Oklahoma, the Musical

January 28, 2016

I was reading an article online about some extreme anti-homosexual laws being proposed in Oklahoma. Then I read this in the comments:

If Oklahoma wants to seem less gay, it should not have it’s own Broadway musical, I think

I busted out laughing…


Dumbo Real Estate Gone Mad

January 27, 2016

This place is a couple blocks from my office. Dumbo is super hot right now, 3,000 square feet is huge for Brooklyn and it looks gorgeous. But $4.5 million? Ouch.

AlphaGo: Mastering the Ancient Game of Go

January 27, 2016

This is a big step for artificial intelligence.

The folks at Google have created a program that can compete at the elite level in Go. If you aren’t familiar with Go, it has a level of complexity greater than chess:

The search space in Go is vast — more than a googol times larger than chess (a number greater than there are atoms in the universe!). As a result, traditional “brute force” AI methods — which construct a search tree over all possible sequences of moves — don’t have a chance in Go. To date, computers have played Go only as well as amateurs. Experts predicted it would be at least another 10 years until a computer could beat one of the world’s elite group of Go professionals.

That prediction was less than 2 years ago, so a bit off.

So how strong is AlphaGo? To answer this question, we played a tournament between AlphaGo and the best of the rest – the top Go programs at the forefront of A.I. research. Using a single machine, AlphaGo won all but one of its 500 games against these programs. In fact, AlphaGo even beat those programs after giving them 4 free moves headstart at the beginning of each game. A high-performance version of AlphaGo, distributed across many machines, was even stronger.

So on to the next challenge:

It seemed that AlphaGo was ready for a greater challenge. So we invited the reigning 3-time European Go champion Fan Hui — an elite professional player who has devoted his life to Go since the age of 12 — to our London office for a challenge match. The match was played behind closed doors between October 5-9 last year. AlphaGo won by 5 games to 0 — the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional Go player.

Next AlphaGo will play the top Go player in the world. But regardless of the outcome, this is a really big deal that will span far beyond gaming.

We are thrilled to have mastered Go and thus achieved one of the grand challenges of AI. However, the most significant aspect of all this for us is that AlphaGo isn’t just an ‘expert’ system built with hand-crafted rules, but instead uses general machine learning techniques to allow it to improve itself, just by watching and playing games. While games are the perfect platform for developing and testing AI algorithms quickly and efficiently, ultimately we want to apply these techniques to important real-world problems. Because the methods we have used are general purpose, our hope is that one day they could be extended to help us address some of society’s toughest and most pressing problems, from climate modelling to complex disease analysis.

Snow Patio

January 26, 2016

I’m not sure why, but this picture amuses me. It’s the luxury condo building across the street from my office.

No cooking out anytime soon…


Change is not Good

January 25, 2016

Some change anyway. The owner of the most popular Middle Eastern Import store in the neighborhood is retiring after 51 years.

One of Atlantic Avenue’s longest-standing businesses, Sahadi’s has grown to three storefronts, offering more than 250 cheese varieties and a counter of house-made Middle Eastern eats, among some 5,000 other globally imported products. Colorful jars containing familiar and foreign nuts, candies and other sweets bring an old-school appeal to the shop, which is beloved by locals old and new.

We have friends who moved from Brooklyn who basically demand we bring the spicy hummus from Sahadi’s if we visit. I’m munching on pumpkin seeds from one of those jars as I type this.

Thankfully his kids have no big changes planned:

“Very little change will be visible to the customers, because the customers are happy,” Christine told the Observer, noting that visible differences will likely end at a new coat of paint.

The place is a Brooklyn institution…

Snowboard the Blizzard

January 24, 2016


The Aftermath

January 24, 2016

There will be plenty of digging out after this storm.

That is 0.1 inches below the all time record for Central Park (set the single day record) and was the record at Kennedy Airport. Williamsburg is the closest area to me.

Glad that isn’t my bike:


Plenty of snow, but the street is plowed: