In Fun

Desktop Build

For a while now I've only had my Core i3 laptop with 6GB of RAM from 2010. That changed slightly because Linode provided me with a MacBook Pro when I started working there, which I do use for non-work activities. But I don't game on the MacBook, and my old laptop can only just handle modded Minecraft or League of Legends on all minimum settings. After building my NAS it was time to finally get a desktop. I planned to go a bit overboard, but not insanely so. The system I ended up with is more than I need, but I'm quite happy with it.

One of the biggest choices, given recent offerings, is going with an Intel or AMD CPU. Given reviews, price point, not being a hard-core gamer, and frustration with vulnerabilities (Meltdown & Spectre, Foreshadow) while working at Linode, I went with AMD. I was initally also going to go with an AMD graphics card, but my brother offered to sell me one of his older nVidia cards at no markup and I happily took him up on the offer. He also gave me the case for free as a Christmas present, which was awesome. The rest is pretty standard, chosen mostly based on cost or brand recognition, except I wanted (a frankly unnecessary) 32GB of RAM to make it basically impossible to run out. Most of the components were purchased at MicroCenter, the rest on Amazon (I'm using Amazon links for almost all of them for consistency though).

Item Model Price Quantity Total
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 2700X $279.99 1 $279.99
Graphics card nVidia GTX 1060 (3GB) $175.00 1 $175.00
RAM Corsair 2x8GB DDR4 2400MHz $149.99 2 $299.98
Motherboard MSI X470 Gaming Plus $99.99 1 $99.99
System drive Samsung 860 EVO 500GB SSD $94.99 1 $94.99
Case Fractal Design Meshify C $89.99 1 $89.99
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 550 G3 Gold 550W $84.99 1 $84.99
WiFi card TP-Link Archer T6E PCIe 802.11ac $44.99 1 $44.99
Fans Noctua NF-S12A 120mm $22.99 3 $68.97
Main OS Ubuntu 18.04 $0.00 1 $0.00
Gaming OS Windows 10 Pro $189.00 1 $189.00
RAID drive WD Red 4TB HDD $124.99 2 $249.98
Monitors Acer R240HY 23.8 in. 1080p $129.99 2 $259.98
DP / DVI cable Amazon Basics 6ft DP/DVI cable $11.99 1 $11.99
DVI cable Monoprice 6ft DVI-D cable $5.89 1 $5.89
Keyboard 1st Player Steampunk Black Switch $55.99 1 $55.99
Mouse Logitech G203 Prodigy $37.17 1 $37.17
Headset Logitech G233 Prodigy w/ boom mic $79.99 1 $79.99
USB soundcard Sabrent USB soundcard $7.49 1 $7.49
UPS APC Back-UPS Pro 1500VA $169.00 1 $169.00
Gaming chair Songmics polyester gaming chair $194.99 1 $194.99
Armrest pads Aloudy memory foam armrest pads $17.99 1 $17.99
TOTAL AMD Desktop and Gaming Center $2518.35
(excluding chair) $212.98 $2305.37
(also ex. UPS) $169.00 $2136.37
(also ex. peripherals) $180.64 $1955.73
(also ex. monitors) $277.86 $1677.87
(also ex. HDDs) $249.98 $1427.89
BASE SYSTEM (also ex. Win10) $189.00 $1238.89

Some comments on the items:

I first installed Windows 10, then Ubuntu 18.04 on the SSD. I then named it shinkiro in honor of Lelouch's custom Knightmare Frame from my favorite anime, Code Geass. Photos:

Further reading:


tags: tech diy build hardware projects

In Fun

Home NAS Build

I'm planning on building a desktop soon, but one of things I wanted to do first was build a storage server. I'm calling this a NAS, but it might be more correct to say networked DAS. At any rate, I want a central place to store my files, which are currently scattered across my laptop, homeserver, raspberry pi, external hard drive, and various USB drives. In building the NAS, I want to know the files I put there will be safe from mechanical failures and silent corruption. In addition to hard drives failing, digital storage has a scary failure mode. Here's the 3 main safeguards you should consider using to protect the data you care about most:

Safeguard Example Failure Mode
Redundancy RAID, RAIDZ, backups A hard drive dies
Integrity zfs, btrfs Bit Rot
Versioning versioned backups, zfs, btrfs You delete a file

Many people have heard about RAID, but fewer are aware of Bit Rot. It's not very common, since hard drives have some built-in error correction, but it's still possible, and can be devastating for even a single bit flip depending on the exact circumstances. After reviewing various options, I settled on ZFS with RAIDZ2, which has all 3 features baked-in, and a very easy deployment process that lends itself to set-it-and-forget-it. It also has easy to use quotas which is good since I intend to share some storage with my friends.

