Ideas have their own way of growing. Sometimes you feel that you can only water, prune, and offer them as a present.

Luciano Floridi, “The Philosophy of Information”

This blog is a therapeutic[1] hole I dug here, to unload the mind full of voices, from a voiceless engineer. However, the message is not “King Midas has donkey’s ears!”. Rather, it’s about analytics, the profession I love and practiced for my whole career. And it’s about education, the topic I’m visiting every day with my three kids. Some ideas are diamonds, most are stones, take them as you wish and make them your own!

Some ideas are educational and some ideas are meant to be provocative, to inspire your own deeper thinking.

Whatever kind of being you are as a person,
those grandstanding
those marching quietly in unison
those echoing the buzzes
those jumping on the fleeting bandwagon…
Or whether you harbor your own conviction,
We all chug along the same road
without question.
Does it really take a hard fall to the ground
for it to come to our attention
beneath the bushes, in the grassroots
there lies beauty
along the road not taken?

Q: Who is the author of these stuff?

I prefer to be anonymous to say things I wouldn’t otherwise say in real life. Should you ID and out me, ignoring my longing for privacy, I will have no choice but to consider you not my friend 🙂 . If you insist on knowing the backstories and experiences from which these ideas originated, allow me to switch to the third person…

Our blogger is well trained,

  • Ph.D. in Decision Science and Engineering System. A weird name but he can’t thank enough for the interdisciplinary approach the Ph.D. program is structured: operations research (OR), statistics, mathematical programming, management information systems, and emerging engineering problems. Isn’t that the nowadays data science?

  • M.S. courses in computer science. If not for the new president of RPI who disallowed double counting credits toward multiple degrees, he would’ve have a M.S. in Computer Science diploma on the wall. It was there that Prof. David Musser[2] wowed him with the beauty of STL and Prof. Zaki showed him the power of data mining algorithms. Till this day, he values computational skills above theoretical knowledge, of course below domain knowledge, which is always number one in the success of any data science projects.

and well traveled.

  1. GE R&D (Year-round intern), where he learned about Six Sigma and the different colors of belts.

  2. Praxair R&D (Application developer, Senior application developer a year later), where he developed optimization software for vehicle routing, production planning and forecasting. There he got a dose of reality and realized that in the face of the complexity and scale of real life engineering problems (planning for only 70 plants for a short period of three month), the stuff that used to wow him at school are powerless. It was also there, working alongside with 100 or so human planners who use the software he developed, he acquired the “User First” mentality.

  3. Manhattan Associates (Senior software Analyst), where he developed supply chain software. There the thing he mostly proud of is a Hours of Service engine built as a discrete event simulation system driven by an automata with configurable transition rules.

  4. ProfitLogic (Senior application developer), where he developed forecasting and optimization engine (size allocation, price optimization) for retail solutions. He still can’t forget the dreadful weekly meeting with his customer JC Penny, in which he had to vigorously defend the performance of his algorithms. The other end of the call sat what today’s would be data scientists team of JC Penny, a group of really smart people. It’s in those years he started writing heavily illustrated white papers, explaining the inner workings of his algorithms and securing the buy-in of his customers. He feels special bonds with the colleagues who owned the JCP meeting before him, because as one of them put it, “We’re the Penny Veterans”.

  5. Oracle (Principle application developer), where he continued ProfitLogic’s retail optimization work and developed an in-database inventory control system. Oracle is a capital rather than a tech company in his mind, but one has to admire their metrics oriented development processes which churns out software on schedule. Don’t like Oracle’s culture and want to leave? It doesn’t care, as long as you dumped your mind into all the functional,design, and test documentations in place, so the new hire can pick the project up and run immediately. They also make sure the truck number for any project to be greater than one with all the review meetings among team members.

  6. SAS Institute(Senior Software developer, Senior staff scientist), where he dabbled in the lowest (C, MPI, distributed computing, big data) and the highest (point-n-click no-code AI/ML modeling web app) layers of an analytics stack. Lured by a Wired or Inc magazine article depicting SAS as a utopian workplace for analytically minded folks, he enthusiastically joined the force (accepting a title and salary reduction and declining an offer to work on the dark side for the Big Mouse in Orlando, a.k.a, a statistical manager for Disney) and only realized and reluctantly accepted the fact that the culture is not a good fit. But a decade has since passed before he finally admit failure to his quixotic fight with the culture, the best decade of his professional life! Alas, what can a nerdy engineer do to cope with the misplaced loyalty, lost golden age and the utmost upset? …… Writing a “poem” : )

    Let me take the last look at the campus
    to which I’m a visitor from now on
    Let me take the last walk,
    behind the Umstead, around the pond
    Let me search the last time for Boba the fish,
    Is your heart still pure, are your eyes still clear
    to see through the muddled water and beyond?
    Are you also laughing at those turtles?
    Do they have to kick and get on top of each other
    to bask in the Sun?

