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November 27th, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving From Newport Beach, CA

Posted by dstsai as Travels at 12:00 AM PST

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November 26th, 2014

City Club of Los Angeles – Stunning View of the City

My family had a nice lunch at the City Club of Los Angeles yesterday with a family friend. The view from from the top of 51-story building (555 S. Flower St) was simply breathtaking.

Here I share some of the pictures I took:
Panorama View to the northwest:
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You can almost see the “Hollywood” sign from here:
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Close up:
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More close up:
IMG_3026[1]

Overlooking the 110 Freeway exit:
IMG_3024[1]

Posted by dstsai as Travels at 12:00 AM PST

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November 24th, 2014

Book Review of “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder” by Arianna Huffington


The third metric in addition to power and money touted by the author involved well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

Well-being: Meditation, Being a gazelle (be peacefully enjoying the moment), don’t overconnect (the snake in the digital garden of Eden), secure your own mask first (take care of ourselves first), don’t deprive yourself of sleep (a performance-enhancement drug), do lots of walking/hiking. adopt pets.

Wisdom: Daily gratitude exercise (writing down a list of things to be thankful for) makes sense to relieve stress and pave a better outlook in life. Use your inner voice, hunches, and intuitions. They can be helped with good sleep and meditations. Our smartphone is not adding smartness to our lives – iParadox. Our “hurry sickness” or “time famine” could dampen our creativity. Protect our children time affluence. Join the “slow movement.” Letting ideas simmer on the back burner could yield insights, and sometimes breakthroughs. “The future will belong to the people who can innovate – and innovation comes from knowing when to slow down. A good tip of accomplishing you really want to do – drop the rest from the list. The author recommended evicting the “obnoxious roommate (negative thoughts).” Our habits are our auto-pilots; forming good habits would reduce our need for willpower that gets depleted under stress. Use of stoicism and find meaning in life suffering and facing difficulties could benefit us. Take a minute when you wake up to breath deeply, be grateful and set your intention for the day.

Wonder:
Take time to wonder at the world around us. Slow down and let wonder do its job, at its own pace. Be open to the serendipity of coincidence. Momento Mori – remember death or our mortality. Allowing the reality of death into our everyday reality can keep us from veering off course. The author talked about her mother’s death and how she lived her life in wonder until the last day.

Giving:
No self-development book is complete withing talking about giving back. No exception here. Make plan to volunteer in a weekend. There are more stories about her mother’s giving and helping others. Go-getter are good; go-givers are better. Giving promotes positive health boost and grow brain. Start small with giving and make it a habit.

The appendix is full of apps and tips. Also the Audiobook narrated by an foreign accented woman (may be from Greece). Lots of good quotes throughout the book.

It’s a decent book if you’re really lost and mired in pursuit of power and money. Otherwise, it makes a good gift for someone like that.

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PST

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November 20th, 2014

Movie Review: “Interstellar”

What a perfect timing of watching this movie right after reading “The Future of the Mind” book by Michio Kaku. If you haven’t seen the movie (Trailers here), I suggest you watch it first or skip the next paragraph.

The future is bleak for humans as we have polluted the earth and the food is in great shortage. The way out is to migrate to another planet. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is tricked into captaining a space ship, leaving his daughter Murphy and son on earth. The first planet has a giant wave and not habitable. The second planet has an earlier explorer in deep sleep, who upon woken up conspires to hijack their space ship out of plant. (This story line is weak). Then by this time, they’re almost out of the fuel. So Cooper hops on the black hole and time travels back to warn himself not to leave earth through the “ghost” of his daughter’s bedroom. At the end he meets his daughter, much older than he is, because he has time warped. And the humans have migrated to the third planet and he meets his daughter on her dying bed. Very interesting twist.

My takeaways from this movie:
1. Boy, there is a lot of science and myth here. Yes, it takes a wormhole to travel fast and parallel universe, thanks to the Strings Theory by Dr. Kaku. It’s still unreal to me. But flying and surviving it through the black hole like Cooper did is nearly impossible due to astronomically huge gravity force.

