Economics Policies And Their Effect

I have been reading a book recently that I have to recommend to anyone who would listen. I have even gone so far as buying a few copies for family members. The book is called ‘Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work), in Words and Pictures‘.

A few words should be emphasized in the title, works, doesn’t, words, and pictures. You see, this book is an adult graphic novel. In that it is like a comic book, hence the name ‘Economix’, a play on comic book. And what this book aims to do, quite successfully in my opinion, is illustrate the birth of economics and how economics policies over the years have direct effect on your life.

It shows how different economic ideas, can either push the country’s or increasingly the world’s economy forward to great things or backward. That is how it works or doesn’t work part of the book. But that is not the whole story, being that is a graphic novel, it presents these very serious ideas or otherwise difficult concepts in easy to understand pictures and words.

I live economics, not love it to take classes or even buy an economics book. But this book is really not a boring treatise of economics, it tries to be unbiased in how it present the past 400 hundred years of economics from around the world. But most of the focus will be on the United States of America. Even so, this book really is for everyone, regardless of where you live.

If you are remotely curious about how government and businesses spend money, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. If you live near me, I won’t mind lending you mind. Because I know once you read it, you will want a copy for yourself. At about $13 for the paperback copy, it should be on bookshelf.

Better Than Humans

In my post about how our intuition can be misleading, I briefly mentioned self-driving cars. I said that ones intuition, might tell them that humans are better than self-driving cars. Not a day later, Google, one of the companies doing the most testing on self-driving cars, released raw data and a report on their self-driving cars.

Since 2012, the cares have been in twelve accidents. Fortunately, none of the accidents were serious. Interestingly, none of them was a result of the self-driving cars. It was always human error. Be it human drivers hitting the stopped self-driving car, or in one case, a human driver in control of a self-driving car causing an accident.

So, to my point in this post. Computers don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be better than us humans. Self-driving cars are showing that in that respect, in some limited situations, they already are. For now, human drivers are still my best option to navigate the unknown road condition here or there. But as computer vision, computing speed, and software gets more advance, computers will get better at that too.

I will point to two sources instead of rehashing the same points that have been cover there more concisely. Watch ‘Humans Need Not Apply‘ on YouTube and this interview on NPR’ Fresh Air with the author of a book about how robots are coming for our white collar jobs.

No Project Is Too Small To Stop, Think, and Plan

I mentioned a project I have been working on and off for some time now. Unlike before, I am actually making tangible steps forwards. And more importantly, I haven’t had to start over recently. For a good part of the project, I would get some work done, then hit some kind of road block in the technology I had chosen. My solution, start over with something else. But finally, I am using the JHipster web application stack and I am not doing that.

The one thing I do realized now though, is that had I done a bit more planning earlier, things would have gone a lot smoother. I did a lot of stopping and thinking about what I wanted and how I wanted it to work. But, by not writing it down on paper to see if it fits, it was just all in my head where if fits easily and consistently. Regardless of the project size, you will always have changes as it starts to material. So pretty much no amount of planning will change that. But, some planning will help with the number of restarts and stalls.

Yesterday, I realized that my page flow was just too confusing as I added more pages. That right there was something I would have noticed I had spent some time writing it down and going over it. I knew that I would be adding more pages, and in my head, it seemed to have worked so well. Once I thought it up, I just started coding one page at a time. Eventually, I have a few pages and the navigation didn’t work well.

Once I started doing what I should have done before, plan. The ideas I had in my head, I now had some more insight about how they might work. I am planning a bit more now before jumping off again.

There is a delicate balance so observe here. No project is too small for some planning. But too much planning and no work, will just keep you in the planning stage. Sometimes you just have to get going and only then you get some insights, you will know if what you are thinking is even feasible. Of course, that is when you figure out that things don’t work the way you think.

If I had to summarize it, I would say always do some planning, especially on paper. May be something like a Passion Planner journal. Easier than using some computer program and doesn’t take a lot of time. But don’t wait too long to start getting your hands dirty, else you might just lose interest. And once you start, it is ok to take breaks to plan. Even if you might have to back up a bit before going forward.

