Daily Archives: Saturday, March 4, 2017

Living vicariously through our children

Christian's lab at ASU (Feb. 2017)Kelly and I had an interesting discussion last night about her work. Her work is very similar to mine in many ways. The work Christian does has similarities to mine, but they are superficial (see his office in the picture to the left). Some have assumed I pushed Christian toward the kind of work I do to live vicariously through his superior training and skills. Over all the years of homeschool, I fought against that, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. In the end, though Christian went off into an area for which I am admittedly a fan-boy, but that is so deep in the bowels of the theoretical math associated with network information theory, I have no clue about how even to talk about it with him.

My pleasant surprise with Kelly was revealed when we talked about something she does at work. She developed and ran a survey for use in creating a marketing strategy for her company. She is in the process of figuring out what the data mean. Kelly at Starbucks in Canby, OR (Jan. 2017)One of her first steps was to find where and how different sets of features (answers to survey questions) cluster with respect to the characteristics of the customers who took the survey. Crazily, she is using precisely the same algorithms I use every day to find clusters of motion pixels in video images that indicate someone is about to fall out of a bed in a hospital. She predominately uses the R statistical programming language, but also Python which she is in the process of learning. The clustering algorithms she is trying are k-means clustering, mean-shift filtering, density based spatial clustering, support vector machines, etc.

For my part, my undergraduate degree is in marketing. I implement all of the same algorithms with C++, python and am learning R, but to perform image segmentation. She LOVES that stuff. I LOVE that stuff. I actually think she has the perfect job for her. It is exciting to her the same way my work is exciting to me, both on a technical level and for her love of engaging with customers and fellow employees. I did not plan it this way, but I am getting a little bit of a vicarious thrill from watching her in her new job.