2018 – A review

It is that time of year when we have an opportunity to look back and see what we have achieved while taking an opportunity to see what the next year will bring. This may be of interest just to me, so please accept my apologies… Here we go: 

In no particular order:

  • I signed up with my publisher Taylor & Francis to write a volume 2 for my “Data Science and Analytics with Python” book
  • During the year I had a opportunities to attend some great events such as the EGG Conference by Dataiku or the BBC Machine Learning Fireside Chats as well as multiple events with the Turing Institute
  • I continued delivering training at General Assembly, reaching out to people interested in learning more about Python and Data Science. It has been an interesting year and it is great to see what former students are currently doing with the skills learnt
  • The work delivered for companies such as Louis Vuitton, Volvo, Foster & Partners, and others was fantastic. I am also very proud to have tackled some strategy work for the Mayo Clinic and deliver a presentation in a lecture theatre at Mayo
  • I contributed to some open source software projects
  • It was a busy year in terms of speaking engagements having delivered keynotes at Entrepares 2018 and the IV Seminario de Periodismo Iberoamericano de Ciencia Tecnología e Innovación both in Puebla, Mexico. I also ran an Introduction to Data Science workshop at ODSC18 in London and an Introduction to Python at Entrepares 2018. I gave a talk about Data Science Practices at Google Campus in London. The interactive Q&A session was an fun way to answer queries from the audience. I also was a member in various debate panels
  • I rekindled playing board games with a couple of good friends of mine, and it has been a geeky blast!
  • I started a new role and still looking to get my foot through the door with Apple
  • I’ve been delving more into Machine Learning systems and platforms, learning about interpretability, reliability, monitoring, and more. There is still plenty more to learn
  • I met Chris Robshaw and attended a bunch of rugby matches through the year

Looking forward to 2019, learning and developing more.

Imperial War Museum

A couple of weeks ago I finally had the opportunity to visit the Imperial War Museum in London. Having been to the Manchester branch (if that is a term you could use for a Museum) I had certain expectations, and although not all of turned out to be correct, I was pleasantly surprised.

The entrance of the Museum in Lambeth has a very different feeling to the one that the modern building in Trafford Park confers to the visiting experience, which is enhanced by the machines shown in the Large Exhibits Gallery. I was very interested in a couple of of the one and two-person submarines they have in there (see picture below).

It is indeed a big place. I had enough time to go around the ground floor and the basement, where they have an exhibition that replicates a home around the time of the Second World War. That alone deserves a visit (together with the cafe)!!

The Last Days of Lehman Brothers

Here we are, very close to a year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. What a week that was!! Not only did I know by Sunday night that the next day was going to be long, I was already dreading the whole week when I realised I was going to be on my own. That week, the colleague I used to supervise had booked his annual leave! On top of that the main server in the office decided that it was time to collapse together with the rest of the world.

So, there you have me battling the waves in the market plus fencing off the evasive replies from Dell regarding the server. It is indeed a week that will stay with me for a very very long time. That is why when I saw that the BBC was going to air a dramatisation of the events I felt that it was something that I had to watch.

“The government’s not going to let you go down! It would be like the American government itself going bankrupt” exclaims an incredulous Miller to a cornered Fuld in “The Last Days of Lehman Brothers”. I have to say that these are words that went through my head the days before the actual event and some that little by little became less intense but ever more annoying as the week continued its decay.

The programme started quite well, using a similar technique to that used in “House of Cards” with a seemingly cynical narrator to guide us into the intricacies of the story. However, the Tennesee banker that plays the Fuld’s gofer does not have the inside knowledge or the gravitas to portray the necessary level of urgency to the situation. I still can’t see the point of making a reference to Fight Club at an early stage of the programme. Not only that, but at some point the script completely forgets that he was around at all. There is also a sequence where the sister of this “banker” makes an Olympic effort to explain what went wrong with the banking system; all in a very poorly scripted and (even worse) acted manner.

The inside view is presented by the tense meeting in the boardroom of the New York Federal Reserve. This is a much better developed story line and one that is very well sustained by James Cromwell playing the Treasure Secretary, Henry Paulson. If anything the only criticism that I have is that it was not immediately clear who was who in that boardroom.

I believe that the script could have had a couple more reviews before production and there are so many good angles that they could have attacked, so long they had actually decided to follow them through. Either you go for the sombre maze of power and greed, or you go for the comic relief approach. In this case, the mixture turned out to be quite frankly embarrassing. I just think that they had missed a great opportunity to do some good drama based on real events.

