this week i

enjoyed some statistical programming presentation advice (1) (2).

for a 15 minute conference will have barely started on your own contributions when you are half way through your allocated time..the audience needs time to absorb the purpose of your work and the context in which it is set.

wrapped up the shakespearean deadwood.  "some shit's best walked through alone."

recorded a simple guitar version of summertime.

saw stephen colbert in the flesh.

said hello to the ukranian embassy.

say oh lord what's the use?


this week i

watched the shoestring first-person katrina documentary trouble in the water.

wrote an algorithm to calculate grouped weighted means using sql in r, paving the way for analysis of huge survey data sets with free statistical software and limited computing resources.

found a readable discussion of good statistical programming practices.

a person does not really understand something until he can teach it to a computer

your program should not explode, or worse, produce plausible nonsense, but should instead complain noticeably and informatively

insufficiently documented software is indistinguishable from magic

saw u2 in baltimore.

beat minesweeper.

hit a language families gem on wikipedia.

got an awesome postcard.

am infinitely pleased by the new cigarette warning labels.

have gotten into deadwood.  best line so far: "announcin your plans is a good way to hear god laugh."


this week i

think i died and went to seattle.

worked remotely for one caffeinated day at the university of washington's inspiring library..

..if that's not magical enough: all campus fountains are equipped with duckling ramps (bottom center).

calculated the percent of nonelderly americans touched by medicaid in the past 20 years for our ceo.  also ran the medicare statistics, but those were a cinch.

unleashed new medicare advantage enrollment data on the world.

presented our profile of expected exchange enrollees paper to a jury of my peers..

..complete with a post-lecture noogie hazing.

contributed to a talk about racial and ethnic health disparities between health professional shortage area residents and non-residents..another about privatized medicare quality ratings and the new money that comes with them..a poster about access to care disparities in provider shortage areas..

..and some preliminary research about competition in the privatized medicare insurance market.
shared smiles with old friends.

browsed the famous fish market..

art on the fly

semi-psychotic parking zones

mount rainier in the distance

..and quasi-brazilian architecture.

ferried out to bainbridge island..

..for a bbq in the rainforest.

fought for our food.

dug up a short but sweet essay by mark twain about the fitful moments of comedians.

if the pause is too short the impressive point is passed, and [if too long] the audience have had time to divine that a surprise is intended-and then you can't surprise them, of must get the pause right; and you will find it the most troublesome and aggravating and uncertain thing you ever undertook.

toured the gold rush museum, with its probability visualization explaining why not to rush for gold.

climbed to the top story of the public library.

really like taxes.

scoped out the dockside olympic sculpture garden.  after initially booming as a trading port and route to the klondike, seattle has nurtured solid 21st century industry - microsoft, amazon, starbucks, boeing.  while new york relies on a diseased financial sector and d.c. draws success from artificial bureaucracy, seattle embodies the western spirit.

gotta say, one of our best cities.


this week i

had the salted caramel, why would anyone ever eat anything else.  only available tuesday and saturday.

discovered a google maps-based api to calculate the shortest distance when traveling to multiple locations and order doesn't matter.  useful for designing a walking tour.

now have an answer to 'best ethiopian food in town?'

watched sunset over the potomac before cuban ballet at the kennedy center.

fried a steak to accompany some sriracha-soaked avocado slices.

caught up on the essays..

(1) the decider's memoir

the world's longest prize acceptance speech

in the late 1960s, george bush jr was at yale, branding the asses of pledges to the delta kappa epsilon fraternity with a hot coathanger

pamphlets sold by the national parks service explaining that the grand canyon was created by the flood

the sunnier halves of half-truths

(2) a syrian immigrant in the hurricane

due process went the way of the levees

new orleans, he said, was 'going to look like little somalia'

(3) the reconstruction of neural networks

entered what he called 'deep blindness,' where he could not conjure up any images at all, not even familiar ones, like those of his wife and children

a reservoir of visualization to the point where he could compute large sums on an internal blackboard and see a gearbox in three dimensions

(4) the world after wikileaks

just as the concept of 'privacy' fades into obscurity when sixteen-year-olds can present their innermost thoughts to an audience of billions, so, too, the internet distribution of official secrets changes the rules of the game

the technology has outpaced the ethics

(5) cambodia past and present

by confronting the crimes committed between 1975 and 1979, the khmer rouge trials offer hope of breaking the pattern of impunity that has characterized cambodia's recent history.  but they could also allow cambodia's leaders to claim a commitment to justice and the rule of law while avoiding accountability for their own crimes and repressive practices.

hun sen, now one of the world's longest-serving prime ministers..uses pol pot's record as a yardstick to measure progress, thereby making failure impossible.

