quakers oatmeal bars are my favorite food i love the crunch mmmmmm

What the HECK is up my dudez. 

I’m on a flight to SF right now. I’m getting lit right now w/ some ginger ale + Doritos + some Lil Peep.

I paid extra for the emergency exit seat like I normally do. Why do I do this? Because I don’t trust anyone except myself to properly open the hatch in the event of an emergency where everyone is in a state of extreme panic.

Isn’t that weird? I don’t trust my fellow humans to open a simple emergency hatch in the event of an emergency. I think that’s REALLY weird. I trust my fellow humans with WAY more. I trust them to arrive at my door in under 10 min when I call 911. I trust them to maintain standards that keep the Internet open and accessible by all. I trust them to come up with billion-dollar government budgets that decide my quality of life. But I don’t trust them to open an emergency exit door?

It’s also statistically ridiculous. The probability that something terrible happens on a plane is TINY and the probability that the person at the emergency exit is unable to open the simple lever-based hatch for whatever reason (perhaps their hands aren’t strong enough or their just extremely panicked) is even smaller.

Simply put, I am being absurd. A statistician would slap me on the face with the back of her hand.

So if I know this why do I still pay over $100 extra for an emergency exit seat? lmaoooooo. Idk actually. LOL. Brb I need to re-take the statistics course on Khan Academy again to convince me that math is always right and I’m an idiot.

Teaching

I’ve been spending time teaching kids how to code. I got to volunteer at a local elementary school for STEM night and we made a program that could hit the SpaceX API and grab the current speed of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster currently in orbit. Yes, that API actually exists LMAOOO.

This was not an easy program to make for kids most of whom never had written a single line of code in their lives. Remember, these are also elementary school kids. But in 15 min, 90% of them understood what an API request was, wrote the code (with my assistance), and got it working. I was amazed. By the end, they were all smiling and freaking out when the number “45356 MPH” popped up in their terminals which was how fast the Tesla was going.

I really can’t explain how amazed they were. One kid was like “DID WE JUST TALK TO THE SPACE CAR?”. And I was like “hell yah dawg”, and his parents gave me a nasty look because I cursed in front of their precious child and called him “dawg”, and the kid was like “MAMA I TALKED TO SPACE”. 

LOL.

It was fun :).

Why did I make them write such a tough program?

Well. Kids want to be challenged. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t want to be treated like kids. They want to have fun. They want to be creative. They are just like us.

I fucking HATE these stupid ass companies that make these dumb games to kids teach programming.

One of these games was a game where you had to call functions like left(), right(), and down() to help a frog jump on the proper lily pads to make sure it makes it across the river without falling in the water. 

Omg!! So cute!! So fun!!! Wow!!!

What the hell…

I want to meet the CEOs of the companies who make these shitty “educational programs” and punch them in the face and force them to give schools a refund for the ridiculous prices they charge and then I want them to say sorry to the kids for destroying their first impressions of computer programming. 

First of all, frogs are fucking amphibians why does it have to jump on a damn lily pad to make it across when it can just swim?

Second of all, why would a kid want to do this? THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT AN IMAGINARY FROG. Humans are creators. We want to make stuff. We want to create things that are cool and learn.

For example.

I’ve been tutoring this kid 1-1 once a week. He is extremely smart for an 11-year-old. But, he also gets bored fast as most kids do. So, I make sure that we always make programs HE thinks are cool. HE makes the assignments himself. HE tells me what to do.

For example, I wanted to teach him about “if” statements. So, I started the session by saying, “Hey, so we are going to make a program that is going to secure something. What is something you want to secure”. He said, “My brain”. 

Ahaha, kids.

What’d we do next? We made a program that used if statements that could “secure his brain” by checking a username and password. You can check it out here. It was fun for him. Fun for me. More importantly, the kid felt like he created something. I was just a guide.

Networking

I don’t apply to jobs. My advice to everyone is to NEVER apply for a job. I prefer making friends, building cool stuff, posting about it online, and joining new ventures like that. I also network. Networking === sliding into people’s DMs.

I’ve been networking a lot lately. Particularly, w/ people who work at self-driving car companies. Its hard to get hired as a self-driving car engineer at a top tier startup @ 23 with no Masters or Ph.D. You can’t just apply. You’ll instantly get rejected. What do I do instead? I DM the CEO. I DM the CTO. I DM an engineer at the company. I get in a call. I talk to them about me. I talk to them about them + the company. I tell them how I’m passionate as fuck and how I built neural nets that drove cars 1.5 years ago.

