Search within Lanny's blog:


Leave me comments so I know people are actually reading my blogs! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New year new beginning and new resolutions

Man, I can't believe it has been almost four years since I last posted any blogs. Time really flies!

First let me quickly summarize what I have been doing for the last three years and 8 months:
  • The first year or so was eventful and also a year of harvest. During this year: 
    • I turned 40.
    • I also had two surgeries (never had surgeries before, correlation or causation?).
    • I received two Black Belts, one in Taekwondo, and one in Hapkido.
    • I successfully defended my thesis and officially became Permanently Head Damaged! It is worth mentioning that I actually completed and got my dissertation approved on New Years Eve inside a hotel right next to Disneyland. Then as a celebration, I took my kids to Disneyland that night and enjoyed the new year count down party and watched the new year fireworks show.
    • I found a job I love after many rounds of traveling and interviews.
    • I bought a bigger house and moved in.
  • Then the next three years or so, I focused on building two "intelligent" entities:
    • Sky, the intelligent smart home assistant for my work, and
    • Philip, my dumb personal home butler. Philip is really just my house, and also has a second name Jane. The name Philip came from a great Chinese Sci-Fi/Wuxia novel by Maoni, which I am also translating from Chinese into English. The name Jane came from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game Series.
And because I was so busy with life and the above, I didn't really
  • Translate, or 
  • Blog, or
  • Sleep much.
But since now that Sky and Philip are both in relatively better shapes, I am hoping to be able to get back to the two things I enjoy very much: translate and blog. As it is the Chinese New Year right now, I figured that I'll make a list of my new year resolutions:
  • I will try to sleep more and have better sleep quality. This is my top priority.
  • I'd like to get back into routine translating. After all, it is another one of my life goal: to win (kind of) the Nebula Award with my translation.
  • I'd like to blog more. Blog about technology, AI, machine learning, robots, etc. In the past I tried to write too much and keep the bar high for each blog. This time I am going to just go with the flow. Hopefully a short summary of my thoughts on things I read can still be good reading resources for others and inspire them to be creative. If you haven't noticed, Lannyland is the land of imagination and creativity.
  • I'd like to read more on latest advancements on AI and machine learning. Hopefully this also results in more blogging.
  • I'd like to also get back into routine exercising. I am a black belt! I should stay a black belt!
  • I'd like to also find some time to play the piano once a while. 
So Happy Chinese New Year to your all, wish you all a very productive new year, and wish myself good luck adhering to my new year resolutions!!






It's never too late to follow your passion and love.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Outcast: Volume 1 Chapter 10

