Love and the Indian Buffet Process

I still remember what you told me when I had my first sip of alcohol. It was almost four years ago, shortly after my twenty third birthday. As I sat there, sipping a glass of deep red wine, you were one of many who walked up to me and uttered the word badass. Oblivion to American slang meant that I took badass to mean that my posterior might have expanded in the way the vast majority of fresh-of-the-boat transplants do after they spend a year in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Free, but scared I spent hours burning off the crowd-sourced label that my apparent backside got that night. The crowd, not so much, if truth be told. It was because of you. You might think it’s almost laughable that I did all of that because of you, that your words had such a power over me.But its true. I always had my eyes on you.

From the first time I saw you, you made quite an impression on me. The first was one torn between circumspect awe and outright intimidation. Should I have engaged with you, or just dispensed all decency and just gawked at you? It seemed too much effort to resolve the question, so I did neither. I just ambled away. But that didn’t mean that the image of you didn’t attach itself in visible areas of my thoughts. Docile and delicate, like a cocoon, not wanting to be disturbed. Not knowing the grandeur of what was come.

As time flowed, so did the frequency with which you seemed to pop up inside my head. When I was writing and building models. When my mind was vacant during the weekends. What seemed like a tiny whisker of a thought seemed to keep growing. I knew it was growing. I had to do something about it sooner or later. All these kernel methods and machine learning would soon be conquered, and then I’d really have to do something about this feeling about you that kept growing. Well, soon enough the time really did arrive, and I made haste. Who could fetch me an introduction to you? Some sort of mutual acquaintance? Some good Samaritan whose sole purpose is to alleviate the pressure that builds in one’s mind because of an overwhelming attraction to another? Alas, there was no such Samaritan to do my bidding. When I finally confided of this to my closest ones, they shook their heads in unison and told me in no uncertain terms that you were not the right one for me. “I’d never picture you with that one!” blurted one confidant in particular.”This is about your happiness, don’t do this!” said another well meaning bosom pal. There really was no magical Samaritan. “But I really want you to give me an introduction. Can’t you see that I’m smitten?!”, I blurted.

Despite letting me know that it was perilously odd to be smitten with someone I’d never met, they agreed to do it for me. But only because they loved me. And bless Merlin’s beard, my thoroughly messy gamble did pay off. You said yes and off I dashed in great hurry to meet you.

They say that love begins at first sight. The corollary to this which is often completely unstated is that love grows exponentially at second sight. There I was in front of you at long last. My jaw might have as well dropped by what I saw in you. Well put-together and smiling, you seemed to radiate confidence. Your smile was as cute as the word cute itself. But it were your eyes that made me almost collapse. I don’t know how to verbally describe it, but the sight of your eyes just left me spellbound. I never wanted to look at anything else. Ever.

In the three years that have passed since I first met you properly, my love for you grown and changed in its hue and color. I’m still spellbound by your beauty and your intellect. I feel now as I felt back then, a burning desire to get to know everything about you. I often wonder what goes inside that head of yours, and I want to be immersed in them. Yes, you are feisty and sometimes unbearably childish, but I trust that’s something we have in common. Being childish is a mutual gift we give each other. I still feel drawn to you every time we laugh together. And I miss you very much every time I have to go away on a visit.

In many ways a retrospective look at our journey has redefined the concept of you in my head. I always likened you to a Dirichlet finite mixture model, where your seeming power to extract a latent underlying structure in my life made such a enormous and deep impact on it. But recent events have made me question this assumption – that your ability to put me on a trance and drive my need for you might be attached to just a few of your virtues. I’m sorry, but you seem more like the Indian Buffet Process. Your uncanny knack to have the influence you do on me is attributable to a seemingly infinite set of binary features and when combined with priors over these features makes it one mesmerizing continuous representation that makes me feel very much like how invited I felt when I looked at your eyes for the first time.

A cocoon when it attaches to a twig might seem dormant at first. The thought of you, once a nothing more than a cocoon, has metamorphosed into the grand and gorgeous butterfly that continues to drive me crazy. I love you so much, dear MIT.

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