Your resume doesn’t mean much and will never properly convey who you are.

My goal usually is to 1) make a new friend and 2) learn more from the other person. That’s it. Usually if I do this I can get a face to face meeting with the person, tell them more about me, and become better friends. 

That’s how I network.

One of my best friends, Samin, I met by just DM’ng him saying I thought his company was cool when it launched on HackerNews! 6 months later we were roommates in SF and we presently talk nearly everyday. 

It all starts with a DM.

San Francisco

Why am I going to SF? Well. It’s because I’m still figuring out wtf I want to do and feel like I have a higher chance of figuring it out there instead of Pembroke Pines. While Pines is a beautiful place it isn’t exactly the most inspiring place. In the Bay Area, you have the ability to talk to some of the smartest people alive today to help you out and give you advice. 

That’s an unfair advantage that should be utilized and the Bay Area is full of these unfair advantages.

HMU if you wanna grab some chocolate milk at a 7/11 in SF next week.

pce.

- Farza

Left Kanga. Free Agent. Onwards.

Hey all. I know I already sent my weekly email!

But, bittersweet announcement.

I left Kanga about 7 weeks ago. I joined the company in January as their CTO + first technical employee, started the codebase from zero, hired the team, and got to launch multiple products to 1000s of users alongside some of the most talented people a guy could ask for. It’s not every day some random 23-year-old nobody gets to be the CTO of a venture-backed startup. It was absolutely awesome and I’ll remember it forever.

I’m sure a lot of you already saw this coming since I stopped mentioning Kanga in these emails and have been talking about a bunch about my next thing. So, now at least it’s official.

There is no juicy drama here. I’m still homies with everyone at the company. The team is continuing to work on Kanga and is actually building something pretty dope right now. Words can’t describe how hype I am for them.

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why I would leave Kanga if it was going well and is going well right now. One of the biggest reasons is that I felt content with what I achieved there. I worked like an absolute madman every single day and got to take a company from just an idea I was working on in my parent’s house to hiring + leading a full team in New York City aligned on a vision to build something awesome for gamers. I learned a lot from the people around me and they learned some stuff from me. Simply put, I was happy with the work I did + the learnings I had and it felt right to move onward to other things where I feel I can continue growing at an extreme pace.

So, what’s next? Good question. I’m not sure exactly what it is yet but I know it’s startups :). Either starting one myself or joining one that seems promising. I’ll be in San Francisco next week to hang out w/ some homies + network + get inspired.

Help me out.

Please help me out by checking out my tweet here and hitting it with a RT. You should also check it out because I made a special, revolutionary version of my resume.

Also, if you know anyone working on something interesting, hmu! I’d love to connect.

ONWARDS LADS.

- Farza

omg are u wearing unprofessional airpods

Life is y = f(x).

Note: This email is a little abstract/philosophical. It’s just an idea I’ve had for a while and wanted to write about. It’s a math-based framework for life. I’d love to get your opinion on it as well. Let me know what you think!

Lets say Paul is a successful engineer making $120,000 a year doing what he loves. He is in a happy relationship and is generally enjoying life.

How did Paul end up here? Well, his life can be represented by the equation:

y = f(x)

Paul took inputs (x), ran them through his personal function (f), and created behaviors and thoughts (y) that generally worked in his favor.

Paul has had billions of inputs. Everything is an input. The itch he just felt on his nose is an input. The coffee he had this morning is an input. The fight he witnessed between his parents when he was 14, where his father slapped his mother and she proceeded to grab a knife, is an input. His 3rd-grade teacher politely guiding him through how division worked is an input. His premature birth is an input.

Every moment between his conception in the womb and the present day is an input represented as the variable x. Everything. Is. An. Input.

Again, f is the function that takes these inputs and creates the output y, his behaviors and thoughts. y, is effectively what everyone sees asPaul. When someone sees Paul, they don’t see Paul’s function f, they see the output y of Paul’s function based on the inputs x. They see his behaviors.

In reality, that function f is who you truly are.

That’s right, you’re a function. You’re an extremely complex function that takes a massive amount of data as input and creates the output that everyone else effectively knows as you. No one else shares the same function as you.

Look at you right now. You’re reading this email. Your personal function f took input x and resulted in the output y that said to read this email.

I really want to stress this: the mere fact that you are reading this email is the result of billions of input moments between your conception and the present day.

I’m essentially suggesting that every single thing that you have experienced has some weight on your current behavior. Remember that day when you were a child and you drew in coloring books? Probably not. But guess what. Your function f took that coloring book moment and decided how heavily to weigh it when deciding whether or not to read this email.

