Guys! Guys! Guess what. Even though I’m practicing my April Ludgate glare in real life, today I’m going to be more like this. Why?

I co-wrote my first paper with two cool cats at MIT CSAIL, William Li and Ramesh Sridharan, and it got accepted to the KDD Conference as a highlight talk!

That means next Sunday, August 24th you can hear me taco ‘bout it in real life at 11am in the Bloomberg Building, 731 Lexington Avenue, NY, NY.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Data Mining for Social Good”, and our paper is a short vision statement on effecting positive social change with data science. We briefly define “Data Science”, ask what it means to democratize the field, and to what end that may be achieved. In other words, the current applications of Data Science, a new but growing field, in both research and industry, has the potential for great social impact, but in reality, resources are rarely distributed in a way to optimize the social good.

The conference on Sunday at Bloomberg is free, and the line-up looks promising. There are three “tracks” going on that morning, “Data Science & Policy”, “Urban Computing”, and “Data Frameworks”. Ours is in the 3rd track. Sign up here!

For the full text of the paper, click here.

Tags: , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

We recently moved to a new office and in the process ordered some hardware: two google chromebooks, the Samsung 13-inch chromebook 2.

Although they are meant for web browsing and administrative tasks, I was curious and got my hands on one of the laptops to tinker around with for the afternoon. They’re quite pretty machines, really nice display and feel.

The Chrome OS isn’t bad for what’s it meant (using Chrome), but craving some Linux development power, I checked out this tutorial on Lifehacker to run Ubuntu with the help of Crouton, a tool that enables Ubuntu to run on top of Chrome OS, using the chroot command.

Confused? Don’t be– I found that, for once, the tutorial was crystal-clear, easy, and in a few steps and less than half an hour, I was up and running. Sweet!

Here’s my abbreviated version for running Unity.

How to run Ubuntu Unity on Chromebook 2 with Crouton

adapted from LifeHacker

1. Obtain Chromebook. The one I had was a Samsung Chromebook 2, 13”.

2. Turn it on, and set up the Chrome logins.

3. Press and hold the Esc + Refresh keys together, and press the Power button while still holding the other two down. This will reboot into Recovery Mode.

4. Now, act quick! As soon as you see Recovery Mode pop up (screen with yellow exclamation point), press Ctr + D.

5. Press Enter to continue in Developer Mode when prompted.
6. Wait– this will take a while to clear your data. A new screen will pop up for a few, then it will reboot and restart in Developer Mode. It’ll probably take 10 min or so.

7. Return to screen with red exclamation point (it will automatically go there), and don’t press anything! You’ll reboot into the Chrome OS.

8. Now for the fun part: time to install Crouton! Download it from the top of the page here:

9. Now pull up the terminal: press Ctrl + Alt + T, and type “shell”

10. To install Crouton: “sudo sh -e ~/path/to/crouton -t unity” (on a Chromebook Pixel, that’s “sudo sh -e ~/path/to/crouton -t touch,unity”, for touchscreen support.)

11. Wait for the install. When it’s done, it’ll ask you for a username and password.

12. Now, you’re ready to run the new desktop! “sudo startunity”.

13. Bam!

To switch back and forth between Chrome OS and Ubuntu, simply press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Back and Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Forward (if you’re on an ARM-based Chromebook) or Ctrl + Alt + Back and Ctr + Alt + Forward (if on Intel-based Chromebook). If so, you’ll also need to press Ctr + Alt + Refresh after.

The cool thing is that there’s zero speed penalty running Linux this way, instead of dual-booting; and you can shift between OS’s with a simple keyboard-combo. The downside? Security, security, security.

From the Crouton README: “Note that developer mode, in its default configuration, is completely insecure, so don’t expect a password in your chroot to keep anyone from your data. crouton does support encrypting chroots, but the encryption is only as strong as the quality of your passphrase. Consider this your warning.”

Tags: , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

I’ve compiled a short list of resources on Sentiment Analysis, especially as applied to (political) debates. Check it out on the Govlab blog.

