Sysop-in-chief leaving Whitehouse

Sources: Kundra leaving White House:

Vivek Kundra, the first-ever federal chief information officer, is planning to leave the White House in August, according to sources.

Kundra, who has held the position for two-and-a-half years, is leaving the administration for Harvard, the sources said, although it’s unclear if he’ll be teaching or taking a more research-oriented post.

As CIO in the Office of Management and Budget, Kundra was responsible for overseeing $80 billion in federal information technology projects. In that role, he spearheaded a number of initiatives to try to make the government’s complex technology systems more efficient and less costly.

Kundra is one of three White House officials tapped to revamp the government’s use of technology. President Barack Obama also appointed Aneesh Chopra as the federal chief technology officer and Jeffrey Zients as the chief performance officer. All three positions were brand new roles in the White House.

I’m a little behind in the curve when it comes to these sorts of things, but technically I think Kundra would be an “information architect.” I imagine the architects to be the officer corps of the systems administrators, who are the grunts.

According to Google Trends there hasn’t been any news out of this guy for a while….which is usually a good thing if you’re a systems administrator! It’s kind of like being an offensive line guy in football, if people are noticing you it’s probably not a good thing (e.g., there’s been a major security breach and you have to take the fall for it). I’m personally skeptical of the “cloud computing” initiative Kundra spearheaded, for national security reasons. I wouldn’t ever put anything sensitive in Dropbox, and I don’t care how good the feds think they are, hackers will worm their way into their “lockbox” in the cloud at some point. But Vivek Kundra doesn’t have to worry about it, some other command-line jockey will take the fall for it…. Continue reading

What is brown/desi to you?

I recently had a discussion with a columnist on Asian American issues about my own identity as a brown person who self-identifies as a conservative. It’s rather amusing to me that the mainstream media is far more curious about my rare intersection of identities (e.g., interest in my combination of atheism and right-wing orientation), than the preponderance of my online production in science, which is perhaps a touch too abstruse for the general public.

brown.jpgBut much of the back & forth hinged upon definitions. For example, I use the term “brown” regularly. But what does that mean? First, a word is a word, and anyone can “own” a word. I’m not the pope of terms like “brown” or “desi,” their meaning crystallizes through bottom up consensus. But my own definition makes recourse to the set theory concept of a union. That is, for me the identity is not a intersection of necessary preconditions, but a wide collection of identities which can be usefully bracketed together. So when asked why I considered myself brown, the reality that I’m racially a brown person, and will be until the day that I die. I could relocate to Japan, marry a Japanese woman and change my name, and become initiated into Shinto rites, but I’d still be brown in terms of my racial identity. For me the brown-as-race definition works well enough that I don’t need to think about it too deeply. But there other flavors out there. Continue reading

South Asians “represent” in personal genomics

CeCe Moore is reporting the following ethnic breakdowns for 23andMe’s customer database (as claimed by a scientist at the firm):

1000 African American
3500 Latino/Hispanic
5500 East Asian
3400 South Asian
4900 Southern European
6200 Ashkenazi Jewish
56,000 Northern European
1,000 First generation from two continents

All that being said, rumor has it that 3,000 of these South Asians are Iyers! (that’s a joke)

(H/T Zack Ajmal) Continue reading

Stacking up demographically

There’s always a lot of discussion in the national context about statistics such as per capita income, % with bachelor’s degree attainment, etc. On the one hand these sorts of concrete quantities are really essential to move forward any discussion which presumes a possible policy prescription. But on the other hand statistics without the proper frame can be misused. I recall back in college discussions among my friends who were Asian American activists. Their common complaint was that all Asian Americans were bracketed into a “Model Minority,” when in fact there were large communities of Southeast Asian refugees which as a whole totally did not fit mainstream expectations (usually they were really talking about the Hmong). But the reality is that on the balance demographically Asian America is, and was, dominated by a few large prominent groups, such as the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Indians. The Hmong are real, but they’re not representative (a South Asian analog may be the fact that “Pakistani” and “Bangladeshi” in the U.K. really represent the subcultures of the Mirpuri and Sylhetti, with those outside of these communities often being marginalized in the broader discourse because they’re not demographically representative).

