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A Walk around Umbrella Revolution

Umbrella Revolution sign

The Umbrella Revolution (from the umbrellas used to protect against tear gas) has been going on for nearly a month, yet publicity is scarce; fading out almost completely in the last two weeks.

Which is a shame - here's a vibrant city struggling for a most basic right, fair and independent elections, and yet we in the west, so proud of our democracies, stand by and watch?

all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing

By chance I've been in Hong Kong for the past few days, and meeting these protesters - both young and old - really struck a chord in me. They risk their freedom and lives for something they passionately believe in, but all we know of it is a short clip in the evening news. No more!

I invite you to join me on a little journey to the protests:

Study Corner sign


First a quick overview what the protests are about: In September, the government in ...

I Travel

I travel to explore the world, I travel for the thrill of the unknown, to broaden my mind, to taste the unexpected, to learn and keep growing. I travel for chance encounters and randomly meeting again halfway across the globe. I travel because it's the easiest way to multpily my (remembered) life span. I travel to break the daily routine, to upset hardened molds, to escape boredom, to make new friends and meet old ones again.

I travel not to feel alone, to meet new people and fall in love for a brief romance, to share moments and explore together, to forge bonds like only crazy adventures can.

I travel to be alone, to escape people and be thousands of miles from anyone who knows me, lost in the unknown with myself and my thoughs; no one who speaks my language, no one who looks like I do.

I ...

Censorship and the Great Firewall

I just arrived in China for my vacation and noticed one thing immediately: All kinds of useful sites are blocked. Google Search and Maps, Gmail and Facebook. This is a major pain in the ass for doing anything from looking up directions to uploading pictures for those back at home, not even to speak of any human rights aspects.

My initial approach was using OpenVPN on my phone, but that doesn't seem to work - Facebook is still blocked, etc. What does help is ssh -D <PORT> <HOST>, but even that seems to get slowed down after some use. It's enough to upload pictures, but still far from perfect.

Does anyone have other good workarounds?

Update: While trying to publish this post I discovered they also block Dropbox and Amazon S3. Fucking Asshats. Since you are reading this now their security is obviously crap, only wasting some of my ...

Backups Simplified

I spent quite a bit of time today looking at different options for making sure my laptop was all backed up. Starting with rdiff-backupcache - which seems great if you are doing local backups and have LVM setup -, remembering I had been using rsnapshotcache previously and then wondering how to configure it for targets that are only available sometimes: push backupscache.

That was when it hit me: I already have all my data in Dropboxcache. Including most of my dotfiles, I just symlink them out of my Dropbox folder into the appropiate location, making it easy to keep my configuration in sync across all my machines.

The same process makes it much easier to keep my laptop backed up: I just run Dropbox on my backup server, then do a local backup of it every hour. Thus Dropbox takes care of all the hard syncing and I ...

Reading Dataclysm

As probably many of you, I've long been an avid follower of OkTrendscache, OkCupid's blog. After a three year long silence, finally some new articles appeared, and it soon became clear why: Christian Rudder had been working on a book, Dataclysmcache.

It contains tons of interesting findings extracted from the copious amounts of data available to todays datascientists, but I wanted to show a short excerpt I found quite striking:

Woman like Men roughly their own age

The numbers roughly following the diagonal line are the median ages of the men. As you would expect, women prefer men roughly their own age.

Now compare this to

Men always prefer Women around 20

Again, the numbers indicate the median, the shading shows the top two quartiles. Essentially, men always prefer twenty year olds, no matter their own age. Later in the book you'll see that they actually message women more consistent with their own age (up to ten years ...

Travel Visualizations

I've made a simple visualization of where I have and haven't been in the world:

So far, that's 24 countries. I'll keep the map up to date on a dedicated page.

Setting up the map was surprisingly easy, I used jVectorMapcache:

var countries = [
  // Europe
  "IE", "GB", "PT", "ES", "FR", "NL", "BE", "DE", "CH", "IT", "AT", "DK", "NO",
  "SE", "CZ", "HR", "GR", "TR", "HU", "SK", "SI", 
  // North America
  "US", "MX",
  // Asia

var ...

Lua Rocks

Inspired by reading Lua - an extensible extension languagecache, specifically the section on using fallbacks to implement an expression parser, I wanted to see if I could do so in a safe manner. With safe meaning parsed expressions must not be able to execute arbitrary code.

Half an hour later, I have to say it is surprisingly easy! Less than 50 lines (including comments) is all it takes:

function parse(expression)
  local op, create

  -- Calculate each subexpression at most once, otherwise just return the cached
  -- result. Note that this is not clever enough to take advantage of
  -- commutativity, i.e. a*a*b and b*a*a are not optimized to the same temporary.
  local results = {}
  local n = 0
  function op(a, b, o)
    local i = tostring(a) .. o .. tostring(b)
    if results[i] == nil then
      n = n + 1
      results[i] = create("t" .. n)
      print(results[i].name .. " = " .. i)
    end ...

Reading Live on the Margin

After a recent recommendation I read Live on the Margincache, a book about following your dreams while paying for it by trading. It's mostly an introduction to short term trading, but starts out with an introduction to slacker lifestyle.


The principle is simple: You want to follow your dreams now, not wait for retirement when you are old. You have a bit of money, so how do you make it last longer while you travel the world? First step, figuring out the burn rate: How much money you actually need to spend to do so. Try to get it as low as possible to make your money last longer.

Second, what if you could actually make some money while traveling, no matter where you are? Enter trading. While long term investing is safe it only works if you have a lot of capital since the returns are ...

Learning Chinese

Since I'm soon going to China for vacation, I thought I should at least learn the basics before I arrive. Being familiar with Kanji helps immensely with recognizing Hanzi (the original Chinese characters) - many are identical, even have very similar readings. Only "simplified" Chinese is a bit tricky, the characters don't really resemble Japanese.

Aside from the characters, Chinese has an additional difficulty: tones. The difference between (mother) and (horse) is just the direction of your voice (flat vs fall-rise). But wait, there's more. In addition to tones, Chinese has consonants that are quite hard to distinguish for us: vs or xuān vs shuān.

The best way I've found to deal with this so far is Chinese Pinyin Trainercache, a cheap Android app that quizzes you on minimal pairs that only differ in tone or consonant.

A phonetic tablecache can ...

Reading Fluent Forever

After being tempted for a good while, I finally read Gabriel Wyner's Fluent Forevercache. It's a solid introduction to language learning and teaches you a lot of good techniques. While I knew most of it already in theory, I hadn't put everything into practice yet, so reading it was a good way to take a look at my own language learning and see what I could improve.

Introduction: Stab, Stab, Stab

Gabriel starts of with 3 basic keys to language learning: 1. Learn pronunciation fast 2. Don't translate 3. Use SRS

He then recommends to get a few books (or websites): Definitely a grammar book and a phrasebook, optionally a frequency dictionary, a pronunciation guide, a bi- and/or monolingual dictionary and a thematic vocabulary book.

Upload: Five Principles to End Forgetting

He continues with explaining how to properly remember foreign words and new concepts ...

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