Back in the Saddle

Most people who have known me for several years associate me with bicycling.  For almost all of college I was car-less (by choice) and I was a passionate advocate for bicycle rights on the road.  I even went to town hall meetings and got in arguments with cagers who tried to get bicycle lanes removed from roads that were being renovated.

In April of 2012, I was hit and injured by a car.  Coincidentally, my wife and I moved to a new city (60 minutes away from my job) a couple of months later.  The time off my bike recovering from the injury combined with the near impossibility of commuting to work by bike pretty much destroyed my resolve.  I have probably ridden less than 50 miles since then.

That’s not to say I haven’t missed it.  There is something magical about self-powered transportation, and some part of me even misses the threats and jeering from ignorant motorists.  A few times I even hopped on my bike and rode it short distances, but the bike never quite rode right after the wreck and I was too distracted to get it fixed properly.

Last week I finally took my bicycle to the local bike shop down the road, and today I gave them the OK to do the necessary repairs.

I should have it back by the weekend.

Autumn is coming.

I’m excited.

Reflection on “The Joy of Stats”

The Joy of Stats from Gapminder Foundation on Vimeo.

I finally got around to watching The Joy of Stats by Hans Rosling (a co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation).  In a few words, it’s a fun exploration of the surprising and amazing ways statistics is being used in modern science.

I’ve watched Rosling before through TED, so I recognized his classic look at “health and wealth” over the history of the world (though the twist he puts on it here is a lot of fun to watch).  [28:50]

However, the most striking point to me was his look at Google Translate.  I did not know before now that they actually use statistical methods (rather than linguistic rules) to power the translation.  And the idea of combining it with speech recognition to automatically translate a person’s speech in real-time…?  Who needs a Babel fish when you have Google?  [40:11]

The section on mapping the sky sparked my curiosity, but I was quickly distracted around [49:31] when I inexplicably got the urge to go play video games

I felt the segment with the Microsoft researcher on data-driven science was a little too vague, but the part immediately after was stunning.  I know research has been done on Twitter and other public social media for a while, but the way it was visualized gave it an air of mysticism. [53:50]

And I suppose that’s really what this film excels at — illustrating the magic of Statistics.

The Rat Who Lived

This story begins at Publix.

Danielle and I went out shopping last weekend to pick up some necessities.  It was raining, so neither of us had much desire to be out, but out we went.

By the time we finished, the rain had stopped, but the ground was still wet.  We walked to the car, put all of the groceries in the back seat (we had left our recycling bins in the trunk on accident), and I put away the grocery cart.  On my way back to the car, I noticed a furry white thing run under the car.

That looked like…, I thought.  But how… it must have been a cat.  But still, it reminded me of a rat, and rats are cute.  According to Danielle, all I said was “Aww…”

“What is it?” she asked.

“I think a rat just crawled under the car,” I said, realising that the furry white thing was much too small to be a cat.  She looked, and sure enough it was a rat.

Continue reading The Rat Who Lived

Past, Present, Future

Well, for the nth time I’m re-launching my presence in the virtual world.  Part of me wonders how long I’ll keep this up before I decide to start from scratch again, but part of me doesn’t much care anymore.

When I look back at all of the presences I’ve had on the web over my lifetime, they all match who I was at the time.  My first blog was an experiment, learning how to share with the world.  My next blog was more focused, but when I lost interest in the subject area, it too faded.  Since then, I’ve re-invented my online self periodically to match the person I had become.

Now that I have a college degree and a stable job, and I am looking at the prospect of marrying the love of my life, there’s some sense of stability creeping in that my adolescent and undergraduate self never had.  So perhaps this site will stick around for a while.  Or perhaps stability doesn’t mean that things stop changing.  Only time will tell.

But for now, I am once again the Binary Packrat, and I welcome you to my new home.