Category: reflection

A reflection on the moment (forming thoughts on LLMs and GenAI)

(Note: This post is a test of ChatGPT’s ability to complete a blog post with perhaps only 20% started–I’d say it kept to the spirit of what I wanted to say, though it lost a bit of the original voice)

The artificial intelligence domain has been a hotbed of innovation lately, especially with developments surrounding large language models (LLMs). With regards to (LLMs) it’s hard not to feel like we’re at a pivotal moment simultaneously in human-computer natural language interfaces understanding, epistemological foundations, neuroscience, and computer science, and the entire potential application space with the convergence of all these technologies.

And it is absolutely clear that these are such early days that even months and weeks are showing vastly new possibilities. Google’s Transformer architecture and OpenAI’s pioneering work in LLMs have unleashed something special, but the ingredients of this explosion have been brewing long before this moment and they will be far from the only players in this space. Still, this is as watershed a moment as there ever has been in artificial intelligence and the relationship we have with our technology.

The pace of progress is breathtaking. What was new last month seems almost outdated today. While OpenAI has been a major catalyst in this explosive growth, the current advances are built on a foundation laid down over many years by countless researchers and developers.

But this isn’t just another technological advancement. We are potentially reshaping the way we interact with technology, opening doors to possibilities that extend far beyond mere tool utility. Let’s consider some of the potential real-world implications of this evolution:

  • Education could see a radical transformation with personalized learning becoming the norm rather than the exception. With LLMs, students can have access to tailored learning experiences, helping them grasp complex concepts with ease and at their own pace.
  • Healthcare stands to gain immensely. LLMs could analyze patient data to suggest treatment options, and even converse with patients to provide comfort during trying times. The implications for improving patient outcomes and the quality of care are enormous.
  • In the world of art and literature, AI has already started to make an impact. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine AI not merely as tools, but as creative partners, offering fresh perspectives and pushing our creative boundaries.

These groundbreaking innovations in artificial intelligence are not merely changing our external world; they are also fundamentally altering how we perceive and understand ourselves. They raise intriguing questions about human cognition, creativity, and even consciousness. What does it mean to think, to create, to be aware? Are these uniquely human traits, or can they be replicated, even surpassed, by our own creations?

In the face of such profound questions and the promise of even more astonishing breakthroughs, the future is a vast canvas filled with potential. As we continue to traverse this exciting path, it is not only the technological advancements that thrill me but also the opportunity to continually redefine our understanding of ourselves and our place in the cosmos. In every sense, we’re not just shaping the future of AI — we are, indeed, reimagining our very existence.

Hello World 2021: Pulse check

Yes I’m alive! Though I seem to habitually forget how to write in this blog. It’s not to say that I’ve forgotten to document my life–the majority of my personal writing I’ve moved to more private docs–it’s just that I haven’t really figured out what I want to write about here in 2021. Though I suppose now that I’ve had this blog for over half my lifetime, it’s not surprising that my habits and style would change, long hiatuses included.

From Xanga to

The world has changed quite a bit since I started this blog started in 2002 (nearly 20 years ago!). It started as a personal blog where, I posted quite random musings and conversed with my community (then of high school Naperville, Illinois folk). In doing so, I also cultivated my online internet persona and written voice.

I credit a lot to my sophomore year English classes for inspiring a habit of self-reflection and an appreciation for documenting my experiences in written form. The skill came in handy when I needed to write professionally, but I also furthered many useful skills — perhaps most importantly, metacognition–thinking about your thinking–in a self-reflective manner. At least, that’s how I remember it.

I still reflect fondly on the ‘publishing company’ we created for class–ours was called ‘4AM publishing’ which carried a number of meanings. It did give me an excuse to poke around and use more of the incredible 3d modeling/ animation tool that is 3ds max where I made our simple logo:

My amateur 3d modeling experience would come in handy in my near future in at least two ways: (1) CAD modeling props and environments for engineering school courses and (2) making my own models intended for 3d printing; and I’m still on Thingiverse!

Later in college, as I began to document more of my life and write more personal stories, I felt a need to share and document my story. I wrote quite a bit about my college experience (2004-2008) and writing continued up until around 2011. Through that period, I often had major thoughts and frequently would want to write them into a semi-coherent blog post. I experimented with several platforms outside of Xanga–including LiveJournal, Vox (different than today’s),, and probably a few more. Most I’ve merged back into, which I claimed in 2008.

Over the decades, I’ve mostly reverted to simple commentary on other peoples’ created works. Actually creating new posts it’s much rarer and I’ve wondered why; it’s not like I have less to share. I do think it’s because I don’t really know the audience I’m posting to anymore; and perhaps more importantly, not sure what to write about. Incidentally, this is also why I’ve mostly been writing in my much more expansive journals elsewhere, where I don’t really have to wonder what reaction my posts may elicit.

