After UBC Lockdown: rumors and traffic fever

UBC Campus

All is well today, save for a few police siren disturbances scattered through out the night and in the morning, which we used to associate with Totem fire alarms.

No one was hurt, but everyone is confused. What caused the police action? What is being done about it? Are we safe on campus? What is going on?

I personally feel like it’s a normal day. Went to a career fair, went to a project meeting, went to class, now wasting time on my blog. This is probably because I didn’t see the police and their automatic weapons, and the ambulances that waited a few blocks away “just in case”, and the helicopter zooming around. For those who did see these, or those who had to be escorted out of the Bio Building by the SWAT team after being locked down for 3, 4 hours longer than the rest of the campus, today would probably not be normal.

Rumors all around campus. I thought about not listing them, because as a science student, I’m trained to cite only dependable, primary references. But I think if I put a big enough disclaimer, listing the rumors can be justified as showing the level of uncertainty and fear:

* * * THESE ARE RUMORS * * *

First there was the “bomb threat”, which was quickly dismissed because people were locked down inside the building. Similar things go to the chemical/biological spill theory. In fact, many of us recognize the lockdown was a standard procedure for a gunman incident.

Some people suggested “this was all a drill”

Some people said they saw police air-dropping from helicopters.

Some people said the police and media were informed about this incident in the late morning, and put off the response until the “deadline” in the threat.

Someone made the connection to the activists vandalism last month.

Some said it had something to do with animal testing in Bio building.

Someone said the threat originated from the SUB.

My favorite theory: someone was upset that UBC was the only school that didn’t get a snow day on Tuesday, so they decided to make one.

* * * RUMORS END * * *

The police has confirmed that the incident was caused by a serious threat to harm others, and we still wait for more information.

My Blog

And I was worrying that I will never reach my record-high traffic of 142 when I first announce the existence of ZeroRatio to my friends.

Google apparently likes my last blog entry, and ranked it first for the search “ubc lockdown”, which resulted in an influx of just over 1,000 visitors who typed some variation of the search term.

I suspect the impossible Google ranking also attracted the attention of ScienceDave of NowPublic, as he posted a link to my blog and sent me almost 700 visitors. I noticed that and posted a link back to his page, and sent him a humble 130 visits.

Just that one single post, with the right title at the right time, attracted over 2,100 page views, and spilled over hundreds of views to my other posts and pages. Total traffic to my blog yesterday totaled 2,800. A good twenty-fold record-break.

Along with the power of Google, the post wore the “hawt post” crown on WordPress frontpage a few times, and made this blog “the fastest growing blog“. And my favorite effect: it make my previous month of traffic look like nothing.

All of this because of writing one single post that Google liked. Now you believe Google will take over the world.

zeroratio-hawt-post-2.jpg dashboard-stat-board-fastest-growing-blog.jpg huge-peak01.jpg


The Promise

The man wore a bleached-white coat, which blended in with the clean, bright room that still smelled of some corrosive cleanser. Lack of emotion and the pale lighting made his face both ghostly and solemn. Like a weathered marble statue in a moon-lit garden.

The man moved silently to a long steel table, with scalpel and forceps in his hands. He was not shaking. He had done this many times. He could imagine how someone might feel repelled, or even disgusted, by what he was about to do, but it has to be done. And it has to be done properly, the way he does it.

It’s seldom done properly nowadays, he thought to himself. So he could not quit. He will not quit, until the day he couldn’t lift a scalpel.

He touched the deranged body of the child gently. And he started to cut.

* * *

I promise you all, my poor children. I promise you all that I will send those bastards to jail, for as long as I can manage…

The man put away the dissected body of the child and grinned as he started to write his report.


* * *

“Dr. Garrison, as an expert witness of pediatric forensics, please tell us what may have caused the death of the child,” the judge said.

Dr. Garrison stood up solemnly, but this time with vivid hatred and contempt towards the defendant.

Continue reading

Hot keys I think everyone should know

Study has shown (or someone should should study and show) that good use of hot keys will reduce time waste, avoid frustration, and prolong user’s life span. Below are a few hot keys that I use most often which are not trivial (I think everyone knows how to cut and paste? Ctrl X, Ctrl V?)


For Windows:

Windows + R = run a program, eg: ‘notepad’, ‘firefox’ , ‘mspaint’ for Paint

Windows + M = minimize all windows

Alt + Tab (+Shift) = cycle through opened windows (reverse)

Alt + F4 = close the opened window


For text editing:

Ctrl + ‘=’ = subscript (in Word 2007)

Ctrl + left or right = move cursor by word

Ctrl + backspace (delete) = delete previous (next) word



Tab = move to next input box (great for entering email -> password)

Shift + Tab = move to previous input box (great for entering email again cuz you typed it wrong the first time)

Ctrl + end = go to end of document/window (cuz you got tired of reading)

Ctrl + home = go to start of document/window


Good programs usually have its own hot keys built in.

