Winter is coming... all over your country.
But it does make for some beautiful scenery.
As I'm going to be moving away from here soon, I decided to put my precious bicycle into storage in the attic at my dad's working place. Cycling there at -1C made it seem a lot farther away than I remembered, and my feet froze off. I also realized once more that my stamina completely disappeared because I didn't exercise at all during the past three months. All that built-up stamina from cycling around Japan, gone. I'm a little sad about that.
Winter started early this year. I can't remember the last time I was in Holland seeing snow in November. Ah, I miss Japan's warm winters... The sky would be a clear blue and it wouldn't be too cold to cycle. Although Japan's summer is probably worse than Holland's in terms of temperature and humidity, I'd say that Holland's winter is worse than Japan's summer. I realize that does not make a lot of sense.
A busy week next week. I'll be moving out soon.
It seems my GPS decided to give up after less than an hour of cold, and it seemed to be wonky for the first few minutes. Anyway, here's the log. Too bad that it didn't record the downhill, because it was quite a nice route.
I made a lot of photos today, so I shared them on Picasa:
Today has been awesome! The snow was an unwelcome surprise at first, but once I got used to it I quite enjoyed cycling in the snow. The scenery was excellent all along the way. I also left some useless stuff at the last hostel, so I'm traveling lighter now, and probably with a better weight distribution as well. Climbing hills is noticeably easier today! The downhill was freezing, but the pace was high so I could see a lot of things along the way. Finding a hostel like this is great too, these kind of places are exactly the ones that I am looking for. Entertaining places with a lot of history, that almost nobody knows about or would look for. Forget the touristy places, hostels like these are the attraction for me.
All the good things come with a price tag though, and in this case it's distance. I underestimated my speed and booked a hostel quite close to me, meaning I'd already reached it by early afternoon, wasting a couple of hours of cycling time. In return I got some awesome photos and a very nice time under the kotatsu (table with heating element), so I'm happy with this. Now the longest uphill climb is done, and it's safe to say that it will never be as cold again as today. From here on I can relax! :D
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.
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.
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!
Sometimes unexpected things happen. It's been sunny here for the past few months, with occasional heat waves of ~15C in mid-winter, yet today it suddenly started to snow. The tides, they are a-changin'...
It's hard to believe how much my view of my life and the future has changed in the past few days. Almost instantly my worldview changed from a very positive one into a very negative one. It's hard to go into details here, but suffice to say that everything that I thought was true about my life, isn't. I'm shocked. I need to re-evaluate what the hell I'm doing with my life...
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.