I have expanded my tweeting though, but even that has been confused given the uncertain audience. I’ve often contemplated shifting more of my posting to anonymous social media–i.e. Reddit, where the security of anonymity brings out… shall we say a less inhibited internet persona.

Often it seems the internet is a permanent low-context environment; where anything you say can be re-twisted into anything. Or perhaps that’s just our political climate. Regardless, I think the essence is, what I’ve long believed to be the inevitable utopia (the future) of the internet, I wonder what the true impact of humanity earning this superpower will be. I still hope for the best, but I still don’t know what to write here anymore.

For me personally, I have perhaps, too many opinions and thoughts that could be construed in any which way. Keeping your own personal internet a safe environment for expression is critical. But it’s been said that the internet never forgets… and that can cost you; an election, job, friendships, or more.

Hmm… nonetheless, I do believe that the essence of sharing and connecting is innate in humanity, particularly when in a safe and productive environment that promotes the development of self-identity and a healthy, self-aware relationship with one’s other peers. The art of personal blogs seems to have become lost by many, who have reverted their online identities to things like their Twitter accounts and other private social media pages. To each their own; I’ve always loved having my own territory–here–with perhaps rules only set by my hosting provider.

Restarting this blog

So let’s do a quick catch-up… a lot has happened since my last post of September 2020, and doing a complete retrospective is quite hard. I’ve actually been accumulating a list of partially started drafts of posts over the past year since my Kindle ramble. I’ll keep them as drafts for now and quickly reflect on world events (that I may expound into their originally intended posts–

  1. COVID19 – Has it really almost been 2 years?! Crazy… this is going to be a life era for all of us, regardless of our political persuasion. I wrote about it once back in April 2020 — by then, the depths of the sudden shock of shutdowns were setting in, etc… but I’m pretty sure if someone suggested we’d still be talking about COVID19 years later… well, I suppose there’s at least a lot to write about! But indeed life does go on, and I think I have mostly fascinations to expound on.
  2. George Floyd, CHAZ/CHOP, and the Summer of 2020 — This itself deserves many books which I’m not qualified to write. Yet it has shaped the course of this nation and the discussion of race, policing, the boundaries of civil unrest, and one’s stand on the toughest social issues of our time.
  3. Election 2020 — Yeah, wow, the country survived–but the ominous seams still seem to be there under the surface; what is the endgame from all this polarization? What would a more proactive role be in ensuring the survivability of liberal democracy in today’s climate? An important civil discussion to keep having in these United States.
  4. Satisfactory, Dyson Sphere Program, and my newfound love of production simulation games such as these. I’ve admitted to a few that I somehow played 160+ hours of Satisfactory in the month of June; basically a full-time second job. Granted… much of that was spent accumulating resources while I slept, traveled long distances through hypertubes, or otherwise had very little engagement from me during those hours. But the hours I did play… very few games have encouraged such addictive yet beautiful game mechanics that make it such a joy to keep playing. I came upon this video yesterday and it very much sums up why I loved Satisfactory. Thank you Coffee Stain!
  5. Gadgets I’ve recently accumulated — I’ve acquired a number of new toys / gadgets that I’ve integrated into my lifestyle — a folding smartphone, a new smartwatch, an “Art TV”, (yes I suppose I’m a Samsung fan?), my wfh setup, autonomous vacuums, a dining table, etc…
  6. Cryptomining round 2 — I mined a bunch of Litecoin back in 2014; and now I’ve started on Ethereum with an RTX3080. Mixed experiences overall though in round 2.
  7. Playing around with hair coloring — The hair colors I have today I’ve generally had since 2017, so at least four years now. I’ve almost come to identify them as part of myself/identity, in that it almost feels weird when my hair is mostly natural. (Not that I don’t like my hair, but I like playing with its canvas).
  8. Seattle, Pacific Northwest, and how I became part of what I once fought–the Seattle Freeze… I guess after 12 years I’m maybe a local-ish person now?

And I’m sure more… but in any case, I’m writing all the above to move these ideas out of my mental space and start anew for 2021. I probably will write more about those issues eventually.

Decision: No self-hosting, yet…

One thing I’ve decided on though is to not yet try to self-host I learned quite a bit and got the entire stack working locally, and even mirrored the MySQL DBs into MariaDB which Synology’s DSM seems to prefer. But really, the limiting factor was upload bandwidth by my home ISP.

And that ISP being Comcast in Seattle, the best reasonably priced up-speed only seems to offer an abysmally slow 6 Mbps. Not that I’m Youtube, but this upload speed is also shared by all other applications in my house, so even a single user uploading files would strain the available bandwidth.

So I’ll stay with Dreamhost for now.

But for now, my year-long blog post fast is broken! Tomorrow is a new day!

Raving about Surviving Mars!