You will be making progress so long as you are thinking, planning, and doing something. If you are not thinking about your project, you are problem not interested in it anymore. If you don’t do any planning, that will make materializing it harder. Whatever you do, do something that helps your project materialize.

Final tip, as much as restarting a project might seem like running in the same place. Don’t be afraid to throw out something that is not working and start over. What you throw out or throwing out to early, will be something you will have to figure out. But don’t get bend out of shape for having to start over, if that is the smart thing to do. Better to correct going down the ‘wrong’ path as early as possible, than later.

Forget Intuition, Don’t Wash That Chicken

Are you afraid of flying? Do you know or have heard of someone who is afraid of flying? If you are not afraid of flying or never heard of anyone who is, then don’t be surprised that there are people afraid of flying. So what’s the deal here? Intuition.

Intuition, it is the thing that we feel gives us reasons for a question that we are comfortable with. For example, if you were to ask someone who is afraid of flying, “is it safer to fly or drive?”. They would probably say driving is safer. Yet, all the data suggests otherwise. Flying, is by far, safer than driving. Just looking at the number of accidents per people transported per million. Ok, that was a mouthful. Let’s say you told you that for every million persons transported by car, there was a chance of 2000 deaths. And for a million person transported by air, there was a chance of 100 deaths. Now I ask you, do you want to travel by air or road? Now you see just how safe it is to fly. But intuitively, that is not host most people feel.

Sometimes, we really can’t go by intuition. Case in point, don’t wash that chicken before you cook it. I will get back to this one in a bit.

Another is self-driving cars. When I tell people I can’t wait for self-driving cars to get here. They are alarmed. They might say, what if they kill someone? Well, people drive now and they kill others, a few hundreds easy across the United States every day. Yet, we don’t stop people from driving.

The truth is, self-driving cars would drastically reduce the number of vehicular accidents and would be more efficient both in time and energy used. Self-driving cars would merge and get off the highway without having to slow down. Merging in and out of traffic at high speeds is not something humans can’t do that very well, not most of us anyway. But all self-driving cars would be able to do this, time over time. What about if one got into an accident? Engineers would examine the data, and try to code around that if possible. But you can be assured that they will see if there is anything that can be done to prevent it. If they come up with some code change etc, all other cars would be eligible for that update. That is something doesn’t and can’t happen with humans. My wife was in a lil fender scrape the other day, someone else turned into her lane. No one else gets to learn from that. Had that been two self-driving cars, they would have been updated and all the others so that particular occurrence would be less likely.

Hopefully you will be a little suspicious of your intuition now. Especially on things like self-driving cars and flying. So why not wash that chicken?

As a practicing engineer, I would described myself as logical. I try to make most of my decisions on logic and not emotion. If I don’t have facts or data to back up my decisions, then I try to reason it out and then may be go with gut feelings. So when I learn some new scientific proof that counters my belief, I force myself to let go. I have been cooking for a long time, since my early teens. One of the things we have been doing in my family, is to wash meats. We would wash it with vinegar, lime juice, or lemon juice. The idea was to take away the “meaty” or “rank” smell if it was fish.

Yesterday on my local NPR’s station, Science Friday cover a few cooking myths. Including washing the chicken before cooking. I have the link to that episode if you want to listen at the end. The fact it, when you wash chicken, you are creating microscopic droplets with the harmful bacteria on the chicken. Some of those bacterias are drug resistant. Once in the air, the droplets lands on your clean dishes and other parts of your kitchen. What you have just accomplished was spreading the bacterias to places they probably won’t have gotten to without your obsessive washing.

So what if you don’t wash it? Well, you are going to cook it right? So why worry? So long as you cook it at the appropriate temperature, you would killed 100% of all the bacterias on the chicken. I haven’t had to cook since hearing this. It will be hard to resist not washing. But science said I don’t have to, so I will try not to.

