2011 04 03
Small Sample Size Theater

Posted by in: Baseball, logic, Math

The baseball season has begun! Each MLB baseball team has played two games. There isn’t a lot of solid trend data to report on, yet articles must be written – and so, quoth S – “it’s time for another edition of Small Sample Size Theater”.

In baseball, of course, this means things like:
The Mariners, predicted to be terrible this season, are tied for first in the league!

(Also there are nineteen pitchers tied with an unbelievable 0.00 ERA. This season looks set to turn a lot of conventional wisdom on its head.)

We see Small Sample Size Theater in other domains as well; no surprise that most trend reporting is of this type. I wanted to post this today because I think the term is so apt. And of course, if my posting this year keeps up at this rate, I’ll post well over 300 entries, which would more than double my previous record. In year seven, anything is possible.

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2008 11 05
Coverage of Election Day 2008

The Newseum has a fun feature called Today’s Front Pages, the front pages of newspapers from around the US and the world. As of my posting this at 3 AM Eastern time Nov 5, it hasn’t yet ticked over to showing the Nov 5 papers, but maybe it will have by the time you read this. Here’s the link if you’re reading this after Nov 5 2008.

Right now the NYT home page has a tall all-caps OBAMA as its lone topline, then a smaller subhead below. I like this presentation best of the newspaper pages I’ve seen so far.

Another site that should have good stuff tomorrow: The Big Picture, the Boston Globe’s blog of giant-size photos.

Howls of outrage (3)

2008 10 25
Wassup 2008

Here’s a short video to watch (unless you are sick to death of US election stuff). It’s a take-off on a series of beer ads from several years ago which had a group of friends going “Wassup?” “Wazzzzzzuuuuuupppp?” to each other on the phone.

Wassup 2008

Keep watching to the end.

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2008 09 12
Childrearing advice from Wondermark

Posted by in: Books


Howls of outrage (2)

2008 06 28
House hunt

So Spencer and I are probably going to buy a house in the next year or so. Maybe much sooner than that. This means a lot of looking at grim news about the market and the interest rates and the stock market and other things we have heretofore ignored, in addition to speculating about the future of the small semi-rural town where we’re living. (This means a lot of opportunity for noodling around on the internet doing “research”.) We’re trying to get an older house in an ok neighborhood within walking distance of the college, and this means there are not a lot of places to choose from. Will keep y’all posted as events unfold.

At any rate – It’s Lovely, I’ll Take It is a source of relief during the search. Ridiculous photos from real estate listings on the west coast. Similar pics are posted of places in our area – a farmhouse built in 1800 that’s been converted a la “Monster House” with fake jungle sections, full wall airbrush-style murals of dolphins, etc. A house with dried flowers in bunches all over the walls, floor to ceiling, with about a half dozen trophy deer heads interspersed.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2008 04 23
Notes on Punctuation

If you don’t know it (as I didn’t) go read Lewis Thomas’ short essay Notes on Punctuation.

Ok, maybe only if you are a colossal nerd. But aren’t you? Really?

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2008 03 29
Two baseball videos

Posted by in: Baseball, Videos

Pop musician John Mayer does play-by-play on a Red Sox game in Japan, with an acute sense of his own inability to do play-by-play. (hosted at the funny “awful announcing” blog)

Royals outfielder Joey Gathright avoids a collision with style.

Howls of outrage (4)

2008 02 29
Critical Idiom Shortage

Posted by in: Language, Odds and ends

I am weeping with laughter at this. (I’ve had a margarita, which may explain it partly.)

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2008 02 12
How working at a game store combines with grad school angst

Posted by in: Academia, Games, Philosophy

Last night, I had a dream about Bertrand Russell.

I was still at my Canadian university. He was visiting, trying to get an offer there so he could go negotiate with his home university (not intending to come to Canada, just making everyone spend a bunch of money and time so he could get a raise). He was stalking magisterially about the common room, and someone introduced him to me and it became my job to entertain him for a little while. He sat down and asked, “So, do you have any puzzles?” – meaning logic puzzles or philosophical puzzles that he could work on.

