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Quantum Forest

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Mid-September flotsam

This is one of those times of the year: struggling to keep the head above the water, roughly one month before the last lecture of the semester. On top trying to squeeze trips, meetings and presentations in between while dealing with man flu.

Gratuitous picture: looking for peace in Japan (Photo: Luis).

Mid-August flotsam

Reached mid-semester point, with quite a few new lectures to prepare. Nothing extremely complicated but, as always, the tricky part is finding a way to make it meaningful and memorable. Sometimes, and this is one of those times, I sound like a broken record but I’m a bit obsessive about helping people to ‘get’ a topic.

Gratuitous picture: Lola, Lisbon, Portugal(Photo: Luis).

Early August flotsam

Back teaching a couple of subjects and it’s the constant challenge to find enough common ground with students so one can push/pull them to the other side of new concepts. We are not talking about complex hierarchical models using mixed models or Bayesian approaches, but multiple linear regression or similar. What do students actually learn in first year stats…?

  • I’m enjoying reading Machine Learning for Hackers by Drew Conway and John Myles White. There isn’t a lot of stuff new for me in the book—although working with text is not something I usually do—but I have chosen to read the book with newbie eyes. I’m (repeating myself) looking for enough common ground with students so one can push/pull them to the other side of new concepts and, let’s face it, I was 20 quite a few years ago.
  • Observation on teaching a lab for STAT202, in which many students are using R for the first time. Do you remember your first steps in S+/R? Some students see the light quickly while others are struggling to get their heads around giving commands to a computer (without clicking on icons).
  • Videos and screencasts on using IPython via Vince Buffalo.
  • This tweet by @isomorphisms resonated with me: ‘Someday I hope to be reading more Penguin Classics than John Wileys & Springer Verlags’.
  • Tom points to an explanation of ‘What really shoots out of spiderman’s modified forelimbs, and why this causes such consternation’.
  • I have to convince College IT guys to install R-Studio in a few hundred computers. R-Studio is becoming better all the time, making it obscene to subject students to the naked R for Windows installation without syntax highlighting.
  • Finally, reasons why men should not write advice columns via Arthur Charpentier.

Derelict house in Sintra, Portugal (Photo: Luis).

End of May flotsam

The end is near! At least the semester is coming to an end, so students have crazy expectations like getting marks back for assignments, and administrators want to see exam scripts. Sigh! What has been happening meanwhile in Quantum Forest?

  • Tom cracked me up with “…my data is so fucking patchy. I’m zipoissoning the place up like a motherfucker, or something”. I probably need to embark in some zipoissoning, and he was kind enough to send me some links.
  • People keep on kicking this guy called “p-value” when he is still unconscious on the floor. Bob O’Hara declares that p-values are evil. Not funny! John Cook reminds us that “The language of science is the language of probability, and not of p-values.” —Luis Pericchi”. Actually, these days the language of Science is English or whatever passes for English in a press release.
  • Discussion with Mark about the canonical pronunciation for MCMCglmm: mac-mac-glim, em-see-em-see-glim or Luis’s dumb em-see-em-see-gee-el-em-em. We need a press release from Jarrod Hadfield to clear the air!
  • RStudio now supports knitr; I’m looking forward to being able to send email from it. Wait, then it would be like a pretty Emacs.

Unfortunately named Fiat dealer in Southern Brazil. Ideal if you want to zipoisson your way around. Locals told me that it was a German surname, pronounced Fook. Mmh. (Photo: Luis)

  • Did you know? There is life beyond R. Pandas keeps on growing (if Python is your thing). Douglas Bates keeps on digging Julia. I ‘discovered’ Bartosz Milewski‘s blog, which I enjoy reading although I understand a small fraction of what he’s taking about. I came across Bartosz while looking for information on using supercomputers.
  • Data points: “How do you know you have an ageing economy? Adult nappy sales are more than kids’ nappy sales. That’s Japan now.” tweeted Bernard. “Crap!” was my reaction (nappy = diaper for US readers).
  • Feeling frustrated using R? Just go for some language Schadenfreude at Abandon Matlab.
  • Going to Auckland? Our agent Mike has just the place to go “La Voie Française (875 Dom Rd) is worth a trip. Great baguettes, $2 flaky croissants, queue out the door”.
  • Still shaking in Christchurch. Last Monday I was teaching while we had a 5.2 magnitude quake; we kept on going with the lecture.

And that’s my view of the month from down under Christchurch.

Late-April flotsam

It has been month and a half since I compiled a list of statistical/programming internet flotsam and jetsam.

  • Via Lambda The Ultimate: Evaluating the Design of the R Language: Objects and Functions For Data Analysis (PDF). A very detailed evaluation of the design and performance of R. HT: Christophe Lalanne. If you are in statistical genetics and Twitter Christophe is the man to follow.
  • Attributed to John Tukey, “without assumptions there can be no conclusions” is an extremely important point, which comes to mind when listening to the fascinating interview to Richard Burkhauser on the changes of income for the middle class in USA. Changes to the definition of the unit of analysis may give a completely different result. By the way, does someone have a first-hand reference to Tukey’s quote?
  • Nature news publishes RNA studies under fire: High-profile results challenged over statistical analysis of sequence data. I expect to see happening more often once researchers get used to upload the data and code for their papers.
  • Bob O’Hara writes on Why simple models are better, which is not positive towards the machine learning crowd.
  • A Matlab Programmer’s Take On Julia, and a Python developer interacts with Julia developers. Not everything is smooth. HT: Mike Croucher. ?
  • Dear NASA: No More Rainbow Color Scales, Please. HT: Mike Dickinson. Important: this applies to R graphs too.
  • Rafael Maia asks “are programmers trying on purpose to come up with names for their languages that make it hard to google for info?” These are the suggestions if one searches Google for Julia:

    Unhelpful search suggestions.

  • I suggest creating a language called Bieber and search for dimension Bieber, loop Bieber and regression Bieber.

That’s all folks.

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