Month: March 2024

Does New Equipment Improve Performance?

As a parent in suburban NJ one standard is getting your child into organized sports. I was no exception, as there are many positives from participating in team sports at a youthful age. I did, the sports in the 1970’s and 80’s are not as intense as they are now but there are some things that will always remain the same. 

One sport which consumed my time was tennis, and the key piece of equipment was the racket. I was playing at the time with the greats of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors etc. When I started, I was using the classic Tad Davis wooden racket. I won a lot of matches and tournaments with it. Being a fan of Borg, all I wanted was the Donnay Bjorn Borg Pro racket. With this racket I imagined myself winning the US Open, Wimbledon etc. I spent considerable time trying to convince my parents to get it for me. 

Fast forward thirty plus years, and my daughter is asking me for new goalie pads, sticks etc. With the same notion, how much better she is going to be with the new equipment. I am a sucker, really a sucker for both of my kids, and bought it for her each time. My other daughter needed newer skates, blades etc. for figure skating. And yes, she got them also.   

I am a rational adult, ok sometimes a rational adult, and I believe that new equipment does not make the athlete. It is ten plus years past buying equipment for my children, and I am going to put some thoughts that come to mind on this topic. Wondering if anyone goes through the same thoughts while shopping for new equipment for their child or themselves.  

What makes one a better athlete? Or better and any skill whatsoever? The answer in most cases is practice. What if that new equipment gets you to practice more? What if that new stick gets you to shoot an extra fifty pucks into the dryer?  That extra practice helps and helps more than the new piece of equipment. The new equipment did not help directly, but indirectly it changed your attitude, work habits etc. And that improved your game.  

Now there is an argument that this could be a race to waste. As every time a new piece of equipment comes out, if you do not buy it than the desire to practice will go. Using this method must be strategic when working with a child, and as an adult you need to also be careful. If anyone always needs a new piece of equipment to want to practice, they really are not interested.   

When moving from the wooden tennis racket to graphite larger head rackets my game jumped immediately. It was amazing, it made tennis accessible to many people who struggled with how hard it was to play with a wooden racket. The sweet spot to hit and tennis ball and the wooden racket was small, the larger head rackets made it easier. When you play better, you often play more so in this case the new equipment did make the difference.   

So, the negative of better equipment. Using the wooden racket, I learned how to move to the ball better, I mastered timing the ball and finding the spot on the racket. It was a skill I had to master to play, and for others learning with the newer equipment never mastered. Good coaches and better players did work as there still was a sweet spot, but it was just bigger.   

With my new hobby, astrophotography, I am using an older DLSR. I am learning the nuances of that specific camera. I could easily buy something like the Seestar S50, this is a telescope, camera that has software in it that generates pictures of the night sky easily. A simple smart phone app you can produce pictures of nebula and galaxies with almost no effort. There are others, but I chose this one as it was the one I found about first, I am not sponsored by it, nor endorsing it.  

This is both an upside and a downside. Gaining knowledge of the details is a skill, setting up the S50 and picking a nebula and saying go shoot, is well an instant dopamine hit. I look at this as an interesting balance of good and bad.  

First, getting an instant picture with some simple learning can drive me into taking more pictures and enjoying the hobby. I can then take pictures and share them to get likes on social media. Once I realized the limitations, I could dig in and learn the more difficult skills of stacking and photo editing. I could also get lazy and stick instant photos.  

If I start with the DLSR, I may struggle the first few months, or years, get bored and quit. I hope this is not what happens, and I use the failures and lessons, and I spend my time asking questions from experts and continue to improve. I cannot answer for my future self what will happen.  

The question I posed in the beginning, does the new equipment make you better does not have a straightforward answer. Digging deeper there is no simple answer. But I always say, I can learn more from a simple question than a wise answer. Waiting for the answer to which is right? Sorry, this is something that you might fail at, getting the new piece of equipment may not help you practice more, keeping the old equipment may demotivate you. Experiment and find what works for you as with many things there is no one answer. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain; I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback; but it is moderated.  

This Blog is a labor of love and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information. Images without notes are created using an AI tool that allows me to reuse them. 

Do you know what is real, and what is AI Generated?