Volume One: Eastwood Is All Stones

Chapter 10: The twilight of blood

Xu Le had his reasons to be cautious. During the previous incidents, he was very sure that his electric prod was powerful enough to completely disable a human, but he could not guarantee the same thing against a stalwart wild buffalo.
What happened next proved that Xu Le was right. After he approached the giant dark brown bull, which was still lying on the ground twitching, the bull suddenly shot out a stream of air from its nostrils and kicked the ground hard with all four legs. The explosive move threw the bull off the ground back on its all fours and sent it charging toward Xu Le.
Xu Le squinted his eyes slightly, his face turned slightly pale again. It seemed as if he had been dumbstruck and simply froze there in terror. He was still holding that electric prod in his hand, but now a section of sharp blade had sprung out at the tip, and the prod now looked more like a military bayonet.
Instantly, the young lad had transformed his fear into a great power through the help of the release of a large quantity of adrenaline. At the most dangerous moment he turned his body. A gust of wind shot past his face as the raging bull charged past him. He forcefully opened his small eyes as wide as he could so he could see clearly every movement of the bull. Then, he stabbed downward firmly with the metal bayonet in his right hand!
Xu Le had excellent eyesight. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to maintain such excellent speed when it came to repairing appliances. As part of the package, his hands were also very steady. Therefore, the spot where the thin and long metal blade went in was just perfect.
……
……
A split second later, the metal bayonet was taken out of his grip by a tremendous force and stayed inside the bull’s neck two inches downward…blood began to drip.
With a loud bang, the raging bull, strong enough to withstand an electric prod, raced past Xu Le’s side in the most vicious style and crashed into a small slope in a magnificent way, sending more dirt and grass into the air.
Xu Le stared at the bull on the ground thoughtlessly. Only after a long silence, his legs finally stopped shaking and a touch a healthy redness finally returned to his cheeks. At the previous moment, he was indeed frightened, because today he didn’t expect the bull to have such a vigorous vitality and charge so viciously even after the powerful electric shock.
After a long quiet pause and still with lingering fear, he finally approached the bull cautiously. Having made sure the bull was already dead he carefully pulled out the dagger from the back of the bull’s neck.
The sharp tip of the dagger had completely destroyed the bull’s brainstem. Naturally the bull could no longer jump up to demonstrate its anger. Out of habit Xu Le squinted his eyes and glanced at the blood drops at the tip of the blade. The red liquid seemed to exhibit a faint shine in the murky and darkening dusk. He didn’t feel the slightest exhilaration or excitement from his success, instead, felt a bit of fright and an urge to evade.
“When can the Handle be used twice in a row?” he suddenly turned around and yelled loudly at the repair shop owner on the other side of the electric fence, his voice filled with complaint and anger.
The Handle – that was the name he chose for the electric prod plus dagger. The design of the metal weapon was truly delicate, but delicacy alone was not enough. After a full charge, it can only release an electric current once; far inferior compared to real military grade weapons of the same kind. Other than a very smooth curve at the handle, exceptionally comfortable for a tight grip, Xu Le didn’t find anything else attractive.
That was why he named it the Handle.
Had the electric prod been capable of releasing two electric currents in a row, the situation wouldn’t have been so hazardous at the previous moment. No wonder Xu Le showed no respect to Uncle Feng Yu, his teacher in electronics repair and the very designer of the Handle.
……
……
The design of the Handle was really flawed. The amperage of the output current was intentionally increased by twenty percent, resulting in the limitation of one usage per charge.
Feng Yu on the other side of the electric fence was well aware of all this. He could have easily resolved the flaw, but he never revealed it to Xu Le, nor corrected it himself – because that was how he wanted it to behave and how he wanted Xu Le to use it.
Since many years back, Feng Yu had always believed that it was no good for humans to rely too much on machines. Doing so would only obscure the possibility for the human race to peek deep into both the human body and the vast space. But he didn’t want to, at least not yet, have that discussion with Xu Le, so when he heard the young lad’s angry inquiry, he didn’t bother to reply and only grinned. Taking the almost flattened cigarette pack out from his jean pocket, he took one out, lit it, and then began enjoying himself.
Completely defeated, Xu Le turned back and lowered his body.
Feng Yu looked on as the young lad busied himself on the other side of the fence, bathing in the twilight of the dusk. He felt a throb somewhere deep in his heart. He was actually a very relentless man, or else he wouldn’t have run to such a far-off place like Eastwood all by himself.  The warm twilight shining against the dark sky in the background, the silhouette of a young lad butchering the buffalo meat in front of the reddened setting sun, and once in a while wiping the blood off his hands with his clothes…this was indeed a very bloody scene, but also a scene suffused with the beauty of life. All lives in the world followed the cycle of life and death.
With the cigarette still burning between his fingers, Feng Yu fell into a daze. He stared at the young lad waving his knife back and forth and couldn’t help but remember the scenes he had read from classical literature many years ago: In the harvesting season of autumn, farmers joyously reaped crops and survived off the remains of the plants; by the bonfire of the tribe, men and women joyously drank wine and chewed on the animal body parts they picked out from the fire.
A smile gradually crept onto Feng Yu’s lips. The joyous smile, together with his gray hair, seemed to have revealed his true age, and a sense of vicissitude.
He had always thought Xu Le was an interesting kid, because the kid seemed to have focused all his attention to those two dreams of his and never noticed his capabilities in other aspects, for example, his ability to kill a buffalo. Other than soldiers trained in the Special Forces, who else could have killed a buffalo with just a knife? Why else had buffalo meat always been rare on the black market?
Feng Yu remembered Xu Le’s earlier query and couldn’t help but grin more. Under the Federation government’s strict enforcement of arms regulations, which black market vendor would be bold enough to risk his life hunting buffalo?
That kid…was truly dumb sometimes. Didn’t he ever realize that they could run faster than a raging bull when they lured the buffalo away? Didn’t he ever realize that his ability to kill a buffalo with a single knife was something he could be more proud of than fixing a television?
“Damn it! Damn it…!” Xu Le cursed under the twilight as he continued the butchering task, overcoming the discomfort as best as he could. But eventually he couldn’t take it any longer. Hands on his hips, he began yelling at that shameless middle-aged uncle who just sat there and smoked his cigarette.
“This is over two hundred pounds not counting the bones. If you keep slacking off, when are we ever gonna have dinner?”
 All these talents the young lad named Xu Le had shown were not that impressive in Feng Yu’s eyes, because he had seen countless geniuses throughout his long life. However, the calmness and serenity Xu Le had displayed when he killed the bull earlier, something mismatched with his age – even though his legs shook and his face whitened from fear, he still exhibited calmness and serenity – was the trait Feng Yu admired the most.
In the meantime, that was also what Feng Yu would consider the most uninteresting trait of the young lad. Therefore, when he heard Xu Le cursing with profanity, he was actually quite pleased. With a smile as big as a wild lily, he stood up and gave his own bottom a gentle pat.