The Science Friday episode on cooking myths is here. You can listen to the entire episode, but the part about washing is at location 16 minutes 16 secs in. If you happen to listen to the entire episode, the parts about beer can chicken and not eating pink burgers, applies to me too. We have the setup to hold up a chicken for beer can. We always believed that it was the beer that was making it nice and juicy. Problem, counter-intuitive thinking that the beer evaporates. But beer boils way higher than chicken cooks. So it will never, every boil. We were just wasting money putting a beer can in the grill. If you are a beer drinker, find something better to do with your beer than put it in the grill.

I Heard The Song Bird Singing

Recently, I have noticed a bird sining in the trees near my apartment. I haven’t successful yet in seeing what the culprit looks like, but the melody is very sweet. It is a seductive singing, that even my wife noticed it. The singer, loves to sign in the morning, about 6am and in the evening, about 6/7pm.

This bird, I don’t know what kind or what it looks like, have been singing for about two week or more. I don’t remember when I noticed it, but did notice it some time. May be it might have been even months.  Anyway, I decided a few days ago that I would take it. I heard the singing several time, but there was too much ambient noise.  Fortunately, this morning I had my chance.

I am very fascinated by this songbird. The bird brings back memories of my childhood and my experience with a songbird. Before I get into the story of the songbird of my childhood, let’s me offer you the opportunity to hear the songbird in the trees outside.

Isn’t that beautiful? Doesn’t that make you want to put it on loop and play it a few more times? Well, I hope it does. I love it.

I had a cage bird when I was in my mid to late teens. It was when I lived in Guyana, South America. If I had to do some calculations, it would be between the ages of fifteen to sixteen. I left Guyana just before my seventeen birth, about three weeks before.

The care of the bird, was left in the hands of a cousin. There was no expectation that I would return for the bird. Even if I had returned in a few years, changes it wouldn’t had lived that log anyway. I can’t say exactly, how the bird came to his demise. But that it did.

Now, the bird I had, was called a Mustache. That is the colloquial name. Like the bird I tapped in Foster City California, my bird and many birds usually sing in the mornings and the evenings. You would hear them signing during the day too, but not as much as morning and evening.

There uses to be bird sining competitions. More on that later.

Besides the singing, this bird was well known for molting. That is when it would shed it feathers and get new ones. If you got one when it was brown. Over time, it would mold repeatedly, and eventually be black and white. In between, it would had some degree of brown, black, and white. Fortunately, it was able to take my bird though the process of brown to black & while. Here are two YouTube videos of Mustache in brown and another in black & white. NOTE: The audio isn’t very good. There is a lot of background noises, a cricket match,  other birds singing, including a Kisk-a-dee, and other noises.

Mustache wasn’t the only bird that molted. At the time I had my bird, my best friend from even back then, had a Fire-Red. Fire-red would start out all brown too. Then they would molt to  brown back, and burned-brown, but not quite red, under feathers.

While a bird is molting, you would cover the cage, keeping it in darkness. Now I don’t know why that was the practice. May be they would be cold with basically no feathers. I don’t know if birds go hid in some dark or warm place while they molt in the while. But that was the practice. You would see boys and men with their bird cages, covered in a dark sleeve.

Here is a picture of a Fire-Red close up here.


As as young man, your first bird, if you were interested, would most likely be a Fire-Red or Mustache. Those were fairly plentiful and easy to catch. If you were an adult, the bird you had was a Towa Towa. Towa Towa were known to be great singers. This made them expensive and highly sought after. They were not necessarily rare, you just had to travel further to get them. And since just about anyone wanted one, as a young person, you won’t have one. It would most likely be stolen, or taken away by the older boys. So, you spend your life with the more popular songbirds.

You here that Towa Towa show off. 🙂 That is some good singing.

Even though Mustache and Fire-Red are good singers, and some more than others. They have nothing on the Towa Towa. If you wanted to win a bird singing competition, you would go with a Towa Towa, not a Fire-Red or Mustache. People have tried to and some have succeeded in smuggling Towa Towa into the United States of America.

Close of a Towa Tota:


Yup, I heard the song bird singing.

