A March for Science

Today people from cities all over the country and around the world marched for science. You might think this may politicize the issue of evidence-based knowledge, rendering science partisan and spiraling the denizens of this planet into a further epistemological crisis. Or, you might conclude that science saved some us from excessive pollution, even though discoveries as a result of it caused said pollution in the first place. Regardless of your thoughts, science can be a completely intangible thing to many people. You may support science superficially. But, it need never be a matter of faith. Telling someone to “trust” in science is dangerous in my mind. The difference between science and religion is that in the former, no matter who you are, you can work hard and ultimately verify the claims made by it. In the latter, you cannot. With the manifold complexity of modern-day science, this can be difficult to accept. Though, with trust, we can get people to consider that what a few experts find probable is in fact possible for them to comprehend. And in turn, even with a skeptical mind, accept as probable themselves. It’s not a panacea for curing the various shades of science denial, but it’s an important point to make.

Phonetic Redistricting

The title of this post is a little bit of bullshit. This summer, I intend to read through the book Random Geometric Graphs by Mathew Penrose, sort of fumbling my way through it and discussing along the way with my advisor. On the garden path, it occurred to me that one might be able to use point processes or random fields to model sound change in language. One could possibly apply these concepts to events like the Northern Cities Vowel Shift to inform were our sounds will go, based on where they have come from. It’s a pretty half-baked idea right now, but the parallels seem present. A starting point might be this here book.

Regarding the redistricting portion of the title, I recently read an article on Wired about redistricting and in the process discovered the work of Wendy K. Tam Cho, who uses simulation strategies to measure the partisan advantage induced by a particular redistricting map. Such a simulation procedure is subject with a multitudinous number of constraints, due to the necessity of contiguous districts and trivial things like the Voting Rights Act. But clearly, this is another usage of a spatial stochastic model to solve novel and thus far intractable real-world problems. To both these ends, I have more ideas than intent or even ambition to follow through on them.

The Crowd

This man is more concerned with the size of his inauguration crowd than the reason why so few people came to see it. He does not seem to register that by most accounts the demonstration in the Women’s March in DC produced a larger crowd than his own inauguration. However, it being outside his faculties to acknowledge this, he instructed Sean Spicer, his press secretary, to address this national emergency and to state that “this was the largest audience to ever witness and inauguration, period.”

Whatever the true audience Trump’s inauguration was, it has been one of the major stories of the day. This stands in contrast with reports of some of the largest peaceful demonstrations in U.S. history across the country in favor of not rolling back the unfinished progress we have made in this country for the rights for women, racial minorities, religious minorities, the LGBT community and other groups who stand to lose bigly from the Trump administration – not to mention all of those who protested in sister marches around the world, people who cherish these same unalienable rights which brought our nation into being. The point being that Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, cannot be changed. His attention cannot be diverted from the ego which consumes him.

In truth, the crowds may not have been there because of the rain. Or, they may not have had the same access as in previous years, as press secretary Sean Spicer noted. However, the need for the leader of the free world to inveigh against overwhelmingly truthful media reports that the crowd for his inauguration was not as large as in previous years, juxtaposed with the more extensive protests against his agenda, suggests that we will need our wits about us if we are to hold this man accountable for the next four years.

Trump claimed that a million or a million and a half people were amongst the crowds that attended his swearing-in as Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military on Earth. The number, though the official count is not provided and hence uncertain, seems to be much less than that. What is certain, is that this man cannot allay the urge to strike out against items in the press which, in his mind, sully his overinflated self-image and distract from his obligation to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Regardless of one’s partisanship, one must heed these seeming trivialities. Because, one day they may not merely distract from the core mission of the President as stated in the oath of office he took just yesterday. It is our duty as citizens of this great nation to make sure that we speak loudly and act boldly so that we will never arrive at the times in which the narcissistic actions of President Trump are more than a distraction.

Platform – Corporations

I’d like to preface what I’m about to say by noting that I dislike being politically vocal or active because it alienates people that one could otherwise be close to. In my view, pragmatism and compromise are second only to conviction and integrity, but I have a hard time maintaining my fervor for issues, when there are so many other things that catch my eye and are shiny and captivating and inconsequential but important and maintain my sanity in the face of the odds of any change. However, such fervor occasionally boils over.

I have found myself thinking a lot recently about how I would fashion a political party if I were to take it upon myself to create one. It is a tall order, undoubtedly, but I believe I have a centerpiece.