2. Humans will end up killing ourselves if we don’t take care of this earth. The next habitable planet is so far away (more than 1200 light years away).

3. When people are desperate, they’ll believe anything like Professor Brand’s (Michael Caine) half-baked theories that got NASA to launch the mission and trick people into Kamikaze pilots.

4. Movies with half science and half myths (extrapolated truths) make good entertaining movies and get my wife and daughter asking whether any of them could be true.

Overall, it makes a pretty entertaining movie. I highly recommend it.

Posted by dstsai as Movies at 12:00 AM PST

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November 17th, 2014

Sprinkler Valve Leaks – How I Repaired and Replaced them

My neighbor and I have been chasing down the root cause of the water leaving out from the water meter into the street. It’s a serious offence now we’re in a serious drought here in California. We originally suspected that it was coming out of his main faucet. The water company (San Jose Water Co.) came out to inspect in the summer and fixed some gasket. Now it’s happening again. I then noticed that water was leaking out of my sprinkler valve. So I decided to fix it once and for all. I thought it was a simple task of cleaning the diaphragm. After I opened it it, I determined that the diaphragm was pretty worn out. Upon checking out the price of the diaphgragm (~$8) and comparing it to a new valve ($14), I decided to replace the entire valve instead. No sense replacing a sub par parts when I can get a brand new one. The challenge is to adapting the valve to the copper piping as PVC pipe is much easier to work with. Then I discovered the adjacent value was leaking very badly too. And it got more interesting…
Check out my video how I got the valve(s) replaced here:

Posted by dstsai as Gardening, Tips, Uncategorized at 12:00 AM PST

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November 13th, 2014

Unlock/Open Pump for Hand Soap, Face Wash, Detergent and Shampoo – A LearnByBlogging Quick Tip

This video shows how I fix the common pump problem for the hand soap, face wash, detergent, and shampoo. The pump when first purchased is usually locked to avoid leaking during transport and in display. Often, the pump would get stuck in the locked position despite your best effort to follow the instructions in turning counter-clock-wise to unlock it. The trick is to hold the neck/shoulder of the pump tight and turn the pump in the direction instructed (usually counter-clock-wise). For this particular Clean and Clear Face Wash, I spent more than 30 minutes unlocking it – not easy when I first purchased it.

Just a quick tip for you all, saving you from breaking the pump like I did on the previous one I bought. Enjoy!

Posted by dstsai as Tips at 12:00 AM PST

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November 9th, 2014

Movie Review: “Total Recall”

Posted by dstsai as Movies, Uncategorized at 12:00 AM PST

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November 7th, 2014

Movie Review: “A Space Odyssey 2001″

Posted by dstsai as Movies at 12:00 AM PST

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November 1st, 2014

Book Review: “The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind” by Michio Kaku

Reading this book is like reading a science fiction with real science explained by a real scientist. As a engineer, I particularly like Dr. Kaku’s technical ability to separate out the science from the fiction, especially on some of the popular scifi movies like iRobots, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Matrix, Total Recall, The Planet of the Apes, and etc. From the book, I can derive that the author must be a movie buffs. Many topics are covered in the book. You can check out a very summary speech video by Dr. Kaku in the videos list below:
Dr. Michio Kaku’s Speech at Microsoft
Dr. Michio Kaku’s Youtube Channel

Let me outline some of my takeaways from the book here:
1. Our brains are a truly amazing machine, capable of emotion, long-term and short-term memory, reasoning and simulating the future. It consists of more than 100 Billions neurons.

2. The brain is like a large corporation: 1) Most information is subconscious (CEO is not aware). 2) “Emotions” are rapid decisions made independently at a lower level. 3) There is a constant clamoring for the CEO’s attention. 4) Final decisions are made by the CEO in the command center (prefrontal cortex). 5) Information flows are hierarchical.

