Week #3: MIT, Snow storm and back in VT

February 5, 2018

Hi all,

So this catch up will be rather short (maybe) since not too much action happened since last Sunday. The idea of a week passing by so quickly reminds me of the commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI).

In his advice to the newly graduated, he forewarned that there will be large swaths of life that will just past by in an instant. That most of life is made up of the day to day normality, and weeks (or months…or years…) could pass by where each day is more or less identical to the last.

I guess that’s a little like what this week felt like. Though maybe not too much like that, since the MIT night classes were unique and interesting. Some topics were a bit dry, like legal pitfalls of a startup, patent filing, taxes, accounting and fundraising. Though we had one interesting session where professional mediators came in to talk about how to handle disagreement amongst co-founders / board members or other stake holders. It seems hard decisions will be made at some point in a start ups life.

I’ll probably try to write up another article covering these notes, but what it boiled down to was that collaboration was the best of the five methods for resolving conflict (versus say, compete, compromise and two other I can’t remember off the top of my head). The method for collaboration is essentially for both sides to state their demands, then each side list out the reasons or interests for each demand and weight them on importance, then you work together to list all the available options and you pick one that satisfies the most interests.

So that was 15 years of mediation compacted into one and a half hours, compacted further into one sentence.

Anyways, aside from the MIT course I just kept up with the usual day job work and my side project. The day job has been a lot of finance stuff, trying to pull data together to make a financial report for the finance people at my company. My usual approach is to take a look at how data was collected for similar reports and build off of that. Unfortunately the makers of our companies software didn’t throw any bones when it comes to financial stuff; all the stock finance reports are built with ‘internal tables’, so I had to 1) start from scratch and 2) learn finance. The big breakthrough happened this week when two of my data queries finally pulled all the right information (what we expected to see). I’ve been working on these two for the past two months. Usually similar reporting requests take me a few days, some a few hours. Unfortunately the non-technical users fail to appreciate the difference in complexity.

As for my side A.I projects, this week has turned into the ‘getting a better grip on data exploration’ week. Exploratory Data Analysis is where you have a big table of information and you need to get a handle on what’s in front of you. There are some statistical techniques you can apply, along with a ton of cleaning and filling in missing places to get a use-able dataset. On one hand I can draw some charts to visualize the relationships in the data, but on the other hand the gut intuition of what I’m looking at still needs to materialize.

I woke up one morning excited about the idea of visualizing some charts that compare one column of data to all the other columns, and then got excited about the idea of animating the transition between columns. Then I thought it would be even cooler to add in a histogram to show the distribution of the values. Then it would be cool to animate that too. Then all the sudden it was the end of the week. The good thing is that I did manage to finish the visualization (except need to make the titles better and adjust the coloring).

After my last night class on Thursday I drove straight to the mountain. Got caught in a surprise snow storm so it was a long drive, took me about 5 hours and got in close to 2am. I’ve been taking it easy this weekend, mostly working on my side project. It’s snowing pretty hard right now, so I think I’m going to take my morning meeting tomorrow from base lodge and catch the first lift up the mountain!

See you next week, Josh