Album collection stats
This is completely nerdy and probably not of interest to anyone but me, but... I got curious about what proportion of the music I listen to is from the 70s, so I decided to do some statistics on my album collection. Here is number of albums broken down by genre and by decade:
Finding the right year for an album is surprisingly tricky, as the CD versions are often marked (and automatically tagged by iTunes when ripped) with the year of the CD re-release instead of the original date (especially if bonus tracks were added). This leads to ridiculous results like iTunes including a Billie Holiday collection in its auto-generated "90s" playlist.
All classical albums were left out of the "by decade" breakdown, as were several jazz and enka anthologies and greatest hits collections that covered multiple decades.
A lot of my collection doesn't fit well into genre labels at all. After some thought, I assigned They Might Be Giants to the alternative/indie category along with the Residents, assigned Bjork and Momus to electronic, and Frank Zappa to jazz, rock, prog, electronic, or comedy on an album-by-album basis.
I don't use the label "pop" as it is not very descriptive. Cheesy 80s synth-pop is under New Wave, except for Michael Jackson who is under R&B.
Japanese music is mostly under J-pop/J-punk, except for really traditional shakuhachi/taiko stuff which is under "World" (a label I really hate, but I don't have anything better to call it). Anime music is under "Soundtracks".
My collection of "2000s" music would be about half as big if it weren't for Isaac.
I enrolled in a class at Stanford. Stats 315A - "Modern Applied Statistics: Learning", first in a sequence of Data Mining courses I'm planning to take. It's not for any degree program, just for sharpening my professional skills. Knowing the techniques of data mining will be extremely helpful for pulling useful insights out of the Test Pilot data set. It will also be a useful set of skills to have for just about anything I do in the future, I think. For example, if I end up leaving software and working in green technology, as I often daydream about, then data mining techniques will surely be useful in teasing out the important relationships from complex ecological systems or finding the best ways to improve energy efficiency of some machine.
The course is all online - the lectures are videos posted to the web, and I download problem sets and email answers back to the professor. I'm learning to use a programming language / statistical manipulation environment called "R". Don't have much to say about it so far other than that it seems pretty challenging.
Stats 315A was an expensive mistake
When the subject of "the expectation value of the p-dimensional matrix product of multivariate gaussian distributions" was broached, my sparing human intellect instantly assumed the most ingratiating posture of surrender imaginable.
Well, not really. But I did realize that the statistics class I signed up for was beyond me. It made me feel really, really stupid.
I got the first homework assignment and spent about a week banging my head against a brick wall. The textbook was too advanced for me so I spent a lot of time searching the internet for definitions of basic terms. This week overlapped with my Brazil trip, so I regrettably spent my day in Rio de Janeiro indoors trying to do statistics homework, instead of going to the beach like a sensible person.
I could do the coding exercises for the class (and in the process I learned a lot of R coding, which is the one useful thing I got out of this) but I just don't understand the probability math. I need to take an easier class where I can learn the mathematical properties of probability distributions and expectation values and conditional probabilities and learn how to manipulate them.
I dropped the class, but not in time to get my money back. I'm not going to complain about that, because it was totally my own fault. It was an act of pure hubris to assume that I could do a Stanford 300-level statistics course without taking the prerequisites first and I compounded folly upon folly by taking so long to figure that out and missing the refund deadline.
I still want to learn data mining. I just have to learn to crawl before I learn to walk.
Palo Alto library
It's been raining all week and will likely continue raining until the beginning of April. Went for a walk with Sushu anyway today; turns out there's a lot of cool stuff just on the other side of Middlefield road: a park, a swimming pool, a small children's museum and zoo, and a library.
A kindly old man at the library saw us examining an old aerial black-and-white photo of the peninsula, so he asked if we wanted a copy. He pulled out a poster-size print and said he'd give it to us only on the condition that we don't bring it back, and that if we leave town we give it to somebody else. It was a little strange, but cool.
Got a library card for the Palo Alto system. It was good to be in a library again, for the first time in years, and be reminded that they still exist. To be reminded that there is a place where long-form writing on significant ideas is organized by subject by people who expect it to still be referenced decades or centuries after it was written. A library is like the exact opposite of Twitter.
I picked up some intro statistics books so I can try to teach myself all the stuff that went right over my head when I attempted to do Stats 315a at Stanford.