Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Scottsdale, Etc

I'm about to end my 5th day in a row without playing a hand of poker, and I have to say it's been...refreshing. My mom is here for one more day, then it's off to Scottsdale for 3 days of poker and fun with the most interesting man on 2p2; leo doc. Eventually I'll get my year end stats up for everyone to see, but in the mean time have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

No, But I'm About to Stop

Somehow it came to pass that I departed our house to go shopping tonight around 6pm. Now in order to truly understand the absurdity of this, you need to realize that when asked point blank by Danielle "When was the last time you went shopping in a mall" I was unable to even remember any such occasion since we moved down here (so at least two years). It literally was probably two years ago for Christmas, but I cannot even clearly remember that...well, as a matter of fact as I'm writing this I'm having PTSD style flashbacks of last Christmas bumbling around the Spectrum trying to find something..was it a hat? I don't know. Anyway, fast forward to 5 hours ago and I'm at the mall because two people were forgotten. And that's the real KITN, those last two people, because as soon as you buy for them you know what? Two more pop up. There are always more people you COULD buy gifts for; always. Somebody is always at the top of the list. I imagine inviting people to your wedding is like this; at some point you have to make the decision that you are inviting N people and Billy Bob and his wife are N+1 and N+2 and that's just that. So anyway I drive to a restaurant to buy a gift certificate for someone (I thought this person was already handled, and I spent 7:30 to 10:30 doing that portion of his gift, but that's neither here nor there) and that goes well. It's a mall with pretty much only restaurants, and it's just a freaking ghost town up in there. Great, phase 1 complete. Now it's off to See's Candies to buy Peanut Brittle for Danielle's Grandmother, who was currently at the top of the "get a gift for" list. I found one nearby and was on the way there and...almost gave up. I realized I was heading literally into the belly of the beast, the Main Place Mall in Santa Ana. It took me 20 minutes to park, and when I did find that pristine empty space I felt as though I was having a religious experience of some sort. As I said to Danielle "Look babe, it's pretty straight forward. We've got an empty parking spot and Occam's Razor. Under the current circumstances those basically add up to proof that God exists." So I parked, but not in the garage (that was a big mistake going into that fucking garage, let me tell you...I almost just abandoned my car, assuming I could get back to it before anybody figured out how to tow it) and walked vaguely toward the red dot on my phone (by the way, the GPS used to work a lot for some reason it always thinks I'm on road) and entered...Macy's. Sweet fucking Christ it was a mad house. Three dirty looks and one perhaps slightly bruised old lady later I emerged into the actual mall and found a directory. And then, for a brief moment, the power of THE MALL and CHRISTMAS almost overtook even me, one of the most rational and frugal people you will ever meet. I found myself thinking "well, I am here...perhaps there are other things that I need. After all, it could be years before I have an opportunity to buy such fineries again." I swear to God I was like Frodo trying to throw the ring into the volcano. Anyway, I found the directory and for once in my life (again, more circumstantial evidence pointing towards the existence of God) I read the thing correctly and turned the right way but there was not a stairway in site (and you're out of your fucking mind if you think I was waiting for the elevator...1400 people were waiting for that thing...if I was on the second floor trying to get the first I'd honestly consider jumping as a viable alternative). Eventually I found an escalator sorta hidden back behind the food court and got up to the second floor and I could see the See's Candies. At this point only seventy three thousand people remained between me and victory, and I considered the fact that many of them were rather small and weak....anyway. I got into the store and quickly obtained my desired purchases and...stood in line for 10 minutes. Apparently there was another register right by the entrance but I literally could not move to get to it because the store was that full of people. So I waited in the line of people hand selecting every truffle that was going to go into their box of chocolates and eventually, just before my breaking point, got the register. The woman helping me was pleasant enough, and asked me how I was doing. I did not respond instantly because for once the lie just seemed too much to tell. This is the Holidays, after all. I cannot just go around lying to random strangers. So I turned my eyes up to her and said simply "I'm going to make it." She smiled and nodded in appreciation, then replied kindly "So you're almost done?" The words cut me like a knife, making me realize that now two knew people had just moved to the top of the gift buying list. She could immediately tell that something was wrong and waited patiently for my response.

