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Memories of past JSMs

The Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) are the big statistics meetings in North America, “joint” among the American Statistical Association, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, International Biometric Society (ENAR and WNAR), Statistical Society of Canada, and others.

JSM 2015 is next week, in Seattle. In anticipation, I thought I’d write down some of my main memories of past JSMs.

  • The first JSM I attended was in 1993, in San Francisco. Since I was local at the time (a grad student at Berkeley), I got free registration in return for some small service work. I didn’t register formally, but they got a list of volunteers and printed name tags from that. My name tag said “Bioman.” I considered changing my name, since Bioman is so awesome.

  • Advice I got from a Berkeley faculty member: avoid the contributed papers sessions. Nevertheless, my office mate dragged me to one. One of the speakers showed scatterplots produced with Minitab, in glorious 80×24 ascii resolution, with *’s, and digits to indicate over-plotting.

  • At JSM 1996 in Chicago, I shared a hotel room with Michael Camarri. He’d found the place. It had no air conditioning. That was bad.

  • At that ‘96 JSM, Michael and I went to a huge Berkeley dinner at the conference hotel. It was obnoxiously expensive so we split a personal-sized pizza, to save our money for, um, the pub. The other table was living it up with champagne and lobster. Seriously. And then they wanted to split the check evenly. Seriously. Without any consideration for students. (I pay better attention to students’ needs, from that experience.)

  • That same night, Michael and I and the considerable entourage we’d formed ran into Gary Churchill at the Rock Bottom. He was sitting alone with a beer. I latched onto him and bent his ear about QTL mapping and my thesis work. When we got up to leave, I asked him if he’d remembered me (we’d met previously when he’d visited Berkeley). He admitted that he hadn’t, “But I’ll remember you now!”

  • We ended up at the Crō*Bar, which featured free tattoos and body piercing.

  • At JSM 2003 in San Francisco (I think), I spoke at a Sunday afternoon contributed papers session on statistical genetics. Many people didn’t realize that they’d added Sunday afternoon sessions. And there were two invited sessions on statistical genetics at the same time. We had just one audience member. In fact, one of the speakers didn’t even show up, and we waited through that time slot so as not to disturb the schedule. (It seemed like there was a greater risk of losing our audience member.) I went last, and when I got up to speak, a friend of mine joined the audience. “When I got up to speak, the audience doubled!” is how I like to characterize it.

  • There was a session with John Chambers, Robert Gentleman, and Duncan Temple Lang on the future of R, in room that seated 25 comfortably. There was crowd of like 50 people packed in a big bunch outside the door, hoping to at least hear John Chambers’s voice.

  • At JSM 2005 in Minneapolis, I was talking to some random statistician in a pub and made a statement like, “Does anyone still use Splus? Anyone who still uses Splus is an idiot.” It turned out that the guy worked for Insightful, or whatever the company was that owned Splus at the time. Ingo said the guy looked like he was going to punch me.

  • There was the bet I made with Ingo, in which I promised to put a certain variation on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health logo on one of the slides of my talk, in exchange for a month’s beer. I stayed up really late preparing, but I was ultimately successful.

  • At the end of an evening, Brian, Greg, and I paid the waitress to not bring us the round of drinks that Ingo was trying to buy.

  • Actually, I think those last 3 were all on the same night.

  • In the December, 2002 issue of R news (superseded by the R Journal), I poked fun at Dallas, a previous JSM site. I didn’t attend the meeting in Dallas. Here’s what I wrote:

A good time was had at the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) in New York City, August 11–15, 2002. After several years of dismal locations (who can forget Dallas?), this year’s JSM began a series of venues possibly even more interesting than the Meetings: in the next two years, the JSM will be in San Francisco and Toronto.

I have other memories that I can’t share here. Find me at #JSM2015 next week. Seattle is sure to be great!