Over Christmas I spent 4 days in the mountains of Kaslo BC with my friend Neil. It was among the best skiing of my life. Some of this terrain has likely never been skied before.
Pay more attention to interesting lighting. The glow of a single candle that illuminates even the darkest of rooms. Or beams of sunlight through the canopy. Light gives life to every being on the planet. It defines the beauty of every mountain, valley, and cove. It stimulates the mind—how it diffuses through a room or scatters through a raindrop into all the colours of the rainbow. First light on the mountains marks the start of a clear and beautiful day.
This year, my friends and I placed second out of sixteen teams in the annual Engineering Physics summer robot competition. Each team had 10 weeks to design and build a fully-autonomous treasure hunting robot from scratch. Here’s the story. Quick links In-depth competition overview and rules Central GitHub repository with firmware, electrical simulations and PCB designs My interview with Today in BC Serhii’s LinkedIn post Our robot SPICE-Y with her trophy.
A paper I wrote for my game theory class about a fascinating paradox. The St. Petersburg paradox is a famous problem in decision theory about a simple game, played as follows: A coin is flipped repeatedly until, on turn n, it lands on heads. The player is awarded $2n. Therefore, in each round the player has a 50% chance of winning $2, a 25% chance of winning $4, a 12.
Day 1 Smiling across the Gordon River. Thrasher Cove, our first campsite. Day 2 The journey around Owen point is the most difficult—and most scenic—section of the whole trail. Fishing vessels dotted the coastline. Day 3 Playing with the light. The first of over thirty kilometres of beach-walking.
2021 Route Let me tell you about one of my earliest memories. I’m young, a toddler, maybe three. My parents have taken me on a kayaking trip, and I’m playing in a stream that flows into the ocean. It forms many pools and has cut deeply through the rock to form menacing black walls that tower above me. The water is piping hot. For years, I wondered where that stream was, if it even existed.
Last weekend my friend Tobias and I had an amazing trip: we slept on the summit of Alpha, one of the most impressive peaks in the Tantalus Range. It was stunningly beautiful, and I took some of the best pictures of my life. Anyone planning a trip to the Tantalus must consider how they will cross the Squamish river. While many simply fly to Lake Lovely Water, we aren’t cheaters, and so we borrowed a (very unstable) inflatable paddleboard and shuttled the two of us and our gear across in a single trip.
For the second year in a row, Neil, Sam, and I embarked on an ambitious Canada Day climb. This time, we chose the Viennese-Clarke Traverse, a stunning alpine scramble between two impressive peaks in the Chehalis range. After finishing my last day at Kardium on the 31st, the three of us drove to the trailhead and hiked for half an hour to our campsite. Statlu Lake We set our alarms for sunrise to maximize daylight.
Why your personal information is worth protecting.
“It won’t always go your way, so you can’t get trapped in this idea that just because you’ve imagined a possibility for yourself that you somehow deserve it. Your entitled mind is dead weight. Cut it loose. Don’t focus on what you think you deserve. Take aim on what you are willing to earn!”
Just yesterday, I made all of my working notes publicly available at https://alexkoen.com/notes. I did so because note-taking underlies all that I learn, and because I believe that by doing so I will be encouraged to continuously refine my ideas.
Memory is not so much a camera as a filter—the particulates it holds on to are nothing compared to what leaks through. – John Green
“But, for all the bluster and fakery, the KGB leadership knew the truth: it had held the most significant spy of the Cold War in its grasp, and then let him slip through its fingers.”
Busyness is now seen as a proxy for productivity. The busier we are, the more we signal accomplishment without having to actually put in the work. Consequently, we take on responsibility after responsability until we become overwhelmed. Yet even when we’ve had enough: when we declare temporal bankruptcy and give ourselves more time to finish fewer tasks, we are no less busy—Parkinson’s Law dictates that these tasks will continue to consume us.
“This is partly because, despite much seeming and some very real progress, public discourse about racism is still as childish and supine as it ever was. Where we do discuss race in public, we have been trained to see racism – if we see it at all – as an issue of interpersonal morality. Good people are not racist, only bad people are. This neat binary is a great way of avoiding any real discussion at all.
“Two minutes remained until the spacecraft, now moving at 5,125 miles per hour, went behind the Moon. Since lift-off, Apollo 8 had traveled 240,000 miles, and the Moon had traveled 150,000 miles, to make this rendezvous. “One minute to LOS [loss of signal],” Carr radioed to Apollo 8. “All systems Go.” “We’ll see you on the other side,” Lovell said. Outside Anders’s window, any trace of sunlight had disappeared, and as his eyes adapted to the intense darkness he began to see stars, it seemed like a million of them, so many he couldn’t even pick out constellations. The sight took his breath away. He looked to his right, through the window beside him, hungry for more, but suddenly there were no stars anymore—all of them had gone dark. There was just a giant black hole, as if part of the universe had vanished. The hair on the back of Anders’s neck stood up, and for a moment it felt as if his heart had stopped, until he realized that he wasn’t looking at a missing piece of the universe at all. He was looking at the Moon. A few seconds after that, Apollo 8 disappeared behind it.”
“Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.” — Dan Harmon
A high school essay about a near-death experience. All true, and only mildly embellished. Big word make teacher happy.
I’ve always had difficulty sleeping. For years, I would spend hours lying awake at night, wondering how I could possibly feel so alert when I knew how tired I really was.
This week I had the great pleasure of competing in the Stanford Cleantech Challenge, a hackathon aimed at developing new technologies and innovations in clean energy.