Thursday, June 30, 2011

Google+, Tau Day and Margaritas, or Blake's Recent Past.

So what's with this Google+ thing guys?  Google has tried to get into the social space a few times before; does anyone remember Orkut or Google Wave? Yeh, me neither.  This time it seems to be a full-on attack on Facebook, with friends and news feeds and privacy-violating default settings and everything.  Whether they can beat Facebook at their own game is anyone's guess, but I'd say most guesses would be no.

But my buddy Anup sent me an invite yesterday, so being the awesome and cutting edge guy I am, I decided to go full on with the early adopting.  I'm also way too cool for Facebook, so I've been looking for an alternative forever.

My thoughts exactly.  Get out of my head, Randall Monroe! (Source:

Just based on first impressions, I'd say at the very least the "friend" organization system has its merits and by association, the very closely related privacy/sharing system is a breath of fresh air.  I wouldn't be surprised if the largest effect of Google+ is Facebook adopting some of its cooler features.  I also really like the Android application, in particular its location-aware news feed and "instant" upload of photos (really just auto-upload to a private album immediately after capture to be available if you ever want to "upload" them).  

And come on, I just trust Google.  Whatever they do, I'm going to be all over it until death (or first minor inconvenience),  I even used Google Wave for a week or so.

So June 28 was Tau Day, (τ being defined as 2π, or one τurn of a circle, hence 6.28 or 6/28).  I went to a Tau Day party on Caltech campus that night, organized and hosted by the guy who invented this constant (Michael Hartl).  He put forth a very complete and cogent argument as to why π is ill suited as a circle constant, since nearly everywhere in mathematics π appears with an annoying 2 infront of it.  Some easy examples include the Gaussian (Normal) distribution

    f(x) = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi\sigma^2}} e^{ -\frac{(x-\mu)^2}{2\sigma^2} },
the Fourier Transform
\hat{f}(\xi) = \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} f(x)\ e^{- 2\pi i x \xi}\,dx,
the Cauchy integral formula
f(a) = \frac{1}{2\pi i} \oint_\gamma \frac{f(z)}{z-a}\ dz ,
the reduced Planck Constant
\hbar = \frac{h}{2 \pi}.
In other words, Archimedes screwed up in making π the circle constant.  And to show his disdain for all things π, Michael Hartl published his Tau Manifesto outlining his argument and offering Tau day as a much preferred alternative to Pi day.  This party which consisted of some of the nerdiest people I've ever had the pleasure of smelling was concluded in a fantastic manner by twice as much free pie than one could reasonably eat.

Down with π!  Google had better make a Doodle for τ day next year, or they're losing one fanboy.

In other news, today in the lab we had some Canada day festivities.  My labbies figured it was time to initiate me into the group all-proper-like, so we went out to the local Mexican dive bar for some margaritas as a pre-Canada day celebration.  This is the Independence Day long weekend here (4 full days off), so it had to be today.  Wow, these margaritas were potent and so our little lunch outing ended around 5:30pm and everyone headed home for the "weekend".  Unfortunately, I've got a robot making me some oligopeptides overnight and some cells growing me some phages that I have to check on periodically, so I'll be back at least once a day over the long weekend.  I'm a SCIENTIST.
There were some requests for more pictures of my digs, so voila:

Here is my bedroom, with a bit of Slevin in the bottom.  Apologies for not being too tidy.  I'm just so glad I have a blanket and sheets now.  

My kitchen.  We're cleaning all the cutlery and pots which just arrived in my mom's parcel (along with the aforementioned bedsheets), which is why everything is out and aboot.  Its pretty great though.

Our common room.  Mickey got a very nice new TV and finally set up his drumset somewhere.  Theres a great couch that I was sitting on while taking this photo too.  It may very well be more comfortable than my bed.

The side of campus facing my apartment complex.  This is one side of the new Bioengineering building.  Mickey may eventually get an office here if he plays his cards right.

The same Bioengineering building, with the Beckman Institute green infront of it, and the big palm trees along the road between my apartment complex and campus.  My walk to and from work is pretty much just this green.

My walk to work.  Google maps pegs it at 3 minutes.  But I tend to take the hypotenuse.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Goodbye again, Canada. Hello Cali!

Some updates, ladies and gents.  I've graduated and convocated!  As proof, I present my refrigerator:
My Bachelors of Applied Science in Nanotechnology Engineering.  Mickey's is there too.

In other words, I have left Canada again.  Goodbye Waterloo.

Don't worry guys, I haven't gone back to the exceedingly far east or anywhere like it.  In fact I've gone to the west coast, first to LA and just a little bit backwards to Pasadena, California.  I've found a new academic home at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech.  Now I know I said I wanted to go to Princeton or Berkeley or MIT in my last post, but come on guys, Caltech is in (or at least very near) Los Angeles!  LA comes with some perks such as being 25-30 degrees and sunny 350 days per year.  Hollywood, Disneyland, Long Beach, Comicon, need I say more? If I do need to say more, its arguably the best science and technology school in the world.

Besides, Princeton is in New Jersey, everyone at MIT is depressed (hopefully excepting my good friend Farnaz) and Berkeley is a STATE school (sorry Simon :-\).

Pretty much what Caltech is like.  Courtesy of NUMB3RS.

I've been here for about a week, and I've got to say that its been quite great.  Everyone has been incredibly friendly, even by Canadian standards.  Moving in with my furry friend presented me with no problems, and the apartment is a veritable mansion by Japanese standards.  I walked into my bedroom, and its maybe double the size of my entire house in Japan.  And theres a WHOLE APARTMENT outside!

I live about a three minute walk from my lab, which is pleasantly situated in a basement's basement.  At least it'll stay cool during the long, hard summers?  In this lab, I'm working on super hardy, super specific AND super general artificial antibodies for HIV diagnostics.  Wrap your mind around that one.  It'll keep me busy at the very least until September, when my classes begin.  At which point I'll have to prove my mettle to all the genius-level intellects running around this Institute.  

Its SoCal guys, the infinite corridor can be outside.  (Also a frequent filming site for NUMB3RS, see above)

So at the rate I've been reviving this blog, by the next time I post, I'll have finished my PhD and be moving into wherever I do my post-doc.  Hard to move up from this place though.  I think this place will become a pretty great home for the next 4-8 years.

I've become such a goddamn American already.  Mickey got a big TV and American's Got Talent has been on for the last 3 hours.