What if everything you read on the internet was produced using Large Language Models? That all content you thought you are reading was generated by an AI? Would you be able to tell the difference? Can you read something and say, ‘no human would right this?’  

I have some favorite blog authors as well as podcasters. I read and listen to them regularly and wondered how they can be so productive. How they can churn out content as often as they do. I also looked back at my own writing and wondered how original I am? And if you do not know me well enough those thoughts drove me into a black hole of trying to see if how to determine if content is real, or LLM generated. 

First, I found a paper that describes multiple ways to determine if content was LLM generated. Discovered another article that shares words that tip you off that something was written by and LLM. And finally started kicking around with ZeroGPT as a site that allows you to put content in, and it will give you what percentage was written by an LLM! Of course I took my recent posts, and then incredibly old posts and wondered what it would say about what I wrote.  

My most popular post ever was done recently, telling a story about a tree falling in my yard.

It thinks the first two sentences were written by AI GPT, but the rest were not. So, it believes my post was written by a human, which is good. I am not sure a LLM would think of a story like this, nor compare it to a relationship. I went through my team building posts, and then decided to go back to the really old posts.  

First, one of my favorites Disney being the new ’Historians’ as Biopics distort history. This one turned out to be 100% human written. Next my quick thought about sometimes you paint the car, sometimes you paint the fish, also 100% human written. Other ones I won’t link also turned out to be estimated at 100% human written. And one, which is a story I have told often and a quote I use often Even a Blind Squirrel eventually finds a Nut (according to Google this is the most clicked on link from their search), was estimated to be 90% human written, and 10% AGI. Strange as that was written in 2017!  

Of course, next I started putting some of the people I read, and their content to the ZeroGPT test. Most came out with excellence (5% or lower AGI) but there were a few outliers whose content was marked as GPT. I would not say it shocked me that at least a few people were leveraging LLMs to write their content. What I think was shocking is some posts were marked as almost 100% written by AI. 


I am not calling them out by putting any of their content here. And I should note, for the past year or so I have been using a text editor that has some AI built into it. It attempts to correct my grammar, my spelling etc. The AI suggests wording that might be more appropriate. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I do not agree. It is my choice while writing and editing.  

A primary concern when using LLM-generated content is the potential lack of authenticity. Bloggers may unintentionally present ideas or viewpoints that are not their own, compromising their credibility and the trust of their audience. Reader’s value genuine voices and personal experiences, which LLMs may struggle to replicate. 

Looking back at my posts, what amazed me was the influence of others on my writing. Whether it be Bruce Lee (who I quote a lot) authors like Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, other podcasts like TWIT, Hidden Brain, Huberman labs, or even just friends, my views, thoughts, and ideas are an accumulation of what I pick up. And to quote Bruce again ‘Learning is never cumulative; it is a movement of knowing with no beginning and no end.’ I have regurgitated information like an LLM, but I knowingly make choices on what I keep and what I throw out. The algorithm is not guided by any rules, other than the decisions I make. I will continue to ingest from talented authors and podcasters, and I will use them as a guide to discover more about myself. I just hope my output is not decidedly systematic and that my posts are marked as written by an LLM. 

If you made it through the whole post, one paragraph was written by an LLM, wonder if you spotted it. To answer the question, I asked in the beginning. If everything were written by an LLM, it would still be up to us readers to decide if we want to read it, if we stop, then maybe the production of it will be reduced. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information, and the one paragraph if you can find it. Images are from ZeroGPT, I do not have a financial investment with them, I used the free version FYI.

What Astrophotography taught be about life.

My fascination with the night sky has never dwindled. When I was younger my dad purchased a telescope from Edmund scientific, not sure we were too successful in seeing the night sky, nor were able to get the Pentax Spotmatic to take pictures of it. Recently, having more free time I decided to learn about it. Driven from the Astrophysics class and the pictures that the JWTS took, I found myself diving into another hobby. 

The above picture is the Crab Nebula taken last year from the JTWS (They allow you to download the images but linked to the flikr for you to look at all the pictures. If you know anything about the JWTS, it is not a visible light spectrum camera. In other words, if you flew into space over sixty-five hundred light years away and could see the Crab Nebula in person it would not look anything like this. 