"No. But I'm about to stop"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Here's Some Positive Feedback

So for me it would appear that blogging (like going to the gym and coffee consumption) is governed by a positive feedback loop. I have literally like a dozen things I want to say, and hopefully I can get them all down on the page before they slip out of my mind's buffer and the starbuck's wears off (god damn it what a country I just love that shit) so here we go.

Thanks to DougL (and someone else on 2p2) for correctly stating that MOSFETs don't use negative feedback. Op-Amps can be built with MOSFETs, and Op-Amps use negative feedback, and that is what I was remembering from the class. So hopefully I have that correct.

To Drew, the MIT Junior who took the 6.046 final yesterday; I hope it went well, and I'm sorry if I scared the bejesus out of you. Dave, I enjoyed 6.046 immensely as well, but from a practical point of view it stretched my intelligence to (and past) it's breaking point. Some people just get that stuff; I cannot be counted among them. I mean sure, compared to the average person I'm probably a rock star algorithms guy, but that's sort of like pointing out that CC Sabathia would be the best hitter on your beer league softball team. Of course he would, and of course I kind of know what's going on I spent 5 years trying to figure it all out. Some people just get some things; I spoke to an old friend (shout out to nilekim here) who said he ashamedly just isn't very good at probability mind teasers. The guy is going to have a freaking Ph.D in a matter of months (or days, I'm not sure) and probability teasers give him problems. For me those things are just second nature and always have been. I never destroyed a class more completely than I did 6.041, and I'm sure my friend struggled with it. I'm also sure he's smarter than I am. Maybe I was just like him in algorithms, but I doubt it. I think that class truly found the bounds of my intelligence, and I am A-OK with that.

Captain R, I'll tell you who names their classes by numbers; we fucking do. It's the way it is, has been, and always will be. MIT freshmen will always be able to tell their friends at 77 that they have to get to 3.091 in 10-250, then 8.01 in 54-100 and the response will always be "OK, see you in W-20 for lunch".

DougL, why do you rant against me so? I won't repeat my response there even though I know there are people who read at work and can't....well, OK fine here it is:

Originally Posted by DougL View Post

To give jesse a justified hard time about this blog post, it would stand as an example for any student you know of what not to do while in college. It is also why a lot of "non traditional" students get so much out of school. Here you are at a world class institution of higher learning, and the cool bit is learning the rhythm of "how to beat an MIT class"? I'd guess, how to do the homework and cram just enough to pass the test.

[ ] MOSFET uses negative feedback
[x] Negative feedback key in control loops
[x] Positive feedback is bad for reasons described
[x] Feed forward cool, but need more advanced control systems class

Not to wham on my buddy Jesse (who I trust will rock the rest of the year at the Casino and bank $$$), but the whole reason to bother to show up to classes is to find cool things that you didn't know that you can learn. The name at the top of the piece of paper is meh -- in 5 years, no one will care. Tools in the toolbox matter a lot. Going to college should be about adding of tools. Most of us didn't know it when we were there, and we kind of picked up a socket set, a level, a plane, and a few other oddly useful tools while there. My friends who dropped out and then went back 5 years later got so much more out of college. A) real work is so much harder than college. B) they were interested in learning things.
I only won about 4 racks, so I may not be in quite the mood you'd hoped for.

First of all, I didn't say that the "cool bit" was learning how to beat an MIT class. I'm saying that was what I learned in my freshman physics class. Most courses at MIT (and most colleges, I'd imagine) have a set rhythm. The one I ran into the most was "Two tests, a final, and about 10 problem sets" and a need to attend recitations or so. The classes followed a pattern; there would be 3 problem sets, then a test on them, then four more, then a test on them, then 3 more where you'd get into some stuff that was pretty advanced for the class/level of kid that was in it that was designed to either scare off stragglers (in some cases, like 6.001) or engage the cream of the crop to continue in the discipline. The final was usually "cumulative" but it focused on the stuff from the last third of the class, and if you didn't have your **** down from the first two thirds you were usually in trouble just because that meant you had no shot at the last third.

