A Pirate Walks into Starbucks…

I've heard about talk like a pirate day, but didn't know about dress like a pirate day. #arrgh #avast
I've heard about talk like a pirate day, but didn't know about dress like a pirate day. #arrgh #avast
I’ve heard about talk like a pirate day, but didn’t know about dress like a pirate day. #arrgh #avast

Instagram filter used: Brannan

Photo taken at: Starbucks

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Administrative Note: New Blog URL

For several years, I’ve hosted my personal blog at http://chrisaldrich.wordpress.com. This week I’ve moved everything over to a new address at http://boffosocko.com.

Those who have previously been subscribed by email will continue to receive email notifications of new posts as before.  WordPress.com followers will only see new posts in the Reader. You will not receive email updates unless you subscribe to receive those on the new site.  Some older subscribers may have missed one or two recent posts in the transition this week, so feel free to take a moment to catch up.

Others subscribed via RSS may potentially need to update their RSS feeds to reflect the change.

I’ve set up 301 page redirects so that those visiting old URL pages should automatically be redirected to the appropriate pages, but some may need to use the search box functionality to find the article or notes they were looking for.

If you have any issues/problems in this transition that you can’t seem to remedy directly, please email me directly; I’m happy to help.

Thanks for reading!

 

Maya Angelou bowled me over…

Her impact was both literal and figurative: It wasn’t just having read several of her books in high school at the behest of Ken Proctor, but on my way to listen to a lecture she was to present at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine c. 1993.

I was a few minutes late, and apparently she was a few minutes later. While rushing around a corner to get to the auditorium, she came around the other side moving even faster than I. She easily maintained her footing while I landed quite soundly on my back side. Her companion, the terrifically imposing Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., leaned over, picked me up completely off the ground and set me gently back on my feet. Her gracious apologies extended to a far nicer seat for the event than I could have deserved being about 15 minutes late. She not only let loose my “caged bird,” she signed my printed copy as well. R.I.P.

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Review of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t

Read The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't by Nate SilverNate Silver (Amazon.com)
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't Book Cover The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don't
Nate Silver
Business & Economics
Penguin Press HC
September 27, 2012
Hardcover
534
personal library

The founder of FiveThirtyEight.com challenges myths about predictions in subjects ranging from the financial market and weather to sports and politics, profiling the world of prediction to explain how readers can distinguish true signals from hype, in a report that also reveals the sources and societal costs of wrongful predictions.

Started Reading: May 25, 2013
Finished Reading: October 13, 2013

Given the technical nature of what Nate Silver does, and some of the early mentions of the book, I had higher hopes for the technical portions of the book. As usual for a popular text, I was left wanting a lot more. Again, the lack of any math left a lot to desire. I wish technical writers could get away with even a handful of equations, but wishing just won’t make it so.

The first few chapters were a bit more technical sounding, but eventually devolved into a more journalistic viewpoint of statistics, prediction, and forecasting in general within the areas of economics, political elections, weather forecasting, earthquakes, baseball, poker, chess, and terrorism. I have a feeling he lost a large part of his audience in the first few chapters by discussing the economic meltdown of 2008 first instead of baseball or poker and then getting into politics and economics.

While some of the discussion around each of these bigger topics are all intrinsically interesting and there were a few interesting tidbits I hadn’t heard or read about previously, on the whole it wasn’t really as novel as I had hoped it would be. I think it should be required reading for all politicians however, as I too often get the feeling that none of them think at this level.

There was some reasonably good philosophical discussion of Bayesian statistics versus Fisherian, but it was all too short and could have been fleshed out more significantly. I still prefer David Applebaum’s historical and philosophical discussion of probability in Probability and Information: An Integrated Approach though he surprisingly didn’t mention R.A. Fisher directly himself in his coverage.

It was interesting to run across additional mentions of power laws in the realms of earthquakes and terrorism after reading Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity: A Guided Tour (review here), but I’ll have to find some texts which describe the mathematics in full detail. There was surprisingly large amount of discussion skirting around the topics within complexity without delving into it in any substantive form.

For those with a pre-existing background in science and especially probability theory, I’d recommend skipping this and simply reading Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman’s work is referenced several times and his book seems less intuitive than some of the material Silver presents here.

This is the kind of text which should be required reading in high school civics classes. Perhaps it might motivate more students to be interested in statistics and science related pursuits as these are almost always at the root of most political and policy related questions at the end of the day.

For me, I’d personally give this three stars, but the broader public should view it with at least four stars if not five as there is some truly great stuff here. Unfortunately a lot of it is old hat or retreaded material for me.

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