The elements of statistical learning

Having just finished exams for the first flex of spring semester, I am looking at last two months of study in the master’s program I am in. The courses I will be taking are already going to make this time a lot more interesting (not to mention the invisible never ending job search :p). I have however recently seen that lot of machine learning aspects can be implemented using R and need not necessarily require expertise in Python. Although I am all in for learning and advancing my python knowledge, I have come to face the fact that my coursework will not be allowing me to do so.

Coming to the machine learning part, I will be using the following book for this purpose:

  1. The elements of statistical learning (2nd edition)

I have numbered this list because I plan to add more books in case I come across any as good enough to be added to this list.

I will be posting my notes, thoughts, doubts and links from the internet in this blog. I wish to help them serve as references for myself in future times. Hence, I will not be cutting any corners while doing so and will try to make them as rigorous as possible.

Also, as and when the time permits, I would try using LATEX.

 

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Sachin Tendulkar

Today I happened to chance upon an article in cricinfo. It was 5 questions to Brijnath, my favorite sports writer. And the questions were about Sachin Tendulkar.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/sachinfarewell/content/story/688325.html

The answer to the last question particularly stayed with me. Brilliant indeed.

Fifteen years from now, if a young boy or girl were to ask you about Tendulkar what would you tell them?
Even as a writer, I wouldn’t be able to. Not sufficiently. No numbers suffice. No quotes from his peers will do. I have about seven-eight books on Muhammad Ali on my bookshelf. He fascinates me. I will read everything on him. But I wish I lived in his time, through Vietnam and his ban, I wish I had experienced him. And it’s the same with Tendulkar. He was an experience. You were either there or you were not.

The first time I watched a complete match that involved a splendid Tendulkar innings was India vs Pakistan in 2003 World Cup. So vividly I remember that innings. Pakistan had batted first and I saw Anwar making merry with our bowlers and some good batting performance getting them to a 270+ score, setting up a decent target for India.

More often than not, Pakistan is a team that cherishes its bowling and getting batsmen into trouble. This time was no different. Their bowling attack included Akram, Waqar, Akhtar and a young Umar Gul. This was probably the best attack in that world cup, comparable only with the Aussie bowling line up led by McGrath.

So, there was the Indian opening pair, Sachin and Sehwag walking into the middle to chase down this target. Indian batting lineup definitely could give a hard day to the Pak bowlers. Especially one of the Indian batsman revelled at challenges. Just as you would love to do well in an exam of a subject that is along the lines of your passion and nothing gives more happiness than doing amazingly well in a paper set by a difficult professor, so was Sachin’s appetite for challenging totals and fierce bowling lineups. Except for that one chance where Razzaq dropped him off Akram, he was flawless in rest of the innings.

Such is the beauty of the shots he was conjuring that if felt as if one was listening to Bach or Mozart through the sounds that the bowl made when Sachin sent it to the boundary. I wouldn’t say this was a brash innings, if you can call any of Sachin’s innings that. Except for that one six off Akhtar, all the other shots seemed to be creating a symphony, one that an avid cricket fan would watch again and again, one that would bring a smile to all of his admirers, one that the Pak bowling lineup would remember forever.

As he went on with his innings, one could see the concentration in him. It was as if the entire cacophony of sounds in the ground weren’t audible to him, as if he knew he had to win this no matter what, it was as if he wanted the only eluding trophy he couldn’t win for his country. Once again, he got out at 98, due to a combination of cramps and bouncer by Akhtar. He walked off, yet again, without a century, but with having done almost what he set out to do in the first place. Thankfully, it was not a repeat of Chennai 136, though I very much believe this was a good possibility given the bowling lineup of Pakistan. The remaining Indian batsmen came through, especially Dravid.

Dravid’s innings is no less important than Sachin’s innings in this chase. Every additional minute he was batting was reducing Pakistan’s hopes of victory. And he made sure India did win that match. But his innings, as has been many a times, stayed and to till day stays in shadow of Sachin’s innings.

It was a victory that was all the more sweet due to the competition’s level. I do not think I have a Indian victory over Pakistan that I would rank higher than this one (among the ones I have seen live on TV).

A decade later, I would be in the stadium for his final outing for the Indian team. Little did I know that the master would continue this for 10 years more, for which I am thankful.

Like Rohit Brijnath says in the article, Sachin was an experience. You were either there or not there.

 

Books – December 2015

I have finished the books I mentioned in my earlier post regarding books of Nov 2015 except for Deadhouse gates (Malazan book 2) which is still ongoing and shows no sign of nearing completion.

As a part of my travel during the winter break, in Phoenix, I visited an old bookshop where I picked up the hardcopy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel namely – The Remains of the Day. The bookshop was really old school, one like which I had never come across before. They accepted only cash and had paperbacks that would be the dream of any book collector. Although I was tempted to buy many of those books, I did not as I have decided not to get too many hard copies unless I have a bookshelf waiting for them back in my home.

