Happy New Year!


It was a pretty decent year, not without downs by any means, but certainly with many ups. It was a different year. It was a year of relatively little work (and motivation, alas), peace and solitary, and I finally managed to push health up from the dead bottom of the priority list. Wooo being an adult.


  • I got alone time (woah)! I got away from it all for a few months, and took the opportunity to take time for myself — read, game, think, whatever. I absolutely loved Pride and Prejudice, which was a total surprise to me. I found exercise I enjoy! Swimming and hiking! And renewed interest in learning Chinese!
  • I traveled alone (briefly) for the first time! Kyoto was possibly one of the best choices for this because it gave me the opportunity to spend as damn long as I pleased to stare into the raked piles of sand and rock. On the other hand, I became very quickly tired of not being able to understand Japanese, so much so that I actually very much welcomed the fact that the temples were swarming with Chinese tourists.
  • I killed my too-many-years-old email habit (checking email every 5 minutes)! I tried many many things, but the biggest thanks (or the last straw) goes to Inbox by Google, which allowed me to throttle the email pipe, subsequently making email uneventful (and boring) enough for me to wean myself off. My brother poses an interesting question — what bad habit has replaced it?
  • And I gave my first ever conference talk in Kobe, Japan! The conference was super fun, and I met a lot of cool and fun people. It was also awesome that the conference folks took us out to see the longest suspension bridge in the world — perfect for a transportation crowd!
  • A few friends from the department got together for our first magazine article!
  • The year certainly ended on a strong note; not sure where that came from at all, but I’m very glad for it. NIPS15 was definitely my favorite conference yet and a great way to end the year — fun, inspiring, welcoming, and pleasantly surprising throughout. Afterwards, I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to NYC to see friends old and older, stumbling into a TV show set, getting a sneak peak behind the scenes of the MTA (thanks robj!), and asking the secret service if Bill Clinton would please sign his book (they said no). And of course, we had lots of family time at home — watching the Star Wars trilogy and prequel in preparation.


  • I grew up a little, learned a bunch about people and their motivations; I learned some things about my place in the world, so to say. And I learned even more about mental illness, depression, anxiety. But I’ll spare you the details.
  • I finally tried out online dating! There was definitely a novelty factor, but I’m pretty mixed on presuming structure on the dating process. I can see how it’s desirable for some people, but it might not be for me.


  • I spend a fraction of it being stressed and unhappy about my work, and I got sick because of it for a while.
  • I also spent most of the year not enjoying the things I usually enjoy or otherwise not doing them for some reason that escapes me — cooking, art, socializing, partying/hosting, etc.

Thanks to all of you, who were a part of this year. 🙂 And the downs are really opportunities in disguise, paving the path to trying new things, different things.

Onwards to 2016

Last year, I may have leaned too far in the direction of keeping to myself, though I enjoy many aspects of it still. This year, I hope, will be a year of balance. I look forward to getting better in touch with friends. I look forward to teaching at Berkeley for the first time. I look forward to awesome and unknown projects — with friends, internships, and beyond. I look forward to reinvigorated research projects and findings, with research collaborations new and old. Everything is a learning process, and I’m grateful for this mindset.

Finally, these aren’t really resolutions for the new year, but reminders and intentions:

Finish what you start
Sharing is caring
You must be the change you wish to see in the world

Why One Silicon Valley City Said “No” to Google – Next City

Beautiful article, nice graphics.

Even when they do get the benefits they want, a small municipality has reason to fear becoming heavily reliant on one big player. After all, Mountain View once had Intel and Sun Microsystems; Hewlett-Packard packed up its Cupertino office in 2012. That’s a big loss to a tiny city, but the region remains largely unchanged. Mountain View may not want millions more square feet of Google office space and the community benefits that come with it, but another town just down the road likely will.

Big companies in small cities are bound to exert some of their own power, either purposefully or passively. Much of this seems inevitable — it’s how this valley was named “Silicon” decades ago. But these companies are no longer dealing just in silicon. Regardless of Google’s loss in North Bayshore, soon Mountain View will feature Google-designed cars running on Google-funded roads planned by Google-paid city engineers. Where they once built semiconductors and software, tech is shaping the future of human communication, infrastructure, transit, law and collective lived experience — all the things that make up a city.

via Why One Silicon Valley City Said “No” to Google – Next City.

Budget bill heads to President Obama’s desk with CISA intact

Privacy is killed once more.

Update: As expected, President Obama has just signed the bill, enacting both the $1.1 trillion budget and CISA.

In a nutshell, CISA was meant to allow companies to share information on cyber attacks — including data from private citizens — with other companies and the Department of Homeland Security. Once DHS had all the pertinent details, they could be passed along to the FBI and NSA for further investigation and, potentially, legal action.

