Category: Academique

LaTeX Poster — “Bayesian Evaluation of Earth System Models Using Soil Respiration Data”

Download (PDF, 373KB)

Poster presented at regional conference today, SoCal Sysbio at my home institution, UCI.

LaTeX .tex file and beamerposter style file for the poster are included here. The template is based off of Philippe Dreuw and Thomas Deselaers’ original beamerposter template available at this link. Where my style file differs is that with some modifications, it no longer is limited to the Tango color palette and now also accepts dvipsnames and svgnames color names to increase the breadth of available colors.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with this project. Some details already on the poster, of course. An even briefer TLDR; of this is that I am trying to compare Earth System models (ESMs) in a Bayesian fashion to see which models are consistent with historical soil carbon dioxide flux data and are worth the effort to refine. I eyeballed some fits of the conventional and AWB soil carbon models under informative and realistic priors, and am proceeding to quantify the fits using Bayesian goodness of fit metrics. I will take a look at Bayes factors and posterior predictive p-values.

Digital Cultures Project Conclusions

Ultimately, from November 28th, to December 3th, I would end up spending a total 902 minutes of my life online, just a bit over 15 hours. That’s an average of about 3 hours per day. I would most frequently visit these following websites over the span of those 15 hours:

(I’d like to note again that my own website is uncharacteristically high on those rankings because I was working on this project — I’d like to convince myself that I am not a narcissist. )

I can’t help but to wonder how things would’ve been had I cut down on around half that time. 7.5 hours — that’s a whole good night’s worth of sleep, and one less all-nighter.  But, as I mentioned before, it ain’t so simple.

That brings us back to the question I posited on Day III — it’s pretty damn clear that my compulsive Gmail (looks like it’s spelled with a lower case ‘m’ after all) and Wikipedia and Pitchfork browsing are a detriment to my immediate efficiency in regards to the completion of assignments (like this one) — but do my browsing habits make for long term gains?

I’ve done some more pondering, and I have to answer that question with a resounding yes. For example, my Pitchfork visits — I’m not just on there for the sake of being amused by existentialist soliloquys from failed musicians-turned-bloggers-turned-Pitchfork-writers. As a person looking to get into music  video production, I need to discover aurally pleasing bands to reach out to. And the Wikipedia usage? It at least helps with providing great conversational fillers. When conversations head towards a dead end, I can pull a random bit of Wiki-knowledge out of my ass to prevent things from degenerating into stupid talk about weather or women. This sounds trivial, but maintaining good conversations are important for the maintenance of friendship, which in turn, ties into the concept of social capital and networking. Networking, ain’t that the name of the game? Oh, and the Gmail usage? Day V just demonstrated that I really couldn’t live without it.

One question tends to lead to another though, and there is no exception to be found here. These long term gains — are they overall worth the massive hemorrhaging of short-term efficiency? Indeed, my inability to concentrate has already bitten me in the ass several times already this quarter — I’ve bombed several huge midterms because I’ve lost focus at critical points of studying, which have severely dropped my grades. At this point, I’m still not wholly sure where my career is headed. The music video thing is but a nascent dream. Such is youth. If I do indeed end up trying for a different career, contingent on grades — I could’ve screwed myself over because of just several inopportune hours of browsing at the wrong time.

Contrarily, my inability to concentrate has also saved my ass. I recently took a final where the professor included some questions on the test pertaining to material he didn’t cover too extensively in class. How was I able to answer them? It just happened that the day before, studying for this test had led me on a whole Wikipedia tangent. I’d looked up and independently learned this information in the name of fun, without knowing that this “fun” would prove so beneficial.

And even if this information hadn’t appeared on the test, knowledge acquired is still knowledge acquired. Suppose a student who was doing an assignment had trouble focusing and decided to switch between his textbook about the history of Sub-Saharan Africa and Malcolm X’s autobiography. It wouldn’t receive the same connotation as “cyberslacking.” Perhaps, it would even be somewhat admired. Awww, look at how scholarly that kid is. But the action very closely resembles a student switching between an assignment and tangentially related Wikipedia articles, which, in all likelihood, would be considered “cyberslacking” by the professor.

