2014 NFL Draft Stock Trendlines

This is a little remix of a graph from an earlier post, I thought the graph was more informative flipped with the higher pick closer to the top and smoothed out.  The X axis is the month the mock draft was made and the Y axis is the average pick the player is mocked.


Another Obsession: Fractals


Another thing I find fascinating is fractals, particularly those that occur naturally in the world.  For those that don't know much about fractals, let me save you the effort of typing it into Google.  


While mostly associated with the Mandelbrot set, they're actually found all over the world in nature.  From river networks to crystal formations to trees to snowflakes, fractals are all around us.  Also technically coastlines are fractals as well.  Here are some cool pics from http://paulbourke.net/fractals/googleearth/ and Google


Songs I've been feeling lately

Just a recent collection


Raury - Cigarette Song (Snakehips Remix)


Cathedrals - Ooo Aaa


Royal* - Royal's Theme


Phantogram - Fall in Love (RATKING Falling Off Remix)


Tensnake & Jacques Lu Cont - Feel of Love (Kaytranada Remix)

The Sunshine State? Not Yet


I spent the first 22 years of my life in the great state of Florida.  One day I might return for good too (the smart money is when I'm retired and can find some land inland that will be beachfront property in 40 years with the rising sea levels).  But likely not anytime soon.


A lot of people in Florida are amazed that solar energy is bigger in places like Massachusetts or Oregon where the sun doesn't shine as often or as intense (insolation is as much of a part of the amount of energy you get as the amount of time it's sunny) as it does in the "Sunshine State".  They think solar is something that is far off in the future because they don't see it as popular in the state where it should rightfully be.  


While there are some realistic reasons why solar is not as popular in sunny Florida as it is in sunny California or Arizona (such as hurricane winds making the structural supports a bit more difficult than normal or the amount of intermittent cloud coverage making power fluctuations more frequent), the real reason is because the local Southeast power companies making the battle EXTREMELY uphill for solar.  They are in the legislators back pockets and wield A LOT of monetary "power" (the other kind).  


They won't be able to fight off common sense forever but they'll do a good job of putting the state well behind the curve when it comes to solar adoption.  Here is a quote from a SolarCity spokesperson in a recent article about the subject:

"We get all kinds of inquiries every day" from the South, said Will Craven, spokesman for SolarCity. "People there want to be our customers."

Florida, in particular, is known as the "sleeping giant" of his industry, Craven said. "It has a ton of sunshine, a ton of rooftops," he said. "But there is no rooftop solar industry in Florida."


In the south, utilities are fighting very hard to prevent solar, all the while maintaining the public image that they want it and are doing everything in the public's best interests, not their own profits.  I'll end on this note from the same article:

Officials at Dominion Virginia Power say they are moving as aggressively as they can to promote solar in a heavily regulated, fiscally conservative state reluctant to subsidize homeowners who go green.

Nearly two years ago, the company launched a pilot program that mimics the SolarCity and Sunrun models for leasing solar equipment to businesses. So far, two systems have been installed.

"It might sound small," said Dianne Corsello, manager of customer solutions at Dominion, but she says regulators want to see evidence that such programs will not create unreasonable costs for the utility.

"We are studying the impacts and assessing the benefits to our grid," she said. "It is providing an opportunity to get data."

Solar installation firms scoff at such utility programs. Sunrun Vice President Bryan Miller calls the Dominion rooftop effort "a make-believe program" designed for public relations, not to entice customers to install panels.

Swarms

I haven't hidden my love of distributed generation.  There's something great about seeing a clear vision for the future and knowing that, while it may take some time, society's progress towards this vision is inevitable.  As one of my high school football coaches liked to say to us when we were enjoying the last few moments of cold air conditioning before going out into the sweltering Florida heat, "Get your asses off that bench, there's no point in delaying the inevitable."


That's one of the best things about being in the solar industry.  It doesn't matter how much money big oil/gas throws at ads that make solar advocates look like radicals, you simply cannot stop something that makes sense economically and environmentally.  People are starting to come around and it will only intensify in the future.


As distributed generation evolves, it's only logical that the future of the utility industry is in localized power management.  It happened with computing, it happened with cell phones, it's going to happen with your electricity.  Getting your power from one, big, central source that is very far away will become as outdated as landline telephones.  Houses are going to be generating their own electricity, storing it to use later and sharing it with their close neighbors when there is excess (and get paid of course).  You won't need to worry about the power going off for the entire city because a squirrel chomped on a power line 200 miles away anymore.


In one of my favorite TED talks, Steven Strogatz talks about how we and other animals naturally sync (not the Bluetooth kind of way).  In it, he has mesmerizing footage of swarms of birds beautifully moving through the sky together.  They look like they're being orchestrated by a single maestro or even central nervous system.  But they're not; there's no one leader or director, each bird moves independently but in unison as a group.  He says swarms only have 3 simple rules:

1.  They can sense what's around them

2.  They like to form lines (be ordered)

3.  They like to be close to each other but still have some space in between


When predators try to attack a swarm, those in the group don't know exactly what is happening, they just know that they neighbor moved out of the way quickly so they in turn move out of the way.  Their neighbor made a sharp left, so they made a sharp left.  The predator attacking the middle is left with a mouth full of air because the swarm automatically avoided it, without even knowing what was going on.  A single leader's job would be incredibly complicated, instead the swarm knew exactly what to do without even communicating to each other because they just followed those 3 rules.


