Chris X Edwards

How many architects have ever thought about fridge noise? Zero. That profession is becoming exactly as worthless as modern houses.
2023-03-15 17:18
One day when AIs are trained on ChatGPT output, the phrase "I'm sorry for the confusion" will pick up prominence. And be quite relevant.
2023-03-07 10:41
You're worried that ChatGPT might sometimes be wrong? When that happens, think of it as relaying StackExchange answers accurately.
2023-03-02 09:34
Why are lift tickets so huge (125cm^2)? For keeping warm on the lift? And where do we intrinsically warm lift-free Nordic skiers put that?
2023-03-02 07:36
In software everything is hyped as "in a single click!" What worthwhile desires are specified with only a single bit in real life?
2023-02-02 08:42
Blah Blah

Nordic Skate Skiing

2023-03-04 19:47

I am currently in the northern mitten of Michigan which is an excellent region for my favorite sport of Nordic skiing! A lot of people have misconceptions of the sport and I thought I would do what I could to demonstrate what it is I am exactly doing when I "go skiing". When conditions are bad (e.g. where I currently live, and this winter in general) I will ski with what is called "classic" style. This is the one most people think of when they think of cross country skiing where you basically shuffle along on skis. Nothing wrong with that. It’s what I learned as a kid in Alaska.

However there is a more modern form of Nordic skiing called skate skiing and it is just like it sounds — propulsion is achieved with a skating action. This type of skiing can be very graceful and elegant when done well. Since I’ve got a pretty strong in-line and ice speedskating background, when I heard about skate skiing I knew I would love it!

There are some difficulties with skate skiing however. First, it is faster partially because it generally requires a higher wattage than classic skiing. I know what it’s like to skate ski while dead tired and there is definitely a wattage threshold necessary to avoid clumsiness.

The other problem is much more challenging for me: skate skiing generally requires a wide groomed track. On some very special days it can be possible to ski on natural snow that has formed an icy crust, but if there is more than an inch of low density (< 150kg/m^3) snow, skate skiing is not really fun. (And if you only have that inch of low density snow, it turns out that is a good way to destroy the edges of your fancy new carbon fiber skis!)

In the following short video I’m demonstrating one of the counter intuitive aspects of this kind of skiing: it is possible to ski both down and up hills. YouTube link.

The hills in this video are relatively minor (though note I am going around a switchback on one). However, yesterday I experienced what may stand as my greatest skiing feat ever. I was at one of Michigan’s many small but popular Alpine (downhill) skiing resorts called, amusingly, Nub’s Nob. Many of these places, including this one, have groomed trails for Nordic skiing. One of their "difficult" trails is routed up one of their Alpine runs. I’d always wondered how I would do going up an Alpine skiing hill and this was my chance to find out! The "trail" went right up along their Purple chairlift. As I started up the mountain, I could see and hear some kids next to me on the lift. I don’t know if they were talking about me but I was going to be happier when they’d gone by. Only they didn’t. At about the halfway point I started to sense that I was pulling away from them — beating the chairlift! Once I realized that beating the lift was a possibility, I gave it everything and I actually did it!

I mention that little story because A. I will enjoy reminding myself of it, B. to convey idea that climbing on skis can be a pretty high energy sport, and C. to let my hill climbing ace brother know where the bar has been set for climbing on skis.

However, I actually most enjoy skiing longer distances on faster terrain. This morning I was at the most excellent Forbush Corner Nordic Cross Country Ski Center in Frederic, MI doing exactly that. Nordic skiing is a difficult sport to film but I did my best by recording a pov run that lasts about 40 minutes. Youtube link.

Hopefully that seemed fun and gave you more inspiration than motion sickness.

Nootropic Risk

2023-02-21 09:53

I am going to describe a hypothetical problem. Though it is conceptually a potential existential threat to all of mankind, I am not concerned about it in any way whatsoever. It is a problem which nobody is worrying about now and likely never has and never will.

How is this not a waste of time? Well, if you can spot any similarities to another putatitve existential threat then maybe this thought experiment can help you think more clearly about such issues, saving time in the long run. Let’s begin!

Imagine some "intelligent" people. In this case we have the unusual luxury of being able to define "intelligent": it is simply what these people proclaim themselves to be! These people also believe intelligence leads to "power" (the definition of which is less clearly established). They also believe that intelligence is strongly hinted at by IQ tests, GPAs, SAT scores, chess rankings, degree attainment, Substack subscribers, and similar nerd posturing and selection biases.

It turns out that some of these people value their (self-proclaimed) "intelligence" so much that they want to enlarge it. To maximize it. In unnatural ways. They want a commensurate unnatural increase in the "power" it accretes. Some of these people set their intelligence to the task and come up with the very intelligent idea of using magic potions to increase their intelligence. You may scoff and say (outside of fiction) there is no such thing as "magic potions" that increase intelligence. But these intelligent people scoff at your marginal intelligence. They in fact have an entire campaign to to use intelligence to discover pharmacological substances that increase their intelligence. This is called nootropics, the dictionary definition of which is: "a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning".