This came to mind when discussing Indian American income and education. I decided to look at a few statistics from the Census 2000 and arrange them in scatter plot form so you could compare how two variables manifest in a particular demographic group. I included Indian Americans, Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans, and the general American population. Continue reading

Not all fairy tales end well

An update to the post below, Report: Shirtless Anthony Weiner photo sent. This is “developing….,” but it has “developed” to my satisfaction in terms of not paying attention to this anymore. Tawdry as the details are, they are all too conventional for the personal lives of politicians. Hopefully at some point in the future Human Abedin’s name won’t be associated with a sexual peccadillo, rumored or real. Continue reading

Where is Huma?

humaweiner.jpgI don’t keep close tabs on goings on in political stories, let alone tabloid-political stories, but it has been hard for me to avoid hearing about “Weinergate”. Here’s Gothamist:

Rep. Anthony Weiner told reporters this morning that he was “desperately” hoping to get back to work as a Congressman today: “This prank has apparently been successful. After almost 11 hours of answering questions, any that anyone wanted to put, today I’m going to have to get back to work doing the job that I’m paid to do.” But just because he isn’t talking about it doesn’t mean that everyone else has stopped talking, gossiping and joking about the strange ongoing saga that is Weinergate.

If you don’t know what the “prank” alludes to, I recommend Google News. But the short of it is that someone with access to congressman Weiner’s twitter account sent a link to a lewd picture to a Washington state journalism student. But it wasn’t a direct tweet. It was available on his public stream! Continue reading

South Asian genetic variation in a glance

Since I began blogging here in February we’ve come a long way in getting a better sense of South Asian genetic relationships. By “we,” I’m referring mostly to Zack Ajmal of the Harappa Ancestry Project, and to a lesser extent the Dodecad Ancestry Project and the Eurogenes Genetic Ancestry Project. These explicitly amateur enterprises have taken off the shelf population genetic analytic tools, such as ADMIXTURE, and combined them with a “crowd-sourced” sampling strategy. Zack now as over 100 individuals, the vast majority of them South Asian, some from ethnicities and communities which have never been analyzed in the academic literature.

The Times of India has now taken an interest in the Harrapa Ancestry Project. I’m rather tickled by this. When I first began corresponding with Zack about the technical details of preforming this survey of South Asian genomics neither of us knew where we were going to go. The main issue we both felt needed to be addressed was of scope of sampling. In other words, there were simply too many under-sampled populations in South Asia when it came to academic analyses of the human genetics of the region.

A quick survey of a map of some participants in HAP shows that much of north-central India remains woefully under-sampled even after six months: Continue reading

25% of 2011 Intel Science Talent Search finalists Indian American

talentfig.jpgChildren of Immigrants Are America’s Science Superstars:

The study, conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, found that 70 percent of the finalists in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search competition — also known as the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of immigrants even though only 12 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.

A think tank called the National Foundation for Economic Policy has released a report (PDF), The impact of the children of immigrants on scientific achievement in America. These aren’t just any “immigrants.” Ethnically 10 out of the 40 finalists are Indian American, and 16 are Chinese American, but perhaps more critically: “While former H-1B visa holders comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, 60 percent of the finalists had parents who entered the U.S. on H-1B visas, which are generally the only practical way to hire skilled foreign nationals.” Continue reading

Peter Thiel doubles down on young browns

We’ve pointed to the Indian American prominence in the National Spelling Bee, and or in the Intel National Talent Search, so I thought it might interest readers that two of Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20 fellows are brown:

faheem-zaman_thumb-2.jpgFaheem Zaman has shot the moon on nearly every SAT test he’s ever taken: 5580 points across 5 tests. He wants to decentralize banking in the developing world with a mobile payment system. Because savings are difficult in poor countries–including in some regions of South Asia where many have to hoard and protect cash–Faheem believes mobile financial services will help bring prosperity to these areas. Before he introduces his technology to the developing world, Faheem’s initial plan is to gain a foothold in the U.S. market for mobile financial services.

sujay-tyle_thumb.jpgSujay Tyle is one of the youngest students at Harvard and is passionate about hacking cellulose to create cheap biofuels. He first worked in a lab when he was 11, interned at Dupont as a teenager, and won the grand prize at the 2009 International Sustainable World Energy Olympiad in Houston. With his older brother, Sheel, he also runs ReSight, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to helping the vision-impaired around the world.

I’ve defended Thiel’s idea elsewhere, but the short of it is that the intent is prod some bright young things to take some time off from school and engage in some entrepreneurialism. The fellows are given $100,000 to drop out of higher education (or not pursue higher education) for two years. I think that our society’s focus on higher education as if it must be the ends for all individuals, instead of a means, is problematic. This is an issue which brushes up against the broader themes which Abhi addressed when it comes to Asian American focus on achievement by orthodox metrics only.

Here’s a post on DealBook, Finding the Next Mark Zuckerberg. Peter Thiel is all over the media, so I’m sure you’ll hear the pros and cons. Continue reading