# [Interview] SPUNKY IN YOUR FACE

#### Dason

It's been a while since we've had an interview thread! Spunky graciously accepted the request to do an interview. Spunky has been a member since January of 2011. Spunky was recently on a TS hiatus (very dark times for TS) but has had a glorious return! Typically we give about a week for each interview thread (so this one will official 'end' on June 7) but feel free to ask questions until Spunky stops responding!

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
fire away!!!

(dang, this thread came to be really fast)

#### trinker

##### ggplot2orBust
I know you've been a few places. Tell us a bit about the countries/areas you've lived. Likes/dislikes of them.

#### Dason

1) What areas of statistics do you enjoy the most
2) Are there any areas in statistics that you don't enjoy at all?
3) When was your first exposure to statistics?
4) Have you seen Firefly? If so what is your favorite episode?

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
(1) i really, really, as in REALLY like... well, i guess you guessed, it! Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). i just think it's both funny and hilarious that people really believe it is possible to mathematize concepts as complex as social attitudes, feelings and emotions and somehow get away with doing science. the mathematics behind it are also beautiful though and well within my reach. i have to say i'm also developing a fondness for Bayesian statistics (hence my thesis) and i've always been intrigued about estimation theory because i think within it rests a lot of the things we take for granted when we estimate some complex models

(2) i know this is not particularly related to statistics but i can't quite say that differential equations are my cup of tea. and i hate to say so but i find survey and sampling both a combination of horribly boring and incredibly useful

(3) curiously enough it was while watching 'A Beautiful Mind'. that movie single-handedly changed the course of my professional life (so thanks Russel Crowe). i had already been exposed to the principles of integral and differential calculus but when i learnt about John F. Nash i just said to myself "i need to be doing what THAT GUY is doing". from a professor of mine then i learnt about econometrics but realised it was just a branch of this wider area of knowledge called Statistics so i jumped in it and have never looked back.

(4) no, sorry. i only know it's from the same creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer so i'm assuming it's good?

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
Tell us a bit about the countries/areas you've lived
Europe:
Spain
France
UK
Germany
Austria <---- my brother lives there
Italy
Sweden
Finland
Russia
Latvia
Estonia
Poland
Denmark

Asia:

Thailand <--- twice
Malaysia
Singapore
S. Korea

N. America:
U.S. <--- pretty much every state EXCEPT for the east coast (minus Florida)
Mexico

S. America:
Argentina
Brazil

Africa:
Egypt

Likes/dislikes of them.
i think the thing that hurt me the most is that there are places (like in Thailand or Brazil) were the division between the have's and the have-not's is just SO DARN HUGE that it's almost an insult to human dignity. But the aspects that I like... well... oh god, so many. our world is just so awesome... with so many cultures and things to see, people to meet. i was always really humbled at the sheer diversity of people that exist and yet, somehow, you can always manage to get along if you keep your eyes open and are ready to embrace everything

(PS- i'm not tooting my own horn here. i can provide pictures to most (if not all) places there to show i've really been there)

#### gianmarco

##### TS Contributor
Europe:
Spain
France
UK
Germany
Austria <---- my brother lives there
Italy
Sweden
Finland
Russia
Latvia
Estonia
Poland
Denmark
Hi!
1) Where in Italy have you been?
2) For how long?

Gm

#### TheEcologist

##### Global Moderator
Oke, here are my top 10 questions.

I) If there was a theme tune to your life, what would it be?

II) I'll always like asking nasty job-interview question; What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your biggest failure? And what is your biggest success?

III) I saw this written in a second hand book I bought in states ""If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." - Derek Bok . I wholeheartedly agree with the implications of this, therefore extending this to statistics, how do you feel about the pre-packaged "blackbox" type analyses packages that many students are taught? Would the world be a better place if we spent some more time teaching science students that math is not scary, and show em the real nitty gritty details? [Pretty sure this question will be tl;dr for trinker so now I' m sneaking in the most important question] In the same light as the previous, how do you feel about ggplot?

IV) Tea or coffee?

V) Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 and 20 years?