College (and life) is a game. Sure you're there to learn and put tools in your belt. This was the mantra at MIT. But you're also there to get good grades, make friends, generate stories, grow socially, learn to deal with new situations, figure out how to manage your time, gain confidence, and avoid having a mental break down. I had a room mate who seriously considered suicide, and looking back I handled it TERRIBLY. That experience was worth more than any class I took and it's not particularly close. Meeting Danielle was, too.

I often hear this argument from people who are successful at what they do; where you went to school doesn't matter. They're not "wrong", exactly, but I certainly don't think they're right. The people who say this tend to be exceptionally talented and without fail have had careers that have worked out extremely well. Doug, I'm sure you fall into this category. But how much faster could have been that successful if you were afforded the advantages of having "BIG ****ING DEAL" written across the top of your diploma. Danielle got a couple of internships she never should have gotten because of it. Then she got a job at Oracle she wasn't close to qualified for, on paper, and how she's working at Google, all because her BIOLOGY degree says "MIT" on it. None of it would have been possible by the age of 27 with natural sciences degree from 90% of schools on the planet. My MIT degree is basically allowing me to shake my middle finger at the entire world while I waste my life playing poker for years on end. It helps, and if you don't think so you're being short sited. Does it guarantee success? Obviously not. Does it give you an unfair advantage in the first 5 years of your career, which more often than not you can leverage to be ahead of where you should be for the next 15? Definitely.

That's all I have to say on that, although I'm sure the discussion will continue. It occurs to me just now that Doug and I could be in a state of violent agreement. I think his argument is "god damn it these MIT kids don't know any more than anybody else" and my argument is "you're god damned right but watch how much easier life is for them the first few years of their careers." Anyway Doug let me know if I have that correct(ish). And for the record to quote Captain R I was a white chip collegiate winner, minimum.

See the buffer has leaked some and my coffee is running out...ah yes the small matter of "the cat". Today for probably the 5th time this month I cleaned up cat poop from our laundry room. You see, we have trained our cat to pee in her box and to poop...on the floor directly in front of it. Now it's not clear to me why or how we managed to achieve this, but we have. That's the state we're in, so once every other day or so one of us have to pick up 3 to 4 cat turds (that is if we can get to them before Clint eats them) and wipe down the floor and it's just fucking absurd. Really it is. As I was performing this task today I started thinking about the holidays and how they are sort of just like picking up cat shit is for me at this point. The whole process is just ridiculous. If you were an alien and saw either situation you'd just write off the entire society as hopeless and either go about your merry way exploring the galaxy or just well you know. But the thing is I've been doing it for so long (picking up cat shit and going through the circus that is the holidays) that it feels...normal. I get home and no longer think "my god what is that smell?!" Nope, I think "time to pick up the cat shit." The holiday season, in a lot of ways, is just like that.

We have reached the time in our program where I rant about football (I'm well overdue on this one so bear with me). First of all I have reached the championship game of Danielle's Short Bus Fantasy Football League and let me tell you I am 100% sure I will not win. Do you know how I know that? I have never won a fantasy league (except for the cumulative points one with her and our two fathers like 4 years ago which definitely does not count), and I don't see any reason that trend should end now. Our team is Dave's league absolutely fell apart (McFadden. Vick. Hightower. Bradshaw) and we predictably are 5-10. Honestly, We don't deserve to be much higher. But in Danielle's we come.

