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Jonas

Aiming High

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I’m not a doctor yet but it’s nice (if unintended) that my talk at this years PAA conference lead to people thinking otherwise.

San Diego: Panoramic II

The other day I was overhearing a conversation among tourists about a place called Sunset Cliffs. Going to the Pacific was on my list anyway and this location seemed perfect so I went for a hike.

The bus was only taking me this far and I had to walk for a while through residential area. The sun was burning and I was completely unprepared — no sun-lotion, no water, no shades. It didn’t bug me first as I figured to buy all these items along the way. Well, no. I experienced a super-rigid urban zoning scheme in San Diego. Commercial means just commercial, no housing. Likewise residential means no shops, not even a small corner store. Eventually I found a gas station to care for my basic needs but until then the experience of seeing the Pacific for the first time was making me forget my burns and dry throat.

Moments after encountering the Ocean.

Moments after encountering the Ocean.

Nice houses and lot's of sun everywhere...

Nice houses and lot’s of sun everywhere…

... and I haven't seen a single solar panel.

… and I haven’t seen a single solar panel.

...

The ocean washes away the shore...

The ocean washes away the shore…

... and leaves it with a distinct texture.

… and leaves it with a distinct texture.

This was before I found water, sun-lotion and shades. I didn't care at that moment though.

This was before I found water, sun-lotion and shades. I didn’t care at that moment though.

San Diego: Panoramic

This city is scenic. I went to Balboa Park. It is a huge green square filled with Spanish, colonial architecture, huge trees and flowers of all varieties. Admission is, yet again, completely free which seems just incredibly generous given that this is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved parks I’ve ever been to. Compare that to the remains of the IGA botanical exhibition in Rostock. I guess a lot of these public spaces here are financed by private persons who want to do something good. Right now I’m sitting on a bench in memory of Robert Turneys 85th birthday in an award-winning rose-garden dedicated to Inez Grant Parker.

Main Street in Balboa Park...

Main Street in Balboa Park…

... leading to wonderful nature right in the middle of the city.

… leading to wonderful nature right in the middle of the city.

Back in the days when I had fun playing Sim City 2000, a city simulation game, I always made sure I got a flat map to start with because you can’t build on steep terrain. No wonder my cities turned out to be dystopian mega-structures. Completely opposed to that San Diego is build on hilly and diverse terrain with large chunks of nature interrupting the settlement. Urban area and natural canyons exist side by side.

A valley within the city.

A valley within the city.

I already mentioned that this city smells really good. Well it’s like a friggin‘ candle shop — no, strike that, I hate those — more like a place where you buy herbs. I went down a path along some cactuses which filled the air with a strong odour. Maybe something you would smell when taking one of these relaxation baths.

Stochasticity vs. Determination

Last week I had an argument about the statistical interpretation of chance and pre-determination. Are they an attribute of the processes/phenomena we model or are they a product of the way we model a process? I believe the latter.

Stochasticity relates to our level of understanding regarding a phenomenon. If we would have complete information about a system and its states (Laplace’s demon) there would be no need for probabilistic models. Everything would be truly deterministic. Think of the moons changing phases, solar eclipses and planetary constellations. All these are governed by well known rules and applying these rules we can predict these variables perfectly without referring to chance. But this is not because these phenomena are in themselves deterministic, it is because we understand them on a deterministic level. Being completely ignorant to the mechanics of our solar system we could still try to predict solar eclipses in a probabilistic way. Looking at past data we would infer the probability to observe a solar eclipse within the next 10 years. This is the field social science plays at.

Explaining the difference between deterministic and stochastic components of a phenomena I was given the following example: „The event of winning the lottery is produced by my decision to play lottery (deterministic) vs. the outcome of the lottery (stochastic).“ OK, from an individuals point of view this distinction makes sense. But being the scientist who models lottery losses we might or might not know if someone will play the lottery, or how regularly. Depending on our level of knowledge we might use probability distributions to model our uncertainty and therefore treat the decision to play the lottery as a stochastic phenomena.

Stochastic processes versus deterministic processes. It’s not them, it’s us.

San Diego: First Impressions

I arrived in San Diego after 24h of continuous travel. Customs was a bit of a joke. The airport had an apparent problem in handling the amount of arriving passengers. I estimate more than 500 people waiting to register their luggage and only a few officers trying to handle the situation. Customs reduced to someone picking up the pre-filled forms as fast as possible… Not that I had much value on me.

Waiting at Customs: The two red lights at the back of the hall mark about the end of the line.

Waiting at Customs: The two red lights at the back of the hall mark about the end of the line.

The first thing I noticed about San Diego was its nice temperature and climate, even at night. The second impression I received during my cab ride from the airport to the hotel along the Pacific Highway: „This looks like GTA: Vice City„. The buildings along the seaside highway are illuminated in bright colours and palm trees are planted all along the road — I arrived at the West Coast.

Urban Sunset.

Urban Sunset.

All I know about this area comes from either computer games or TV-shows, so these are the kind of comparisons I’ll make. My hotel — you whatchin‘ any US-crime shows or thrillers? — there is always an L-shaped 2-story motel with roadside access to the rooms. The kind of place where prostitutes meet their customers and addicts their nirvana. This is where I reside. As far as I can tell it is only the architecture that resembles my pop-media fuelled expectations.

Here’s something I already know about San Diego: This must be one of the nicest smelling cities on the planet. Lots of plants are blooming. A sweet odour that mixes with salty, fresh pacific air and a slight hint of smoky barbecue. Wouldn’t be surprised to find someone selling bottled San Diego air.

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