3. The author defined “Consciousness” as the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g. in temperature, space, time and relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g. mates, food, shelter). Three levels of consciousness: Level 1: reptiles-like feedback loop, Level 2: create a model of their place in space and relative to others (social animals with emotions). Level 3: Capable of simulating the future (like humans). Humor is a sign of Level 3 consciousness because of a surprise from our own simulating. Self-awareness is creating a model of the world and simulating the future in which you appear (limited by the “mirror test”).

4. Telepathy: Reading of the mind is possible through an MRI machine (which can be as small as a cell phone) and matching of the brain pattern against a “dictionary.”

5. Telekinesis (mind controlling matter): This is already possible using EEG and MRI to control external mechanical machines. The author talked about extending the control through the “brain-net”, total immersion in entertainment and exoskeletons, use of avatars and surrogates.

6. It’s now possible to record/download memory from the mice brain and then replay/upload to the mice. It’ll take a few decades to do that for humans, when people can shop for the knowledge they want and upload it. There are benefits to erase certain memory to cure post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). Once a person’s memory can be downloaded and uploaded, what’s preventing a person to live forever by leaving a legacy of memory and upload it to someone or some future avatar/surrogates? Provocative!

7. Photographic memory is due to the brain’s inability to forget, like a savant. Forgetting is an active process, requiring intervention by dopamine.

8. What separates us humans from chimpanzees are just 1.5% of genes. The critical ones are the HARI (folds our brain for more surface area), and ASPM (speech, language) genes. RIM-941 gene was discovered to be unique in homo sapiens only. Potentially, scientists could tweak the ASPM genes and allow humans to evolve to be more intelligent and turn chimpanzees into humans.

9. Due to thermal dynamics and energy conservation reasons, our human brain seems to be maxed out in term of intelligence level.

10. Dreams can potentially be projected into the contact lens of a sleeping person and enact a dream. Also dreams can be captured via MRI scans.

11. Many mental diseases like OCD are due to the various parts of the brain getting stuck in the infinite feedback loop. Sometimes an extra neutrotransmitter like serotonin can be given to reduce the symptom. They’re largely caused by the disruption of the delicate checks and balances between competing feedback loops that simulate the future (usually because one region of the brain is overactive or underactive). DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) has been used with some success.

12. On AI (Artificial Intelligence), today’s robots are at Level 1 (difficulty navigating in the real world) like a worm or slow insect. Robots need to have emotions, linked to consciousness, especially empathy valued by the owner and fear as a defense mechanism. The most difficult one is humor.

13. About reverse-engineering the brain, the author suggested 3 methods: 1) simulate the brain electronically with a computer, 2) map out the neutral pathways of living brains, 3) decipher the genes that control the brain development. By doing so, we may be to 1) find the origins of certain mental diseases, 2) pinpoint precisely which cluster of neurons are misfiring, 3) help AI, 4) determine how the long-term memories are stored, 5) allows immortality.

14. Predicted by Dr. Ray Kurzweil that by 2029, a $1000 PC will be a thousand times more powerful than the human brain, which can then be reverse-engineered. By 2055, $1000 PC will equal the processing power of all the humans on the planet. 2045 is the year of “singularity” when the machines will surpassed humans in intelligence. That’s a pretty brave prediction. I hope Intel to live up to that and I can live to see it happen.

15. Traveling in space may require us to transfer our consciousness via a light beam to an avatar/surrogate without our physical body as it’s limited by the harshness of space travel.

16. Our mind has been evolved to be the most intelligent wetware 1200 light year from the earth. We should be grateful how lucky we are to be living on this planet. Thanks to this 3-lbs flesh on our shoulders; it’s a real master piece.

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PST

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October 31st, 2014

Happy Halloween! Pumpkin Carving Contest at Work

Recorded this pumpkin carving contest at work.
Happy Halloween!

Posted by dstsai as Travels at 12:10 PM PST

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