In both cases, whether switching between assignment and book, or switching between assignment and Wikipedia, the kid is learning information for the hell of it, boosting his worldly-awareness. In that sense, the kid is doing work, even when he’s not technically making headway into his assignment. While cyberslacking, he’s doing work that may not yield immediate benefits in the form of a good grade, but perhaps something more important in regards to his maturation and development. After all, isn’t the point of higher education supposed to be about instilling scholarly, knowledge-seeking principles with the grade only being an incentive? The incentive just seems to have surpassed the ultimate goal and priority and importance, clouding the fact that work is still being done on Wikipedia. I’m going to loosely draw from Leland Yee, who wrote the article “The Labor of Fun” — all about how labor being done is still labor, whether or not a person is conscious of the fact that he is working. Learning is still learning when knowledge is being acquired, whether or not the student is nonchalantly waltzing through Wikipedia, or slogging through The Scarlet Letter in the name of academia.

And goddammit, some may argue that information being acquired on Wikipedia is not “knowledge of worth,” that information has to be vetted, assigned by qualified gatekeepers to be considered constructive, that information must flow from the pages of books whose publication apparently justify the value of their material. But who’s to say what’s worthwhile and what’s not? I consider many of the classes I’ve experienced at Northwestern to have been valuable experiences, but I do have my doubts about how much of the material I’ve learned will actually be practically applied profession, used to advance my socioeconomic status. I, along many other students, am here to learn for the sake of learning, to become more educated and cultured for reasons that could fill an entire other blog post. If anything, I’ve learned more practical information online when I’ve been dicking around. School did not teach me how to slice onions and cauliflowers. The Internet did.

Much of the histrionics over cyberslacking and the fall of mankind’s attention arguably rains down from an established corporate top, butthurt over the fact that their underlings are slacking. A lot of these articles decrying cyberslacking talk about how the practice is costing employers money, eating into their profits. They’re written from a very business-empathizing point of view. And for corporate, it’s all about the fucking bottom line. Paraquoting this article by this guy named Andrew Ross, businesses have been gleefully taking advantage of the current job climate, in which they can maximize profits by getting people to do miserably work for free, or for a far lower salary. Because of their priorities, raising revenue, getting good quarterly reports to investors, businesses have rarely celebrated and emphasized personal learning for individual good at the cost of “company time.” and These CEOs, CFOs presidents, board members hate cyberslacking because they feel that it’s eating into their juicy bonuses. These guys aren’t going to the media out of concern for the personal well-being of their employees. They can’t see beyond the fact that their employees are humans who need breaks and get bored without stimulation.


Tangent: I originally decided to do this project in blog format because I liked the irony of it. I figured, hey, wouldn’t be funny if I did a project about wasting time over something that people frequently associate with wasting time? Unfortunately, there are limitations to blogging, a lot of which have to do with the HTML/CSS theme of the blog. This post is just growing a little long, given that the theme has a slim body area (I wish I could change it, but unfortunately have little experience in the way of web design). So, I figured it’s time to draw this conclusion to a conclusion so that no one has to do too much scrolling.

I still can’t prove or disprove my hypothesis that my cyberslacking is overall, detrimental. There’s too much evidence that points either way. I suppose I set out with a hypothesis that was too vague and nonspecific.

Nonetheless, while this case study hasn’t yielded much in the way of firm conclusiveness, I’m tilting towards a no in terms of cyberslacking as a detrimental behavior. My practice would be looked down upon by corporate hiring, professors who want high class averages and wish that students spent every available minute on their material, among other folks. And perhaps, I’ll eventually grow to look down on myself  if I end up worse off in life career-wise because of hurt grades.