[A] previously held prohibition against sharing information with the NSA has been removed… More importantly, the provision that required personal information to be scrubbed from cybersecurity reports also seems to have gone missing, leaving that task up to the discretion of which ever agency gets their hands on it. While the federal government has been trying to toughen its stance on cybersecurity in the wake of massive hacks on the Office of Personnel Management and Sony, we wound up with an even more effete version of a questionable plan that will soon become law.

via Budget bill heads to President Obama's desk with CISA intact.


HT Ankur

George Hotz Is Taking on Tesla by Himself

Comma.ai’s prototype offers similar prospective features as Tesla (Level 3 automation).

The goal is to sell the camera and software package for $1,000 a pop either to automakers or, if need be, directly to consumers who would buy customized vehicles at a showroom run by Hotz. “I have 10 friends who already want to buy one,” he says.

Sounds like a Chinese knockoff!

A friend introduced him to Musk, and they met at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., talking at length about the pros and perils of AI technology. Soon enough, the two men started figuring out a deal in which Hotz would help develop Tesla’s self-driving technology. There was a proposal that if Hotz could do better than Mobileye’s technology in a test, then Musk would reward him with a lucrative contract. Hotz, though, broke off the talks when he felt that Musk kept changing the terms. “Frankly, I think you should just work at Tesla,” Musk wrote to Hotz in an e-mail. “I’m happy to work out a multimillion-dollar bonus with a longer time horizon that pays out as soon as we discontinue Mobileye.”

“I appreciate the offer,” Hotz replied, “but like I’ve said, I’m not looking for a job. I’ll ping you when I crush Mobileye.”

Musk simply answered, “OK.”


via George Hotz Is Taking on Tesla by Himself.

Los Angeles Just Proposed the Worst Use of License Plate Reader Data in History. — Medium

The article itself has a high amount of emotional content, but the idea is to use license plate reader data to trace potential solicitors of prostitution.

Idea posed by Nury Martinez, a 6th district Los Angeles city councilwoman, to access a database of license plates captured in certain places around the city, translate these license plates to obtain the name and address of each owner, and send to that owner a letter explaining that the vehicle was seen in, “an area known for prostitution.”

via Los Angeles Just Proposed the Worst Use of License Plate Reader Data in History. — Medium.

LA Auto Show: Quanergy Systems – News Releases

Quanergy Systems, Inc. will introduce in early 2016 the world’s first solid state LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor for self-driving cars for less than $1,000 per car, it was announced today at the Los Angeles Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo.

8-beam solid state (vs mechanical) LiDAR

via LA Auto Show: Quanergy Systems – News Releases.

HT NextBigFuture

Basic income: how Finland plans to implement the first nation-wide project in the EU | Finland Politics

Historically and presently, there is (reasonable) opposition to such ideas:

The reasons for the opposition by the Social Democrats have been clearly stated by Eero Heinäluoma, one of their leaders, in a public debate for the 2007 election: “Basic income encourages inactivity, is too expensive, means just an additional system among the others and does not support Lutheran work ethics.” Their position probably also has a lot to do with the links between the Social Democratic Party and the trade unions, who are totally against the idea of an income which would not be linked to work, would certainly lead to a reduction of salaries, and benefit mainly employers in line with Milton Friedman’s proposal. However, there has not been in 2015 really strong positions against among the social-democrats.

However, here’s some extra motivation for exploring the ideas of negative income tax, basic income, participatory income:

Behind the implementation of the basic income, there is the question of the status of work in the country. In European countries, we have arrived at a situation where large numbers of people are unemployed, with very little chance that these numbers will go down in the near future. This is particularly due to the (proven) fact that automation and robotization are destroying more jobs than innovation can create.

This should push us to think about the possibility that this could be a permanent situation, where we will need fewer workers to produce what we need. In addition, with the reduction of resources on the planet, an ever-growing production does not seem so realistic. Some are underlining that we are entering a new era, and the present social systems and its usual tools may be inadequate, as it proves that poverty and social problems have increased in the last years without any serious sign of improvement.

via Basic income: how Finland plans to implement the first nation-wide project in the EU | Finland Politics.

What happens when a self-driving car gets pulled over by a cop? Nothing – Quartz

Best headline ever.

Earlier this week, one of its cars was driving on the El Camino Real, a road with a speed limit of 35 mph. A police officer noticed that traffic was backing up on the road, caught up to the vehicle causing the jam, and realized it was one of Google’s koala-shaped cars, driving at a leisurely 24 mph. According to a blog post from the Mountain View Police Department, the officer wasn’t looking to give anyone (or anything) a ticket, but made contact with the car’s operators to learn more about how the car determines its speeds on certain roads—and to point out the dangers of impeding the regular flow of traffic.

via What happens when a self-driving car gets pulled over by a cop? Nothing – Quartz.