VI) Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once wrote; "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth". Do you think this is true in math? What about statistics?

VII) In your opinion, what is the role statistics play in most research? What role should it play?

VIII) You just got some fresh data. What do you do?

IX) Do you ever work spend hours working out the relationship within your data with equations on a blackboard, whiteboard, or piece of paper? (or on the window like in a beautiful mind? ) And only then start conducting the relevant statistics?

X) What got you hooked on TS? A year from now, what is going to keep you coming to TS?

And one bonus Q: Why spunky? What definition of the word were you going for?
Extra bonus Q: Copy and paste the output of the R-command .packages(TRUE) below.

TE

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#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
1) Where in Italy have you been?
well, we started in rome and spend a few days there (love, love, LOOVE Vatican City). then we took a car and drove to florence so we visited quite a bit of nice little quaint towns (among which i only remember orvieto). from florence we also drove to pisa and back and then drove all the way to venice. spend like 3 days in venice and then took a vaporetto to leonardo da vinci's airport to go fly to vienna. i had never been so scared in my life when i saw the people tossing bags from the boat to the pier.

2) For how long?
say... a little less than 2 weeks maybe?

pizza margherita and a glass of chianti in venice's piazza san marco. venice also has a very special place in my heart because i'd always wanted to be there since i was a child. EVERYTHING MUST BE THERE TO BE PERFECT

#### hlsmith

##### Less is more. Stay pure. Stay poor.
What do you want to do vocationally once everything (schooling) is done and over with?

How big of a problem is crack in Canada? Much like fashion and music, is Canada a couple of decades behind in their addicitions as well?

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
I) If there was a theme tune to your life, what would it be?
changes, to be very honest. so you'd need to tune in regularly to see what's playing. right now, my life is dancing to these following tunes:

for the day:

and for the night:

II) I'll always like asking nasty job-interview question; What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your biggest failure? And what is your biggest success?
strengths: OBSESSIVE attention to detail. one of the things my advisor loves is that i'm not just "interested" in problems. i'm CONSUMED BY THEM, i become enamoured... if i'm interested in something i devote every single waking hour to finding an answer and pull out all of my available resources to find an answer.

weakness: everything i do must be done serially. you can't interrupt me when i'm doing something or i get super annoyed and do it wrong (sometimes on purpose). that makes me incredibly inefficient sometimes

failure: i couldn't land a spot in the gradprogram i wanted so had to make-do with my 2nd best option. it wasnt directly my fault and plan to re-apply when the time is right, but it is what it is.

success: my marriage to alex. no one (not even my own mother) thought it would last all the years it has lasted

III) I saw this written in a second hand book I bought in states ""If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." - Derek Bok . I wholeheartedly agree with the implications of this, therefore extending this to statistics, how do you feel about the pre-packaged "blackbox" type analyses packages that many students are taught? Would the world be a better place if we spent some more time teaching science students that math is not scary, and show em the real nitty gritty details? [Pretty sure this question will be tl;dr for trinker so now I' m sneaking in the most important question] In the same light as the previous, how do you feel about ggplot?

well... there're several parts to this question so i'll chop it apart, heh.

ready-made, black-box like packages: i used to hate them. the first couple of months when i jumped from my undergrad in the sciences to a master's degree in arts i was seriously considering quitting because i just couldn't handle all the hand-waving arguments and metaphors they were using instead of math. i even found out very quickly that an undergrad degree in statistics places you WAY AHEAD of most of your instructors in qunatitative methods in the social sciences. yes, that really awkward moment when you realize the instructor realizes that you know more than him/her. now i think i'm OK with it because of something a prof i used to work with told me: "i'm a such-and-such by trade, not a data analyst". it then dawned on me: not everyone can be a data analyst because they don't have the time, even if they want to... and they don't need to be. so now i think that as long as people have a vague intuition of what they're doing, i'm happy about that.

teaching of science: YES! OH HELL YES! honestly, even if people don't plan on becoming scientists i think being able to teach people how to think as a scientist, evalualte information critically, pause to reflect on things, etc. would do a great good to the world. sometimes the selfish side of me thinks "but if everybody knows this stuff, where does that place YOU?" but i think for the greater good of the world, i'm willing to take that chance. it'll never happen though. i work in the education dept of my institution so i know how math/science education is going downhill not only in north america, but in the western world in general. i guess that means i'll get a bigger paycheque when the time comes for me to apply for a job?

ggplot: i LOVE it. quick, easy, pretty graphs with lotsa colours for other people to enjoy. although personally, i feel more at home with tables of numbers

IV) Tea or coffee?
i'll take my jasmine tea to go please!

V) Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 and 20 years?
5 year mark: PhD on one hand and Canadian passport on the other (by then i'll be elegible for citizenship)

10 year mark: Alex and i have been talking about moving to Barcelona, Spain for a while so he can open an European branch of his business, plus real estate is dirty cheap there right now. so Barcelona, here we go!

VI) Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once wrote; "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth". Do you think this is true in math? What about statistics?
i don't believe it's true about mathematics/statistics. i think many of the phenomena they describe relates to immutable, universal concepts (i.e. "the truth"). now as far as how does mathematics/statistics relates to the real world.... well, let's just say that's another story

VII) In your opinion, what is the role statistics play in most research? What role should it play?
unless it relates to research about statistics itself, i've always thought of it as a sort of 'gatekeepr' of sorts. appropriate data analysis helps mix and match the chaos that data can be into knowledge. although the most important part is, of course, how said results are interpreted into knowledge and that's up to the scientist himself/herself

VIII) You just got some fresh data. What do you do?
kill it with fire!!!!

nah, plot it. plotting is always good for new data

IX) Do you ever work spend hours working out the relationship within your data with equations on a blackboard, whiteboard, or piece of paper? (or on the window like in a beautiful mind? ) And only then start conducting the relevant statistics?
i think with data and the availability of computers, the process is simultaneous. you plan and analyze at the same time. because, sometimes, the way you intend to conduct an analysis changes drastically as you begin to explore your dataset.

X) What got you hooked on TS? A year from now, what is going to keep you coming to TS?
the people here. same answer to both

And one bonus Q: Why spunky? What definition of the word were you going for?
there's a PG-13 version of the story and a mature version of it. which one would you like? (only Dason knows both)

Extra bonus Q: Copy and paste the output of the R-command .packages(TRUE) below.
Code:
 [1] "ADGofTest"       "asbio"           "bayesSurv"       "Cairo"           "car"             "coda"            "colorspace"      "copula"          "deSolve"         "dichromat"
[11] "digest"          "e1071"           "ggm"             "ggplot2"         "GPArotation"     "gRbase"          "gsl"             "gsubfn"          "gtable"          "igraph0"
[21] "labeling"        "lavaan"          "MASS"            "Matrix"          "maxLik"          "MCMCpack"        "memoise"         "miscTools"       "mnormt"          "modeest"
[31] "moments"         "MplusAutomation" "msm"             "munsell"         "mvtnorm"         "nFactors"        "normalp"         "patchDVI"        "pbivnorm"        "plotrix"
[41] "plyr"            "polycor"         "ppcor"           "proto"           "pspline"         "psych"           "pwr"             "quadprog"        "RColorBrewer"    "relimp"
[51] "reshape2"        "Rlab"            "rmeta"           "sandwich"        "scales"          "scatterplot3d"   "semPLS"          "sfsmisc"         "signal"          "smoothSurv"
[61] "stabledist"      "stringr"         "truncnorm"       "tuneR"           "XML"             "xtable"          "zoo"             "base"            "boot"            "class"
[71] "cluster"         "codetools"       "compiler"        "datasets"        "foreign"         "graphics"        "grDevices"       "grid"            "KernSmooth"      "lattice"
[81] "methods"         "mgcv"            "nlme"            "nnet"            "parallel"        "rpart"           "spatial"         "splines"         "stats"           "stats4"
[91] "survival"        "tcltk"           "tools"           "utils"

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
What do you want to do vocationally once everything (schooling) is done and over with?
chances are i'll do another grad program again. i'm not rush to go to the real world

How big of a problem is crack in Canada? Much like fashion and music, is Canada a couple of decades behind in their addicitions as well?
ha! crack in Canada.... been watching the news on the mayor of Toronto? honestly i just think our politics are SO.DARN.BORING that whenever we have even a small semblance of a scandal we just blow it out of proportion.