For example, let’s say you like to create new tabs in Firefox, but you don’t like using the mouse to click around looking dumb. So you opened “File” (if you did that by using Alt+F, good for you, geek), and see that next to the “New Tab” item, it says “Ctrl+T“. That’s not decoration ladies and gentlemen. That means you can use Ctrl + T to create a new tab the right way.

If you really want to know more, some real geek prepared a comprehensive list of windows hotkeys.

Enjoy the computer like you’ve never enjoyed it before! 🙂

Does God Exist?

There will be a public debate on this “ultimate question” next week, and I don’t think I will attend. Firstly, this is hardly relevant to what I do and what I would like to do. Second, this question is more for self contemplation, and as long as people don’t come and cross my way, I have no intension in crossing theirs.

But asking these huge, philosophical questions is fascinating once in a while. Lets you look at life, universe, and everything differently. Kinda like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams does.

So let me try to articulate my thoughts.

To attempt answering that question, we must first define two terms, otherwise any discussion is fruitless:

  1. God
  2. Existence

Let me first define God as that which

  1. Created the universe
  2. Created everything in the universe
  3. Is omniscient
  4. Is omnipotent
  5. Looks like human beings
  6. Answers prayers and performs supernatural feats
  7. Punishes those who do not believe in Him

Now, let’s first define Existence as the state describing something that:

  1. Is made of matter, or
  2. Is energy

For example, we say: this table exists. The light from the sun exists. Harry Potter doesn’t exist.

Now that can raise objections. Does Harry Potter exist?

For that matter, does the number 1 exist? Does “infinity” exist?

Harry Potter is fictional, he only exists in people’s imagination. He doesn’t exist in the real world. The number 1 and “infinity” are abstract concepts used to describe things in the universe or other abstract concepts. They don’t exist in the physical world.

Seems like existence can be applied in more than one way. Something can “exist” in the universe physically, or it can “exist” as an idea, imagination, or concept.

So the ultimate question “Does God Exist” is too vague to be answered.

Does God exist where? In the physical universe? No, He doesn’t exist in the physical universe.

Let me back up that claim first with some hand-waving: Why should the God who created the big bang and every single molecule in the universe look like human beings? It seems simply self-gratifying for us to say that there exists a creator of the universe, in the form of energy or matter, that looks somehow like us.

Since the universe exist, its beginning must also have existed, before which nothing else existed. If we want to call that “God” instead of “big bang”, we must give up many of the other attributes associated with God, because, for one thing, big bang most certainly does not look like us, turn water into wine, nor answer prayers.

Does God exist in the minds of millions? Yes, He certainly does. He has an overwhelming influence over many people as well, and His power over them, be it comforting, guiding, inspiring, or commanding, is very much real.

So, does God exist?

Well, I’d argue that it depends on where you look for Him.

So going to that public debate would be a waste of my time.

Love my geeky wacky buddies

Hung out with two friends of mine on Friday night.

Went to see an awesome play: Old Goriot, by the master of realism Honore de Balzac. Play was funny, complex, and depressing at the same time. Dealt with the ambitions of a young man trying to enter the “fashionable Paris” with whatever means he could. Dealt with a convict who despise the pretense and fakeness of supposed virtues, and believe only in his own ends. Dealt with a father who spoiled his daughters to such a degree that he exclaimed: “it’s my fault! I taught them to shit on me!” before his lonely, miserable death.

But equally fascinating was the conversations the three of us had.

At dinner we talked about the play, moved onto the ancient styles of literature, to the ancient form of Chinese writing, which linked to Confucius and Socrates, and the Chinese education system and the weight of ancient wisdom that we are expected to carry.

On our way to the theatre, moved onto the ultimate capacity of Earth for humans, to which I suggest a few parameters that are impossible to break with any level of technology conceivable: amount of drinking water, usable land area, energy. Then moved onto discussion of nuclear energy, where it came from, how heavy elements were formed. That killed the conversation for a bit.

Before the play started, talked about real and natural numbers, infinity, and how our sitting in the first row will affect our visual field.

After the play we talked about literature, discussed the characters in the play, our own interest in writing, and called for another enjoyable night before we parted.

That, is cool.

Commenting and Blog Traffic Experiment (Week 3)

The Commenting and Blog Traffic experiment started here.
Last week we found that the traffic to this blog spiraled below 20 views/day, and was heading towards 15/day.

