Technical posts on social media

For a long time, I used to blog here on eclectic topics, and use the WDSS-II Blog for work-related posts but when I joined Climate Corporation, blogging pretty much stopped -- it was unclear what I could write about and what I couldn't.  The only blog post I ended up writing was on Climate's Engineering blog (Big Data, Cloud and NOAA's CRADA with AWS) and even this involved lengthy legal approval.  Incidentally, years after I left NSSL, I notice that mine was the last post, and months after I left Climate, I notice that my team's posts are the last posts.

At Google, too, my first instinct was to write a programming-related post on the Google Cloud Platform Big Data blog (How to forecast demand using Google BigQuery, public datasets, and TensorFlow) but it seemed out of place amidst product and launch announcements.

That's when I looked around to see what my media-savvy colleagues were up-to. Based on this, I diversified in two ways.

First was into video series. For example, I scripted the idea and wrote the code that underlies this episode (Querying across big and small datasets using Google BigQuery and Sheets). Video might be the wave of the future -- 2400 views in a matter of days is amazing.  As you can see from my description, though, videos require teams -- scripting, recording, animation, etc.  It is definitely more work than simply writing code and text.

The other option is to publish on medium -- it's individually driven like a typical blog post, but technical posts are not out-of-place. Also, there is a community of Google Developer Advocates on there to publicize the posts.  So, I signed up and published my first medium post this weekend:

Open-source Java Projects that could use some help (analyzed using Dataflow and BigQuery)

For good measure, I tweeted it too:

Which open-source Java projects could use your help [tweet]

Together, this seems to be a good strategy.

Follow me on YouTube, Medium and Twitter.

Bridge over jet lag

My recipe to fight jet lag has always been to adjust on the plane to the timezone that I'm flying into.  So, if I'm going to be landing at night, I'll stay awake in the flight, and if I'm arriving in the afternoon, I'll sleep intermittently so that I can go to bed at a decent hour.

Early morning arrivals are hard, however.  It requires me to sleep non-stop on the plane, and even multiple glasses of wine can't do that for me.

So, my backup is that when I arrive early in the morning, I try to be out-and-about the whole day so that my circadian clock gets back in sync.

My bridge blog has the details of how I fought the jet lag this time.

Ian McEwan, bridge and restricted choice

I am reading Ian McEwan's novel "The Sweet Tooth" and was surprised to see an excellent explanation of a complex logic puzzle in it.  And even more surprised when the author shows off by building a slightly-wrong vignette based on the puzzle, and a better vignette that corrects the problem.

My respect for Mr. McEwan has gone up several fold now. Full details in my bridge blog (don't worry you should understand almost all of it).

Purple Radar

If you were driving along Robinson St. in Norman today, you'd see a purple radar dome.

My former colleagues at OU/NSSL got together and painted the phased array radar (PAR) purple in honor of a key PAR scientist who is going through cancer treatment right now. As someone remarked on Facebook, there's a lot of love in that picture.

On a week when OU is in the national news because of a group of fraternity boys singing songs about niggers hanging from trees, the purple radar reminds me of the thoughtfulness and camaraderie that I associate with my nearly 20 years in Oklahoma.

Swastikas on the wall of a Hindu temple

Apparently someone painted a hateful symbol on the wall of the Seattle area Hindu temple.

The ironic thing is that the graffiti in question was a swastika. Swastikas were of course Hindu symbols long before Hitler got hold of it. Even though the Nazi symbol is a mirror image of the Hindu swastika, many Hindu temples in America use the Hindi letter for Om in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

If caught, a smart lawyer could probably plead the symbol was not meant in a harmful way and that the swastika was drawn on a wall where it was quite apt. Hope however that the graffiti artist was drawing in da Vinci code.

Three-commute day

Today, I commuted to work twice.  Huh?

My usual commute is to ride the bike (at 6.45 am) to a freeway station and catch an express bus to Seattle. At about 7.10am, I got a call from home.  The wife could not find the car keys.

Turns out I had been even less sharp than usual this morning when I left for work.  I had left home with both set of car keys, one in each jeans pocket.  Mine and the wife's.

In the mornings, the express routes and the bus lines are all oriented towards getting to downtown. Coming back is another matter altogether.  Luckily there was a bus at 7.25am that stopped somewhat in the vicinity of home.  So, I took that bus, bicycled home, returned the car keys and caught the next bus back to the city. I was back at work at 8.40 am.  Not bad for two roundtrips on public transit.

The funny thing?  Because all my bus rides were within 2 hours of the start of my journey, the remaining 3 trips all counted as "transfers" and all four journeys together cost $3.00.

Cranks make testable predictions

Working in severe weather, I have gotten used to getting the occassional email from cranks, even ones with credentials that make you want to take them seriously. For example, a couple of years ago, I was pestered repeatedly by a professor of civil engineering at a well-known university.  He claimed to be able to predict the path of tornadoes based on terrain, and it was all I could do to deter him from coming to Norman to talk to our group.

And of course, there was the infamous physics professor who wanted to build a wall in the Great Plains forgetting that there are mountain ranges that high in the Midwest that do nothing to stop 'em twisters.

But the email I got today was a first.  The crank makes a testable prediction:

We , at Swami Hardas Foundation, India,  have developed a  super advanced calamity forecast technology, which is capable of forecasting  calamities  much ahead of other technologies. The following are our latest likely predictions :1)    Severe storm at eastern Alabama likely around 26th January, 20152)    Mount Fuji , Japan is likely to start spewing lava during the last week of March,2015. There may be emission of smoke, debris etc during the weeks prior to it.

Since when have cranks started making testable predictions?  Since severe storms are more prevalent in Alabama starting in March, this is not a climatological prediction.  And while there have been a few small earthquakes near Fuji, and the Japanese have evacuation plans in place, there is no heightened state of alarm.