I bring this up because localized power management will eventually do the same thing, it will act as one swarm but with no single leader.  Except in this case the predator is power outages, it could even be clouds.  Yes clouds.  Shade is the enemy of solar power and clouds passing overhead cause intermittent power fluctuations.  Just like anything else, stability and consistency is the name of the game so these variable changes cause problems in power management.  


But don't worry, we're just going to take notes from Mother Nature on how to combat this.  We won't need a central player or advanced algorithm to predict what will happen and direct the power to different houses depending on its usage.  The houses will all communicate with each other, when one needs more power it will be sent some, when another is temporarily shaded it too will be helped by other houses that aren't shaded.  Localized power management will act as a swarm, each unit acting independently but the group as a whole will be one efficient system.  And it will follow the same 3 rules that birds and fish have been using for millions of years.


"I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority."
- E.B. White


// Edited because the first draft had a couple mistakes

What a Good Remix Does

For some people, when they see the word "remix" next to a song's name, they automatically dismiss it.  For me, it's the opposite.  I think remixes, when done properly, can add a great deal to an already great song.  Sometimes it just enhances the original, sometimes it completely creates a different song.  Here are two examples of remixes completely changing already great songs and, in my opinion, creating better versions.




And...



Using Census Data Analysis to Find Targeted Markets

That's a SEO-approved headline if I've ever seen one.


Thought it'd be good to share a research project I did about 8 months ago for my Data Analysis class.  Maybe someone else can duplicate it in another industry and benefit from it.  The basic instructions for the project were to use exploratory data analysis to gain a business insight; it was an introductory class for business professionals so it didn't involve very heavy lifting but it was challenging nonetheless.  Well since I concurrently was working (and still am) for SolarCity, I thought it'd be good to incorporate it because there might be benefits that emerge throughout the process.  Of course, I won't disclose any business information.


My goal was to pick a regional warehouse and be able to find the most "attractive" areas in which we should focus our sales efforts on.  First I picked the smallest area that the US Census gave open data for (which was the zip code) and found the top 50 zip codes that we have current customers in.  My theory was that our future customers would more likely be similar to our current customers than not, so I decided to focus my data analysis on describing our current customer base.  The US Census will give you a shitload of data, as long as you painstakingly gather it in little chunks.  So that's what I spent most of my time on.


Below is an example of the finished product of collecting the data individually and organizing all of it.  I'd say this took about 2/3 of the total project time:


First I just played around with a portion of the data, to make sure it made sense before proceeding.  To do so, I did a X-Y scatterplot of each Census data column against the total count of customers in each category; thus a positive correlation would mean you would expect more customers in a zip code the higher it is in that certain Census variable.  I only used the relative percent of some of the Census data columns, since this would paint a better picture than total numbers for certain ones.  Below is an example of linear regressions of some, with neutral, positive and negative correlations:


This yielded some interesting patterns.  I wanted to further analyze it and divided each variable (column of a particular statistic from the Census) into similar groupings.  Yes I added some personal bias to this analysis, but rarely was it hard for me to pick a particular grouping for each variable, so I'm confident I didn't inject too much bias.  Below are the groupings of the categories of different Census data:


Then I found the correlations by grouping, this was particularly interesting to see what had the highest positive and negative indicators of more customers.  Below is the graph by grouping:



Within each grouping, I was able to create bar charts that showed the correlations as you went across the spectrum of each.  So if you graphed house value, and there was a clear differentiation line where it flipped from positive to negative correlations, you'd know up to what house value to advertise to because anything more and you're wasting your efforts.  Below is an example of one of those charts, and it's not house value:


The final step was then ranking the zip codes I studied by the number of predicted customers it should have.  This would show the most "attractive" zip codes in which to focus on.  Also, my finding the difference between actual customer count and predicted customer count, you could find zip codes that are "underperforming" and target those first, since they should automatically have more customers than they do.  Below is an example, the right most column conditionally formatted red would be underperforming:



I thought the final product turned out great; I got a good grade on the project but more importantly I hoped it would help increase SolarCity's sales efforts by targeting specific areas that are more "attractive" than others.  It would be a quantitative compass, not a perfect solution but better than before.  After vetting the project with my professor and trusted confidants to make sure it made sense, I approached our sales managers and Direct Sales team (they're the ones that go around neighborhoods on foot so I thought it'd benefit them the most to have data to back up their choices).  However, after initial enthusiasm, it fell off the map like other ideas.  It would've required a bigger and more accurate test and pilot project to prove its worth before rolling out, but I didn't see how it could hurt our efforts.  In my mind it was worth a try.  But as it is often, there are different things on the immediate agenda, either that or I didn't talk to the right person.