The stunning colors are done with a simple trick. Our brain can only interpret color based on the cone in our eyes absorb one of three colors on the light spectrum (Red, Blue, or Green). Ok, maybe that is simplifying how we see color, more details on how we actually see color is here. Which is a small part of the wavelength. The ROYGBIV, we remember from high school. The scientist (and for this story) and artists who help convert the data coming back from the JWTS to a picture that is visible are done with a simple trick. They assign visible light spectrum to a range in the infrared (IR above) and then render the image in color. They can even change the ranges of infrared to alter the image. There is an art to this.  

What is more amazing is that backyard astrophotographers can do the same thing. There is a website that is dedicated to displaying the Astronomy Picture of the Day (ASOD). Many were taken by NASA, but many as you scroll through the archive are taken by someone in their backyard, or at park. Taking them at home requires some special equipment, but not as much as you think but requires time. In a recent seminar I went to, the lecturer mentioned that it was often twenty to thirty hours of picture taking along with twenty to forty hours of post processing time. The below picture was taken in New Jersey by Brian Brennan, and was the speaker at a local astronomy event. He did this by stacking dozens of individual photos shot with different filters over the course of a few days. 

After hearing how long he spent setting up his rig, taking the picture and post processing my first thought that this is not a hobby for someone with ADHD. But after spending some time researching the equipment, the software etc. I started thinking differently. 

The beauty we see is not often visible to us immediately. Often, we find this beauty after interactions over days and years. I wrote a few times that effort and time needed to climb the mountain made the view better than if someone just dropped you off at the top. It is not just the work; it is the time taken to see what is there. And with each visit you may find something you have not seen before. It is like that movie that you laughed all the way through and watching it again you catch something you missed the previous times you saw it.  

But this is the same with people, we find beauty in them by interacting with them over the course of time. Sometimes we are quick to judge but often we are rewarded with our patience. Like stacking dozens of photos of varying wavelengths to provide a beautiful image, dozens of interactions with someone where the locations and situations become those different wavelengths allows you to paint the picture of who someone is. The final portrait will always be better than just one picture standing alone. 

No, I have not started taking pictures yet, my ferry photos are still my core photography. But I am starting to learn about what equipment I need, the techniques on how to take the photos, and finally how to post process the pictures into an image. I am sure just like the sunrise, sunset, my family, and my friends that I will find beauty when putting it all together. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images courtesy of NASA with the links in the blog post.

Career Advice at 50+ .. And giving myself my own Job Title.

Every so often I am asked for career advice, which I take very seriously. In my field, I can give examples of choices I had and made, and the paths of others who made different choices. I have a wealth of stories in my back pocket to give people guidance. But recently I was asked by someone in a completely different profession for career advice. A good friend who I have known since we were little kids. 

I could have gone to the cliche bucked “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” (Marc Anthony) Well I heard this from my parents, many teachers etc. And have previously written about following your dreams quoting people such as Jim Carrey who said, “You could fail at something you hate.” I went as far as to write about the question we get in kindergarten about what you want to be when you grow up, the answer should not be a Doctor, Lawyer, or President. All could have been decent ways to direct my friend. 

When people are asking for career advice there are a lot of key questions to ask. I did ask a few, like what is important to you right now, and what do you think will be important to you in five years? I mostly wanted to hear his concerns about the choice he had in front of him. One common concern among many people who ask for this advice is the fear of failing, the fear that they cannot do succeed at the new opportunity. How do you convince someone that they will succeed? 

To answer my friend was found in a note a scribbled to myself over ten years ago, after learning it from my daughter’s hockey coach who died in a car accident. The note simply states, ‘Hi my name is Larry, and I make a living being myself.’ I responded to my friend that if he takes this new role, what does he think he is going to do differently than he does currently. After some other questions and digging came out was that he was going to be himself. And he is going to succeed not because he is one of the tops of what he does, not because he cares about what he does, that being himself is what gets him clients. He does not need to rethink and change. He needs to embrace what makes him special, and that is to just himself. 

There are very few jobs where every moment is perfect, and every second you are content. Finding what you love to do may not match your ability and I wrote two posts about talent versus skills, but now I throw in something completely different. What about you as a person brings to what are you doing. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube of people shredding on guitar, but how many can write an original composition, how many can make it entertaining, so that you are willing to see them in concert over and over? How many restaurant owners make you feel at home when you are there, and the food tastes that much better? 