For the hardware, I settled on a 6x4TB hard drive array in RAIDZ2. In exchange for reduced usable storage space (in my case 24TB became 14TB), RAIDZ2 means up to 2 hard drives can fail without any data loss. If a hard drive fails, you can just plug in a new one and ZFS automatically populates the new drive and restores redundancy. I picked the drive size and number based on my desired storage size (minimum 10TB) and the cost/TB of the drives. Based on various recommendations online, I went with WD Red drives. The rest of the hardware was chosen based almost solely on cost.

Item Model Price Quantity Total
RAID drive WD Red 4TB HDD $124.99 6 $749.94
Spare drive WD Red 4TB HDD $124.99 2 $249.98
System drive Silicon Power 128GB SSD $38.99 1 $38.99
Case Antec 302 $64.96 1 $64.96
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-B250M-DS3H $59.99 1 $59.99
CPU Intel Pentium G4560 Dual-Core 3.5GHz $58.99 1 $58.99
RAM Crucial 4GB DDR4 2400MHz $47.45 1 $47.45
Power supply EVGA SuperNOVA 550 G3 Gold 550W $85.99 1 $85.99
Fans Corsair HSP 120mm Purple LED 2 Pack $23.99 1 $23.99
Fan power cable ModTek Molex to 4x3pin Fan $8.99 1 $8.99
PCIe SATA card IO Crest PCI-e x1 4 Port SATA III $39.89 1 $39.89
SATA cable Monoprice 18in SATA III 10 Pack $14.99 1 $14.99
SATA power cable StarTech 4x SATA Power Splitter $5.85 2 $11.70
Operating System Ubuntu 18.04 $0.00 1 $0.00
TOTAL 14TB RAIDZ2 NAS $1455.85
(excluding spare HDDs) $1205.87
(excluding all HDDs) $455.93

Some comments on the items:

After getting it up and running, I ran the long SMART test and destructive badblocks (the latter inside screen sessions) on each drive to appease my paranoia (all tests came back clean as they should for brand new drives):

sudo smartctl -t long /dev/sdX
sudo badblocks -wsvo diskX-bb.txt /dev/sdX
sudo smartctl -t long /dev/sdX

It was then affectionately dubbed trichiliocosm in honor of one of Zoro's attacks from an episode of One Piece (kudos @glenn for the suggestion). Photos:

Further reading:


tags: tech diy build hardware projects

In Serious

Sanders Will Beat Republicans

Many people I know think something like the following:

"I really like Bernie Sanders, but he has no chance in the general election. If I want a Democratic President, I have to vote for Hillary."

Personally I completely disagree, and for several good theoretic arguments in favor of his chances, check out the Huffington Post article from my previous post.

But not only is the above position self-defeating, it is provably false. The most recent Qunnipiac poll shows Sanders winning against every Republican candidate in one on one face offs. Here are his matchups with the top Republican candidates (in order of Republican Primary polling):

  1. Donald Trump: 49% – 41% = +8%
  2. Ben Carson: 47% – 41% = +6%
  3. Ted Cruz: 49% – 39% = +10%
  4. Marco Rubio: 44% – 43% = +1%

Note that the above poll reports an error margin of 2.6% from 672 Republicans and 573 Democrats. Further, RealClear Politics has an aggregate poll, but I chose the Quinnipiac because it's the most recent. Even in the aggregate (which I would like to note includes polls from organizations such as Fox News), Sanders ties Trump, barely loses to Carson (-1%) and Rubio (-1%), and soundly beats Cruz (+6%).

In addition, Sanders can certainly still win the primary. He is doing better in the Democractic Primary polls than Obama was at the same time in 2008.

Although I will note Clinton is also doing better in the current primary polls (58%) than from 2008 (42%). But Obama ended up jumping to 53%, an increase of +30%. If many Clinton supporters read this blog post and start Feeling The Bern™, he would only need to convert 13% to beat her.

If you would prefer a video, my main news channel, SecularTalk, recently covered this (note: contains some vulgarities as well as reasoned argument).

This election is not a choice between Clinton and a Republican President.

