Rhapsody in Orange

 A guest blog about Passplot's beginnings, as recollected by Dr Felippe Cronemberger.

It was a rainy Sunday evening in Sao Paulo, in 2019.  My wife and I decided to spend the night at a downtown hotel, conveniently close to the meetings we were scheduled to have the next day. We were at the hotel’s restaurant when Rich pinged me on WhatsApp: “Can I show you something?”.  I replied with a “Sure"...

Rich and I are used to running intellectual errands and celebrating our geekness through endless Brazilian memes, yet here was something a little more formal than the usual. There was something wizardly in his tone, and I almost did not take it seriously given the historical irreverence of our camaraderie. 

I was about 11 years old when my best friend from childhood, Rafael, -  the brother that life catapulted into my school classroom - introduced me to this American cousin and his wife, Veronica, then visiting Rio de Janeiro.  That was the late 90’s and I was absolutely fascinated by the dude who could speak my language and English indistinguishably well, crack jokes like we were his academic peers, and have a blast playing soccer with us by the beach. It was the exotic start of a friendship between two kids and a brilliant, humble, and joyful applied physicist we still refer to with the warm Brazilian treatment “tio”. 

“Please add this number and text ‘help’ to it. Let me know what you see”, he asked. I promptly agreed, a bit confused, but hopeful. The command brought a list of options to perform statistical calculations and conversions. We called each other and, as we spoke, he would give instructions on what to text. It was like talking to a robot who would gleefully serve up answers as I plugged data in.

I had no idea how he programmed WhatsApp to respond to my commands, and I had no intuition on where he was going with that apparently innocent experiment. After a couple of requests, he finally wowed me when he asked me to type linreg, followed by a couple of data points. A linear regression chart, along with its pertaining equation, an R squared statistic and the Shapiro normality test, popped on my chat. I chuckled. Rich was serious, and he was poised to take every analytical tool he ever used, from his time as a NASA scientist to his Master Black Belt mentoring sessions, to the next frontier of mobile.

Passplot was being conceived before my eyes, and its beauty was not so much in the numbers it seamlessly afforded: I was witnessing the birth of a technically-savvy and collaborative approach to analytics. Rich minded the gap, and as the ever tireless experimenter, embraced the challenge to bring analytics to our mobile hands, quite literally.

That night, after we closed off our chat, I could not help but show Rich’s idea to my wife as we snacked around with peanuts and pistachios. I only wished Rich was close by to hear us whispering as I swiped the screen: “This is really cool!”.

Felippe Cronemberger, 26 January 2021. 

CTG UAlbany 

"I was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer... I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise.  And there I suddenly heard - and even saw on paper - the complete construction of the rhapsody, from beginning to end. By the time I reached Boston, I had a definite plot of the piece" - George Gershwin (1931)

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