Hopefully it's revisited in the future and I can expand on it more, this time while getting paid to do the analysis.  That'd be cool.  But I encourage anyone else who thinks they can benefit from similar analysis to do the same and see if it helps you out.

Edison's Inspiration and Revenge


I just started reading "Empires of Light:  Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World" by Jill Jonnes and I'm already enthralled in it.  Although she can be superfluous at times (and so was using that word), she paints an exciting story about the battle a century and a half ago to bring electricity to the masses.


We all know the ending (Tesla/Westinghouse and AC power won out, even though it was more dangerous because it could travel long distances more efficiently) but that's what makes it so interesting.  Solar is going through a similar battle right now, and it is on the Edison and DC side (solar panels produce DC energy, and right now that has to be converted back to AC power to power things in your home -- hysterically it is actually converted back to DC power to power a lot of electronics) but updated to today's technology.  He was an advocate of a distributed system of power generators; unfortunately due to the technology of the time there had to be a toxic, noisy generation station every couple city blocks.  But in today's time, that is just the same exact thing as quiet, clean energy producing solar panels on your home's roof.  They don't put off any toxic fumes, they don't make any sound, all they do is just sit on top of a small area on your roof that was previously just occupied by dirt buildup and bird shit.


Anyways, I'm sure this won't be the only post I write about solar and the "War of Currents", but it hit home when I just read about Edison's inspiration for his invention of the lightbulb.  Jonnes writes, after Edison had just been introduced to arc lights:

"Then Edison rushed back to quiet, bucolic Menlo Park, his research workshop in backwater New Jersey, to throw himself into creating a better and more practical electric light.  He worked feverishly, thrilled at the possibilities of this new field."

But the best quote comes from Edison himself, describing where he got his inspiration from, as Jonnes continues:

"It was all before me.  I saw the thing had not gone so far but that I had a chance.  I saw that what had been done had never been made practically useful.  The intense light had not been subdivided so that it could be brought into private houses."

Jonnes then wrapped it up best with:

"Edison always liked to go after 'big things.'"


I felt connected to those words by Edison, because that's exactly how I've felt working at SolarCity.  Solar is not a new technology; but widely-distributed, affordable solar is a new thing and we're working to help bring that to "private houses".  It's all before us, whether SolarCity makes it long term, or the industry evolves and the next big player comes to dominate.  The world will benefit from this "Solar Race" the same way it did with the "War of Currents" bringing electricity to the masses.


Jonnes goes on to describe how Edison got it right:

The man who came up with the best arc light system might well make a fortune stealing away even that 10 perfect of the gas lighting business -- that of streetlights.  But the man who could subdivide the light -- to take it indoors and tame it into a gentle glow -- and power it with a dynamo, he would be the true Promethean, the blazing electrical pioneer, the hailed benefactor of humankind (and wealthy to boot).


Solar is doing that; we're "subdividing the light" by producing clean power right at the site that it is being consumed, or close to it if you're producing excess energy when you're not home during the day.  Right now, we're just beginning to come close to the price of power generated by fossil fuels.  But coal, oil, natural gas -- they can't come close to where we will be producing power, right at each home.


So that was Edison's inspiration, you might be wondering what his revenge could be?  Well, it's likely going to turn out that he was right all along with distributed generation, he just wasn't alive 150 years later to see it overtake AC power grids today and in the near future.  But with a much better technology than is coal-burning power stations of his day and age, distributed generation is inevitable.


Well, Edison will be right at least until fusion comes along.

Introduction to ideas

Obscure title yes but it'll do for right now.  


Often we go through life wanting to do a lot of things:  we want to be successful in school and our careers, we want to have a loving family, we want to maintain our health and exercise, we want to give back to our communities/religion, etc.  But rarely do we have time for all of them on a consistent basis.  All along, we also have a lot of ideas of different ways we think the world can improve but again lack time and the resources to fulfill the execution needed to bring said ideas to life.


Sometimes we tell these ideas to others to seek external support; sometimes we keep them a secret because we're scared of external judgment.  But for every idea we don't let be known, there exists the possibility that the world never got to benefit from a possible "missed connection" of mutually beneficial or associated other ideas.  


I've never been shy about sharing my thoughts if I think they can help improve things in any way.  Often this information has already been brought up and discussed or dismissed but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be shared.  You either show that you are on the same page as those who you are presenting the topics to or you show that you need to learn more about the topic.  But that shouldn't deter you from potentially sparking another person's interest to continue where you left off.  It's a pretty high risk, low reward process as long as you have vetted the idea internally as well as externally with trusted friends.


So that's why my first idea after introducing my introduction to them is for someone to create said idea-curation-then-creation website; someplace that builds off of the positive purpose behind message boards and serves as a melting pot of associated ideas with simple UI and transparent philosophy.  After allowing for ideas to be connected, the best solutions will bubble to the top through Reddit-esque upvotes/downvotes then a representative can be chosen and the project can be paid for through crowdfunding.


That's got to be a net positive for the world.