Wednesday February 10th

Privacy 1.0

You’ve been kind of quiet

  • Yes, I have actually! It’s been because my sleep schedule is kind of random these days; I stay up late (and I mean, often until 4 or 5am) and get up around 11am. I take a mid-afternoon / mid-evening map and start it all over again!
  • I also got tired of being freaked out by people wanting to know what I was up to 24 / 7. My family is pretty private, and I’m also pretty private, so when it overwhelmingly becomes a situation where I’m crowded for information on what I’m up to, I’ll retreat and just stay away from everything.
  • The lovely thing about quarantine (at least for me) is being able to disappear and do focused work, not having anyone know where you are (well, except my advisor, because well, that’s my boss lol). But it’s been quite lovely!

Recent Adventures

  • I finished up my Esoteric Languages club, and am midway through my Ostrom Economics Computing class.
  • I started my Cryptography Maths class and my Privacy Law class. Cryptography is awesome and now I think I want to continue with another class after this one. The teacher is also awesome.
  • I’m also auditing a class at Stanford, and that one is awesome, too. It’s on blockchain protocols and internet scale consensus. The teacher is very fun and engaging and I’m scribing for one lesson!
  • I’m doing a mentorship with another student (who is finishing up her PhD at another East Coast school) and a Google Research mentor (also based on the East Coast). I heard from my mentor today. She works at Jigsaw. We will all meet later this week.
  • Paperwork has also started coming in for my summer internship. As usual, large companies usually mean drowning in paperwork, but I’ve been quite impressed so far by both the culture and people I’ve met, and the persons helping us through the process. I’m convinced that companies that make things or deal with physical constraints (aka hardware, distributed systems) are more my thing, both in terms of the type of work and the general culture. I’ve also been hanging out with a lot of gearheads, electronics people, cryptocurrency people (as in, they develop or do research in that field and are super enthusiastic about that sort of stuff) and graphics programmers on Discord. But maybe a company that just does software as a service or something will convince me otherwise. I’m open.
  • I also attended a WiML social for organizers in which some of the members who are going on the job market gave research job talks. It’s such a great idea and I learned a lot. We were allowed to give feedback (either anonymously or with our names) in a document, and also give feedback to the person directly orally, too, if we wanted. It’s such a great idea to give PhD students as much opportunity to give presentations and speak in front of different types of audiences. A talk one gives for say, persons in high school is very different from say, a dissertation committee.


  • I started hanging out with a bunch of West Coast people who use and are learning R, and it’s been fantastic. The fields range from Physics to Biostatistics to Mathematics and everything in between. Most are either in PhD programmes or have completed and are in Post-docs, or working as statisticians. The quality is excellent (our most recent workshop was headed by a tenured Stats professor at a California University with a strong statistics programme; there are many exceptional stats schools in SoCal, and a lot of strong stats talent), and as it turns out, one of the organizers went to my school for his PhD (which was not originally in stats, but that’s what he does anyways; he’s a pretty experienced and knowledgeable Principal Data Scientist. He lives and breathes Statistics and has really created a positive and engaging learning environment for the group, along with the other organizers).
  • Each of us has to prep two chapters of a book we’re going through together. I’m so nervous, but it’s good practice.
  • He was a little confused as to how I found the group though :). I had to explain that I used to live in LA, so I knew of the group (it had a good reputation among data scientists as no-nonsense but welcoming). It was just a strange coincidence that I was currently attending the school he once did. Weird lol.
  • To be clear, the first language I ever dabbled in was R (my dad likes open source and has a stats background), and I used to hang around a similar group when I was in LA, too. So it’s been nice to reconnect. But I hadn’t gotten back into using R since the workshop via WICSS. I’ve been using quarantine to spend more time on it, and have been enjoying it.
  • It’s really refreshing because I’m really against any kind of gatekeeping with respect to learning, and I’ve felt that the whole departmental structure can sometimes incentivize gatekeeping. So this is a breath of fresh air in comparison, and I find myself staying up late and chatting with a friend who is also taking a stats course (who did his PhD in Anthropology, another discipline that has both a qualitative and quantitative component).
  • Today I also had an hour-long chat with my Mathematics professor, and she is not only awesome, but also very supportive. She’s also absolutely geeky and fun, and makes me laugh. I love her!
  • I think it’s amazing and really cool that people can all use statistics but with different lenses. They think about analyzing data in different ways, and some models are more common than others. Right now, I’m right at the intersection of encryption and statistics (statistics covering the fairness and privacy aspect), and I’m really enjoying it. People keep telling me that it’s a very interesting intersection, but it seems pretty obvious to me. Maybe the assumed model for thinking of it and how I think about it are different, or something?


  • I have kind of laid low on recruitment for the past few weeks, even though I had still been getting opportunities. I started feeling like I didn’t want to do any, and as one of my mentors and friends advised me, it takes a lot of resources to pull people away and interview them while they do their job, so if you aren’t committed and pretty deep into the process, you should let them know and not waste their time. So this is the first season I really just started saying no to people. More of a “Thanks, but maybe another time”. I got a lot more exhausted by people trying to book back to back interviews and eventually just tapped out, which was a different experience and a little empowering. But I really just felt like it was pulling me away from research, and I really like the stuff I’m working on at the moment, so I just started saying no, this isn’t worth it. It can wait.
  • I think that’s because pre-grad school, I was coming from more of a space of scarcity. I would apply to every scholarship and every grant, because I thought that I should do it, and maybe I’ll get one. My PL mentor, Amal, is the first one to drill into my head that I didn’t have to apply to all, and that being in grad school (especially for CS) means that now I can be picky. “You should be picky about which ones are worth your time, because when you are filling out applications, it is taking time away from other things that bring you closer to your goal of research, progressing towards your PhD”. Weigh the tradeoffs on your time and effort. She particularly said that most of those calls are for people already working on specific things related to that work, so you shouldn’t just apply for it because someone made a call for papers or a grant; pick the ones that you are most likely to get. And considering all the other things I’m constantly juggling, that makes sense. So this year, I’ve been able to see more things pass through my inbox and just ignore them, or not respond to them at all.
  • I also got more exposure this year to fields that weren’t just tech. In the past, I’d get recruitment from other companies outside of tech, but to be honest, in California, it just feels different, because you’re almost incentivized to go with the flow and aim for tech (generally; I understand that some people don’t want to do this and aim for other areas like entertainment, insurance, gaming, aerospace, etc). So I’ve been considering that in terms of where I’d like to look next for a possible internship, but I’m still not sure.
  • Otherwise, I’ve quite frankly been enjoying solitude a lot. I hang out a lot on Discord, and a couple Slack groups from time to time, and there are some regular friends who message me, but things have just been great.

And that’s it

Written on February 10, 2021