Going off the small amount of life experience I’ve had so far, my cyberslacking has just yielded far too many benefits for me to write it off because of some corporate frustrations that the media has picked up. I have few regrets. Yeah, I wish I could take back some of that time I spent stalking people on Facebook, playing Robot Unicorn Attack, and refreshing my GMail , comes the fact that Wikipedia has taught me so much, opening the size of my awareness. For free. I’ve discovered gigabytes worth of awesome music, and a possible career avenue thanks to Pitchfork. The New York Times has pointed out what’s going on around my world, so I can be citizen in addition to a student.

I’m tempted to use the moniker “cyberdreaming,” instead of cyberslacking. Cyberslacking intrinsically has a negative connotation because of the second half of the word, and I’m not ready to associate the behavior with harm. Indeed, my web browsing habits have almost become an extension of my daydreaming. All this random knowledge is a boon to my spontaneous creativity, which may end up being worth more to me than an A in Physics.

“May.” That’s the key word. Just as many of those articles indicated within their speculation, that the nascent scientific research into the phenomenon still only yields ambiguous “maybe”‘s and “likely”‘s, I myself will have to wait until I can offer a much more definitive opinion. Admittedly, a lot of it will be contingent on how job prospects and career decisions turn out.

But one step at a time, right?

We’ll see. For now, I’ll keep cyberdreaming.

Digital Cultures Project Day V


Ah 5, what a nice number. It’s easy-on-the-tongue sound. And it has such a clean, symmetrical Roman numeral. But alas, the experiment on Day V did not go so nicely.

Why? Remember how V was supposed to be the day when I avoided GMail and Wikipedia altogether, seeing as those two sites were my most major time-suckers, to see how that would affect my academic productivity?

Well, that plan was totally derailed. I was not able to stay away from them, and thus, you now see both GMail and Wikipedia at the top of the rankings (at 1st and 3rd respectively).

I had actually been doing okay up until about 3 pm. In fact, I hadn’t visited the Internet period up until that point. But then, a fellow student told me that a professor had e-mailed scores of a test to us. And I had to see — not just to know what I got for the heck of it, but to know how well I would have to do on the final to get my desired grade in the class. So I opened up Gmail, and that was it. The floodgates were open. I pored through the rest of my inbox, devouring through every school-related, extracurricular-related, music-related message, and found several other additional messages that contained fairly important information. Missing those would have boded poorly for me. And in turn, things I weren’t sure about in those emails led me to look up stuff on Wikipedia. So, when all was said and done, I ended up settling back around my average browsing time. And again, I got a similar amount of academic work in time-wise as I did the day before.

Call me spineless for being unable to resist the allures of this Internet. (But don’t call me lily-livered, which is synonym of spineless, according to But not going on would have ultimately proved detrimental. Ironically, not checking my email in the name of academics would’ve royally screwed me over academically — I would’ve missed on a couple of mandatory requirements and deadlines for assignments.

So, was Day V a complete failure? Did it render the experiment worthless? Recall that one vague goal of this experiment consisted of identifying, confirming potential time-eaters of my web browsing. I believe I successfully did that over Days I-IV, demonstrating that GMail+Google and Wikipedia were the chief black holes. The second vague goal of this experiment consisted of making some adjustments in my web-browsing habits to see how it could affect my academic productivity, particularly see whether it could increase my efficiency. I obviously didn’t end up making significant headway towards accomplishing my second goal.

But while I won’t be able to get a good grip on how many more physical book pages I could’ve read over the course of the day with reduced GMail/Wiki usage, I can still come away from this having learned some points. Day V, this experiment, was not a personal failure. I’ll be covering more of these thoughts in more depth for my conclusion posting, but to get things started, if anything, I learned on that final day that as a college student aspiring for success, it’s downright impossible for me to excise my GMail and Wikipedia usage. I tried to convince myself that maybe Day V just happened to have an abnormal amount of important emails, but skimming further back reveals that previous days had comparative amounts of “can’t-be-missed” emails. I’ve come to reason that there seemed to be more on Day V because I didn’t check my inbox until after 3. I went through more of these messages at once, as opposed to reading them one at a time with more spread-out email checking over a day’s course.