    I could’ve just walked away
    without a sound
    from the Monday Music I never find the mood to listen
    in the shadow of the Black Swan[3]
    Yet I still hope
    for the great debate to be started
    about what’s right and wrong
    I never existed
    but since I cared, all I want
    is for this page to be around[4]
    My fellow SASsians,
    So Long!

  7. Blue Cross Blue Shield NC(Manager, Advanced Analytics), where he finally made a leap of faith into the “dark side[5]“. He did it after stumbling upon a small pamphlet called “Servant Leadership” that resonated with him immensely. Of course this is what a good manager should and can be like!

    Do you know Blue Cross is a non-profit? Do you know Blue Cross tries hard to cut cost so your health care premium can be reduced? At Blue Cross, the job is not only a job, it’s a duty. Unwittingly caught in a political storm between the IT and the data science division, frustrated at not being able to move the needle, he was forced to move on.

  8. A national financial service company(Director, Machine Learning Engineering), Resourceful, cutting-edge and congenial, he feels fortunate to land in this role where he can practice cloud native data, analytics and AI/ML, with high velocity, at scale.

Our blogger is a slow but thorough, sometimes creative thinker. He is a visual thinker. If the picture[6] is not pretty, the idea is not right.

For the tasks he takes up, he is a relentless perfectionist. His work on a commercial distributed in-memory analytics engine sped up the decision tree algorithm from five minutes to 14 seconds and secured three patents from USPTO. His current interests is in improving the analytical experiences of data scientists.

Q: How to pronounce your last name, Dr. Mindle?

“Mindle” (first syllable rhymes with “mind”) is not my real last name. Sam L. Savage coined the term in his book “The flaws of averages”: Mindles are to minds what handles are to hand, both help to grasp things.

Q: How did you have time to write this stuff? Don’t you have work to do?

Most of the ideas dawned on me not even at where I work. It’s when I walk the dog, when I pull weeds out of the grass, when the house finally quiets down after the rest of the family fall asleep… I started blogging as a new year resolution for 2019, but most of the drafts have been sitting in my computer for years. I refine them piecemeal when I have nothing better to do. Many of the illustrations, the most time consuming part, were produced at home. Not only mine but my family’s free time were spent on these stuff: My daughter drew the cartoon in “AX, UX and CX”, based on a picture I staged in front of my garage door with my two sons. The thing “AX” sitting on is the box of my circular saw.

Q: I noticed you’re constantly tweaking the wording and images of your posts. Are you aware of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for tidiness?☺

May I submit a picture of my office as the answer? It’s taken before my wife stops by periodically forcing me or just cleaning it up herself : )

It seems that I only have limited capacity for tidyness. So if you’re me, what would you rather have? A clear desk and a muddy mind filled with spaghetti or the other way around?

That’s why I’m longing for an open office setup where peer pressure will finally force me to be tidy : )

Q: Do I have to acknowledge you while using your ideas in my thing (speech, presentation, blog…)?

Of course NOT! Have you seen the president of United States shouting out to his speech writers during the State of the Union? The ideas uttered out of your mouth carry more weight and acknowledging the author is a distraction.

Promoting without acknowledging the origin of the ideas herein is actually a good thing. A groundswell of the same ideas by different people from different places might actually get some attention and effectuate some actual change.

Q: How can I contact you?

I’d love to hear from you! drmindle12{three more numbers in the Fibonacci sequence} at gmail . com


Notes

[1] I lose sleep over these thoughts. My insomnia doctor recommended me to write them down and forget about them.

[2] Professor Musser is one of the inventors of C++ Stand Template Library(STL). You only need one such professor in your life time to show you what curiosity and passions truly are.

[3] Looks like every time I was job hunting, something bad was going on: During COVID in Spring 2020, During subprime mortgage crisis in Summer of 2009, During Dot-com bubble burst in Winter of 2001 : (

[4] Blog posted here before May 18th, 2020 are a subset and redacted versions of my SAS internal blog “User In Residence”. You may still be able to see the raw material for the full blog if you’re behind SAS’s firewall.

[5] Speaking of managing experiences, I picked up most of mine before my title becomes “manager”. As the go-to person owning the High Performance Analytics platform on which hundreds of statistical algorithm developers work, as the owner and producer of two dozen point-n-click no-code AI/ML modeling web apps, each of which worked out by a different group of backend algorithm developers, testers, UX designers and business partners… Without the positional power of somebody reporting to me, I rely on planting/nurturing the social capital and my expert power for influence.

[6] If you have Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus at bedside to put yourself to sleep, you know what do I mean by “picture“.