Tim Thoughts data/rstats/policy

Questions Of Science and Progress

The hardest question for me, right now, is answering "what do you want to do?" It's such a weird question, because I want to do lots of things. Visit China. Eat lots of burgers. Finish all those half-written songs from college. I guess a better question is, "what do I care about?"

I want to be a better R user and programmer, I want to contribute to the greater R community somehow. I wish I was better at the programming stuff, but there's so much to learn and I'm often overwhelmed with figuring out what's essential to my path. I like data munging, data cleaning, basic visualizations, and the exploratory stuff, but there's a whole world of statistics that I'm not yet smart enough for.

I like teaching people the stuff I do know though. I enjoy going to Hack4LA nights and hackathons, and I've met so many people who actually like learning this stuff. I wish I was a better teacher, a more experienced programmer, so that I can show them quickly why dplyr > Excel and other ways ggplot rules the universe. But tech and data are only tools to an end...

Because first and foremost, I am a politics and policy person. I give a damn about immigration policy, I closely follow the election campaigns, and recently my newfound love for Parks and Recreation has made me even more receptive to local governance. I don't quite know how to connect these two worlds, the civic tech/open data movement seems like a promising avenue but there's still so many organizations in advocacy and government who are unaware of it.

I care about my heritage, but more so my future. My parents' journey to America, alongside all the Vietnamese diaspora, has definitely shaped my identity because I hope to honor their sacrifices somehow, to be a better son.

I used to think I'd work in international development somehow, my younger self had imagined working at a fancy NGO or INGO elsewhere. I still have notebooks filled with thoughts inspired by Amartya Sen, Keynes, and all those academic heroes from college. That dream evolved, but those roots of wanting to do something big, they still exist. But now I don't want to change the world, that is not my right. I'm actually very skeptical of those feel-good TED talk'ish sympathies, I don't want to change the world. People want to change the world, but they don't think to change themselves first. Questions of power and privilege still remain, the world fights to keep things the way they are, because there are elements of society who benefit from the status quo. I guess the first rule of social change should acknowledge this somehow. </pr>

Sorry if I come off pessmistic, don't mistaken it for defeatism. I still believe in the greater human experiment, the hope that we can build better futures for all. I'm still just trying to figure out my role in that. I'm the sort of guy who is actually inspired by politics, I have always been, and it will take a lot more to dissuade me from giving up on people. Because that's the damn truth, people are the heart of politics, and I don't want to be the sort of human that gives up on people.

So I guess that's what I care about, I care about being a damn good human, for my own sake and for all.

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