Moving on to the real NFL, holy shit what a piss poor failed abortion excuse for a football game the Steelers played last night. First of all they did everything they could to lose the game on their own. They missed a field goal outright and mismanaged to clock so badly at the end of the second half that I wanted to jump into my TV and slap Tomlin upside his extremely stylish head. OK, fine. Second of all, what a horribly officiated game. There were at least 3 completely phantom calls (two favored the niners, one the steelers) and several other very questionable ones. Leaping? Fucking leaping? R U Serious? But whatever, in spite of all that the Steelers deserved to lose because they just played rather poorly. They ran the ball 18 times and threw it like 157 (I could be off on one of those numbers by a bit). What the fuck is this shit? And then there is Ben....Now I'm not saying I agree with him playing that game, but I understand. Every rational person I've spoken with has said "Why didn't they get him out of there?" at the end of the game, and they have a good point. To be completely honest, maybe he shouldn't have even played the game at all. But there are just a few things you need to know about Ben to understand what happened here. First of all, he's a professional athlete, and due to actually being borderline invincible and survivor-ship bias he feels like he's invincible. Broken ribs? I'm fine. High ankle sprain? Not a problem. It's just the way he is, and the way you have to be to survive in the NFL. Second of all, he's retarded. I'm pretty sure that's not really even debatable at this point. And finally, he's likely burned all the currency he will ever have with his teammates (and if he hasn't he doesn't want to see how much he has left). He's fucked up like stupid bad several times, and everyone on the team, especially the lineman, has forgiven him and is ready to go to war with him. What's he gonna do, sit out the game because his ankle hurts? No fucking chance. So nice hand San Francisco, you won the game, I commend you, and will laugh heartily as you lose to New Orleans in the second round of the playoffs (as the Steelers are losing to New England in Foxboro).

The buffer is go back to pretending to be productive in this most unproductive of weeks of the year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Negative Feedback Loops

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I took what was at the time the most difficult exam of my entire life; the 6.002 final. It was later eclipsed by the 6.046 final, but at the time the test I wrote in Johnson was one of the most trying experiences of my life. It had 5 questions worth 40 points each, and I solved the first two completely in less than half an hour. My final score on the exam was in the 90s (out of 200), which means in the final 2.5 hours I managed to score something like 15 out of a possible 120 points. And here's the kicker; my grade on the final was "a strong B." Fucking ridiculous. Anyway, that class was super difficult, and to be honest it wasn't one of the ones that really reached you deeply and changed the way you think. 6.046 did that for me, as did 6.034 (which wasn't actually that hard) and 6.041. Even 8.01 did, in that it set up the rhythm of "how to beat an MIT class" for me. At the time he limped out of 6.002 with a B all that 19 year old Jesse was really able to think about was "Holy shit did anyone get the license plate?" Since then, however, I've realized there was a very important lesson to be learned in the class, if you could just manage to see it through all the differential equations. It had nothing to do circuits or electronics, but was taught through the class's goto device; the MOSFET. The basic idea wasn't all that interesting at the time, but since then I've realized that it's one of the key concepts you need to utilize to keep your life in order; the negative feedback loop.

You hear references to the negative feedback loop (or its evil twin brother, the positive feedback loop) all the time. Have you ever heard the expression that "a football team is either getting better or worse"? That's a positive feedback loop. I guess at this point I should maybe define some of the terms I'm just throwing around, so here we go. A negative feedback loop exists in any process where the act of parameters moving outside of acceptable boundaries actually causes those very parameters to move back into the acceptable range. I don't remember the details, but this is how the MOSFET worked; when the current (or voltage, or whatever) crossed a certain boundary something changed and it went back to what it was supposed to. What's important to realize here is that it just happens; the parameter getting out of whack causes a change in the system that moves the parameter back in range. A positive feedback loop is just the opposite. In a positive feedback loop when a parameter starts to get out of whack it causes a change in the system that causes the parameter to get MORE out of whack.

I can hear you now..."OK Jesse, that's vaguely interesting, but what on Earth are you talking about?" Well hopefully I can try to explain it a little bit with some examples from my life. An obvious one that comes to mind is Danielle's ability (or inability) to keep areas clutter free. For her the entire process is a positive feedback loop; once an area gets "cluttery", be it dishes in a sink or clothes on a floor or whatever else you want to imagine, she views the space as "dirty" on the "clean/dirty" binary scale and therefore no longer sees any reason to make any effort to keep it "clean". So what happens? The number of dishes in the sink should be zero, and Danielle has no problem keeping the number AT zero. But once it jumps to one, the positive feedback loop rears its ugly head and boom, one becomes three and three becomes seven and that's ballgame. For me the exact same process is actually a negative feedback loop (and in this case it's because I do not ascribe to the binary "dirty/clean" categorization system). For me the correct number of dishes in the sink is also zero, but once that number jumps above zero in my world the process is governed by a negative feedback loop. Eventually (and it may not be right away) I do something (open the dishwasher, insert dish) to move the parameter back inside the acceptable range. Some other intuitive examples are the process of going on tilt at a poker table; this is definitely a positive feedback loop cycle. Your mental parameters (stress, focus, rage, etc) have acceptable ranges and once you go on tilt they get out of bounds, and them getting out of range causes them to get MORE out of range. And that's basically how tilt works. The Tommy Angelo way of doing things basically suggests you set up your "process" in such a way that you make it a negative feedback loop; when you feel your parameters getting out of bounds you make a conscious decision to do things (take a break, breath deeply, be quiet, etc) to put them back in range. It's all based on the derivatives; if the derivatives of a parameter stay constant or even grow as a process advances, it's a positive feedback loop. If the derivatives change sign (first become positive, which then actually causes them to go negative), it's a negative feedback loop. Addictive behaviors (drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling problems) are positive feedback loops.