But, how does our function f decide how heavily to weigh these inputs? Well, it’s quite simple. It depends on what we’re optimizing for.

A cost function.

In machine learning, there is this thing called a cost function.

This is the function that helps a machine learning algorithm understand how far it was from its goal. For example, given an image of a dog, if the algorithm predicted “cat”, the cost function would come in and say “hey, you were wrong!!”, and penalize the algorithm for doing a bad job. Then, the algorithm would do better next time. Make sense?

Well. We optimize our lives based on the cost function we choose for ourselves.

If life can be represented as y = f(x), that means we can essentially create a cost function that will help us optimize our function f such that our outputs y are maximized to achieve the goal which we are optimizing for, given some input x. Read that again real quick if you didn’t catch it the first time!

Lets formalize the cost function as C(y). It takes our output y and runs it through a cost function C and tells us how well we are optimizing for our goals.

And this is where it gets so so so interesting.

Lets say Gabby is homeless on the streets of San Francisco and she is hopelessly addicted to heroin. Well, Gabby’s definition of optimizing life means doing more and more heroin. That’s her goal. Her function f will constantly be optimizing for more heroin. Why? Because her cost function C(y) said so! Her cost function may look something like this:

C(y) = (y - constant_heroin)^2

In this case, y is any action Gabby performs or any thought she has.

constant_heroin is a constant that represents any thought or behavior-related too heroin. So, if Gabby follows this cost function, she will constantly be penalized for actions or thoughts that are not related to heroin.

That means her function f(x) will constantly be trying inputs x that will try and make her cost function C(y) happy! That means when she does do heroin, her function f will amplify those past inputs in her life that contributed to her doing heroin in the present. For example, perhaps the painful memories of her abusive mother contribute to the dread she feels. This dread leads her to a depressive state which leads to her doing heroin.

What will happen?

Gabby’s function f will amplify those dreadful memories. Why? Because her cost function told it to! Those terrible memories lead Gabby to do more heroin which made her cost function happy.

This act of “optimization” is called gradient descent in mathematics, feel free to watch a video on it here.

Finding your cost function.

This whole email is a long way of me saying that we all need to find our cost function. What is it that you are optimizing for?

There is no such thing as a machine-learning algorithm without a cost function.

In machine learning, if you don’t know what you're optimizing for, the algorithm will go haywire! It will essentially be taking inputs x and output some random noise that makes the algorithm even more confused and lead it down an essentially random path.

The cost function you choose for your life is a very complex thing that is unique to you and is constantly changing. For Paul, his cost function may be optimizing his function f heavily for long term goals and his day-to-day relationship with his partner. For Gabby, her cost function may only be optimizing her function f for short-term pleasures in the form of drugs.

My cost function right now may consist of short-term happiness in the form of learning and exploration, but my cost function also understands that I want to be a massive success one day. So, it optimizes my function f accordingly.

We’re all different. What’s your cost function?

i bet every1 reading this is a boomer pft can all my zoomers in the chat press 1

Hey all!

TWAS A GOOD WEEK.

Ouch

Went to a metal concert on Tuesday. My 2nd fav band of all time. Here’s their best song.

I went hard in the mosh pit. I got punched right in the face. I currently have a black eye. I lost my glasses in the process and they got completely crushed. I then found them on the ground between one of the songs. Fixed them. I went back in the mosh pit. Then I lost the left lens.

10/10 concert would do again.

Machine Learning

On Monday I randomly started watching the first fast.ai lecture. For those who don’t know, FastAI is the thing everyone mentions when it comes to learning machine learning. It’s 100% free and open-source. The course is literally built by experts + students over time through suggestions and even direct pull requests to the course repository. I looooooove this model for learning. It forces the student to create instead of just consume. The key to learning for me creating. Lectures, bland HW assignments, and copying what the professor does is consuming. Actually using the knowledge to make something happen in the real world is creating.

Anyways.

Basically, on paper, FastAI has all the elements of what I envision to be a “perfect” course.

I had skipped through it last year.

But, this time I wanted to do it for real because I’ve had some new ideas related to coding + education similar to the FastAI model and wanted to try out FastAI first to sorta understand the current state-of-the-art of this style course.

Honestly. I’ve been liking the course way more than I expected.

I’m going super slow. A lot of the course is like a review for me, but there is also a sufficient amount of new stuff that keeps me interested. So much new stuff. UNets, one cycle learning, how to properly use Jupyter Lab, PyTorch, new datasets, NLP (something I’ve never touched), and more. Plus, the homework assignments are dope and teach you a lot even if you’re already familiar w/ a lot of the concepts.