This week, I started visiting random blogs and leaving comments. The goal was one comment on one new blog per day, and I’ve attached my commenting history at the end of this post.

The preliminary result is out: commenting-and-blog-traffic-week2.png

Commenting seems to increase traffic.

Now, this is a very preliminary result, and there are some significant problems with it.

  1. Did my comments on other people’s blogs attract more views, or did I write more interesting posts in the past week?
  2. Or simply because there are more blog entries for people to browse through this week than last week?
  3. Why are the traffic for Saturday and Sunday of week 1 so high?
  4. What’s up with the dip on the Sunday of week 2?

Answering #1 is difficult, because I don’t know whether my comments on other blogs attracted traffic directly. I think people who follow the link from my comments to my blog are not registered as being “referred” to me, whereas if you click on a link in Website X to this blog, then Website X is registered as a “referrer”.

However, my popular posts such as “Shood hands with Stephen Lewis” and “How good should we feel when we take the bus?”, both of which were written during week 1, showed similar traffic generation pattern in posts in week 2 (“Tina is Legend“), where each post got around 13 visitors on the first day, and the number dropped dramatically to 1 or 2 in the subsequent days. So no, I didn’t write more interesting posts in week 2.

#2 may be of some concern, because the old posts are still generating traffic. However, in the last weeks of this experiment when I stop commenting, if we see a decrease in traffic, then we know commenting is a traffic booster.

#3 give me a headache. I think it’s the residual traffic from the initial launch hype (record making 142 visits on January 10th), which throws off this experiment a bit. But that should be remedied by more data.

#4 This is the problem with doing this experiment on a small blog like mine. I only have a few dozen visitors, and if they happened decided to take the same day off reading blogs, then this experiment is thrown off.

* * *

Besides these findings, I also found some other things and decided to change the experimental design accordingly:

  1. Finding a good blog to comment on is HARD!!! It takes me an average of 20 minutes to finally find something interesting and commentable. As a result, I might drop the 4-comments/day week, depending on the result of the next week.
  2. To be consistent, I try to write one blog entry a day. If I can’t do that, I try to find old posts to hopefully attract readers. If I skip a day or write many entries in one day, then of course the traffic will be different.
  3. The data for Fridays, where this experiment transit from one phase to the next, will be discarded because it’s unclear which week the traffic should belong to, and listing the posts that I commented on below may also increase traffic, which is not part of this experiment.
* * *
Here are the places I left comments:

Google and my thing for comp sci

Just came back from a successful Industry Panel put on by Department of Comp Sci (which I helped poster, haha), and had some thoughts to write down.

  1. Google once again stole the show. This time by bringing with the bright panelist, a Google camping chair as the grand door prize.
  2. Telus, Accenture, IBM, HSBC, MDA, and Google all had wonderful things to share, and the questions and answers covered topics like the transition from technical developer to management, what job you can get with different level of education, how was their education applied in the work force, etc.
  3. Google has the most interesting structure. I will list a few things:
    1. 20% time. Every Google engineer spends 20% of their work time working on pretty much anything they like. It can be some other projects, or you can put your idea forth and push to create a new project. If the crazy idea didn’t work out, people would just say: neh, too bad. Better luck next time.
    2. PhDs, Masters, and Bachelors, unlike in other companies, are treated fairly equally. Obviously PhDs will have more expertise in some areas, so they tend to “gravitate” towards their area of expertise. But everyone work in a group, and people move around projects often. Those who have been on a project for the longest time become the leader of the project. It all depends on people’s skills, not their degrees.
    3. Google Internship is around 3 to 4 months, and a sure big plus on the resume for a full time Google position.
    4. Google screen resumes, do phone interviews, and then those who pass will be passed onto engineers for an in-person interview, at which stage the questions will be very technical. The engineers want someone good on their team, not someone with good marks or even their resume. The guy who came to speak said “yeah sure, I will ask you about your past experiences, but that would be like an icebreaker sort of thing.” This is quite unlike companies whose HR department does all the hiring. (Although GPA and resume is very important to get past the resume screening and phone interviews.)
  4. Also managed to steal a minute from the event organizer, whom I’ve happily worked with for 2 years, for some contacts for our Entrepreneurship in Science event. Yeah sure working for Google will be cool, but what would be cooler is to spin off and use those skills to start a super awesome company.

Now where do I come in to all of this?

What areas of comp sci am I strong in? What have I done that would land me an internship with Google?

How would my life science background be a help with this, what seems to be a whole different dimension?

That would be for me to reflect on 🙂