Tags: ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

artist/designer Ishac Bertran has this really cool project called code {poems}: a compilation (ha!) of compilable poems in code.

Inspired by this, this afternoon I began to dabble in a bit of my own code poetry.
T.S. Eliot, 1925
cat, 2014.06.27

class World:
     def __str__(self):
          return "this is the way the world ends"

def ends(self):
     return ["whimper"]

def main():
     world = World()

for i in range(4):
     print world

if "bang" not in world.ends():
     print "not with a bang"

if "whimper" in world.ends():
     print "but with a whimper"

if __name__ == "__main__":

to run, download source and run python
repo here.
more to come.

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

happy day

13 Mar 2014

Three years ago, I learned how to print Hello World in Java for the first time.
That semester, I stayed up many late nights crying because I was so frustrated with how hard it was for me to fix even the tiniest of bugs. Everyone in class seemed light-years above me.

Today, I have been accepted to MIT Media Lab’s MAS program, and I’ll be joining Deb Roy’s Cognitive Machines lab this fall. It’s truly a nerd dream come true.

I think if my mother taught me one thing,
it is that
it is not how successful you are
or how wealthy you are
or even how hard you work that matters.
what matters is how interesting you are
because that is your human value.

And mom, if you’re reading this, don’t read too hard into it.

Tags: ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

I’m featured on Hackers of New York this week! Hackers of New York is a project started by Tech@NYU to foster community in NYC’s Silicon Alley by highlighting individuals.

I had the most wonderful time talking to HONY about the Declassification Engine– I couldn’t stop smiling!

Check it out here.

Tags: , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Today, for the first time in years, I picked up a copy of the newspaper in the morning.

I didn’t buy it from the drugstore, like my dad would on Sundays when I was little. And I didn’t pick it up from the driveway, like I would have in high school, shaking off condensation from its plastic wrapper. Instead, I had literally picked up off the desk of another, when I saw it lying there. It wasn’t even fresh news; it was from last Wednesday, and he in turn had gotten it for free at the student center.

Still. It was attractive all the same, that copy of more-than-Yesterday’s news. I slipped it under my arm, and went out the door. I took it with me, on the subway, and felt more Manhattanite than I had ever felt in my life. Here I was, boots and all, on my way downtown for a coffee meeting, and here, by my side, was the New York Times. When i got to the cafe, I realized that I had gotten ink all over my fingers. I had forgotten that newspapers smudged, and it gave me a secret joy.

In 2014, it is widespread knowledge that newspapers are Dinosaurs. Printed news is rapidly going extinct and the new forms of Media that replace it suffer from existential and identity crises. Is longform a thing of the past? Is there even a need for Journalism School? Will it all just be listicles from here on out? (If so, I’m moving to Walden Pond.)

I maintain that there is, and always will be, a need for well-executed, professional Journalism. Whether or not there exists a profitable market, however, is another question. How do we ensure the financial means to support the field?

It’s a good question, one that neither I nor anyone else that I know of has the answer to. The transition from paper to digital isn’t a simple transcribing from one medium to the other. Profit models do not translate. Most significant are the psychological shifts that occur. Newspapers, and their institutions, are built on history, legacy, and tradition. By decentralizing news distribution with the internet, the castle collapses.

When you remove the physicality of the paper, you remove its nostalgic power. That is a great power, and it should never be underestimated in the human psyche. Turning the pages, familiar faces smile back– Dowd, Bruni, Bittman, Wells, bringing me back to familial scenes of kitchen tables and coffee. Jumping over paywalls, those same names feel antagonistic and elitist on the web. Whereas I would easily pay a dollar or two for a fat stack of paper, the Internet, with its culture of free information, incites the hacker in me to do everything in my power to take what I can.

Opening the paper on the subway is a symbol, one that denotes a certain level of education, class, and age. It is a desirable thing to own. On an iPad, a phone, or laptop, all of that is lost. It could be the Post, it could be Ulysses, it could be Fifty Shades of Gray– who knows?

