Jimmy's blog
photography, robots, drawings, and other "art"

A machine learning based clock

January 12th, 2020

I wanted to gain a bit more understanding of machine learning. I learn best by doing and also find that I can fool myself (and others) into thinking I know something by reading a book and watching a couple videos but until I implement something myself, I don’t really know it. So I thought it’d be fun to build a clock that can tell time by looking at the sky.

I made a web app here so you can try it yourself.

My full dataset can be found here. These are 30 second time-lapses from midnight to midnight at 30fps. So each movie has 900 frames taken over 24 hours. I have 28 days worth of data and counting. Below is the full confusion matrix on my training data. The classifier doesn’t work so well when it’s fully cloudy or foggy otherwise I was surprised to learn it can be +/- 1 hour on a clear day and totally able to distinguish between morning and evening. So it must look at features other than just brightness.


Everything here I learnt from Jeremy Howard’s excellent fast.ai class.

Next chapter for Jimmy and Transcriptic/Strateos

December 29th, 2019

We started Strateos (formerly Transcriptic) as outsiders to the industry with little experience but enough chutzpah (aka ignorance) to think we could make biology easier to engineer. We charged a whopping $100 for our first run of growth curves to a class of undergraduates at Stanford. I was enamored by the science being executed at our facility and the idea that somewhere remote, college students were designing how to grow bacteria from their laptops in their dorm rooms. We realized that to keep doing cool science we had to prove that we could turn this into an actual business that is larger than $100 checks. And so it started.

Today, we work with the biggest pharma and synthetic biology companies in the world. We went from a couple of us manually pipetting to today where we have dozens of robot arms managing hundreds of instruments. We are deployed across three different sites across the US and just surpassed a million unit operations in our Menlo Park facility alone. We have also recently expanded into automated chemistry to rapidly synthesize new compounds that we can use to probe the molecular biology we have been running. It’s safe to say that the checks are a little bigger now and the question is not if there is a business but how to keep growing and keep up with the demand. As I mentioned, the company started off as audacious (and ignorant) outsiders but we have complemented the team with insiders and decades of experience by the likes of Mark Fischer-Colbrie (former CEO of Labcyte) and Dan Sipes (former Director of Automation at GNF). These were the very companies I studied when we were first starting out! I could not have imagined that those leaders would eventually end up joining our little company.

Like any startup, we’ve had our share of ups and downs along the journey. There was a short period of time where we were living through season 3, episode 5 of Silicon Valley: The Empty Chair by not having a CEO. I kid you not. Fortunately, it turns out that keeping the company going without a CEO actually wasn’t all that bad. Mergers are hard but the dust has settled now and we’ve survived that one too and come out stronger. It’s a funny thing: when the company is facing tough challenges, I can’t leave because I want to fix the situation we’re in and be the steady rock for the team. When the company is on a high, it’s so much fun that there’s no reason for me to leave. I’ve been riding those ups and downs for over six years now! Today, I believe the company is in the good hands of experienced leaders and is finally able to stand on its own legs with steady business incoming. I believe it is the right time for me to pass the torch.

Friends come and go. A day ends, a new day begins. What’s important is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend, a meaningful day. For me, it is time to re-pot. To current and former Transcriptic/Stateos employees: what I will look back on is the hours spent alongside all of you, overcoming challenges and forging deep relationships along the way. If there’s a particularly meaningful memory you have of us, from the heroic to just something that made you laugh, send me a note! I’d love to hear from you. To potentially new Strateos employees: now is a super exciting time to join. We are about to turn on our largest data generating machine yet! More news on that to come in the new year. Stay tuned.


(This is a cross-post from LinkedIn. Added here for consistency and completeness.)

Reflecting on how much easier it is to take a panorama compared to 10 years ago

May 26th, 2019

2400 Chestnut pano3cropped
This photo was taken circa 2007 in Philadelphia, PA. Back then digital photography was still becoming popular and panoramas weren’t as easy as a rotating your phone. This is a combination of HDR (blending 3 photos with 3 different exposures taken from the same position) and panaroma (stitching together photos from 10 different positions) for a total of 30 images combined into one image. From setting up a tripod, pressing the shutter on my DSLR, stitching the images together using Autopano Pro software and tuning the HDR it was about 8 hours worth of work. An oldie but still one of my more favorite panoramas I’ve taken and symbolizing a previous chapter in my life. Thanks friends and city of Philadelphia for all the adventures and life lessons. Some of you I take with me on my journey, parts of you I sadly must leave behind.

To a new chapter in Pacifica, CA. My new skyline going forward. This image took about 5 seconds to make with a single click and sweeping across the landscape with my phone.
Pacifica Skyline

Robot sketches

September 13th, 2016

Ink and copic marker.

Landscape sketches

September 13th, 2016

Ink and copic marker.

Random Walkers

May 30th, 2016


May 8th, 2016

Experimenting with the Perlin noise() function in Processing. Play here.


April 5th, 2016

I wrote a little interactive web app that allows me to generate this piece of patterns and colors. You can try it out for yourself here.


April 18th, 2011

Michael Park introduced me to the zen of moped maintenance and helped me fix up this two stroke engine from the 1970s.

Elegance = Power / Complexity

Curly Hair

April 3rd, 2011

I asked Noreen if we could push the envelope of what’s possible with hair. Falon wanted big and curly.

Above: Falon

Hair: Noreen Fox
Make up: Carinn Kanaki