Monday, November 28, 2005

The Statistical "spectacles"


"Bosses beware: Workers today may not be as productive as usual. It's Cyber-Monday, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. More than one-third of the consumers polled say they will go online at work where they have faster Internet connections. Total North American Internet traffic by visitors per minute already is up 35 percent from a typical Monday, according to the Akamai Net Usage Index."

Would that 35% increase be simply due to back-logged email communications after a holiday break? Uploading holiday pictures for sharing? Viewing holiday cards or pictures? Why would it have to be due to shopping?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A dispute on language deficiency made to "nature".

I am surprised to read in Nature a discussion on an old news story about a Chinese student's recent experience at Yale University. I would never have expected that it would get "nature"-big. At least, it is a good thing for that student.

Chinese students and scientists are playing an increasingly important role in US laboratories. According to the New York-based Institute of International Education, US academic institutions are now home to some 80,000 Chinese nationals, many of them in the sciences.

They are attracted to the United States, in the main, because of its excellent research universities, which are delighted to recruit well-trained and hard-working Chinese nationals. But as our News Feature on page 278 demonstrates, reality doesn't always quite meet the visitors' expectations.

Xuemei Han, a Chinese national, was admitted by Yale University to study ecology on the basis of her strong academic background. But the language barrier, funding problems and bureaucratic tussles ultimately led to a public falling-out, which quickly escalated to become a focal point for major protests by a large number of Chinese students at Yale.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dear students, please don't cheat!

After teaching for several years, I have seen my fair share of American cheating behaviors. Not a lot but some. Coming from a Country with more than a thousand years of formal examination system, and a museum on cheating, what I have seen can only be described as amateur. Professional or not, it is WRONG. Sometime, even good students do silly things that can potentially jeopardize their academic record. And, since now my school years are getting far behind me, I am having a hard time understanding why a couple of points matter more than one's integrity. So, dear students, unless you are pursuing a professional career where cheating is an essential skill, please do not cheat. When you play those little tricks, you are wasting my time and testing my patience.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Olympics

Not Olympiad in Mathematics ... or Computer Science ...

Today, Beijing announced a set of five mascots for the upcoming 2008 Olympics games. I think they took a non-modern design and looked quite traditionally Chinese. I don't think people will think they are COOL. They gave me a warm feeling although I believe not all people around the world will think they are adorable. But I chose to like them, :), simply because I love the city where I grew up and chose to be proud of things it tries its best to offer. Subjective, isn't it?

Anyway, this brought back some memories.

When Beijing applied for hosting 2000 Olympic games in 1993, I was in high school. We particpated in all kinds of activities in support of Beijing's application. As far as I can tell, everybody, at that time, was deeply motivated. [I heard the enthusiasm was not that high in 2001 when Beijing actually won. ] At one point in 1993, some rumors said that if Beijing won, the college graduates from major Beijing University in 1999 will be recruited by the local organization committee to be volunteers during the games. According to schedule, I was going to college in 1994 and I was applying for Tsinghua, which at that time still had 5-year undergraduate programs. Believe it or not, I got all excited about it, imagining that I would be part of the Olympic games. I can still get excited about Beijing and Olympics even though I think it is a little bit silly. I don't really know where the excitement comes from. Somehow, the education I received since I was little really got through, so that I love my country, my city and my Tsinghua (where was my home "town", and is my home in Beijing), for no significant logical reasons.

In 2001, I was doing an internship somewhere in New Jersey, when Beijing was chosen to host the 2008 Olympics. I was sitting in my cubical and watching online real-time text coverage. 5 seconds after the anouncement was made, another intern from China ran to my desk and said "have you known?" and I cheered under my breath, "YES!" We were the happiest people, at that moment, on that industrial looking floor. It seems to be such a long time ago.

I don't usually get sentimental about things. But I did today when reading the news release.

BTW, the Five Mascots are named "Beibei", "JingJing", "Huanhuan", "Yingying", "Nini". When reading together, "Bei", "Jing" "Huan" "Ying" "Ni" means "Beijing Welcomes You". Well, we, Chinese people, sometimes try too hard on "one stone" killing "multiple birds".

"Ten simple rules of getting published"

"Rule 6: The ingredients of good science are obvious—novelty of research topic, comprehensive coverage of the relevant literature, good data, good analysis including strong statistical support, and a thought-provoking discussion. The ingredients of good science reporting are obvious—good organization, the appropriate use of tables and figures, the right length, writing to the intended audience—do not ignore the obvious."

Read more on PLoS Computational Biology

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hey, don't restart my computer for me!

This morning, when I arrived at my office, I expected to see my simulation completed. Instead, I found that my PC was restarted and part of the simulation was terminated and unfinished. As I logged in, a message arised from the lower right corner:"you computer was recently updated, which required an automatic restart". Hey! I know it will make my computer better but my simulation is also very crucial to me.

