Udacity CS101: Intro to Computer Science, a review

I’ve been trying to learn how to code in Python for a while now. Of all the beginner resources I’ve tried, Udacity’s Intro to Computer Science (UD CS101) has been my favorite.

To clarify: I’m not learning Python with the intention of becoming a software developer. Rather, I like analyzing data, and I hear Python can help with that. R too, but Python is 1: recommended for beginners, and 2: has more applications outside of big data.

I do have some programming experience, though never anything formal, never to this depth, and never in Python.

 

THE STRUCTURE

UD CS101’s premise is for you to create “The Next Google” by teaching you how to build your own search engine.

The self-paced course is broken down into 7 modules*. Each module introduces a new concept to help improve on your search engine.

Each module contains:

  • Videos. Here the instructor explains the theory behind the concepts and demonstrates how to use them on the search engine.
  • Q&As. These help nail down the concepts. These aren’t too difficult and are usually similar to the demonstrations.
  • Problem sets. These are machine problems that build on the concepts you’ve learned so far and are more challenging than the Q&As.

At the end of the course you would have built a search engine with a similar algorithm to AltaVista–what was once the #1 search engine in the 90s before Google took over.

For your class project you then build a mini social network based on the concepts you learned from the course.

*As of writing Udacity has revamped their classrooms so this modular approach may no longer apply.

 

Continue reading “Udacity CS101: Intro to Computer Science, a review”

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How to file for a lost Philippine passport in 10 steps

Earlier this year I had to file for a lost passport. The loss was stressful enough by itself, but was made worse because I couldn’t find much information about it. I was lost on how to file for loss!

So I called up their main office and got a list of initial requirements: Affidavit of loss and Police report.

The specifics, and the rest, I figured out along the way.

I’ve written down my experience here, step by step, in the hopes that it would make things a bit easier for anyone who experiences this loss.

1. File an affidavit of loss.

  • In your affidavit, write a detailed explanation of when, where, and how the passport got lost. Here’s a sample template I found online. If you can, best to have a lawyer write it for you.
  • Make 3 copies of the original.
  • Have all four (original + 3 copies) notarized. Technically you’ll only need 3, but you might accidentally mix them up so I say play it safe and notarize everything.

2. File for a police report.

  • Go to the police station nearest where you lost your passport and file a police report.
    TIP: Only investigators can write the report, and not all police stations have an investigation unit. If your first police station doesn’t have one, ask them to redirect you to the right station (usually the bigger ones).
  • To save you the trouble of explaining yourself to the investigator, hand them a copy of your affidavit of loss. They can then base their police report off the affidavit, ensuring all the facts are consistent across both documents. They’ll need to keep the copy though, which is why I said you’ll “technically” only need to notarize three.
  • Thank your police officers! I read in another blog post that they had to pay a P50 fee, but our officers told us this kind of service doesn’t need payment.
  • Make a copy. Or two. The extra copies weren’t needed from my experience, but you know, just in case.

3. Go to the DFA main office

  • In Aseana Business Park in Parañaque. Not along Roxas Boulevard.
  • And no, they don’t process lost passports in satellite offices (I asked).
  • Ensure you have the documents from #s 1 and 2. Optionally, bring a copy of the first page of your lost passport if you have one (I did) and your birth certificate (I didn’t).
  • You do NOT need an appointment. Just go right up to the entrance, tell the guard you’re filing for a lost passport. He’ll ask you if you have the above documents, then direct you to the information counter.
  • At the information counter, they’ll request for documents #1 and #2 again. They’ll arrange your documents, and hand you a passport application form tagged for lost passport. You then proceed to a different room for processing.
  • You don’t have to fill up the form now, but I did so anyway.

Continue reading “How to file for a lost Philippine passport in 10 steps”

Storytelling with Data: a book review and my takeaways

As a child, I loved telling stories. I’d take my favorite book and TV characters and create a world where they would oh-so-conveniently meet. Say, a magical anime girl wanders Narnia until she encounters the now-villainous Power Rangers.

As an adult in the corporate world, I still want to tell stories. But now I find that people are more critical of which stories I tell them.

It must be in the form of numbers, they said.

It’s a data-driven world, they said.

In Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s book Storytelling with Data, she argues we can do just that: tell stories with numbers.

language + math = data storytelling

She takes traditional storytelling concepts then re-interprets them for “adult-appropriate” tables and charts. She teaches us to edit our charts, the same way authors do their stories, by borrowing principles of visual design.

My key takeaways from the book can be found below (click for larger size), but they can be summarized as follows:

  1. Context is king. The form your data will take depends on your audience and what you want them to do with the data.
  2. Choose the right graph to best express the key message (I’ve made a flowchart in my notes to help with that).
  3. Following on #1, design around this message.
  4. Present your data as you would a story, with a beginning, middle, and end.
storytellingwithdata1
“Storytelling with Data” notes, by dannaisadork

P.S. Sorry about the terrible handwriting. My normal penmanship’s already pretty bad, but writing on a tablet made it worse!

 

Continue reading “Storytelling with Data: a book review and my takeaways”

When a walk reminded me that oh, by the way, you’re a girl

Tonight I had a mad craving for milk tea.

So I went down from my apartment, took my first step on the pavement… and I shuddered.

It was pretty chilly.

I looked around, and realized it was much later than I thought. Maybe past 9 or 10 PM? I had been reading a book, and must not have noticed the time pass by.

Whoosh went a gust of wind, as if to interrupt my thoughts.

I smiled. In retrospect I hope I did not look creepy smiling by myself like that.

I smiled because it was exactly my kind of weather. Slightly chilly, but not enough to need a coat, with a gust of wind every now and then.

It was the perfect weather for a walk.

So I took another step… and I shuddered again. This time it wasn’t the weather.

A girl walking by herself at night, are you crazy?

Shuddered. Again.

Had I missed out on so many great walks like this, just because I’m a girl?

I looked around carefully:

Yes it was “dark”, but when does it really get dark in the city? The street was lit well-enough, and there were more than enough stores open.

Yes there were less cars, but wasn’t that part of the charm of a walk?

Yes there were less people, but finally it would be the chance to hear myself think.

I walked ahead, determined to enjoy my walk. Every now and then I would fall into habit.

Cross the street because the other side is better lit.

Check the pavement ahead of me for shadows.

Check the windows around me for movement.

Ugh. How can I enjoy my walk when I’m fighting paranoia at every step?

I had been so focused on trying to enjoy my walk, that I nearly missed the milk tea shop. Which was closed. And apparently had been for some time, given it was all boarded up with a notice at the door.

So I walked to the next nearest brightly-lit public space: a convenience store. And grabbed whatever bottled tea they were selling. It may not have been authentic tea. I didn’t care anymore.

I didn’t want to pretend to enjoy my walk anymore.

I walked back faster than when I came.

I was mad, furious, but most of all sad. The thought of past walks missed, the thought of  future ones I may never have… all because I’m a girl.

A data journalism peg: NY Times on Uber’s psychological mind games.

The New York Times is right up there with the Guardian’s Datablog in my data journalism aspirations.

One of my favorite posts of theirs is Snow Fall: a coverage of the 2012 Tunnel Creek avalanche. Its a wonderful mixture of storytelling, visualizations, and traditional journalistic interviews.

Go check it out first, I promise you won’t regret it. Just don’t forget to come back.

Unlike the Datablog however, the Times doesn’t collate their data viz content into a single page (IKR? Not even a tag!), so I often miss out on great content unless it hits viral.

(Before you suggest I subscribe to the Times, did you know they publish about 230 pieces of content daily? I’m not willing to sift through that!)

So I’m glad I didn’t miss out on this latest one: their coverage on How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons.

nyt_uber
This is a serious journalism piece. Not a game. I think.

What’s to like:

  • Interactive simulations!
  • The feature viz is a throwback to the 8-bit games of the 80s–which is kind of meta, given the post talks about how Uber experimented with video game techniques to maximize profit.
  • Charts. Charts. Charts. And interactive ones at that.
  • A union of social science with data science. How exciting! I like how they incorporated psychological vocabulary into the piece (e.g. loss aversion, ludic loop, binge-watching, etc).
  • “Uber exists in a kind of legal and ethical purgatory.” Please excuse me while I writer-geek out over this analogy.

Its a pretty length piece which will take about half an hour to get through, but I argue its worth it.