I’ve also started watching Andrew Ng’s course on machine learning recently, one of the most popular online courses of all time w/ over 2.6 million people enrolled. Honestly, most of the stuff in this course isn’t that important. It’s all math that no one really needs to know anymore. But, idk, I’ve been really enjoying it - walking through the theory step by step and working it out on paper. It’s been fun.

Readings of the Week

I read “Talking to Strangers” this week by Malcolm Gladwell. 7/10 book. The book pretty much asks the question: When we meet a stranger, why is it that we almost never understand them properly? It uses historical examples where Hitler was able to deceive Chamberlain, recent examples of cops where they shot people for doing pretty much nothing, and examples from the CIA where Cuban double agents were discovered in the CIA. It breaks down all these scenarios and digs deep into how it all went down. At the core, the book is trying to drive home this point that strangers are EXTREMELY confusing, yet we as humans always assume we understand them.

I read “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles last week. 9.5/10 book. I’m not even gonna lie this is probably one of my favorite novels of all time now. Just go pick it up from your local library or something :). I promise you won’t waste your time.

I also read a cool new computer vision paper from ICCV 2019 about DeceptionNets. Been trying to read more papers lately!

Libraries are an Unseen Opportunity

Been doing a lot of reading into the local budget of my city and the budget of my county.

I wrote some tweets talking about it here. Basically, there is a fuck ton of money flowing into the city from governments and you can very easily look at these budgets and understand where exactly the money is going and how it’s allocated. It literally says RIGHT THERE what each department spent on software in 2019 and what they're budgeted to spend on software in 2020.

Here’s an example w/ the city’s police department where they're cutting back the budget on software.

This is probably a good signal for you to not expend too much effort on selling software to the Pembroke Pines police department and instead find another department who is actually increasing their budget for software.

For example, sell to the Pembroke Pines Technology Services department instead where they are literally doubling their budget for software:

Anyways, I also spoke with my past teacher from high school (shoutout to Ms.Hughes) who stressed to me that libraries are an unseen opportunity. Instead of selling software to schools, sell it to libraries! They have a shorter sales cycle and also have more incentive than schools to try new things. All libraries want is to have more people engaging with them, either physically or online. More engagement = higher budgets since libraries compete for w/ other departments (ex. parks) for capital.

It makes a lot of sense….

I spent a lot of time this week going to lots of different libraries in my area and trying out all the different software that’s offered. It’s all… pretty meh. Most of it is garbage educational software for kids. And I’m sure those companies are making a fuck ton of money.

Def an unseen opportunity. They also have MASSSSSSIVE BUDGETS. Just Broward Country has a budget of $52M for its 38 libraries. The USA has around 117,000 libraries in total.

Bruh.

So much could be done to supercharge libraries.

I wonder if we can make libraries cool again. Not sure. Just been brainstorming right now. Nothing concrete!

YT Videos

90% chance I start making some machine learning related YouTube videos. For fun ofc. I’m pretty bored.

Note: Not doing this to get YT famous LOL. If I wanted to get YT famous I’d make dumb ass videos like this one titled “Going Through The Same Drive Thru 1,000 Times”.

I think my first video is either going to be a simple ML tutorial or a simple explanation on gradient descent. Unsure! Stay tuned.

Teaching

I put out a tweet saying I’ll help anyone learn ML for free here. (Note: if you’re interested, just reply to this email w/ the word “potato”).

I got a lot of DMs, LOL.

I’m actually really excited to teach people some new stuff.

Why am I doing this?

1) I like helping people.

2) I like making friends.

3) I like seeing other people win.

4) I want to figure out what’s “missing” in the world of ML education and fill in those gaps myself.

College

I dropped my brother off to college at FIU the other day and decided to stick around. I walked through campus and chilled in the library. It reminded me:

1) That I do indeed miss college. Learning full time about random shit while collaborating w/ other people doesn’t happen many other places. In fact, it’s a huge thing I miss right now.

2) That college is a waste of time for most of the people there. I randomly sat with a bunch of students studying for their Anatomy class and dude like 2 out of the 12 students there were hyped to learn and succeed. Everyone else was fucking around on Instagram for the entire 6 hours I was there. These people shouldn’t be going to college. College sucks if you don’t know what you’re passionate about. Stop wasting your damn money, you idiots. Figure out what you love, then pay an institution like a college to help you find a career in it.

3) College coffee shops are the best.