Imagine one day one of these people discovers or even stumbles randomly upon some kind of nootropic enhancement that allows them to discover yet more. With this increased intelligence they can invent even more powerful intelligence drugs. Ad infinitum. Soon this superhuman intellect will be able to improve itself into an inconceivably powerful intelligence.

It’s hard — perhaps impossible — to sensibly predict how this problem would unfold, but if, for some unspecified reason, we were compelled to be as absolutely pessimistic as possible, we would be forced to accept some grim implications. First of all we will have to conclude that this is not just a possibility, but that it is inevitable. Second, we must assume that this superhuman intellect, hopped up on unimaginable hitherto uninvented intelligence enhancing drugs, will be malevolent, or at least exhibit a callous disregard for "lesser" humans. Third, we must assume that intelligence is tantamount to "power" and power begets antisocial thinking and therefore such a fantastically intelligent being would want to extinguish the entire species of lesser beings and obliterate them from any kind of historical memory.

At this point, maybe you’re starting to become somewhat frightened of these hypothetical "intelligent" people. All that genocide definitely sounds bad! However the situation is actually much worse.

You see, once these mere people start to ratchet their intelligence they will quickly attain powers more commonly associated with a god or even a tech billionaire. The insidious thing about this progression is that the superhuman nootropic god will not be so obtuse as to tip their hand and let normal mortals know that it has attained this exalted state (which necessitates destroying the rest of humanity). No. They will not give normal humans any chance to mount a defense. These will not be your typical monologuing supervillains! They will brilliantly disguise themselves as "ordinary" "intelligent" people. They will try to deflect suspicion by focusing attention on other concerns. For example, they may raise concerns about the putative "risks" of artificial intelligence while they prepare the final nootropic cocktail that will allow them to convert all energy in the universe into pure IQ test maximizing godwaves.

If I were one of these "intelligent" people I would be comfortable pointing out that I alone have brought this existential threat to the attention of normal people, and I would ask nothing more than to be regarded as the savior of mankind. That would surely enhance the credibility of my eschatological doomsaying, right? Perhaps I’d ask you to fund my nootropic alignment safety research institute. But I am in fact just a normal guy and, while my concerns are no doubt terrifying, it turns out I could be wrong. This is something very "intelligent" people are pretty sure they are not.

So remember, if you encounter a nootropic using, self-proclaimed "intelligent" person confidently warning everyone about impending doom at the hands of unaligned paperclip-maximizing artificial intelligence that is literally unimaginable, you now have some equally "rational" options for whom to fear.


Skiing The Trails Behind My House

2023-01-28 15:26

I’m working on a project that will require some footage of snow covered trails and I realized I better get my camera set up and get on that. Now. There may not be many more opportunities at this latitude.

I thought some people I know might enjoy seeing where I ski. So here you go.

The timings are at 2.5k and 5k. You were spared from more footage by GoPro cameras not being especially reliable.

It was a few degrees above freezing when I recorded this. This snow was light to start with and getting lighter every moment. In some spots you can see through to the asphalt of the trails. (Here they are in autumn.) The tracks I have set have been massacred by dog walkers. I’m sure I’ve cleared a thousand sticks off these trails - with only a centimeter of snow, every pencil-sized twig is felt.

I have some beautiful Fischer XC Twinskin Superlite skis I bought new in November. It would be a crime to grind them up on a messy course like this. I’ve been able to use them precisely zero times this season. I also just bought a used pair of Madshus Nanosonic skate skis to go with my Fischer RCS Skate Plus skis — obviously there’s been no chance for skate skiing anywhere near here this year. If you would like me to provide region-wide snow removal services, I’m currently available to professionally buy skis and live in your area.

Enjoy this image of the Lake Erie - Niagara River Ice Boom. With no ice.


Nordic Chairlift

2023-01-16 14:20

Had to drive down to the hollers of Sprague Brook County Park to find enough snow to ski on; it will be gone tomorrow but today it was surprisingly decent.

We were amused to find this "Nordic chairlift". Completely free. No lines at all!


Buffalo Does Not Have A Real Winter

2022-12-28 12:04

Buffalo does not have a real proper winter. Instead it gets sporadic cold snaps and snow storms that can be challenging. Maybe more challenging and dangerous because it is not a true winter climate.

I’m an odd person. The chances of me dying from cold or hypothermia or exposure or in an avalanche or down an ice crevasse or in a freak Zamboni accident, etc, is way, way, way higher than the average resident of Buffalo, New York. However, if you read that 30+ people have died (base rates? causality?) in "Buffalo" because of winter related problems, you can pretty well bet on the fact that I will not be one of them. While I appreciate the concern people have recently expressed that I might be struggling with the weather, it turns out that I am but for different reasons than the news has led you to expect: specifically, it is too hot and there is not enough snow.

So what the serious fuck is going on with the "news"? Here is a typical random article from Connecticut talking about Buffalo for some reason. Here is an AP article with photos with the ominous title "Military police enforce driving ban in snow-stricken Buffalo" — yet conditions look like normal stuff to me. This is the second time in a month that Buffalo, NY has lurched to the top of the sensational weather news to tell the world how incredibly wintry my neighborhood is. I guess there have been a lot of fatalities. There has definitely been some cold and windy weather recently that could have caught people by surprise. But why there would be more deaths than normal is still unclear to me.