After that extremely long winded explanation, hopefully the point of this post has become pretty obvious. In your life you have literally dozens of process and procedures, and if you want to keep everything under control you need to set up most of them to be negative feedback loops. Or, at a bare minimum you need to be aware of any positive feedback loops that you have and be vigilant not to let their parameters get out of bounds. A perfect example for me these past few weeks has been my process of coffee consumption. I never drank coffee really before this year, and all of a sudden for some reason at work I decided to let myself try a small Starbucks for $1 every morning. And (big surprise here) I really liked it. For a while the process stayed in control, with me just having a single small coffee in the morning. But eventually I started getting the occasional refill; then it became a refill everyday. Then sometimes it was two coffees with one of them being a medium, or even (gasp) two refills. And just like that, boom, I have a day where I ingest close to a gram of caffeine (I mean really...that's like drinking THIRTY cans of diet coke) and (another shocking surprise) I feel like absolute shit. Positive feedback loop: 1. Jesse: zero. Another example for me of a positive feedback loop is "going to the gym". If I go to the gym, I tend to go more. If I don't, I tend to go less. The right number of gym visits per week for me is probably like 4; but I seldom hit that number. I have a positive feedback loop that I need to actively manage in order to keep things flowing along smoothly.

So I guess that's kind of it. If you want your life to go smoothly and stay manageable, make sure you're aware of any positive feedback loops that you may have and be vigilant about keeping their parameters in bounds (at levels that don't produce further change). To go a step further, try to set up your processes in such a way that they are governed by negative feedback. Even if it doesn't work, you'll be happy you thought about it, I promise. In short, everything I needed to know about life I learned from Gerry Sussman and a MOSFET.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


For the first time in a long time today I feel completely and utterly defeated. Perhaps it's the fact that I've let my coffee consumption get too high, or that I didn't sleep well last night because for some reason I met Danielle at Chipotle for "dinner" at like 9pm and I spent half the night in the bathroom (never again), or that I've just been getting completely obliterated every single time I sit down, or that now with the promotion we have going on my job basically sucks because I play literally 6 or 7 tables per shift, or maybe it's just that today I simply played some of the worst poker I've ever played. I tried an elaborate bluff that had zero percent chance of working; I snap folded the best hand on the flop in a large pot (snap folded...not tank folded or barely folded or conservatively folded....snap folded, and that's the problem). In short, I played like ass. And maybe I did that because I was tired or worried about the holidays or jealous that Dos was getting to play a 3 handed 80/160 game in which he was likely a 2 bet/hour favorite, or maybe I just let Squeaky get to me or I'm overwhelmed by the fact that one of my horses is basically completely dependent upon me for his well-being, or perhaps I'm just a grinch and the holidays have completely soul crushed me. Heck maybe the fact that they've blown up the 60 freeway and traffic has been even worse than usual (which is hard to believe) and I got trapped into playing long unpaid hours at work and going to commerce and the like, or that I couldn't stay to enjoy the holiday party because I've quit drinking and that my boss went out of his way to rub that in my face not once or twice but three times and I just didn't want to deal with that, or that I couldn't take the Big Potato up on his offer of free room and board in Vegas for the weekend just for the fuck of it, or that I had to pass on MikeL's invite to go to dinner and a movie last night (which was a touching effort to reach out to a clearly troubled soul) because I felt like I'd been hit by a bus (because of stupidly mis-managing my food and caffeine intake and you know being in hour 11 of the day).