Guilt and horror. Oh crap, I haven’t been thinking about this stuff well enough to have anything good to say to him… yet more evidence that I shouldn’t be in philosophy. Is he giving me a look of withering disapproval? I can’t bear to look. Scanning the bookshelf in hopes of finding inspiration.

Then it came to me: we could play a strategically interesting boardgame. He would be entertained and I would be off the hook. What board game best suits the situation? It should be short, a perfect information game, and a game where I have a chance.

I took down Hey That’s My Fish (in which penguins compete to eat the most fish – it is actually a very short strategic game, very fun) and started to set it up. Then the dream ended, so we’ll never know whether I beat Bertrand Russell in Hey that’s my Fish.

Howls of outrage (4)

2008 02 01
Bleg, or, phleg: Aristotle, catharsis, porn

It’s a philosophy-bleg!

My colleague is teaching Aristotle on catharsis this afternoon. The cartoon view of catharsis is that drama (or just? mainly? tragedy) is useful because it allows us to purge our harmful emotions by getting emotionally wrought over a fictional situation. My colleague is wondering whether Aristotle could say pornography is useful for purging the bad emotion (or, excess emotion?) of lust, or whether Aristotle would be required to say that porn is bad because it forms bad habits. So, Aristotle: for or against porn?

I told him I knew the man for this job, and then I thought other people might be interested too so I’m posting this rather than emailing you, CY.

Howls of outrage (9)

2008 01 29
History comix

From Spencer, by way of Wondermark, artist Kate Beaton has made short comics about 20 historical figures. They’re great and you should go look at them.

Howls of outrage (3)

2008 01 26
Kit Fine tribute video

Kit Fine is a philosopher who writes on logic, metaphysics, language, and other issues in a fairly technical way. With that background, I present Kit Fine: Doin it well.

Is Kit Fine hard to read, so we are macho if we read him? Does Kit Fine inspire us to do difficult things by his salubrious example? What is this video trying to tell us? I hope I’m not missing a philosophy joke out of ignorance; I’ll be really embarrassed if I am.

Whatever it is, I’m strangely fascinated.

Howls of outrage (5)

2008 01 26
System compatibility, writ large

The NYT had a little blip today about the new freight train service between China and Germany. It’s interesting in itself, and especially so because apparently Russia and Mongolia’s national railroads use a different gauge than the national railroads of China, Germany, Poland and whatever other country the route passes through. So a single train can’t make the journey. They have to unload the freight and re-load it, to transfer between trains that run on the relevant gauges. I love this for reasons I’m having a hard time articulating fully. Giant systems, huge investments of resources and labor and time for their respective countries, where the decisions about the basic specs have huge ramifications, and it would be just a nightmare to fix.

But here’s where the NYT story surpasses itself into infrastructure geek sublimity. Because a similar problem of incompatible gauges has cropped up at other times in history, and the article links to the amazing example of the US southern railroads, which in 1886 converted almost 12,000 miles of track (and all their working trains too) to a different gauge in two days.

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2008 01 26
Fragments discovered at Herculaneum…

…reveal a tiny window onto the oddity of the ancient world. Or maybe, the perpetual oddity of the human world. (I found this linked from Metafilter, more tidbits there on the recovered stuff.)

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2008 01 11
All monotheists are equal, and above others

Via Eszter Hargittai, this report of a court decision that atheists cannot be adoptive parents in New Jersey. It’s now being appealed. The reasoning of the decision as described in that article is transparently loopy. For one thing, it suggests that the state would need take away the biological children of atheist parents, as well. Also [bitter semi-coherent rant about other nutso consequences of this judge’s theory redacted].

One of my students brought a related amazing fact to my attention this past semester. In Maryland, the original state constitution forbade atheists from holding public office. The clause (and similar ones in other state constitutions) were rendered ineffectual by a US Supreme Court decision in 1961, but the text remains in the state’s constitution. Here’s an explanation with details – scroll down to “religious discrimination in state constitutions” and then to “why these clauses are no longer valid”.

This kind of shit fills me with burning fiery anger. I don’t have anything funny to say about, maybe youse guys can come up with something.
(Also, isn’t it odd that fiery is spelled that way, rather than “firey”?)

Howls of outrage (14)