The newspaper from WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2014 sits beside me still, keeping company with the coffee that has long grown cold. When I finish writing, both of them will go into the trash.

“All the News That’s Fit to Print”, it says, somewhat forebodingly.

Tags: , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

the persimmon tree

02 Dec 2013

the story below was first posted by me on my food blog, accompanied with a recipe for Persimmon Goat Cheese Salad.

the Persimmon Tree

A few years ago, when I was a grumpy senior in High School, the beloved Magnolia tree in our backyard, source of pink blossoms, rambling branches to climb, and many childhood memories passed away. In its place, my parents went to an Asian nursery and brought back a Persimmon tree.

The tree was thin, crooked, and distinctly budget. Maybe there was some haggling involved. I didn’t like it. I wanted a cherry tree, with fluffy pink blossoms. I wanted an apple tree, something that smacked of wholesomeness and Americana. Instead, my parents got something “Oriental”, that I argued had no retail value when the time came to sell our little house and yard (a low blow, since both my parents and I are firmly attached to the idea of growing old in the same place).

The first year in our yard, the squirrels ate nearly all the blossoms. They bit off many thin twigs and branches, leaving a massacre on the grass. What was left turned into small hard fruits, and the wrist-thin trunk sloped to one side.

I went to school. I didn’t call very much, and I forgot about our tree and our backyard.

But my parents took care of the tree and it grew into a beautiful little thing. Now it bears dozens and dozens of fruit– more than a couple of empty-nesters can eat. The pretty orange persimmons hang like Christmas globes on the small but staunch tree.

By nature there are two types of persimmons– astringent types, which unless utterly ripe to the point of bursting, leave a nasty “furry” feeling on the tongue, and non-astringent types, which can be eaten at any stage of ripeness, always lovely and mild. Our little tree is non-astringent. The fruits are always sweet.

Every Thanksgiving now my parents bring a bucketful to my aunt and uncle’s house, and I take the leftovers back to school. When my mom was a child, persimmons were big and squishy and plentiful and overlooked as a poor man’s fruit. Everyone wanted red American apples and bananas that were yellow. The grocer would say, these bananas have been on a plane– now, have you been on a plane? because a little Chinese girl isn’t much more than a banana. Now, I savor them, a day at a time, to make the harvest last.

Each one reminds me of my parent’s love and my roots– that I am not as American as apple pie, but that the fruit is sweeter still.

Tags: , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Hey nerds!
Check out this cool model me and my friend Andy developed at Knewton last summer!


Tags: , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

zero is the new six

28 Oct 2013

American Apparel, that hipster clothing/disco neon hotpants empire, has always been of dubious moral grounds. Despite its loud proclamations of “made in America”, the company is in fact run by a Canadian charged of sexual harassment lawsuits at least five times in the last decade. Not to mention the softcore-porn style ads, that is, only when the model is female. Even if all of this weren’t true, when’s the last time you need a gold metallic pleather thong leotard for upwards of fifty dollars? (Please don’t answer that.)

The store is, however, very convenient for basic cuts in solid colors (v-necks, A-line skirts, etc.), which is why I stopped by one this weekend, to hopefully find a white crop-top at an okay price. The answer unsurprisingly turned out to be no.

In a moment of desperation, I flipped through the childrens’ tees to hopefully find a size large or extra large. (Don’t even ask why a company that features topless women in their ads makes childrens’ clothing; there is a time and a place for sexuality and it shouldn’t be at a store frequented by preteens and young children).

Lo and behold, I made the discovery that a women’s extra small crop top at American apparel is equivalent in size to a child’s size six tshirt. That’s six years old! Sure, some liberties might be taken for the cropping part, but basically American Apparel expects that a small woman should have the same chest girth as a kindergartener.

I’m a pretty petite person, but I’m not sure on what nation or even planet you might expect women to be the size of a tiny six-year old. That’s some f-ed up idea of body image.

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·