I hate mornings

I really hate mornings. I'm getting up early every day so I can cycle more during daylight, which means getting up at 6AM, packing up and leaving at 7AM. That's what I did today. Thanks to the early wakeup I already did 60ks before lunch, but it just doesn't feel like fun until at least two hours have passed. The first hour I'm not woken up at all, and the second hour I'm ready to go but I still have to get into it. It's also still very cold. The cold was one reason that I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. I went to bed early but I kept on waking up because of the cold. Another reason that I didn't get a lot of sleep is that the place I chose was more popular than I imagined, and several people walked by before I went to bed. This made me a bit paranoid because I was not supposed to sleep there, so I jumped at every noise and poked my head out of my tent to see if anybody was there. As a result I slept late because of the noise and woke up early because of the cold.

I was hoping I would start to like mornings more now that I have to wake up early every day. I've always been an evening person. It seems that won't change.

Camping again tonight!

Posted in Spirit of Japan | Tagged , ,

Snow!

This is how my bicycle looked like in the morning.

I never expected this to happen. I woke up at 7, seeing a lot of light through the window of my icy cold room. I thought it was sunshine, but no. Everything is covered with snow, and when I left one hour later it was still snowing. I don't really have any clothes fit for this kind of weather. I asked at the local conbini if they sold scarves, but the conbini lady told me that they don't have them in this season. She said "this snow if kind of special". (kono yuki ha tokubetsu). Indeed. I didn't want my face to freeze off so I used a towel instead, and sunglasses against the snowflakes which kept hitting my eyes.

Criminal

Strangely enough this day has been the most fun on this trip so far. The roads are mostly flat, slightly uphill or slightly downhill, and cycling is easy. Besides that, the snow made the landscape very beautiful. It's colder here, so the sakura are still blossoming, and today I witnessed sakura trees covered in snow. Beautiful.

Winter Sakura

I'm at a roadside resting place right now, just finished eating curry udon, which was the best meal I've had in months. I'm getting used to my daily routine of getting up early and preparing the bicycle, then cycling all morning, finding a resting place for lunch, and then deciding where to stay for the night. I just booked a hostel that's even cheaper than the one I stayed at yesterday. I wonder how that will turn out. From here on I'll travel downhill all the way until the coastline. More later!

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Lessons...

Lessons learned installing an English version of WinXP on my netbook:

  • If something fails, it fails bad. The only easy way of recovering is completely reinstalling from the recovery partition.
  • Installing drivers for the mobile internet USB stick thingie is tricky: press the wrong button once and the driver installation dialog will never appear again. It seems that the USB stick automatically installs drivers on insertion, but it only works once. Forunately I had a copy of the driver from my old installation of XP, which I had backed up with Norton Ghost.
  • Windows XP automatic updates are evil. Don't install anything except the security updates. In my case I accidentally OKed the install of IE8, after which I got a blue screen during startup that could in no possible way be fixed. As a more generic message: always make a backup right before you make an important change ┬áto your system. If you group a bunch of important updates together, you'll be very, very annoyed if the last update turns out to crash your PC.
  • The battery on the 1101HA does indeed last 8+ hours (tested under load by downloading and installing updates, backing up harddisks and installing Windows...)

Lessons learned trying to cycle to the seaside on a cold January night:

  • January nights are cold
  • Seriously! Cold!
  • Dress properly. There is no excuse for this. I didn't wear enough and I felt very cold halfway through, despite pedaling like a maniac.
  • Always bring enough warm clothes with you on a trip!
  • For energetic cycling: listening to music helps greatly, but the selection matters a lot. In my case, listening to Eurobeat mixes is great cause the song changes every 3 minutes or so, which forces you to attention. The speed is high but in my case it matches my speed well. I tried listening to Dragonforce tonight, but the songs are too long, and the pace is too high and doesn't match my cycling speed. For cycling, Eurobeat == good, Dragonforce == bad.

And that nearly concludes my holidays. Tomorrow is the last day before going back to work. I'm certainly going to miss sleeping in. I think that recently my quality of sleep (QoS) has been absolutely perfect. It hasn't been this good since I attended university some five years ago :D

Posted in Cycling , Daily Life , Tech | Tagged , , ,

Healthy again!

I'm healthy again! After several months of near-cold experience, finally the cold broke out and I was sick for a couple of days. Today I'm starting to feel better again ^_^

Unrelated picture: a love hotel stands between home and work for me every morning. They recently improved their appearance a bit, although their English failed to meet the standard.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged , ,

There's never any earthquakes in winter

Yesterday was a great day that didn't feel like winter at all, so I said "winter is supposed to be cold, cloudy and rainy". Today it's cold, cloudy and rainy. Let's see what happens with the statement in this post's title.

As human cultures are becoming more and more developed they start to find out how and why things work. For example, if you lived in the middle ages and caught a fever, people would probably know the procedure of healing, but they wouldn't be able to tell why. The whole process of becoming a more advanced civilization involves analyzing a problem and something that affects the problem, either negatively or positively, finding out the true reason behind it and using that information to improve life in some way. You can imagine this happening when fighting disease, but also in technical areas like bridge building and other architecture. The formula is quite simple: analyze something that you implicitly know is true, find out why it's true, and use that information to improve something.

Interestingly enough programmers, whom you would expect to be the first to accept this scientific approach to things, are doing the exact opposite. Instead of going from something vague to something clearly defined we are resorting to a simulation of the way our own vague brains work when trying to solve complex problems like speech or image recognition. We take that beautiful, efficient and exact world and use a neural network to simulate the way a human brain would judge things. The beauty of this is that it actually works, and gets much better results in a wide area of expertise than most exact alternatives. Yet somehow that doesn't quite satisfy.

Are neural networks and genetic programming just a quick fix to solve problems that are too complex for us to think about? A book I'm reading currently by Ray Kurzweil suggests otherwise. Kurzweil suggests that the only problem humans are supposed to solve is that of creating an intelligence smarter than us, and if we cannot understand that intelligence then that's ok, because we're not supposed to. It's the whole my-children-understand-how-to-use-the-tv-remote-and-I-don't story applied to a grander scale. I rather don't like it.

Take image recognition for example (or speech recognition if you will). I believe that an algorithm developed and tuned by hand by the smartest scientists in their particular field would perform better than a dumb neural network being trained with a bunch of training data. The problem is time. For a human being to create such an algorithm it may take a lifetime, or it may never happen, depending on the complexity of the task. At some level our human brains just can't keep up any more, and suddenly it pays off to brute-force the solution with a neural network or a hidden markov model. We're working on improving our tools, but we're not working on improving ourselves.

If the human brain could work faster, or could process more information simultaneously, then the range of problems that we could solve would be increased. If we spent more time studying the fuzzy logic of our brains, then in the long term we might be able to create better exact solutions to the problems that are troubling us right now. That topic would lead us in the direction of genetic engineering, but let's save that for another time.

It takes a fuzzy human brain to understand the art in exact solutions.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts | Tagged , , ,