Daft for probabilistic graphical models

probabilistic graphical model rendered with Daft
Daft is python package used to render graphical models. Its renders are indeed lovely (see right), but the pipeline leaves something to be desired, and there's still a lot of functionality missing.

To try it out, I decided to draw one of the simplest PGMs possible: N points drawn from a mean μ.  It was frustrating to enter coordinates to place the nodes and plate boundaries. It would be preferable to specify which nodes the plates should surround, just as the edges specify which nodes they connect.  It would also be nice to not specify coordinates at all for the nodes, and instead have the system determine placement (but still allow manual override).

There are no options to control the alignment or scale of plate labels, and the concept of specifying an origin was a little strange, even if it makes sense.  The aspect ratio of the graphical model should be fit to the contents, and you should be able to set margins; the only time we should specify a size is when rendering.

While it seems promising, the learning curve is too steep for me.  I've entrenched myself in Inkscape, where it's easy for me to center things quickly.  Churning out the variant below took me about two minutes, whereas the Daft variant took closer to ten, and it still needs work.  That said, Daft does match fonts better with LaTex documents.  I could see it being powerful once you know how to handle its quirks.

probabilistic graphical model hand-drawn with Inkscape


having it all

What is "having it all"?  This is typically understood to mean being a women with children and a happy family life while also having a successful career.

Not only does this phrasing focus the life-balance discussion on privileged women (ignoring those struggling with multiple jobs, etc.), it also isolates women as distinct from men.  There are sacrifices no matter who you are and what choices you make, but we don't talk about men having it all or not.  As far as I can tell, no man or woman is perfect at everything.

We want each individual or family to be able to choose to balance their life or lives as they see fit.  We want them to be able to choose their family structure, domestic responsibilities, social obligations, career paths, and hobbies.  Just like we budget money between housing, food, clothing, and any number of things, each individual budgets their time and efforts.

Having it all is a useless metric, not to mention that it's incredibly ambiguous.  No matter your choice, using this terminology can appear as a judgement to those who allocate their time and efforts differently, which is basically everyone else.


not allergic to bees

While running this morning, I noticed that the wild raspberries were out, and I took a break to pick a few.  While rummaging in the bushes, I received my very first bee sting. When it happened, I felt pain in the skin over my achilles tendon, and looked down to see a striped insect flying toward my face.  I flailed like a child and took off running, four raspberries cradled in one hand.  After getting some distance behind me, I inspected my heel and removed the stinger and remnants of bee abdomen.

I received two wasp bites as a child, and was always afraid of being allergic to bee stings.  It hurt much more than I had anticipated, but the pain had mostly subsided by the time I returned home.  I was a little anxious, and N commented that for someone who likes bugs, I wasn't doing very well.  But once it seemed clear that I was having no allergic reaction, I became a bit giddy: I was never really afraid of being stung, but the potential allergic reaction.  Liberated from that fear, I may now begin a career in beekeeping.


life with bass

I've noticed that nowadays we mostly listen to music with terrible speakers.  Laptops aren't that great, and mobile devices are also pretty bad in that neither have a decent bass range.  Music has become background to life, and in the process it's lost some of its original artistry, both in terms of range of expression and in terms of how we treat it. It's more like food now than like visual art hung on a wall.

I usually don't like to listen to music while I work since I find it distracting, but there are certain more mundane tasks that it helps speed along.  I was working from home today and hooked up music to our little Bose speaker, and songs that had just played idly before suddenly commanded my attention with their richness.

Even with quality over-ear headphones, the sound just isn't the same for me—it feels restricted.  And when I do use headphones, I almost always only use one ear at a time, switching to let each ear "breathe" in turn.

There seems to be something off about music consumption habits, but I can't put my finger on it.  Part of it is the isolation: we're regularly giving up the abundance of the physical world for the confines of digital one with its poor audio and tiny screens.  Even on subways with their abhorrent screeching, there's an incredible amount to be seen and heard.

Isolation aside, there's also the monster of indulgent consumption.  In stuffing ourselves with whatever we fancy at the moment, we whittle away our patience and attention to detail.  In some sense, we lose the ability to hear the bass in the first place.

I can't make overarching conclusions about what we as a society should do, or if this should even be viewed as a problem.  For me personally, however, I don't like being surprised by the bass in a familiar song.

All this talk of bass makes me want to squirrel up in a basement coffee shop with a live jazz band.