The First Days of Spring

The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) was the venue, the band “Noah and the Whale”, the album-film “The First Days of Spring”, the result a bit mixed…

When I first heard “5 Years Time” I could not help but feel a smile to take shape in my face and I almost felt compelled to sing along the addictive “sun, sun, sun” choir. So when I heard that the ICA was going to hold a gig with the band and that they were also going to screen the film that was supposed to be released together with their new album I decided to get a couple of tickets.

The venue was, as usual Thursday evening, packed with people and the fact that there was also a play in the theatre added to the general feeling of an art evening. Eventually, people started to make their way to Cinema 1, where the film was shown. The film producer Olivier Kaempfer introduced the film by mentioning that they would start by showing what can only be described as a home made extended video of an unplugged impromptu gig at someone’s house. It obviously had its value, but I would have rather seen that playing in the bar as a background rather than the introduction to the film

By the time the actual film started you had already heard the main songs of the album and thus there was no actual surprise as to what the music brought to the narrative of the film. Now, for those of you who would have imagined that Dalí’s painting would have been some form of inspiration for the images in the film would be very disappointed. Instead we are presented with a low-budget 45-minute piece that tries to be an exploration of broken hearts, break-ups and loss. Although for someone as young as Fink, it seems to me to be early days to suffer that much for someone. That is not to say that his pain is not a valid emotion, but given some of the clichéd lyrics, you would know what I mean.

In my opinion the best scene of the shot film is the one where a seemingly serious and earnest elderly gentleman breaks into dance at the rhythm of an orchestral arrangement entitled “Love of an Orchestra”.

During the question and answer session, Fink mentioned that the idea of making the film along with the album was to provide the latter with a framework in which the audience has no choice but to listen to the entire compilation of songs, and what better way to keep the audience captive than in a dark cinema. Personally I don’t see anything wrong with being able to pick and choose the songs that you prefer in an album. This is a process that has happened even before the age of iTunes and the iPod. Just think of all those mixed tapes that people used to make for one another; some of them even with the same excuse of a broken heart.

Tonight the band has a gig in the same venue as part of the screening of the film. I hope that the live performance brings the best out their music; the film did not make it for me.

Bugge Wesseltoft’s Gig

img_0158It is always a pleasure to listen to  excellent musicians play live. Last weekend I had the pleasure of listening and watching Bugge Wesseltoft in close proximity during a gig in the Jazz Cafe.

This time round Bugge played the house on his own using a piano and various other percussion instruments and the magic of his Macbook Pro.

He has the fantastic ability of creating the most amazing atmosphere with rhythms that manage to fill the room and the spirit of his audience. He makes it look like music creation is such an easy task, that any of us could have as much fun as he does while playing with a piano. I am afraid to say that the results are not always as charming as Bugge’s. Should you have the opportunity to see him play live, I would highly recommend not letting it pass by.

The Hurt Locker

Last Sunday I had all the best intentions to go and finally see Martin Ritt’s “The spy that came from the cold”. We did try to make the appropriate bookings online. However, for one reason or other the BFI‘s website was not working properly. Being a nice sunny day (I know, it seems impossible to think about such a thing in London, but it indeed was nice and sunny) we thought that would make sense to go directly to the Southbank, grab a drink by the river and buy the tickets in the old fashion way.

The powers that be made sure that we were not to see Richard Burton playing the other side of the 007 coin. Determined to watch a film after all the effort of coming placed in getting to the Southbank, we decided to get tickets for the preview of Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film “The Hurt Locker”. The film follows a US bomb squad of the “Bravo Company” whose task is to disarm or control the detonation of “improvised explosive devices” (IED).

The film opens with a quote from Chris Hedges that equates the war experience with the effects of a very powerful drug. The semi-documentary style in which the film is shot gives it a definite air of authenticity and the acting is very convincing. I found very interesting the way in which the whole action takes places inside the squad itself and there is very little or no reference to politicians or even higher ranks within the military. The screenplay was written by Mark Boal who based it on his experiences with a real bomb squad.

The film is not a comment about the Iraq war itself, but a portrayal of the incongruences and horrors of war, any war, and contrasts those experiences with tedium of the typical American life-style by juxtaposing the violence of the battlefield, with the absurd consumerism in a supermarket with aisles piled up with cereal boxes.

Quantum Tunnel

Finally, after a very long time considering it, I have managed to start this blog.

I hope I will be able to post things regularly, but I guess only time will tell.

In the meantime, thanks a lot for visiting and keep an eye on this site… You never know what you will find.

See you on the other side of the barrier…