Role-playing city building and PVE real-time 4X strategy in a near-future Mars colonization simulation game

Wanted to put out a quick rave about my favorite game of (my) 2019 so far: Surviving Mars (2018), by Haemimont Games (out of Sofia, Bulgaria), published by Paradox (which also published my favorite game of 2015, Cities Skylines)!

Xbox Release Trailer

I bought Surviving Mars on a whim after checking the Steam review metascore, having never heard the game before (kind of the best way to have any kind of media experience, really). I was not disappointed! The title may suggest survival-oriented game mechanics, but I think the best description for the game would be Cities Skylines on Mars. Or as another reviewer wrote: Simcity with soul.

Simulations are one of my favorite game genres (the first game I ever bought was SimAnt, by Maxis) and games like the SimCity and the Sims series’ have provided me hundreds of hours of fun, challenge, and a sense of accomplishment; kind of like growing a virtual garden from scratch and checking it out once completed. The sheer scale of what you can build and simulate produce intricate emergent properties entirely artificial life constructs that are fun to observe on their own. It’s kind of like the Conway’s Game of Life, but with far more variables and a sense of purpose.

Come on USA! We got $8 billion dollars; LFG!

Clearly a lot of love went into this game to represent a believable martian environment both at the macro planetary level as well as down to the human scale. I particularly love that the game provided the ability to land basically anywhere on the planet, including some historical sites–just to give it a, “this is the real Mars” personality. It doesn’t create any in game consequence though. Just use a little imagination 😉

We’ll check out the Viking 2 Landing Area
Choosing a landing site
Mars is a harsh, unforgiving place… can it be tamed and made livable by soft fleshy humans?

The purpose of Surviving Mars, of course, is to build a self-sustaining city on Mars (Elon Musk would earn his ST:Discovery mention if he can get humanity to this point). This is no novice task — Surviving Mars has you starting with a rocket (imagine the early iterations of SpaceX’s pre-Starship BFR) landing with a skeleton complement of autonomous robots and resources. Living off the land is the only way to get anywhere (as it will be in real life), so much of the early game is a constant hunt for resources; more concrete, more metal, more water, etc…

I spy some concrete and metals behind my ‘murica rocket! Humble beginnings, really…

Through most of this, the early game feels a bit more like real-time strategy / 4X than city building. Unlike Cities Skylines or Simcity, you directly control key “hero” units like Explorers that survey planetary anomalies and cargo rovers that enable a crude point-to-point supply chain management (or desperate resupply to a fledgling satellite colony). The game quests (or “Mysteries” as the game calls them) also operate much more like a real-time strategy game than most city building game scenarios, much to my enjoyment.

Unleash the drones!
Kinda cute little robots!
Aforementioned “hero” units – An explorer, transport, and drone commander (controls drones, duh)

The game has quite a number of random events/quests that give a lot of depth to the game’s backstory. City building games rarely have such things, leaving most to the imagination, but Haemimont’s done something awesome here in creating a single player simulation strategy game that’s more than just a city builder with disasters.

Real time 4x right here
The game has a good sense of humor; and lets you indulge in the dark side
Like any good city builder, there’s a good set of survival metrics to take care of
In this game, running out of resources means death. That’s not surviving Mars.

The game also provides a great ambient atmosphere, thanks to a stellar soundtrack By George Strezov and series of entertaining “radio” options, with a great tie-in to Cities Skylines, which curiously had the Mars radio station (perhaps they’re set in the same Paradox universe?).

I also remember reading somewhere that “real” martian geography was somehow included in the game, but the actual maps appear to be a far smaller set of maps in rotation (less than 10 vs the 50,901 start locations available). Perhaps future expansions can provide more scenario-based maps, or at least a greater variety of terrains.

Minor quips in an otherwise spectacular package.

Also of note, the Green Planet expansion offers an entirely new next step in colony development with the addition of a terraforming dynamic that continues until the entire planet is a lush, Earth-like world.

One of the Green Planet loading screens


  • Near-future space theme has a tech tree and plausibility is more believable than most science fiction
  • Game is challenging, mostly in a good ways! Many Steam reviews complain about the difficulty of Surviving Mars. I recommend auto-save at short intervals (once per sol for me). One temporarily disrupted supply chain can quickly cripple a city lacking redundancy and drive an early stage martian colony into collapse. Many of the same people also describe the game as often “stressful”. That too can be apt, but this is a game that one attains mastery in with experience; and as that occurs, much of these issues can be avoided.
  • Scenarios add unique game dynamics that feel like minigames of their own; adding replayabilty.
  • Visuals are beautiful! See screenshots! After building a massive Martian city, I’d often poke around in Photo Mode for hours taking snapshots of the dynamic ecosystem that is a Martian colony. It also runs reasonably well at 4k resolution on my 5-year old GTX 970 (latter screenshots).


Spectacular stuff! I hope to see more of it!


  • Gamespot review:
  • Surviving Mars Soundtrack:
  • Surviving Mars Announcement trailer:
  • Surviving Mars Xbox release trailer: