All posts by jrising

Wedding Weekend Memories

A year of planning, and many thousands of dollars later, the wedding is over. I am thoroughly (and happily) married. With 4 days, 18 activities, 133 guests, about 20 speeches (most short), 11 vendors, there is an awful lot to remember. I am putting together a collection of photographs (and see Toh’s more extensive set), but I wanted to also record some memories for perhaps the biggest event of my life to date.

Friday Night:
Friday was set aside for “Bachelor activities” (read: “activities Johanna does not endorse”), which turned into a BBQ-sushi for the wedding party, karaoke, and midnight prophesies. Some of the karaoke highlights for me were Mary F.’s enthusiasm during “We are family”, Amir and my “A whole new world” (I got to be Aladdin this time), and all the Flight of the Conchords lovers getting into “Most beautiful girl in the room”.

Saturday:
The day started slow, but when a dozen people showed up for Flame’s aunt’s yoga class, I knew it was going to be good. Friends and relatives helped us put on a day of “ad hoc” activities, including a bike ride, a hike, a walk around Provincetown, and a dance class. I stayed at the wedding party house, instigating games: I taught people Rythmomachy and orchestrated a new game I call “The Ephemera Game”, for people go guess where I got maps and pamphlets.

The wedding rehearsal was were it finally became real. Some 40 people showed up to play their parts or offer moral support, and proceeded to mill around. I don’t know how these things are supposed to go, but someone needed to take charge, so I started directing people. The questions started rolling in: where should we put the chairs, the blessing givers, the grandmas. We had put together a 4-page step-by-step document for the ceremony, and yet there was still so much to decide.

The highlights of the day was definitely “Welcome Event”, organized by my parents. The puttanesca flowed like wine, and the wine gushed like our reconnections with so many people. My step-father began his speech apologizing for not writing one, and then spoke for 20 surprisingly riveting minutes on how Flame and I got together, our travel and take on life, and something about crashing through waves. Then 9 more people came up, with tributes, roasts, and one number for us (the golden ratio, since J^2 = J + 1).

Sunday:
As Sunday began, Flame and I split up for our separate preparations. I drove the groomsmen to the top men’s barbershop in the area for a straight-razor shave: what better way to start my wedding day then a knife at my throat. Flame and I reunited around the bend of a Doane Rock trail, for a clichéd “first look”. Nonetheless, Flame was absolutely beautiful in her wedding gown, and we alternated lovey and silly until I think the photographers had all they could handle.

Our first scare came while doing relatives photos back at the ceremony location. We realized that the ceremony programs, which we had spent hours printing and folding, were nowhere to be found. I was about to derail the photos and send people racing back to the parents’ house, when one of my groomsmen, Amir, said he would take care of it, and then did so.

The other scare for me came as I was waiting at the front of the ceremony and Flame was walking down the aisle. I suddenly remembered Heidi’s admonition that, whatever else happens, I remember to bring my vows; and I remembered that my vows were in my backpack, far out of reach. Then I remembered that Flame had told me to give a copy of my vows to my best man, Toh, the day before, and I wondered if he happened to remember them. I turned and asked him, and he said not to worry, he would hand them to us at the proper time.

The only other ceremony event I only heard about two weeks later. As my sister’s children did their blessing, a commotion of squawks arose in the tree behind us. A hawk had alighted, and dozens of crows and other birds had began mobbing around it. After a couple minutes of this, the hawk picked itself up and flew directly over the assembled people. This must have been some kind of omen (the word auspices actual means to look at birds), with the hawk being a Native American symbol of a guardian, my late father being a zoologist, and my diverse community being all about mobbing. But the interpretation is still unclear to me.

After that came the reception, the hora, the dinner, the speeches, the tosses, the first dance, the dessert, the dancing, and the afterparty. During dinner, we had our special wedding puzzle at everyone’s place (individual pieces and solution), and though no one solved it, two groups made some great progress. Flame threw a bouquet to the tune of Put a Ring on It, and I did a thesis toss to Weird Science. For our first dance, I had taken the choreography from the Ed Sheeran video Thinking Out Loud and adapted it to Flame’s song of choice, Crazy Love by Van Morrison. I had swapped the man and woman parts, and we got plenty of appreciation and laughing. Dessert consisted of the best pies in town and an organic chocolatier, Chequesette Chocolates, which crafted a sea-scape of sugar sand with chocolate turtles and oysters. Even the afterparty was a blast, with 30ish people coming out to hear some live music (we had bribed the band to stay an extra hour) and snacks (including grilled cheeses).

Monday:
After a perfect weather weekend, Monday finally succumbed to the rain, and Linda and Ron’s house became filled with people, love, and brunch. We were saying goodbye until it was time for the hackathon. The Hackathon turned into a brainstorming session, worth its own post.

Finally, here are the acknowledgements for a weekend that was really a labor of love:
Acknowledgements

As Amir said, the whole event went really smoothly: it went off with just one hitch!

Wedding Weekend Memories

A year of planning, and many thousands of dollars later, the wedding is over. I am thoroughly (and happily) married. With 4 days, 18 activities, 133 guests, about 20 speeches (most short), 11 vendors, there is an awful lot to remember. I am putting together a collection of photographs (and see Toh’s more extensive set), but I wanted to also record some memories for perhaps the biggest event of my life to date.

Friday Night:
Friday was set aside for “Bachelor activities” (read: “activities Johanna does not endorse”), which turned into a BBQ-sushi for the wedding party, karaoke, and midnight prophesies. Some of the karaoke highlights for me were Mary F.’s enthusiasm during “We are family”, Amir and my “A whole new world” (I got to be Aladdin this time), and all the Flight of the Conchords lovers getting into “Most beautiful girl in the room”.

Saturday:
The day started slow, but when a dozen people showed up for Flame’s aunt’s yoga class, I knew it was going to be good. Friends and relatives helped us put on a day of “ad hoc” activities, including a bike ride, a hike, a walk around Provincetown, and a dance class. I stayed at the wedding party house, instigating games: I taught people Rythmomachy and orchestrated a new game I call “The Ephemera Game”, for people go guess where I got maps and pamphlets.

The wedding rehearsal was were it finally became real. Some 40 people showed up to play their parts or offer moral support, and proceeded to mill around. I don’t know how these things are supposed to go, but someone needed to take charge, so I started directing people. The questions started rolling in: where should we put the chairs, the blessing givers, the grandmas. We had put together a 4-page step-by-step document for the ceremony, and yet there was still so much to decide.

The highlights of the day was definitely “Welcome Event”, organized by my parents. The puttanesca flowed like wine, and the wine gushed like our reconnections with so many people. My step-father began his speech apologizing for not writing one, and then spoke for 20 surprisingly riveting minutes on how Flame and I got together, our travel and take on life, and something about crashing through waves. Then 9 more people came up, with tributes, roasts, and one number for us (the golden ratio, since J^2 = J + 1).

Sunday:
As Sunday began, Flame and I split up for our separate preparations. I drove the groomsmen to the top men’s barbershop in the area for a straight-razor shave: what better way to start my wedding day then a knife at my throat. Flame and I reunited around the bend of a Doane Rock trail, for a clichéd “first look”. Nonetheless, Flame was absolutely beautiful in her wedding gown, and we alternated lovey and silly until I think the photographers had all they could handle.

Our first scare came while doing relatives photos back at the ceremony location. We realized that the ceremony programs, which we had spent hours printing and folding, were nowhere to be found. I was about to derail the photos and send people racing back to the parents’ house, when one of my groomsmen, Amir, said he would take care of it, and then did so.

The other scare for me came as I was waiting at the front of the ceremony and Flame was walking down the aisle. I suddenly remembered Heidi’s admonition that, whatever else happens, I remember to bring my vows; and I remembered that my vows were in my backpack, far out of reach. Then I remembered that Flame had told me to give a copy of my vows to my best man, Toh, the day before, and I wondered if he happened to remember them. I turned and asked him, and he said not to worry, he would hand them to us at the proper time.

The only other ceremony event I only heard about two weeks later. As my sister’s children did their blessing, a commotion of squawks arose in the tree behind us. A hawk had alighted, and dozens of crows and other birds had began mobbing around it. After a couple minutes of this, the hawk picked itself up and flew directly over the assembled people. This must have been some kind of omen (the word auspices actual means to look at birds), with the hawk being a Native American symbol of a guardian, my late father being a zoologist, and my diverse community being all about mobbing. But the interpretation is still unclear to me.

After that came the reception, the hora, the dinner, the speeches, the tosses, the first dance, the dessert, the dancing, and the afterparty. During dinner, we had our special wedding puzzle at everyone’s place (individual pieces and solution), and though no one solved it, two groups made some great progress. Flame threw a bouquet to the tune of Put a Ring on It, and I did a thesis toss to Weird Science. For our first dance, I had taken the choreography from the Ed Sheeran video Thinking Out Loud and adapted it to Flame’s song of choice, Crazy Love by Van Morrison. I had swapped the man and woman parts, and we got plenty of appreciation and laughing. Dessert consisted of the best pies in town and an organic chocolatier, Chequesette Chocolates, which crafted a sea-scape of sugar sand with chocolate turtles and oysters. Even the afterparty was a blast, with 30ish people coming out to hear some live music (we had bribed the band to stay an extra hour) and snacks (including grilled cheeses).

Monday:
After a perfect weather weekend, Monday finally succumbed to the rain, and Linda and Ron’s house became filled with people, love, and brunch. We were saying goodbye until it was time for the hackathon. The Hackathon turned into a brainstorming session, worth its own post.

Finally, here are the acknowledgements for a weekend that was really a labor of love:
Acknowledgements

As Amir said, the whole event went really smoothly: it went off with just one hitch!

Laser-cutting Rythmomachy Board

This wedding is going to be the culmination of a dream I have had for almost 2 decades: Finally, I will have a professional-grade set for playing Rythmomachy, the Philosopher’s Game!

I have been having so much fun laser-cutting for the wedding, and putting together activities like a massively distributed crossword puzzle. Last week’s inspiration was to laser cut a board and pieces for Rythmomachy, and I want to share them with all of you.

What is Rythmomachy, you ask? I call it “Chess on steroids”, and one medieval scholar said,

Pythagoras did first invent,
this play as it is thought:
And thereby after studies great,
his recreation sought.

Here I just want to share my design for a board and pieces. You too can have this for your very own:

It took about 1 hour on the Berkeley laser cutter I was using. The design is in two files:

Download the board Download the pieces

I thought to put etchings on the board to tell you how to set it up, since this has always been one of the greatest barriers to starting a new game.

Also note that every piece has a version colored dark and light. These need to be glued back-to-back. Each piece starts out as one color, according to the etchings on the board. If it is captured, it’s flipped over and becomes the other player’s piece.

I put some foot pads on the back and set it up to be flipped closed:

Enjoy!

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Probabilistic Coupling

Environmental Modelling & Software has just published my work on a new technique for coupling models: Probabilistic Coupling. My thoughts on coupled models had been percolating for a couple years, before a session at the International Conference on Conservation Biology in 2013 offered me a chance to try it out.

Probabilistic coupling has three main goals:

  • Allowing models to be coupled without distortionary feedback
  • Allowing multiple models to inform the same variable
  • Allowing models to be coupled with different scales

With these three features, the very nature and approach of coupling models can change. Current model coupling requires carefully connecting models together, plugging inputs into outputs, and then recalibrating to recover realistic behavior again. Instead, this allows for what I call “Agglomerated Modeling”, where models are thrown together into a bucket and almost magically sort themselves out.

The code for the model is available within the OpenWorld framework, as the coupling example.

Torch passing

A friend: “The big story in the world this week is… the inevitable passing of the torch. We will witness the beginning of a new era this week, I feel.”

Naturally, he was only using the French election (NYT: “The result was a full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties, setting the country on an uncertain path”) in jest to refer to something completely unrelated, but it gave me a thought. Much as I love some parts of globalization and the Post-WWII international institution, this is a passing of the torch. And that uncertain recipient of the torch– maybe populist, maybe bigoted, maybe urban, technophilic, and progressive– that recipient is us.

Every generation seems surprised when the torch is passed in their lifetime, but it cannot be otherwise.

LJ blasted about its 18th birthday, of which I had apparently been part 13.55 years, and posted 473 times. I guess it was time to move on.

Next stop: London

My time at UC Berkeley is drawing shut, and for the past 4 months I have been pursuing my own eclectic version of the academic job market. I find myself squarely between economics, geophysics, and data science, with disconnected bits to show from a tough-to-articulate whole. But I have also been fortunate to have strong supporters, who appreciate whatever it is that I do. With their help, the job search has treated me well, and forced me to decide between excellent and incomparable alternatives. So, this is a post of victory!

Each of my five fly-out interviews required distinct presentations, across them covering papers on fisheries, coffee, and climate, a teaching talk on thermoeconomics, and a pitch for a new sustainability program. I interviewed at science, economics, and interdiscplinary departments, and got the support of the faculty at every one. Flame and I just finished a revisitation of the top US options, to decide on our new home.

But across professional fit, cultural metabolism, Flame’s opportunities, and the politrumpal climate, we realized that the best choice was none of them: I am taking a 100% research assistant professorship at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics! LSE is in the heart of London, which is also home to Flame’s nonprofit.

There I can look forward to a huge pool of potential collaborators, including two from my PhD program. LSE straddles the divide between the US academic world, where I will be able to keep my collaborations alive, and the European world of modeling and proaction that I have always been drawn to. The advertised position was for “Growth and the Environment”, which I’m all about. And connecting science with policy is part of the job, with a team at hand specifically for this purpose.

I move there at the beginning of 2018. Between now and then, I have 4 more months at Berkeley, and in July I start a mini-postdoc-#2 at the University of Chicago.

I can’t wait to set up in a new continent, and hope you all come to visit!

A New World Order

The rise of Trump can only be understood in a global context. It isn’t just Citizen’s United or the Voting Rights Act– or rather, these are symptoms of wider trends. Trump’s election parallels the shock of Brexit, the rise of extremism and anti-semitism in Europe, and the rise of religious extremism in the United States and Middle East.

This is a movement against much we hold dear: humanism, pluralism, progressivism. This is a rejection of the institutions upon which society has functioned since World War II.

The progressive movement believed that what people wanted was a good job, health care, stability and peace. And surely people do want that, and Clinton won the popular vote because of it. But there is another group in society that is anything but fringe. Apparently they form a third of California, Massachusetts, and New York voters. What they want is entirely different, but I do not know what.

Is this the end of a pluralistic world? Is this a new rise of global fascism? Is it a lead up to world war?

Extreme inequality and technological disruption are certainly partly to blame. But what role does our most treasured innovations have to play: the Internet, the capacity of data science, and the guilty benefits of vertically integrated corporations, in particular?

And finally, what do we do? This was never a problem just with the presidential election. If we are going to understand Trump, and ultimately eliminate him and reverse his damage, it is going to be by taking a hard look at the foundations of our own society, because ultimately, that is where his support has come from.

The end of history

They say that history repeats itself. The strictest form of the claim is like the world view of the aboriginal Yir Yoront, for whom every generation is a repetition of the one before. Even if our Western world view cannot admit such stasis, many people would say that the rise and fall of civilizations is a story that has repeated itself many times, and many future civilizations will walk on the ashes of this one.

However, when it comes to the history of human civilizations, history will never repeat itself again. Our species is on a one-way road, and if our global society collapses, no future Homo sapiens will enjoy the benefits of industrialized society.

Empires may rise and fall, but the modern world is intrinsically interconnected, and as a civilization we rise and fall as a globe. We are interdependent: were it not for international trade, most regions could not feed themselves, much less build and support their own industries. The stories of future history are confined to a single narrative.

So what happens if the global economy collapses and trade ceases, and each region is left to pick up the pieces on its own? These enclaves would not have the benefits of readily available resources that our ancestors enjoyed when they started our journey in industrialization. We have exhausted readily-available high energy sources: new sources of energy, like shale gas and tar sands oil, require immense technology to access. They would be trapped in perpetual pre-industrialization.

Add to this the harsher climate, destabilizated ecosystems, and exhausted ores that we are bequeathing to them, and their lives will be mean indeed. The planet will recover, given 50 million years or so, but far too late for our species.

What if we colonize other stars, with virgin resources and the room to collapse at our leisure? Those planets will have their own stories, and maybe there we can avoid becoming to big to fail, but colonization is a one-way process. Without a way to travel or communicate faster than light, our futures will be disconnected.

By the way, this also limits our use of any Prime Directive on Earth. Non-industrialized cultures cannot achieve development on their own– not that any culture ever did. We are in this story together, taking it forward because there is no way back.

So, let’s celebrate our dependence. Our lives and the lives of all our descendents depend upon it.

A USexit next?

The Brexit is happening. I’m starting to wonder which US state will be the first to leave the union. Oklahoma, maybe when Clinton becomes president, as mounting budget deficits and poor populations make printing money look really good? Or a richer state like New Hampshire, a closer analog to England, citing the decay of the US?

We are in a time of changes. Old institutions will fall. But it all might be happening too late for a further Fourth Turning-style crisis. The Baby Boomers are starting to die, Millennials are insatiably hopeful, and Gen Xers won’t give a fuck so they’ll broker a peace just to be left alone.