Now support the author Maoni by clicking this link, and support the translator Lanny by following my blog! :)

Video of the Day:

I have been learning Unity 3D these days for my own research. It is a great game engine. And now they are making the mobile development completely free. And you can download Android and iOS add-ons completely free! What a bunch of nice people!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

10 Famous Thought Experiments That Just Boggle Your Mind Part 7

Read Part 6: Galileo's Gravity Experiment

4. Monkeys and Typewriters

You probably have heard about the thing about monkeys and typewriters, it is called the “infinite monkey theorem,” also known as the “monkeys and typewriters” experiment. the theorem states that "a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare."

Sounds absurd? Counter-intuitive? That's for sure. But this is all about probability and infinity. The key idea is that even though the probability of such a thing happening is very, very tiny, the probability still exists.

In 2003, science students at a zoo in the U.K. “tested” the infinite monkey theorem when they put a computer and a keyboard in a primate enclosure. Unfortunately, the monkeys never got around to composing any sonnets. According to researchers, all they managed to produce was five pages consisting almost entirely of the letter “s.” Then the lead male began bashing the keyboard with a stone followed by other monkeys urinating and defecating on it.



The monkeys were supposed to be "random generators". And there's the possibility that randomly generated things might turn out to be good things. In Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning research, genetic algorithms and evolution algorithms are important tools/methods to try to find good solutions in vast state spaces where an exhaustive search is not possible. Such algorithms do need a little bit of "luck" and some extended time to compute, although they are not completely random, but use the help of fit functions to try to go toward the right direction of the solution. They also follow the greedy approach where any step that moves toward the direction of the goal is a good step (this is, however, not necessarily true for the optimal solution). So in a sense, we are systematically generating lots of digital "monkeys" to try to find that piece of wonderful work of Shakespeare. The idea behind this is that maybe given the limited time, we won't be able to achieve Shakespeare, but even if we can get something comparable to a 3rd-Grade level composition, it's a great success, because the creation of such work had no human involvement, it all came from AI.

Interestingly enough, some music writers and composers are prone to the idea of using computer software applications to randomly generate small pieces of music and help these random creations might give them ideas or inspirations of creating their own quality work. Of course the software-generated music were first filtered using AI to get rid of most of the obviously meaningless or bad sequences.


It is worth mentioning that one of the projects I've always want to complete is a Rap Lyric Generator. The idea is that given a music sequence (e.g., Twinkle Little Star music) and a topic (e.g., Robots are awesome), the program would automatically find words, sentences on the Internet that matches the given topic and also rhyme with each other, and then automatically generate lyrics and sing the lyrics using Rap style autonomously. Can you see that this also uses the idea of "digital monkeys" and "invisible typewriters"? However, just like many of my other great ideas, someone will probably beat me to it before I ever find time to work on it.


Read Part 8: The Chinese Room (Turing's Test)


Video of the Day:

Can monkeys make good coffee?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Joy of Life: Volume 1 Chapter 6

