The zit model
When my mom turned 42, I was 12 and a total wise-ass. For her present I bought her a coffee mug that had on it the phrase “Things could be worse. You could be old and still have zits”, to tease her about her bad skin. Considering how obnoxious that was, she took it really well and drank out of the mug for years.
Well, I’m sure you can all see where this is going. I’m now 40 and I have zits. I was contemplating this in the bath yesterday, wondering if I’d ever get rid of my zits and wondering if taking long hot baths helps or not. They come and go, so it seems vaguely controllable.
Then I had a thought: well, I could collect data and see what helps. After all, I don’t always have zits. I could keep a diary of all the things that I think might affect the situation: what I eat (I read somewhere that eating cheese makes you have zits), how often I take baths vs. showers, whether I use zit cream, my hormones, etc. and certainly whether or not I have zits on a given day or not.
The first step would be to do some research on the theories people have about what causes zits, and then set up a spreadsheet where I could efficiently add my daily data. Maybe a google form! I’m wild about google forms.
After collecting this data for some time I could build a model which tries to predict zittage, to see which of those many inputs actually have signal for my personal zit model.
Of course I expect a lag between the thing I do or eat or use and the actual resulting zit, and I don’t know what that lag is (do you get zits the day after you eat cheese? or three days after eating cheese?), so I’ll expect some difficulty with this or even over fitting.
Even so, this just might work!
Then I immediately felt tired because, if you think about spending your day collecting information like that about your potential zits, then you must be totally nuts.
I mean, I can imagine doing it just for fun, or to prove a point, or on a dare (there are few things I won’t do on a dare), but when it comes down to it I really don’t care that much about my zits.
Then I started thinking about technology and how it could help me with my zit model. I mean, you know about those bracelets you can wear that count your steps and then automatically record them on your phone, right? Well, how long until those bracelets can be trained to collect any kind of information you can imagine?
- Baths? No problem. I’m sure they can detect moisture and heat.
- Cheese eating? Maybe you’d have to say out loud what you’re eating, but again not a huge problem.
- Hormones? I have no idea but let’s stipulate plausible: they already have an ankle bracelet that monitors blood alcohol levels.
- Whether you have zits? Hmmm. Let’s say you could add any variable you want with voice command.
In other words, in 5 years this project will be a snap when I have my handy dandy techno bracelet which collects all the information I want. And maybe whatever other information as well, because information storage is cheap. I’ll have a bounty of data for my zit model.
This is exciting stuff. I’m looking forward to building the definitive model, from which I can conclude that eating my favorite kind of cheese does indeed give me zits. And I’ll say to myself, worth it!