Friday, November 04, 2005

[Ref List] Combining linkage and association

Fulker DW, Cherny SS, Sham PC, Hewitt JK (1999) Combined Linkage and Association Sib-Pair Analysis for Quantitative Traits. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 64:259-267

Zhu G, Duffy DL, Eldridge A, Grace M, Mayne C, O'Gorman L, Aitken JF, Neale MC, Hayward NF, Green AC, Martin NG (1999) A Major Quantitative-Trait Locus for Mole Density Is Linked to the Familial Melanoma Gene CDKN2A: A Maximum-Likelihood Combined Linkage and Association Analysis in Twins and Their Sibs. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 65:483-492

Combined Linkage and Association Tests in Mx
D Posthuma, EJC de Geus, DI Boomsma, MC Neale - Behavior Genetics, 2004

Combined linkage and association analysis in pedigrees
KD Siegmund, H Vora, WJ Gauderman - Genet Epidemiol Suppl, 2001

Combined high resolution linkage and association mapping of quantitative trait loci
R Fan, M Xiong - European Journal of Human Genetics, 2003

Combined association and linkage analysis applied to the APOE locus
M Beekman, D Posthuma, BT Heijmans, N Lakenberg, … - Genetic Epidemiology, 2004

Combined Linkage and Association Mapping of Quantitative Trait Loci by Multiple Markers.
R Fan - Genetics, 2005

How magical!

I just started to appreciate how magical our everyday technology is. Just in a matter of no more than two hundred years, we push a button, tons of things can be done. Just in a matter of no more than 70 years, computers can do so so so many things for us. I don't think I have given credits to all the people that have made these magics happen. Sure, I have heard of some big names. But, what about the great minds behind the IBM thinkpad I am using? What about the great minds behind this convenient Blogger I am using? I was listening to ABBA's "thanks for the music" on my IPOD (another bunch of great geeky minds), and really wanted to change the lyrics to "thanks for the 'techos' ".

I used to think Harry Potter's world is cool. But I think our world is cool enough.

BTW: ABBA, what a great band!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The culture of blogging

From one of my favorite online references wikipedia, the history of blog is smmarized as

Blogging begins
Blogging combined the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier, specifically blogrolls and TrackBacks, as well as comments and afterthoughts. This way, instead of a few people being in control of threads on a forum, or anyone able to start threads on a list, there was a moderating effect that was the personality of the weblog's owner. Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers.

The term "weblog" may have been coined by Jorn Barger in December 1997. The horter version, "blog", was coined by Peter Merholz, who, in April or May of 1999, broke the word weblog into the phrase "we blog" in the sidebar of his weblog. [1] This was interpreted as a short form of the noun [2] and also as a verb to blog, meaning "to edit one's weblog or a post to one's weblog". The site Open Diary, while not using the term blog until recently, launched in 1998, had over 2000 diaries by 1999, and near 400 000 as of September 2005. Blog usage spread during 1999, with the word being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted weblog tools: Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan's company Pyra Labs launched Blogger (which was purchased by Google in February 2003) and Paul Kedrosky's GrokSoup. As of March 2003, the Oxford English Dictionary included the terms weblog, weblogging and weblogger in their dictionary. [3]

One of the pioneers of the tools that make blogging more than merely websites that scroll is Dave Winer. One of his most important contributions was the creation of servers which weblogs would ping to show that they had been updated. Blog reading utilities use the aggregated update data to show a user when their favorite blogs have new posts.

I started thinking about the use of blogs by people I know.

Content [audience]
  • Sharing ideas or opinions [for others]
  • logging thoughts [for self]
  • Initiate discussions [for self and others]
  • logging online resources [for self]
  • dumping personal experiences [nobody, maybe]
  • ...

Lu, Xun (a Chinese writer) wrote an article titled "a memoir, so to forget" (unofficial title, I made it up. There must be a better translation). The main idea of the title is that the reason he wrote the piece is because he wanted to start the healing from the experiences he accounted in that article. I like this title a lot (sure, the chinese version). The main reason I wrote some of the blog posts is also I want them to be off my mind. (Sooner or later, I probably will write in my blog, "final exam, 3rd drawer") since I am an organizer. Not only I want the physical space surrounding me organized, I also want to have an organized mind. One rule in the principles of getting things organized is that you must have a place to dump. This dumping station should be very accessible (easy to dump), and very visible (hard for you to forget to attend). I also remember a short story I read years ago:

Two cities want to compete for the title of "cleanest city". One prohibits harshly its residents from dumping trash on the street but ends up with trash in every corner. So the mayor goes the other city and sees really clean streets. He wonders how the other mayor has done that. He later found out that, in the other city, the residents were told where to dump.

Naturally, we (should I say "I", just speaking for myself?) need a place to dump. For our mails, for our teaching notes, for our research notes. Now, we (or I) need place to dump our opinions, ideas, feelings, joys, etc. But when I dump, Ialso need to show them. This part of my blogging behavior always makes me think. A friend of mine said that blogging is a subtle way of "showing off" and that is why he does not blog. Well, that is too harsh, or is it? Is the whole culture of blogging driven by people's internal desire to show off? Simply because it is more subtle than most other ways of showing off, it gets such popularity. Or shall I think more positively? People blog because they want to participate in a collective thinking community?