Volume One: The City by the Sea
-- written by Maoni


Chapter 6: The Man was a Guest

With an unconscious assassin lying on his bedroom floor, Fan Xian didn’t have any time for questions, so he said in a straight forward manner.
“Someone came to kill me. I knocked him unconscious, and he is still lying on the floor.”
The blind youngster turned his head slightly sideway. Although his heart skipped a beat, he didn’t show any expression on his face. He lowered his head in a salute.
“What is Young Master Fan joking about?”
“There’s no time for playing serenity right now. You have to take care of me.”
With a broad grin, Fan Xian grabbed hold of the blind youngster’s hand and started pulling him toward the Count’s Manor, thinking to himself, “Still pretending that you don’t know me? Whatever! Not right now. Let’s go!”
“The Young Master is still talking nonsense.”
The blind youngster knitted his brow slightly as though he was baffled by how the little kid could have known his relationship to the kid – at the time when he had delivered Fan Xian to Port Danzhou in a swaddle, Fan Xian had only been a few months old, and shouldn’t have remembered anything about it – Could the Old Madame at the Count’s Manor have told Fan Xian about him?
It was very late. The night was silent with only a few occasional shrill dog barks toward people getting into the wrong house after late bathroom runs.
The blind youngster Five-Bamboo finally moved. With the still blank and apathetic face, he shut the door of the grocery store and began walking toward the Count’s Manor. Fan Xian let out a big sigh of relief and then quickly followed behind in small steps.
When the two arrived at the Count’s Manor, they went inside through the dog hole. Once they were inside Fan Xian’s bedroom, the blind youngster “looked” at the still unconscious assassin on the floor.
Fan Xian stared at the man on the floor nervously, not knowing whether the man was dead or alive. So he turned around and asked.
“Uncle Five-Bamboo, why didn’t you come to see me in the last several years and always kept yourself inside the grocery store?”
The blind youngster named Five-Bamboo turned his head slightly sideways once again and only spoke after a long pause.
“My Young Lord, you really surprise me.”
He was indeed caught by surprise. Although he had expected the kid to be naturally out of the ordinary since he carried the bloodline of Her Ladyship, but Five-Bamboo had never imagined a four-year-old to behave with such maturity and was even capable of…successfully plotting against Mr. Fei from the Capital City.
“Let’s deal with this guy first,” Fan Xian suggested. With quite some effort he managed to flip the assassin on the floor over and removed his cloth mask, revealing the true identity of the assassin.
The assassin had a very thin face and appeared to be quite old. The beard under his chin looked like it was already turning gray, but for some unknown reason, the grayish color was mixed with some spooky green, which made the beard look somewhat disgusting.
Fan Xian was startled. He quickly hid behind Uncle Five-Bamboo and grabbed his sleeve.
“Uncle, this assassin is ugly!” he mumbled with a bitter face.
“This is Mr. Fei, the Assistant Director of the Empire Bureau of Investigation Third Division.” Five-Bamboo squatted down slowly and reached for the assassin’s lower jaw. “He was considered to be one of the top three poison masters in the entire world. He is skilled in deploying, distinguishing, and detoxifying various poisons. A formidable one he is indeed, yet you took care of him with a mere porcelain pillow. I wonder whether you were really lucky or he was really unlucky.”
“He was really unlucky,” Fan Xian thought to himself.
Although he was quite surprised by the fame and high status of the man on the floor, he had to admit that the man was truly unlucky to have met him, a monster with lives from two worlds in the disguise of a young kid.
“Don’t touch him with your hands. What if there’s poison on his body?” Fan Xian reminded the blind youngster Five-Bamboo.
Five-Bamboo did not stop his action, neither did he explain. Fan Xian somehow got the feeling that this was his way of making a statement: There is nothing in this world poisonous enough to kill him.
“Uncle, what do we do with him?” Fan Xian asked with a bitter face, knitting his brow intensely.
He was not the natural socializer type. However, in this world, the blind youngster was the first person he had ever known and the only person he could trust wholeheartedly. Besides, he knew how capable the youngster was in his Kung Fu skills, so he deliberately acted even more lovable and respectful, never sparing any opportunity to address him as uncle.
He glanced all over and finally fixed his stare on the dagger. He ground his teeth hard and the idea of stabbing this Mr. Fei to death soon occupied his entire mind.
Noticing Fan Xian’s intention, Five-Bamboo stood up and shook his head.
“Your temperament is so different from Her Ladyship. How can you be so cruel at such a young age? Who taught you?”
“I taught myself,” answered Fan Xian respectfully, having no guts to offend the Kung Fu master, the only one he could lay his trust in. “I know uncle has been staying in the grocery store all these years so he can protect me. I also know that uncle only stayed away from the Count’s Manor because he is afraid that my mother’s enemies might find me here through him. That’s why I had to learn to be cruel myself.”
Five-Bamboo shook his head again and didn’t speak.
Fan Xian could tell that his mother’s servant plus Kung Fu master had grown suspicious of him, so he asked with a cackle, “Uncle, what should we do now?”
His intention was obvious: maybe Uncle Five-Bamboo should take care of the serious business such as killing. But Five-Bamboo’s reply caught him by surprise.
“Young Master, you made a mistake. You hit the wrong man.”
“What? Wrong man?”
Fan Xian froze in great shock. He slowly turned toward the assassin lying on the floor and gazed at his blood-stained face in disbelief.
“What’s done is done. No need to worry,” Five-Bamboo declared calmly. “Mr. Fei is the Assistant Director of the Third Division in the Empire Bureau of Investigation. But he also has a secret identity… Actually he works for someone who works for your father. Therefore he didn’t come to Port Danzhou to kill you. If he had really come to kill you, I believe you would have died many times already, regardless of how skillful you are.”
Now Fan Xian remembered. The assassin lying on the floor seemed to have mentioned before that he was sent by Fan Xian’s father, but….
……
……
“Damn, he looked totally like T-Bag[1]. Who’s gonna believe a dirty old man like him?”