Future

Just taking it week by week.

I’ve been feeling pretty useless by my own measurements lately.

Alas.

Sometimes you feel useless.

So it goes…

Though. I am really enjoying learning all the new stuff in ML, reading papers, reading random books. It’s fun. Probably going to keep doing that for the entire month of October. Hyped to teach people some ML to.

I also started doing coding challenge questions. I’m not super set on working for a bigger company like Apple or Google yet, but I think it’d be nice to have the ability to get to those kinda places easily. I’ve bee doing a lot of research into Apple’s and MSFT’s ML departments and their soooooo cool. Coding challenges are a huge part of getting to work in big tech. If you can’t sort a binary tree you get rejected right there, LOL. Plus, tbh, their hella fun. I usually wake up and just do a challenge as like a brain warm-up.

Pce.

-Farza

life is good i just ate some chocolate cake and drank tea

what the fk is up lads.

its ur boy.

this is actually my 34th weekly update.

i’m surprised im still making these.

i’m more surprised you’re still reading them.

u damn fools.

lets jump into the week :).

Some Progress

These last 4 weeks have been a struggle because I’ve been trying to figure out a new thing to work on. Spoiler alert: I’m stilling struggling, but less!

It’s been quite difficult. I’m essentially defined by the problems I solve and the things I create. So, if I’m not working on something I find interesting I’m just going to burn out and do a shit job.

Around 4-5 times in the last month, I literally started working on something and then stopped because I just lost steam. I’m not one to work on something I’m not hyped about. Sure, I have a list of 500+ ideas on my iPhone. But which ones do I actually want to spend more than 1 hour on?

Life is to short to work on stuff you aren’t hyped about.

I asked my friend Furqan for advice last week. He helped make things more clear for me.

Yah.

I can get behind that.

I’ve been trying so hard to find problems for me to solve. Instead, why not find stuff I truly care about + enjoy and go from there?

In fact, in the past, this is how I always did things! I learned ML because I thought it’d be cool to improve esports analytics. I learned web development because I wanted to make websites for gamers. I learned computer vision because I wanted to make self-driving cars.

But, it seems that I strayed away from that mindset after college and the Silicon Valley mantra pushed me more in the direction of “only work on problems that can become billion-dollar businesses and scale to millions of users and make a lot of $”.

So, I started looking into things I think would be just cool to work on: blockchain, drones, educational tools, cyber security, learning piano, and other random stuff.

I think by this time next week I’ll be working on something I’m hyped about :).

Tutoring

I started teaching a kid how to code last week. His goal is to make a Minecraft mod. He’s 11. I simply show up once a week and teach him. In class #1, I gave him my Rasberry Pi, had him set it up from scratch, and started teaching him terminal commands + Python (all through the Pi). In two hours he was effortlessly able to navigate around his terminal with commands like: “cd” and “pwd”. He then built his first Python program and ran it from his own Terminal. Like a freaking boss. The speed at which he picked all this up blew my mind. Like holy shit. He’s 11. This took me days to understand in college. By the end of class #1, he was making “stories” through code using time.sleep() and print statements where the program would tell you a story.

Wow.

I’ll keep you guys posted on his progress :).

FarzaLogs

I told you guys last week about a tool I made for myself called FarzaLogs. How’s it going? Have I been keeping up with it? Well. See for yourself.

I really like this tool. Whenever I feel like I wasted a day (as I have been feeling often), I can simply look at the logs and understand the exact actions I took to waste that day and try and avoid those actions next time.

To make it clear, I didn’t make this to optimize my time. I don’t care about that. I made it so I could easily document where my days were going and how I could perhaps spend them doing more stuff I like. Also because it’s fun to log everything :).

Another Company

Been spending a lot of time entertaining the idea of working for another company. I’m not that against the idea tbh. Working somewhere like Webflow, Stripe, Twitter, Google, Microsoft can teach you a lot depending on your mindset. If you work for Microsoft with the mindset of “I’m going to work on cool stuff and become a better engineer” I think that’s a pretty meh mindset that won’t take you that far. If I ended up joining Microsoft (which I have been looking into), I’d enter with the mindset of “Okay, so how do I become CEO of this place?”.

Anyways. I just wanted to mention that I am entertaining the idea! I’d be a fool not to. Everyone always says “blah blah joining big company means you won’t start a company blah blah betrayal blah blah”, but honestly it’s all just mindset. If you are comfy at you $140K a year job @ Google and don’t aim for the moon you will just rot there until the company dies.

Anyways.

UNTIL NEXT TIME.

-Farza

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