I don’t have a lot of free time. Between the family, the school, the assistantships and the internship, my calendar is packed. Being in grad school means making a commitment to always having something else you should be doing. For every task I’m assigned there is an unknown, finite amount of time I have to spare. That Bayes assignment from two weeks ago? I’ve got maybe six hours for it. I’m glad it only took two or three. The Clinical Trials assignment that’s due on Thursday? I can probably make eight hours for that, but they have to be spread out in two hour chunks and I hope it will only take three or four. My family? I’ve got 7-9 hours per weekday for them. Grading papers? Two hours.
I’m generally good at doing the things I should be doing. Frequently, I can juggle tasks well enough to find time to do things that I don’t have to do. This process usually involves a complex, high-level form of procrastination and a firm commitment to fuller living through sleep deprivation. Sleep is one of the few responsibilities I can neglect without disappointing myself or people who rely on me, so choosing to sleep less is usually an easy choice. This is clearly less than ideal, but that’s how it is. There I things I want more than the feeling of being well rested.
Lately, in between time spent wandering virtual countrysides saving virtual people from virtual world-devouring dragon-gods, I’ve been spending my free time trying to fill gaps in my statistical computing abilities. I just finished The Art of R Programming. Not a page turner, but interesting nonetheless. I like R and I’m competent enough to be able to figure out how to use it to do all the things I need it to do. However, most of my R skills have been forged via trial and error over the glowing coals of various blogs, mailing lists, and CRAN pages. I picked up the book because I felt it would be beneficial to build a more solid foundation under my slightly-out-of-code shack of R knowledge. “The Art of R Programming” fit the bill quite nicely. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fairly comprehensive, broad view of R as a programming language.
Eventually, I will have to stop ignoring the fact that I need to write a rather large paper as part of earning a master’s degree. I’m excited about the project on which the paper will be based. I think it will be fairly engrossing and I’m putting it off because I’m not ready for it to sweep me away yet. The basic idea is this: you have data on a bunch of people from a loosely connected social network (think students at a school). You have demographic info, BMI, daily exercise levels, etc. These people were also asked to name 5 of their friends and you have this data too. You want to use this data to estimate the effects on the probability that a person is obese from the level of that person’s association with other obese people. Models exist for these types of relationships. However, problems can arise when you have people whose data are missing. For my thesis, I’m going to be implementing a couple different methods for imputing missing social network data for the purposes of estimating network effects. I think it will be a nice combination of coding, simulation and head scratching. I’m still at the idea stage. I think once the ideas bouncing around my head reach a critical mass, the real work will begin.