#### Dason

there's a PG-13 version of the story and a mature version of it. which one would you like? (only Dason knows both)
Just keep in mind that this thread is in the 'general' forum so anybody can read it

#### hlsmith

##### Less is more. Stay pure. Stay poor.
Do forget, "anybot" as well.

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
that's part of the fun!... so i get to elicit everyone's curiosity. what dirty little secret hides behind the name 'spunky'? who wants to know!?!

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
thanks! i now feel special!

Now lets her the story of your name!
PG-13 story: used to LOVE this tv show in the 90s called "Rocko's Modern Life" and the main character had a dog, Spunky. here's a picture of Spunky

http://www.biohazardgfx.com/images/cg_gallery/SpunkyStuff.jpg

Mature story: an ex-bf of mine wanted to make it into gay porn. the guy was cute but he was very shy so let's just say he couldn't perform in front of cammera... hence he never made it. his stage name? Spunky, of course. (i found out about a year ago that he ended up enlisting in the army, he's american. god knows what happened to him. i just hope he's ok).

#### Dason

Were you born in Canada? I don't think you were since you don't look like this:

#### spunky

##### Can't make spagetti
Were you born in Canada? I don't think you were since you don't look like this:

so... awesome. i need to watch southpark!

nah, i wasn't born in canada. i was born in mexico to a mexican mother and a russian father

#### bryangoodrich

##### Probably A Mammal
i don't believe it's true about mathematics/statistics. i think many of the phenomena they describe relates to immutable, universal concepts (i.e. "the truth").
Actually, "the truth" is not so immutable in mathematics. The definition of "truth" in math is always "truth under an interpretation." For instance, what does it mean to say the numeral 2 added to the numeral 3 equals the numeral 5? Clearly I'm leading as we don't think in numerals (labels). We think about what they mean. That meaning is disguised from us in our intuition. We don't immediately think that the "2" we see written is any different than the "2" somebody else may be referring to (e.g., a 2 of the set of Integers or the 2 of complex numbers are from two entirely different domains; but we can clearly find a one-to-one mapping of those numbers from one domain to the other to preserve their meaning).

As an example, if I asked you what is 2+3 you would almost surely say "5." And there is nothing wrong with that, but had I been talking about "2" and "3" from the set of Integers modulo 3 that forms an additive group under addition modulo 3, then by "5" you cannot be referring to what I was referring to as I was referring to 2! It just happens that the integer 5 to which you would refer happens to be equivalent under modulo 3 (i.e., 5 modulo 3 = 2).

So how does this make truth relative? Because any mathematical talk about numbers or operations on them and the patterns of their truth are contingent on a whole system of concepts that provide their meaning. In mathematical logic (foundations specifically), we call these structures. The sentence 2+3=2 is true under the Integers modulo 3 group. That group, as it is called, is one of many types of abstract structures. When a statement like the above is interpreted as referring to content from that structure (i.e., the numerals are Integers under the appropriate equivalence relation and addition is Integer addition modulo 3), we simply say that the structure is a model of that sentence. To be true is simply to be in a model. To be a model is simply to be an interpretation. This is truth under an interpretation. This is also known as the Tarski truth definition. It has wide sweeping applications in other areas, including the way we think about the world (structural realism, for instance).

Does this sound like immutable truth of mathematics? Not quite!

I could also attack that notion from the more practical perspective of how mathematics is done, but I think Lakatos has done a good job of that decades ago: see Proofs and Refutations. Though, while that begs the question if the way mathematics progresses is like that today (not entirely), it still reveals just how "empirical" mathematics actually is at its core. The immutability of logical truth that we try to decorate mathematics in is just not there. What is left? Chaos! Or more interesting inquiries into the philosophy of mathematics