This same friend of mine said things to me for the longest time, that I did things my own way and that I did not care if I fit in if I was being myself. When I was younger, I doubted not just what I did for a living, but my life in general. While I do not know how to teach someone to find who they are I did learn to assess when a person is acting as themselves. Often it is work trying to get that real person to surface. I may not be the best coder, I may not be the best software architect, but my teams at building software being myself. Often not knowing I was doing it and not knowing how to describe what I did until I saw that one note. And this was the advice I gave my friend, in either choice you make if you are yourself success will come to you. 

Twenty plus years ago I was working at a different financial institution, and for some reason they did not give us business cards. I was often at conferences, meetings with vendors and other instances where a business card would be useful. This was a time pre-smartphone era where business cards were common. I made my own and for a title I put ‘Web Geek.’ This described more than what I did, but my attitude towards how I did it. I would prefer my business card have as a title ‘Being Myself.’  

Simon Sinek was quoted as saying “Great leaders don’t try to be perfect; they try to be themselves.” It is not simply great leaders, the quote applies to anyone doing anything and with anyone, whether job, with friends, with family or by themselves. To be great, you do not need to be perfect, you need to be yourself. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them. 

I am never really annoyed by an imperfect photo, but am by an imperfect life.

For those who know me personally they have seen my pictures from my commute. I take the Ferry in and during certain times of the year the sun is at a perfect angle for some great shots. Things like weather, cloud coverage, my work from home day and other things help determine the opportunity for a great shot. There are days I bring a Digital SLR (DSLR) as I think they day will be so spectacular that a camera phone will not be good enough. 

The average person can take great shots, they may need some help in framing the picture to get better. But the software on the camera has gotten so much better over the years the small digital cameras are almost gone, and DSLRs are not selling as well.  

One thing I noticed over the years of taking photos is the imperfections in the shots.  

Now in this picture it is easy to spot cause well its circled, that is how I found it. Otherwise, a wonderful picture, no need for filters etc. The bridge on the right, the sun with two birds’ overhead, the waves glistening all give you a calm feeling that I had seeing it in person. Why does this happen? One answer is there is dust on the lens, which to me would look bigger as the lens on a camera phone is small. It could be the light reflecting off another source. And finally, there is lens flare, which happens when you are taking a photo of a light source, in this case the sun. 

Now this photo is more what I think about when I hear lens flare. 

But this blob is not about what they are, how to prevent them or even how to fix them in post processing. I do not like doing post processing, it is partly due to my ADHD, and I see the imperfections the camera records as part of the photo. First there was photoshop, and photographers would spend time cleaning up photos and making them look spectacular. Now there are software tools that you can instantly clean up that spot. Some tools will even remove background items, a stray person that walked in your photo etc.  

These imperfections in my photos I chose not to remove, even knowing it would take a microsecond with the new ‘AI’ enabled software. These imperfections are a reflection on life. First, we cannot clean up every mess before someone notices. It is not possilbe, we make mistakes, forget to do something we are truly imperfect. And the more we strive to be so, the more time we struggle to find the perfection that is not always going to be there. We also try to make our kids’ lives perfect, sheltering them from failure. In doing so we do not let them learn how to be resilient. 

Second, these imperfections allow us to learn to accept others. In a world where we are spending more time pointing out what is wrong, and finding the one thing to disagree with, we miss the beauty that is the rest of the picture. This puts us in a position where the focus is always negative, finding the positive will never come up. By recognizing the inherent beauty in imperfections, we cultivate a sense of empathy and compassion towards ourselves and others. We learn to embrace the imperfect nature of our existence and find solace in the knowledge that life’s challenges and flaws are what make it truly meaningful and worthwhile. 

Last, and the lesson I am struggling to learn is even the best are not perfect. No tennis player has won a grand slam without losing a single point, no driver who won a race says every lap was perfect, no actor in a play has done his lines perfectly every live performance, even the greatest guitarist and keyboardists make a mistake live, but here I am again not posting a blog post, not playing guitar live, not going out enough worried about one small pixel of imperfection. I do show my pictures to friends and family, occasionally post one on social media and I never cared about if it was the best one, if every pixel was perfect. Strange how I need to remind myself, enjoy the imperfections of life, they make it interesting. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.  

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