Given that Bernie can beat the Republicans, I don't know why anyone would vote for Hillary.


tags: politics

In Serious

Bernie Sanders for President

In case you haven't heard, Hillary Clinton is no longer the only liberal candidate with widespread support in the 2016 Presidential Election. An Independent Senator from Vermont is running on the Democratic ticket. His name is Bernie Sanders, and he is exactly what America needs. First off, he outright refused to accept campaign donations from a Super PAC and is running without one. This very roughly equates to refusing money from billionaires and corporations that was legalized in the Citizens United case. I strongly support Bernie Sanders for many reasons, including:

  1. He opposes the decision in the Citizens United case.
  2. He supports raising the minimum wage.
  3. He believes that a bank "too big to fail is too big to exist".
  4. He supports free and guaranteed healthcare for all citizens.
  5. He supports tuition-free public universities.

But most of all, he strikes me as a completely authentic candidate. His voting record and actions fully support his stances on the issues. He wants America to catch up with the rest of the civilized world in implementing aspects of a Social Democracy to replace the corrupt Oligarchy that is currently in power. First, here are some videos to give you a general feel for Bernie:

And here are some links where you can find out more:

As always, draw your own conclusions and seek out your own sources. However, if the issues are what you truly care about, try taking this quiz to find out which candidate you most closely identify with. For reference, I scored 97% for Bernie Sanders.

EDIT: Changed campaign video link.


tags: politics

In Serious

Underrepresentation ≠ Racism

I've been frequenting StackExchange sites for quite some time; if you're not familiar, they're basically Yahoo Answers done right. Reading through the Anime and Manga forum, I came across a post about racism in One Piece. This also led me to read this blog post and this rather long post on IGN (WARNING: links contain One Piece spoilers. The rest of this post contains very minor spoilers.)

All of them pointed out that many One Piece characters became markedly lighter in skin tone after the time skip in the series. There are some very telling pictures of this happening to Usopp and Zoro. But even more than that, there is a character who is able to change genders, and for some reason Inazuma is much lighter as a woman than a man. The same can be seen with a random guy who also switched genders. In all of these cases I really don't understand what the animators were thinking; there's no apparent reason for it, and it seems blatantly racist. On the other hand, I don't agree with calling Oda (the author) racist, since the same differences don't appear in the manga cover art. (Skin tone obviously isn't a thing in the normal black and white chapters.) But I digress.

Obviously racism is usually bad thing; discriminating solely based on skin color or ethnicity makes zero sense in most settings. (And yes, I did say "most" and not "all". Sometimes you do have to treat different ethnicities differently; for example, South Asian men are 50% more likely to develop heart disease than the general population. A doctor not taking that into account during a diagnosis would at the very least be viewed as negligent.) What I don't agree with is forcing ethnicity into media for the sake of "diversity" and making sure no one feels "left out". That line of thinking has a fundamental flaw. To showcase this, I'm going to make some assumptions I think someone arguing for equal representation in media would hold, then use a scenario to demonstrate the hipocrisy inherent in the set of assumptions.


  1. All ethnicities have the same rights. Believing otherwise is racism.
  2. It is infeasible to represent every single ethnicity in a work.
  3. A work is labeled as "racist" by an ethnic group if they are not represented.


Therefore it is wholly illogical to deride a work for "racism" due to exclusion of ethnicities. Even if every single character in a work is white, you cannot call it racist without yourself being racist. As soon as you are content with the set of ethnicities represented in the work, you are effectively being racist by picking and elevating favroites. So we have to change at least one of the assumptions. Overall, #1 is agreed on by much of society (although we would do better with something like "Every person has certain rights") and #2 is simply fact. Thus, to resolve the contradiction, we should get rid of #3.

Again, I am not defending the practice of whitewashing characters as happened in One Piece, or more famously in The Last Airbender. Neither of those make sense to me, and I would call them, at the very least, racially insensitive. I am also not defending other racist behaviors such as insulting stereotypes or blatant discrimination. I am attacking what seems to me an extension of Reverse Discrimination. Obviously if an employer refuses to hire an employee solely based on skin color then he is in the wrong. But just because an employer has no (insert ethnicity here) on his staff does not mean he is racist. Let me repeat that a little "louder" since it's the main message of this post:

Just because an employer has no (insert ethnicity here) on his staff does not mean he is racist.

