Blog

Announcing: Databases Demystified

I know what you’ve all been thinking: you’ve missed listening to me ramble on for minutes at a time about random pieces of technology that I find interesting. You’ve also been wondering if I’ve grown a quarantine mustache. Well, have I got a treat for you: Databases Demystified Youtube Channel In this course, we’re going to cover all of the most important topics for understanding how and why...

The magical power of random sampling

Recently I read the paper Statistical Paradises and Paradoxes in Big Data (I): Law of Large Populations, Big Data Paradox, and the 2016 US Presidential Election by Xiao-Li Meng and I found a number of insights in the paper really fascinating — however, I haven’t seen much coverage of these insights in other locations likely because the paper is pretty dense and the way Meng presents...

Book Review: Evicted by Matthew Desomond

I’m taking advantage of the quarantine to get caught up on a lot of my long-overdue reading and this week I finished Evicted by Matthew Desmond and it was incredible (it won a Pulitzer, so it’s not like I’m the first person to say that). The book does an incredible job of blending ethnographic study with policy analysis in a way that brings the actual problems that actual poor people face to...

Notes on GAMs in R with a binary dependent variables

A few weeks ago I was working on a project using GAMs to estimate the gradients of the marginal effects of the likelihood of a customer to convert. This was a very cool problem, and I learned a lot, but it took me quite a bit of time to figure out how to get the built-in functions to generate outputs that are interpretable in a regression with a binary dependent variable (e.g., logistic-style...

Distancia de Rescate / Fever Dream

I just finished Distancia de Rescate (Fever Dream) by Samantha Schweblin and, after a bit of a slow start, I really, really loved it. The reviews call it a “horror” novel, which it is, I suppose, but in a very different way than any horror novel I’m familiar with. I was afraid that it would be something like a pulpy Stephen King novel — something that keeps you up at night but doesn’t provide a...

Setting up a new note-taking system

This weekend I invested a bunch of time in researching note-taking systems and applications — I want to get in the habit of both writing more and maintaining a repository of things I’ve thought about and learned and the quarantine seems like a good idea to really sink some time into these sorts of organizational tasks (I’m also experimenting with a new email client Airmail and...

Ask the people what they want

I’ve been reading James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State and as Scott chronicles the myriad ways that governments totally screw things up for their constituents through (often) well-meaning schemes of modernization and improvement, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this concept applies to the work I do in software engineering and product management. (Note: if you want to read a...

Price and Value

Last night on a boozy zoom call with some friends I did a very poor job of trying to explain how I think about the difference between price and value (and why that difference is important). I’m going to try to use this space to clarify my thoughts on the subject in a way which will hopefully be informative to y’all as well. I believe that the term “value” can apply to a...

Too late

The rate at the which my world has changed over the past 3 weeks is really astounding. At the beginning of March, a mere 24 days ago, I was still planning on traveling from Mexico to go to a friend’s wedding (remember those?!) that would have been this week. Back then, this plague was still called the “corona virus” and I truly thought it wouldn’t hit America —...

An ode to memorization

In the last few years I have invested _a lot_ of time in pure, rote memorization. Over this period, I’ve changed my opinion 180 degrees from how I thought about memorization when I was in high school. Back then, I thought that any topic that was “pure memorization” wasn’t worth learning, and now I believe that memorization is a necessary condition for many types of...