When you get right down to it, it was all of these things. But the simple fact of the matter is that I'm 4 hours short of the 1800 line for the year, and despite the recent turn of events I'm still going to post a fantastic number for 2011 (no where near what I'd projected, but still fantastic). My leave of absence has been approved for the entire week of Christmas, so I literally only have to play four more shifts between now and January 2nd. So that's what I'm going to do; the absolute minimum that I can away with, refresh, recharge, and hopefully come back guns blazing in 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Owe You All Content

I really, really do. To be honest the holidays just have me in a bit of a funk/super busy. There's lots of stuff to do and even more things to worry about and stress out over and I just really am having a hard time finding time to get everything done that needs to happen. So this post is basically just a place holder promising some content soon and saying that I'm still alive. A cliff's notes of the last week:

1. I have started losing. Like, quite a bit actually. So it goes.

2. All my horses are in action. One was doing OK but recently got bludgeoned, another was getting bludgeoned but recently ran hot, and the third is just flat running hot. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

3. If Squeeky doesn't get barred soon, I'm not sure how much longer I can go without going postal on him.

4. Danielle bought a piano. It is beautiful. Big props to jailyard for helping out with the final selection.

OK that's all. Tomorrow is my "day off" which means I'm going to shoot to get to work at 10:30 instead of 9:50.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hatred Crystallization

Hate is a funny thing. It can manifest itself in many ways, in many forms, and in almost any level of intensity. I don't claim to be an expert, but I have learned a couple of things over my 29 years about the phenomenon, and those few things culminated in a mini "aha!" moment today. OK, it wasn't even really an "aha!" moment, really more of a "huh that's interesting" sort of thing, but here it goes anyway. First of all, hatred is almost always bad. Like, not just in that it's bad for the person or thing being hated, but it's almost always not even useful for the person doing the hating. It clouds your judgement, it makes you emotional, just nothing good ever comes of it. And second of all, hating shit is hard work. It's just flat tiring to hate someone or something for any extended period of time; it's very...draining.

So as I was thinking about these things today I realized that while they are almost always true, like most rules they have their exceptions. There have been times in my life that feeling the emotion of hate has come easily, dare I say almost naturally. It just felt like the right thing to, you know, feel. And there have also been times that pure visceral hate has not been a negative whatsoever, and probably even been a positive influence on the act of going about my business. If you take a minute to think back on your own life experience about a few times you've thought you hated someone or something you'll probably be able to find your own similar exceptions to my above truisms of "hate is hard" and "hate doesn't help."

So how does it come to pass that you can easily hate someone or something and actually get some benefit out of it? I believe that in order for either of those things to happen you have to go through what I've dubbed "hatred crystallization". The process is not easily defined, and I need to give it another good think if I want to get any further along than this vague summary, but basically this is the point of no return for hatred. To borrow a cheesy religious phrase, this is the point at which you simply let go and let God. Up until the hatred crystallizes your body and mind has been fighting it (unless you're a psychopath, generally hateful person, or Commerce Regular, I suppose, but I'm thinking about normal high functioning happy people here with first world problems), trying not to give in, realizing the two above truths, that hatred is hard and not helpful. But if the hatred builds and builds past a certain point, in a sense the scales can tip forever. You give up trying to stop hating whatever it is that has wronged you so vigorously and just let it Hatred crystallization has occurred; you're now in a positive feedback loop, not a negative one, and you're never going to un-hate this thing. An example for me is the New England Patriots. I will hate them forever, no matter what ill befalls them, no matter how many crushing defeats they suffer, even if Tom Brady right arm is chopped off in a freak lawn mower accident. Through all that, through everything that could possibly happen, through locusts and frogs besieging Foxboro still my hate will flow strongly. It has crystallized. I can't stop it, nor do I want to. It just feels so good and comes so naturally, as if things were simply meant to be this way. And I can take comfort in the fact that no matter what happens, they always will be. That sums it all up in a nutshell; once you embrace your hatred instead of trying to swallow it, it has crystallized. From there, things seem to get easier.