PS: What we call a Towa Towa in Guyana, is a Bull Finch or Boy Boy in Trinidad. Here is video of a Trinidadian Bull Finich. Same thing as the Towa Towa. The nice thing about the following video, is that there isn’t any distracting background noises.

Take Your Kid To Work

Across America, today was “Take Your Kid To Work Day”. I have been working for over twenty years as a professional. This was the first year I participated. Actually, I almost didn’t.

My son is four and half now. I thought that the email said from five years and up. So I never signed up. I wasn’t even planning to go into the office today. I had decided to work from home. But a P1 issue got open form my group, and I decided to be get into the office. Not that there was anything I won’t be able to do from home.

While at work, I saw kids younger than my son. And I even had a co-worker said that she signed up her two year old. Then I felt really bad. Knowing that this was the last opportunity my son would have to be at my office. Since we will be moving later in the year, I will be working remotely, so next year is almost a certainty that it would be near impossible to participate.

Fortunately, I found out that he can still attend, even though I didn’t register. It was just after eleven o’clock when I ping Stacy and asked her if she could bring him. I had meetings lined up from about noon to 3pm. Once she give the okay, I was very excited he would be able to come. I think it was great for him, he always wants to go to work with us.

He came, meet some new friends. No one he will be talking to years later. But still, he had a lot of fun. With some pictures to show, I will be able to relive part of the day for some time to come.

Kite Flying On Easter Monday

One of the things I loved when I used to live in Guyana, was Easter Monday. Easter Monday was the day just about everyone and their mother went out to fly kites. Either kites they had made or ones they bought.

While there was always an healthy market of kites for sales. As a young man, we made our own kites. For quite a few weeks before Easter Monday, the big event, we would have made sever kites. The first ones were simply, like a Caddie-Ol-Punch, working our way up to more and more sturdy kites. Until by about a few days before Easter Monday, you would start working on your final kite.

If you still had a kite after Easter Monday, then you flew it for a few days. If you master piece for Easter Monday didn’t survive, due to tearing apart or being lost. Then you would go back to building smaller and simpler kites for the next few days.

By the time the weekend rolled around, you had enough running up and down with kites that you didn’t worry about it after that until the next year.

Depending on the size of the kite, you had to get twine, to fly it. If you were making a really small kite, then you had to “stran” some twine. “Straning” was the processing of separating the larger twine into its individual strands.

A Caddie-Ol-Punch was a kite that simply kite. It required one page of a book, two fine sticks, twine to fly, and slightly heavier twine for the tail. The really trick with a caddie, was that it didn’t required paste, as would be the case with any other kite.

It is hard to describe a caddie. But essentially, you would fold the paper along one diagonal, then make equally spaced small cuts. Repeat the process on the other diagonal. The cuts are no more than about half to an inch apart. The fine stick, usually from a pointer broom, would be woven though the holes made by the cut. That is how you got your paper to be rigid to make a kite without paste. Tying off the loop for the nose and tail will bind the paper and stick.

Since leaving Guyana, I have been wanting to go back for Easter. Here is to hoping.

Spiced Coffee

Boom = Coffee + Cinnamon + Nutmeg

This post is really short, that is because I have lost three different drafts of it. Because every time I sat down to write it, I couldn’t finish it. The I would loose my changes, and start over. Not wanting to chance that again, I will just make it a few line and post.

If you drink coffee and don’t hate cinnamon or nutmeg, then get them together. I have been doing this recently and loving it. Wondering just why I haven’t been doing this before, considering how much I love both nutmeg and cinnamon. What kicked my now over the top excitement of cinnamon and nutmeg in my coffee, was this story on NPR.

My first cup of coffee is usually taken at home. I have been making coffee for years now at home. I might get another cup later in the day, but at home I always have fresh nutmeg and cinnamon. After that story, I tried it without letting my wife knew. She called me up to say something was different about the coffee, but she loved it. If you are gonna try, I suggest using fresh nutmeg. Just get an whole nutmeg, and grate some into your coffee. Don’t hold back with just a few sprinkle of either, go big on the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Dedicated and Designated

I started a new job about eight months ago. Yikes, time really does fly when you are having fun or just busy learning. I still describe myself as being new to the role and even new to the company. In the eight months since I have been there, we have been hiring about twenty to forty people or month. To someone starting last week, I am like an old timer there.