I will be reading only this book for most part of January 2016 and hopefully be able to read more and better the upcoming year than I already did.

Also, I sent out mails to friends of mine asking what was/were their facorite read(s) of 2015 so that I could make a to-read list for 2016 that was rich in diversity. Once I hear back from a decent number of them, I will create a blog post here with the names of the books they replied back.

My favorite reads for 2015 have been the following books

1. A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces: Extraordinary Short Stories from the 19th Century to the Present by David Davidar

2. Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts by P. Sainath

Both these books are filled with short stories, some of the best I have read and they are sure to stay with you for a very long time after you have read them.

Fall semester ends – Half master

The fall semester of my masters course ended a few days ago taking with them a couple of courses that definitely helped me learn more. They also helped me gain an understanding of what I don’t know and thereby did more good than they were supposed to.

In one of my previous posts I was supposed to write about Andy’s talks and what I liked about it.

To begin with, Andy is a tableau zen master for this year and works at ‘The Information Lab’ which is situated in London. Out of the various aspects of his talk, two points really stuck with me and something I’d implement if I can, in the future situations.

1. Presentation
His presentation was the kind that was not overloaded with information and instead, it was made to hold the viewer’s attention at the max possible level. And I daresay it did its job very well. Also, he did not really care about how serious/official the presentation should be and what kind of formatting should go into it. That is what helped him all the more in delivering his points across as he was more focused on story during the deck than its cosmetics.

2. Interview process he takes
In his previous firm (if I am not wrong) and the current place of work – The Information Lab, the itnerviews for prospective candidatestake place in a fashion that I really like. Interested folks are asked to send in their applications along with a piece of work as a sample showcasing their skills and passion. You often want to hire individuals with both these because the ones having both these qualities rarely apply to all places. This stuck with me and I would really like to part of an org which does interviews like these because the platform they are providing and the thought itself show how foreward thinking they are towards hiring not any individual but only those who exactly fit their requirement of skill and passion levels. You don’t have to be a genius to get into these places, but you sure as hell should be ready to keep improving your skill with hard work. And that indeed is a rare quality.

So, these two aspects of his talk stayed with me since then and am not going to forget them anytime soon.

Regarding data visualisation course, that was offered here at the fall semester for me, the most important outcome that I gained out of the course was that I can now understand what an user is trying to convey using any form of visual (need not necessarily be a tableau dashboard but any form of visual). And I am able to form a picture in my mind about how well this visual has been made in terms of getting the message across in the most simplest way possible. It is often a difficult task to do so, as most of us while making the visuals either have lost the idea of the exact message it is trying to convey or are too engrossed into the minute details that when stitched together, the visual looks like a piece of art rather than solving its purpose of getting across a story/message.

I think this quality would stay with me throughout my life and I will be able to critique and/or appreciate all forms of visualisations that I will come across in any presentations from now on be it in class/company/public forums. In addition to this, the course also helped me gain the basics in tableau. It is of no use complaining I could not get good at tableau with the help of this course. A good teacher always teaches you the design and the way you implement this design depends on your ingenuity. He cannot teach that, it is your thought process that makes you ingenuine with your work outputs. I am thankful I got to learn from such a distinguished individual (Prof. Jeff Shaffer – tableau zen master for 2016 and also a close friend of Andy about whose talk I have discussed above). Both of these folks are really active in the dat avisualisation community and they are trying some amazing stuff pushing the limits of their work. Also, what adds to this is the way in which tableau responds to the feedback of its users. I am yet to come across a software/tool/platform whose updates are so relevant to the user requirements and needs whichw ere not fulfilled in the previous versions but would make really valuable additions to the updated versions.

The fall semester end update ends thus.

Books – November 2015

I have been going through multiple books over the last month and will continue to do so this month too. The list is as follows:

Seveneves – The book continues, wherein the people on earth are now finally completely aware of what is going to happen in the near future and are prepping those in the space station for the same. To be frank, I am not sure I will be able to finish this book in the near future. Dec 21 is the return date for this one and with other books that I have lined up, one of this length doesn’t stand as a favorite. Mr. Stephenson needs to write shorter books. Reamde also remains as one of those very few books I abandoned in the middle (I either don’t pick them up or leave them within 20 pages into the book as I get an idea that they don’t match my taste)

Deadhouse Gates – Interesting read, my favorite among these here. Mr. Erikson knows how to write and more pleasingly, he seems to be able to seamlessly integrate the stories of the old characters while introducing new characters to us. I had read the first book not on my kindle and could actually go back to the maps whenever I was trying to get a feel of the geographical movements of the characters. This one however, I am reading on kindle and am missing that point of view of how characters are moving from place to place (especially Fiddler and Kalam, for those of you who understand what I am talking about) and also given the fact that there is a good enough chance that all characters might be meeting at a common place later in the book. With multiple assignments and exams going on hand in hand along with my attempts to re-design government visualizations, it is going to be a toughie to finish this one this month. But am glad I started this series and am very much looking forward to all the books and am pretty much sure that it would be nearly a year or two before I finish the entire series and finish them I will!

