchers not work on distillation? One possibility is perverse incentives, like wanting your work to look difficult. Those certainly exist, but we don’t think they’re the main factor. Another possibility is that they don’t enjoy research distillation. Again, we don’t think that’s what’s going on.

Lots of people want to work on research distillation. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to do so, because we don’t support them.

An aspiring research distiller lacks many things that are easy to take for granted: a career path, places to learn, examples and role models. Underlying this is a deeper issue: their work isn’t seen as a real research contribution. We need to fix this.

To see how they're trying to fix it, go here:

I thank +Blake Pollard for pointing this out! He ran into this while studying machine learning.

I believe the picture is from Nepal.
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Quiet train ride
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The mastery is in making it look effortless.. a great analysis of a +LOUIS CK #standupComedy bit
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Shady business model +FastMail

A promise is a promise. If you break promises you break customer trust. How much is that worth to your business?
Forever is a Long Time
For companies that offer services and account levels that are free for life or offer one-time payment option, I'd like to remind you that forever is a long time. I do not believe in changing your mind about that, so be serious if you do. +FastMail has informed me that my one-time payment deal is not longer a thing on their end, so they are opting out of it. I find that shabby, what's your take? Go ahead and defend it, if you like, but to me, a deal is a deal.
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