Well, lots more to learn and do. So no time to be bored anytime soon.

One of the titles I carry there is a DSE. Well, I really only have one title the company pays me for. But within the team, we have some more specific titles. My official title is Customer Operations Engineer (COE). Some time people would say Customer Support Engineer, but never call us CSE.

While must of us are in the support organization, and employed as COEs. We do specialize. Some COE are Subject Matter Expert (SME). They get to focus on a very limited set of even just one technology and get good at it. Some others are Back Line Engineer, sort of our second their of support. Finally, there is my even smaller sub-team of Dedicated/Designated Support Engineer (DSE). So why isn’t it settled, dedicated vs. designated. In this case, it really doesn’t matter, it is not really an official title anyway.

DSEs are assigned to specific customers. So instead of taking cases for any customer as the other COEs would do, except BLE and SME who are usually not customer facing. DSE only work on cases for the customer they are assigned to. And they are only assigned to one customer, because that customer pays for that service.

I have been visiting my customer on a weekly basis, usually once a week and sometimes more. But going onsite more than once a week is far in between. After my visits, I would write up a minutes reports of what happened etc. Just so I can remember the engagement and others on the team can follow. Besides, if I am not available, someone can step in or step up and have some idea of what had been discussed.

I usually get home late on the day(s) I visit the customer, so the report is not written that day. Then I may not get to write it for a few days, but need to write it before my next visit. So sometimes, the day before my next visit is when I am trying to write it, so I am not accumulating a backlog. By two days after my visit, I would start forgetting little details.

This week, I decided to do something different. First, I took notes during the day. Just a sentence or two here or there. Then I pushed myself to write the report last night, after getting in. So even though I was still technically working a lot longer, it was easier to write. Since I had notes and it was all very fresh. Previously, I would jot down some notes, but that was usually the next day for later. But then as I started losing details a few days after, the notes would only be so skinny.

The one drawback to writing the report on the same day? Since you remember quite a bit more detail. The report end up being longer.

Rapsodeus 2013 – The Light

I was watching a video on YouTube looking for Italians vs. Europeans and then I stumbled upon another video by the same author called Rapsodeus 2013.  What is interesting I think about this video, is that I can’t rally describe what it, but I know what kinds of idea I have in my head as I watch it.

I don’t want to bias you in anyway if you are going to watch the video. So if you are going to watch, which I recommend you do. Then stop here, watch the video and come back.

Okay, so what were you thinking as you watch the video? Any different before you started watching it or just, what the hell is this?  🙂  Well, here is what I was thinking and I am curious if anyone else had similar ideas as they watched it.

One of the things that fascinated me, was how these simple creatures seems so content, but a little sad, in their cages, then became so violent. They got taken in by an object, and for us it could just be a light. But what is it really? I can’t say I know and I don’t think they know either. But yet, they are committed to getting their hand on it.  As a result, things quickly goes from peaceful to chaotic.

Whether the need to capture the light spurred new inventions or existing technologies were adapted to pursue the light, we don’t know. But the two ideas are probably interwoven there.

For what purpose do they want the light  Did they know about the light before?  It looks like it was introduced.  They looked very surprised when it was first introduced, but I can’t prove that.  So there is this idea of desirability of something unknown at all cost.

Then I wondering if this an analogy of the human pursuit. Whatever that pursuit is, religion, science, spirituality, peace, etc.  If we had the perspective to step back, would we too, see that we are chasing something that is just strung out before us. Never to lay our hands on it, yet generations after generations, we try. So this quest we are on, this pursuit, it seems like we were trust into it.  Not having have any memory of our choice or initial role in it. Just that we are here, eventually achieve consciousness  and off we go or may be we are going before we even realize it.

If there is a goal to this pursuit, what is it?  To what are we progressing, if we are at all progressing.  Or are we just decaying into chaos?