Corporate interests have no place in the political sphere. Corporations have historically been, without proper and efficient regulation, complicit in the use child labor, environment destruction, and other various ills that our planet faces. They are the right’s deified creators of jobs, but when profit exceeds all other cares, we cannot expect that the environment, be it in the workplace or the world itself, in which these jobs are performed is safe, clean or sustainable.

One of the largest issues facing us today is climate change. To those skeptics that say that the United States is just one nation or that the economy triumphs of the needs of the planet, let me say this: whether we in the United States would like to admit it or not, we are incredibly influential in the policies of the world. In addition, if we do not forge ahead with sustainability in mind, we will have no fields in which to reap our bounty of employment and economic prosperity. If, because of these corporate interests, our legislature cannot take action with regards to significant global climate or environmental reforms, and because of this the world waits, we are ultimately at least morally culpable for potential loss of life and liberty due to these unsustainable practices. Do we want to be a society that contributes to the pain and suffering of those less fortunate around the world, by allowing corporations to dictate policy, because we like things cheap and our GDP big? If we ask ourselves what these sometimes intangible and inscrutable economic policies mean, in comparison to clean drinking water, to enjoying food from and life on a planet in a manner that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy, what answer do we have? Corporations, in my view, ultimately subsidize this thought and advocate for certain “gains” at the expense of our health as a people–of the United States, and of the world. They are selfish actors, advocating profit over our best interests, and through this undue meddling create a country in which these issues do not matter as they ought to.

In the midst of this criticism, I would be remiss to fail to acknowledge the presence of ethical businesses, however, the abdication of corporations from the political arena will allow us to have a freer democracy and remove those who stray from the ethical and moral imperative to excuse themselves from their places at the table in governmental affairs so as to create a republic truer to our founder’s visions.

Corporate influence on democracy and the acquiescence to corporate interests, is one of the issues that constantly arises at the forefront of my mind when I think of issues such as the environment, the basic rights of citizens and the principal tenets of democracy. If I were to create a political party, it would, similarly to the philosophies of Senator Sanders, expunge the means of interference of corporations with the will of the people and the interests of the human race.

“You’re looking at a block of granite” – Lincoln Chafee

Some Solutions

To whom it may concern,

I have been gradschooling for the last 6 months or so, so I have had nary the chance to freelance and kick shit around as in the before-times. However, over break while studying for qualifying exams, I put together a few solutions for “An Introduction to Generalized Linear Models” by Dobson & Barnett. You will find it here (let me know if there are errors).

Clearly, I’d like to get more stuff out here but I’m NOT a content-producing machine. This semester I’ll be taking some classes on stochastic processes, linear models and the like so maybe I’ll have something of that ilk pop up here. Probably not, but like the Tunguska event of 1908, in which a large explosion was reported of what purportedly was a giant, 200 foot meteor, which had energy 1000 times greater than when Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, yet mysteriously left no impact crater, strange things can happen. Ok.


Graduate School / Bilingualism

Well, it’s that time. I’m going to grad school soon to start my PhD in Statistics at the lovely Purdue University, along the banks of the Wabash. Clearly I’ve done stuff in the past few months and my lack of blog posts is a bad indicator of my interstitial life experiences. I finished my job at UnitedHealthcare, went to Paris and Amsterdam, worked grading standardized tests of the stellar Louisiana education system and started an internship at MatrixCare — a company that provides software to make life easier for long-term care providers. My experience at MatrixCare has been great and I’ve learned a ton about data science in a real world environment. It’s been great.

To sign off, I’ll give a visualization that I produced while I was practicing the vcd library in R and messing around with the fascinating GSS Data Explorer.

Association Between Bilingualism and Life Outlook Over Time

It’s a faceted mosaic plot showing the association between bilingualism and life outlook, with separate panels for the biennia between 2006-2014. It’s fairly interesting to see how bilinguals are more highly allocated into exciting outlooks and less allocated in the routine/dull category with the trend reversed for non-bilinguals. For one, my life would be less interesting had I not heard of De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig or Downistie, a couple of Dutch classics. Speaking of which, follow me on if you’re on there. I’ll get the code up eventually.

New Website

I’m trying to make my site a place where I can publish updates on data analysis, statistics, machine learning, and whatever pops into my brain, I thought I’d revert to this WordPress idea. I’m too lazy to be bothered learning Django or other Python web framework, primarily for focus reasons, but maybe I’ll try to pick up Snap or some other Haskell eventually. As this evinces, web development isn’t my focus, I’m all about math, stats and other odds and ends of that ilk at this point so I’ve made a change. Don’t judge, be kind and I should have a post up soon.