Building on that thought, even had I not gone to GMail, Wikipedia whatsoever, I have my doubts over whether or not I would’ve been significantly more productive. I did spend my time in the morning and early afternoon free from GMail and Wiki, relatively free from the Internet as a whole. But I still feel like I didn’t get too much done. For sure, the pages of my Physics book didn’t turn very quickly. I spent a lot of time cycling between telling myself not to go online, wondering about what I was missing, and staring at various objects across my room in search of stimulation. Which seems truly time-wasting. Even if something I picked up on Wikipedia might not be immediately useful, a learned fact is still a fact learned, knowledge acquired. I didn’t really come away from my vapid, slogging mental drift, having absorbed anything new. (To play Devil’s advocate against myself, maybe I actually would’ve been more productive, had I waited slightly longer and gotten settled into a state of concentration. I’d woken up at 11. After I ate, showered, dressed, it was already past noon. For me, channeling and building up focus takes a bit of time, perhaps more than that 2 and something hours elapsed before I was driven to check my email.)

But anyhow, I’ll cut myself short for now and save the rest of my thoughts for the conclusion post, which I’ll take a stab at after some hours of shuteye.


P.S: Courtesy of the professor of the very class that this project is for, I discovered that Internet procrastination and discretionary browsing does have an official term – “cyberslacking.” To think that I’ve thought about cyberslacking for so long without knowing the proper name encompassing the damn topic. Better late than never, I guess.

Digital Cultures Project Day IV



Huh. 2 hours and 40 minutes. Maybe that 4 hours 45 minutes marathon day was really an anomaly.

Other than that, nothing really new or too dramatic. Gentlemen, no arsenic-substituting-for-phosphorous-theory-busting-organisms to be found here. It is slightly anomalic that GMail is 2nd to Wikipedia, but GMail usage is still proportionally very high. I guess this also demonstrates that the low Wikipedia usage the day before was likely anomalic. It’s only not been 1st or 2nd place that one day. Anomaly. Don’t worry, I’ll stop using that word.

The featuring again Reddit, Yahoo! Sports, NYTimes and Pitchfork all but confirms them as regulars in the top 10. It looks like I am less predictable than I once though – my web browsing looks to follow a fairly consistent pattern of visited pages.

The repeated presence of in the top 10 frightens me. I wonder what things would look like if my GMail+Google time were both added together. I’m not going to do that myself. What was that again? That thing about the mass of Jupiter being greater than that of all the other planets combined?

As for personal productivity, I didn’t get close to the amount of studying that I wanted to get done. I was able to get a decent amount of reading done for RTVF 380, my lighting and cinematography class, which allowed me to answer that question about Tungsten vs. Daylight film and that other one about the Circle of Confusion — but I got next to no practice with Physics and Neurobiology. Should I have gone full steam the entire time, not visited a single discretionary webpage, there actually was enough time, by my estimation, to get a significant amount done on all three. But alas, that was not the case. I just couldn’t focus, got too sidetracked and distracted. And the Internet was not solely to blame — I was also sick. And I distracted myself plenty without the help of a broadband connection by shuffling through the music collection on my hard drive. And there was some “real-life” (gasp!) concerns — some posters fell off the wall (my damn wall surface just isn’t that receptive to adhesives), and I had to immediately tape them back up with gaff tape; I couldn’t have my room looking more disorganized than it already was. So yeah, those excuses kind of explain how an average Internet browsing time still managed to correspond to such low perceived productivity.

With that, time to post the data Day V. On that day, I attempted to see what not visiting GMail and Wikipedia for a day would do in terms of my perceived productivity.