Probable Cause

Dear J-

Thursday. Somewhere between Burlingame and San Mateo, 0525. There’s a unique smell to the Caltrain bike car this morning, like some great unwashed onion, or maybe it’s just sweat and desperation. Now is the time of the week that I’m actually looking forward to going to work in order to tackle something new: some new analysis, perhaps, or maybe just a new way to do things. I work to get things figured out and it’s pretty amazing when it does work out. Yesterday, for instance, I learned that it’s easier to fit the cumulative distribution function than the actual distribution. Set up the CDF and then you can pick out the mean (CDF = 0.5) and two standard deviations (CDF = 2.5% and 97.5%) away from the mean without too much difficulty. Fitting the probability distribution is for chumps.

I am a little worried the spreadsheets I’ve been building have all been custom one-off sheets; in contrast I think I should be reusing some, but quite honestly I haven’t been repeating any work from job to job so I guess it’s okay. I think. More importantly, I forget techniques, but I suppose it’s okay as long as I know where to look for reminders on how I did it. Here’s my lognormal fit. There’s my Weibull fit. Both give pretty good results, both are fitted to the CDF. I can learn quickly and try to pick up what I learned quickly as well: I feel pretty awesome. That’s gotta be a good feeling, right? I suppose … I just think maybe it took too long to get there, perhaps. Perhaps perhaps perhaps.

It’s all a balancing act. Right here on the Peninsula there’s been settlements and life for several hundred years, balanced between the hills and the Bay, a narrow strip that (have I said this before?) reminds me of Japan in a way, though there the habitable flats are an even narrower sandwich between hills and water. I remind myself how lucky we are and pinch myself that I get paid to play with numbers, pushing them around into shape and making them march to our drum. But that too is a balancing act: clients and their needs versus our time; if we tackle too much the whole juggling match comes crashing down around our ears.

Mike

P.S. I’ve never been a juggler. This terrifies me.

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