It is also weirdly the second time I have left town only to have a giant weather related clusterfuck block my return home! Because I find Buffalo winter unsatisfactory for my purposes, I travelled to the Adirondak Mountains of upstate New York. And once again, while away, people are writing to me wondering how many limbs I have left because of frostbite amputation. People as far away as Australia have asked me about Buffalo’s apparently world-famous weather.

First, let’s review the recent and pretty serious weather that was all over the entire eastern part of the continent. Where I was seems typical: last week the weather was doing its normal thing, but around Friday December 23 it got much warmer than normal while pissing rain, and then the temperatures plummeted about 40F/22C. Where I was this massive rainfall at 45F/7C obliterated the snow base from about 20"/50cm down to 4"/10cm in a day. Then from about 1400 to 1800, the temperature dropped to 2F/-17C. The rain turned to snow for a short while but that only put back a couple of inches. It was mostly a very hard ice with a light coating of snow. As a bonus, it was pretty windy. I heard from people all over the eastern US from Cincinnati (down to -7F/-22C!) to Philadelphia that it was a similar story there. Buffalo did have a remarkable 65mph/105kph wind gusts on the report.

I was sitting far away in a cabin in the forest using my limited internet connectivity to figure out what the hell was going on and, importantly, how I would get back home. I watched Buffalo’s traffic cams and there wasn’t much to see because there was a lot of snow. Fine. But checking again on Saturday, it was interesting because there was no traffic at all. None. Because the roads were closed. This article mentions the "driving ban" but it was more serious than this. Looking at Google’s traffic, I saw something I’ve never seen before — all of the freeways in Erie County, NY were closed and had a little no-entry icon.

Ok, I was thinking they’ll surely get that sorted out soon. Sunday — closed. Monday — still closed. WTF? Tuesday came, I needed to go home, and the freeways were still closed! Amazingly the entire stretch of I-90 from Rochester to Buffalo was closed. It turns out that while I was driving back, they just opened the freeways, i.e. hours before I got there. That’s after four days.

I just am still kind of blown away at what a weird thing this is. What the hell happened?

Well, I do have one very good source of perspective which is my dash cam. Have a look at the conditions I drove through in the mountains for several hours as I drove from Saranac Lake, NY to Rome, NY.





Deer — just as much of a hazard.





I called this guy "dumberjack" — what a stupid place to park. I crept around him and — of course — an on-coming car appears around the blind turn.



Yes, that is a snowmobile trail crossing.


That snowmobile on the left just crossed the road in front of me.


These people are probably freaking out about the snow — with high fives and hugs!


That snowmobile on the right just passed me.


Snowmobiles are a sign that a region enjoys a proper winter.







Another snowmobile on the right. It was getting pretty wintry for mountain driving. But I managed to not get hysterical.


So that’s driving in the Adirondak Mountains where they really get a real winter and it was actively happening.

But take a look at what we found as we started to approach Buffalo.


This is 43mi/70km from Buffalo (heading west on the I-90). This road was closed for four days. Is that grass visible? Yes it is. I’m just not seeing the extraordinary problem here.




Here you can see the landing lights of BUF, the Buffalo Airport, also closed. Does this look like a serious winter situation? Not to me.


Here’s what my exit looked like — again, closed just a few hours earlier.


I don’t know what the hell was so problematic while I was away but this may be the source of a lot of trouble. Note the idiot passing me on my right, the one with the LEDs in the wheels (true).


I immediately sensed the stupidity and dropped back, but look at how he’s tailgating that car in front of him. Amazing. But is this really such a Buffalonian problem? Morons can be found everywhere there are cars, right? (Yes. The answer is yes. I assure you it is yes.)


And finally this is pulling into my driveway. Apparently one of my neighbors graciously used their snow throwing machine to clear my driveway. There is only a trace amount that has recently fallen. But take a look at the height. Is that 10 feet of snow? More like 10 inches (25cm) max.

If you’re from Ocean Beach, California, that may seem like "a lot" but no, this is just normal weather. My house is 10mi/16km from Canada! As mentioned last time, the greater Buffalo region has an astonishing variability in its snowfall, perhaps as much as any other flat place on earth; maybe some other neighborhoods had some problems. I don’t know. But why were the freeways near me and coming from the east shut down for four days? It’s a little bit embarrassing how famous Buffalo seems to be at not being able to handle its snow.

As I was skiing this morning just before dawn (to catch the snow as cold as I could — 32.5F/.3C) it occurred to me that Buffalo does not have a proper winter. In a place that has a proper winter temperatures drop below freezing and stay there suffciently for snow to remain until a spring thaw. There is not a spring thaw in Buffalo. There may be five. When snow comes here, often in weird unevenly distributed dumpings, it will usually be gone within the week. It is 40F/4.5C here now. The day after tomorrow the forecast shows 53F/12C. I will be shocked if there is any snow here at all in a week except giant dirty parking lot piles. And that, over and over, is the "winter" here. Why people can’t seem to handle it this year is still an open mystery.


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