Shamindra’s January 2020 Roundup

A quick roundup of any interesting January 2020 activities


Shamindra Shrotriya


January 27, 2020


Welcome to the January 2020 roundup! Similar to last time I’m going to experiment with documenting anything interesting I come across (articles, lectures, books, papers etc.) and any activities I get up to. This is more for my personal benefit but may also help others.

Interesting Articles

  • Came across this nice article on R error handling. See here for the original source.

    Key Takeaways

    • This the latest post from the ACLU Tech & Analytics blog. This post explains the key focus of the ACLU analytics team on having clean data pipelines and using testing and assertions to facilitate this process

    • Using functions like assertthat::noNA(df$source) will return a FALSE if in fact there are no NA values in the df$source column. This seems like a very useful function to use in %>% operations in my pipelines!

    • Used in combination with assertthat::noNA(df$source) will return the actual observations that have NA values, which is super useful!

    • These operations are %>% friendly and can be used to verify join operations perform as expected, for example:

      Does the join have the same number of rows as the original left-hand table or did the data structure of the right-hand table create new rows?

      How much of the right-hand table of the join falls away in the left join?

    • These checks are notably useful for the ACLU to also check for missingness in their data pipelines. They note:

      A helpful check to assess whether missingness grossly misrepresents our results is to quantify the severity of the problem. What level of missingness are we willing to live with?

    • This definitely seems useful to me, as I use ad-hoc approaches to these same issues e.g. na.omit without doing thorough assertions. Perhaps using this with tidylog will be useful in doing EDA. Let’s try and revisit this.

  • This is a really insightful article on A regular person’s guide to outbreak preparedness, by Prof. Eleanor Murray:

    Key Takeaways

    • In the event of well publicized (ready mass hysteria) virus spreads such as the recent Coronavirus outbreak, it is important to listen to level-headed healthcare professionals. In this case it is Prof. Elie Murray, an epidimiologist from Boston University

    • Since I’m definitely a newbie to understanding this epidemic, I found this to be a very pragmatic guide to help prepare and prevent any further spread of such diseases

    • In terms of general healthy practices in the outbreak the key takeaways are to:

      • Wash your hands regularly
      • Focus on improving the immune system
      • Try to not catch other infections, and ensure you recover well from any existing infections
      • Don’t panic
    • In terms of good practices to do in the event that you are sick, the key takeaways are to:

      • Stay home and recover
      • Cover your mouth e.g. sneeze into the inner elbow
      • Call a medical professional if you or a relative was in Wuhan recently
      • Seek urgent medical care if you feel really sick
    • Please read the article on more detail on each of the above points and also to considerations for high risk individuals, a sick family member/friend, and if you are a healthcare responder

    • Overall, great practical advice! It is great to see statisticians such as Prof. Murray take the lead and address the community at large with their knowledge and expertise, when we live in an era of misinformation

    • I enjoyed the emphasisis on solving this challenge (like many others) as a community


  • I’m a TA for the STAT 36-350, the undergraduate statiscal computing course at CMU. This is a welcome change of pace from my previous TA assignment taught by Prof. Freeman, with whom I had the pleasure of teaching the course in Spring 2019.
  • This time we have around 150 students and, as Head-TA, I have the pleasure of managing a motivated team of 9 graduate and undergraduate TAs. Here’s to a wonderful teaching and research semester 💯.



BibTeX citation:
  author = {Shamindra Shrotriya},
  title = {Shamindra’s {January} 2020 {Roundup}},
  date = {2020-01-27},
  url = {},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
Shamindra Shrotriya. 2020. “Shamindra’s January 2020 Roundup.” January 27, 2020.