For the past many years, Mr. Fei Jie[2] had always stayed in the research institute of the Empire Bureau of Investigation at the Capital City. Although with fine titles such as Master of Poison and such, at the age over fifty, he was already kind of semi-retired. If it had not been because of the request from an influential person asking him to come to Port Danzhou to teach, and of course it was a request he did not have the courage to reject, he would never have left the Capital City and made the journey.
He had never expected to be greeted with two heavy strikes on his head, which drew half a bowl of blood and almost ended his old life, when he met his student for the first time.
He stared at the young boy in front of him only to discover that the boy’s face had innocence and loveliness written all over it. The two big eyes blinked again and again as if they carried a sense of fear and shame. Such a lovable small face, together with the young boy’s important status, successfully prevented him from blowing off his stomach full of anger onto the little kid.
When he turned his head and spotted a servant-like man, he finally found a vent for his anger.
“Hey! You! Untie me quickly! I am Mister Fei, a private tutor the Count invited himself,” he yelled.
However, the servant seemed to be even more arrogant than him. Paying no attention to his demand, the man said coldly, “I don’t recall the agreement I had with your superior included the part where you play the role of a teacher.”
“Mr. Five?” Fei Jie opened his gloomy and queer eyes wide and took a good glimpse of the servant-like man. Then he was shocked. “Mr. Five, it’s you!”
Hearing the assassin calling himself Fei Jie[3] after he regained his consciousness, Fan Xian found the entire matter truly obscure.



[1] Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, a fictional character from the American television series Prison Break.
[2] The name Fei Jie sounds like another Chinese word that means obscure or unintelligible. Picking this name shows the author’s humor.
[3] “Fei Jie” means obscure and difficult to understand in Chinese.

Now support the author Maoni by clicking this link, and support the translator Lanny by following my blog! :)

Video of the Day:

The iPhone 5 (Parody) Ad: A Taller Change


Sunday, December 02, 2012

10 Famous Thought Experiments That Just Boggle Your Mind Part 6

Read Part 5: The Ship of Theseus

5. Galileo's Gravity Experiment

In order to refute Aristotle’s claim that the speed of a falling object is dictated by its mass, Galileo devised a simple thought experiment:

According to Aristotelian logic, if a light object and a heavy object were tied together and dropped off a tower, then the heavier object would fall faster, and the rope between the two would become taut. This would allow the lighter object to create drag and slow the heavy one down. But Galileo reasoned that once this occurs, the weight of the two objects together should be heavier than the weight of either one by itself, therefore making the system as a whole fall faster. This contradiction proved that Aristotle’s hypothesis was wrong.

One of the most famous stories about Galileo is that he once dropped two metal balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa to prove that heavier objects do not fall faster than lighter ones. In actuality, this story is probably just a legend. However an astronaut did perform this famous Galileo test with a hammer and a feather in vacuum with low gravity on the surface of the moon (see video below).



So what can I learn from this thought experiment? As a Computer Science researcher, many times it is easier for me to just sit down and code up experiments. But sometimes it might be a good idea to stand up and then write down the math formulations on the whiteboard. Simplifying the math calculations or jog down some proofs can actually dramatically reduce the amount of coding I have to do and also improve the performance of my algorithms. Of course, if I could do all these in my head it would be wonderful, but I am no Galileo, and I also have severe short-term memory deficit -- a strong sign and that I am almost ready to graduate!

Read part 7: Monkeys and Typewriters



Video of the Day:

Air Swimmers -- a fun "robot" toy for parties! You can get them here.