The Shadow of the Wind – I have decided to go through this, just for the beauty of it. I don’t think I have to say anything about it, it is one of the most exquisitely written books ever. The words flow like a majestic stream and the translator did a job of the highest order.

The Sultan’s seal – This is the final book on the list. It is one that I entirely chanced upon during my usual Thursday checkout of the latest arrivals in the library (they are lent to us only for three weeks instead of the default length of entire semester, hence provide some kind of challenge to finish them up or face a fine). I had heard of the author as one with an appreciable sense of humor and that the translator he had gotten was also very respectable of what he was translating and was mindful of the spirit of the original work. This can easily be seen at the beginning of the book where the translator actually outlines his thoughts about this translation work. Regarding the book, it has been a mixed ride so far, the writing is ok-ish but it definitely gives glimpses of the thoughts of a middle-eastern author(s) whose works I have admittedly read very few (Arabian nights is the closest I have gotten and also Italo Calvino’s works which I always thought were more impressive versions of a few Arabian nights stories).

With finals coming up in December and some admittedly busy times ahead, I am not sure how many of these I would do justice to, but these books make up an interesting line-up to lure me back to them on those (possibly) lull weekends.

Out of Eden Walk

Of the many idiosyncrasies that define me as a person/individual, one of the most evident is the want to share anything good that I come across, with those around me, those not around me. But I often realize that there aren’t many who would appreciate what I want to show them (I am not saying that is good or bad – people differ, perspectives differ). Most of these ‘good things’ are articles/posts/pictures that I come across online and others are information that I learn from a book that I just finished reading, or a discussion that I want to have.

“Out of Eden walk” is one such thing that I would like to share to all those around me. It is one of the most amazing projects- or rather – ideas that I have had the luck to come across in the past few years. What I have come to understand over time is that – in order to appreciate an idea or an activity, your perspective needs to be aligned with that activity or the ideology. Without this, true appreciation is not possible and whatever your understanding of the idea/action only transitory and inadequate. This understanding has helped me to be non-judgmental (oh yes!) in numerous scenarios and when I have gone back to them after some time, I indeed have been able to look at them with a view that is wider in its scope and understanding and ability of perception. I have digressed a lot from the topic of this post already, so I would stop my random rumblings here.

“Out of Eden walk” is a walk that a journalist ‘Paul Salopek’ is undertaking. From an article on livemint (published  here), the walk can be described as:

It is a long, audacious and wondrous journey. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek is following what experts broadly believe is the trail followed by the first human migration out of Africa—the path traced roughly 60,000 years ago when we left the cradle of our origin and began to spread across the planet.

More about the walk can be found at these two websites –

http://outofedenwalk.nationalgeographic.com/

http://www.outofedenwalk.com/

Although the above site covers almost everything you would like to know about the walk, here are a few more interesting links that might be of interest:

http://pulitzercenter.org/projects/out-of-eden

https://instagram.com/outofedenwalk/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/22/paul-salopek-out-of-eden_n_4324375.html

I want to share more of my thoughts about this, but I should be moving. I hope to return to this in one of my upcoming posts.

P.S: On a similar note, there is another journalist who collects her experiences and posts them on the web – notably on the social media. Please note that I have called these her ‘experiences’. This is because, she often attaches a story to every post (most of them pictures – and she is an amazing photographer) which makes you connect with what the picture is trying to convey in a much better way.

Here are the links to her work and related websites (I especially like her Instagram feed – some amazing pictures interspersed with brilliant storytelling):

River diaries – http://riverdiaries.tumblr.com/

Instagram feed – https://instagram.com/aratikumarrao/?hl=en

Her twitter feed – https://twitter.com/AratiKumarRao

http://www.ficusmedia.com/

 

Upcoming posts

It is humorous (in a sardonic way) that I am writing a post about my upcoming blog posts. Anyway, below is the list of topics I intend to blog about in my upcoming posts. For the sake of book keeping, I will be updating this post once I tick off an item from this list.

  1. Business Intelligence Symposium – Part 1 (some thoughts on the event and other points discussed there) – Done Link to the post
  2. Business Intelligence Symposium – Part 2 ( On ‘The Informationlab’ – its hiring process, and how such a system inspires the passionate ones) – Link to the post
  3. Notes from data visualisation class – About what I learnt from what according to me was the best class this FALL – Link to the post
  4. Thoughts on fall courses at the program I am currently studying
  5. My attempts at storytelling using Tableau

Updates:

12 Dec – Added the links to posts for 2,3. I combined them into a single post. I am not really sure if I would be adding 4,5 anytime soon. Though something will come up for 5 as I have some vizzes that I am currently working on.