The above assertion is an example of the phrase "correlation does not imply causation" (if you aren't familiar, please do follow that link). I think we should be striving for true Racial Blindness, which not only excludes the discrimination of minorities, but also Reverse Discrimination, Racial Integration, and Racial quotas. While I expect it will be a long time coming, I look forward to the day when it does.


tags: anime politics social

In Fun


Here is the best example of gerrymandering you will ever see. If you're not familiar with the term, it's one of the ridiculous techniques politicians use to gain an advantage in the two-party system. The green region is a single congressional district in Illinois, commonly called "The Earmuffs." Using the scale on the map, the thinnest sections are about 200 feet across. Why divide a region into rectangles when you can have earmuffs instead?

Image from this Wikipedia article. More info in this Washington Post article.


tags: politics

In Serious

You Are Never Entitled to Your Opinion

It is a strongly held belief in America that "Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion." After all, we live in a Democracy, and everyone should have an equal say. However, this assertion is fundamentally flawed when viewed from a rational standpoint.

As an easy example, if you were to say that "the sky is blue" and I were to say that "the sky is red with green polka dots," then you are right. It is an indisputable fact that the sky is blue. If I say that "it's my opinion that the sky is red with green polka dots," it does not change the truth. Rather, it is wholly disingenuous and underhanded of me to try and mask the truth using that phrase.

When "opinions" really become a problem, however, is when they are used as a final argument on controversial topics. Let's say, for example, that you and I are arguing about the safety of nuclear power. I believe that living within a few miles of a nuclear power plant makes me more likely to get cancer because radiation is dangerous. You believe that nuclear power plants are entirely self-contained and release negligible amounts of radiation. You then cite a study showing that radiation levels do not increase near nuclear power plants. In retaliation, I simply say, "Well, it's just my opinion that radiation is dangerous and living close to a nuclear power plant is bad for you." The fact that it is "my opinion" does not make it a valid argument; I am simply wrong.

Life is basically one big optimization problem. We want the most fun for the least amount of money, the most money for the least amount of work, the most enjoyment (or least displeasure) per unit of work, etc. As a rational thinker, your "opinion" should always be your best estimate of a given choice based on your available information. Since no one is omniscient, at least some of everyone's opinions are flawed. Therefore, when you cite the study on radiation, I should realize that you have given me new information, which I should then use to reformulate my opinion.

This applies to all opinions, even to the personal realm of beliefs and desires. You are the only one who knows what makes you happy; you are the only one who can view your utility function. Since no one else knows how much fun you find in video games or rock climbing, your opinion is the ultimate authority. Everyone else has zero knowledge on the subject. Yet, even in this case, listening to the opinions of others is worthwhile. Even though they do not know your utility function, others may propose ideas that you yourself had not thought of. This could lead to a better optimum allocation of time or money to yield maximum pleasure. After all, just because you've never tried rock climbing doesn't mean you won't end up liking it more than video games.

Refusing to re-evaluate your opinion after hearing new evidence is entirely irrational. In doing so you are likely hurting yourself by refusing to change from a sub-optimal course of action. If you are ever tempted to say "well, that's just my opinion" to refute an argument, take a step back and analyze yourself for bias. You are never "entitled" to your opinion; you are only allowed your best guess given your current knowledge. As soon as someone else comes along with a better guess or new information, you should change your "opinion" immediately.

This all boils down to one very important, rare, and difficult skill: admitting when you're wrong. If you can't admit when you're wrong, then you can't improve. If everyone in the world could freely admit when they're wrong, I think we could make some truly terrifying progress both scientifically and socially.

Based on this blog post of the same name.


tags: rationality cognition

In Serious

Universal Basic Income

I recently started reading some media about the concept of a Universal Basic Income. If you are interested and have the time, I highly recommend reading these links in the order presented. The first is a relevant (and short; only 8 chapters) Sci-Fi story, the second a brief analysis and speculation on the US economy and its future, and the third an argument in favor of a Universal Basic Income.

  1. Manna
  2. Robotic Nation
  3. Reddit, Robots, and Resources

While I personally support the idea of a universal basic income after reading these articles, I encourage everyone to read them and draw your own conclusions.

EDIT: Here's a nice video if you'd rather watch than read.


tags: economy finance future robots ai scifi

In Fun

Lightning in Slow Motion

This is the best video I've ever seen of lightning. It's really awesome; you can see the leaders and return stroke perfectly. After some quick math using the timestamp shown in the video, it's been slowed down by a factor of 238.


tags: science video

In News

My First Blog Post

This is my first blog post! Yay, it works!

This blog is powered by Pelican.


tags: update