(6) railway advocacy

but railway stations built a century or even a century and a half ago..not only appeal aesthetically and are increasingly objects of affection and admiration: they work..this is a testament to the quality of their design and construction, of course; but it also speaks to their perennial contempraneity.

(7) silencing the chinese

people learned not to kill rats immediately; it was better to tie a string to a rat's leg, follow it to its hole, and kill it then.  that way one could eat the rat as well as dig down into its hole to recover whatever grain it might have stored below.

(8) the end of kodachrome - as used in my old south america super8 film.

(9) the advent of russian entertainment television

in russian these kick-backs are known as otkat, 'backwash'

(10) before mubarak left

in each case the ruler had been in place so long that half the population had no memory of his predecessor

(11) written february 4th, and now obama calls for the 1967 borders

israel's own cost-benefit calculations have changed.  now that it is on the verge of reverting to an earlier isolation - its peace agreements with egypt and jordan are at risk, international assaults on its legitimacy are newly underway - a government that rejects the urgent demands of its only remaining friend will not survive for long.

(12) big bangs, big crunches

the long march of cosmology since the renaissance has been marked by one seemingly preposterous proposal after another, from copernicus's assertion that the earth whizzes around the sun (our own sensations of stillness notwithstanding), to einstein's suggestion that space and time are as wobbly as a trampoline.

what would the universe look like after, say, 10^100 years, a timescale equivalent to the current age of our observable universe raised to the tenth power?

(13) the latest television hit

as much as i disliked the show, i did find myself persisting.  why?

(14) the likely survival of the individual mandate

the congressional budget office estimated that in 2008 the uninsured shifted $43 billion of health care costs to others.

judge hudson's decision reads as if it were written at the beginning of the twentieth rather than the twenty-first century.  it rests on formalistic distinctions-between 'activity' and 'inactivity,' and between 'taxing' and 'regulating'-that recall jurisprudence the supreme court has long since abandoned, and abandoned for good reason.  to uphold judge hudson's decision would require the rewriting of several major and well-established tenets of constitutional law.  even this supreme court, as conservative a court as we have had in living memory, is unlikely to do that.

congress plainly can tax for the purpose of providing health insurance.  it does so already, through medicare and medicaid.

(15) dictator for life

a despairing tunisian provincial fruit and vegetable vendor..his photo is now everywhere in tunisia-in the places where ben ali's portrait used to be

(16) what to do about malaria

with all due respect..a vaccine would be great, but that's at least ten years away.  and with 2 million kids dying every year from malaria, that's 20 million freakin' kids that will die.  in my humble opinion the gates foundation ought to balance a bit more of its funding to get drugs to these kids now.

(17) the mysterious indian chief

sightings of the devil..he was wearing a suit and tie and looked like an ordinary man..except for his thick, long tail.

(18) math need and myth in the economy

fully 26 percent of us physicians are now foreign-born

alexander hamilton: 'it is in the interest of the united states to open every possible avenue to emigration from abroad..of ingenious and valuable workmen in different arts and trades.'

(19) the internet, our thoughts, and our physical mind

who could resist? certainly not i.

'neuroplasticity':  the idea that experience affects the structure of the brain.

we face many information faucets, all going full blast.  our little thimble overflows, as we rush from one faucet to the next

the digerati are not impressed by such avowals, 'no one reads war and peace' .. (woody allen solved that problem by taking a speed-reading course and then reading war and peace in one sitting.  'it was about russia,' he said afterwards).

i had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then i realised the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less.  it provides us with external cognitive servants - silicon memory systems

(20) why we maintain the death penalty

the most common cause of death among death-row inmates is 'natural causes'

when germany outlawed capital punishment in its 1949 constitution, two-thirds of its population were still in favor.  francois mitterand's administration abolished it in 1981, ignoring the 73 per cent of the french population who approved of it.  in the uk, 76 per cent of respondents backed it in 1995, nearly three decades after abolition.  meanwhile, about 65 per cent of the american public supported it in 2001.

it's not the worst murderers who die, but those with the worst lawyers.

(21) the chess champion

one of the greatest known bouts of psychoanalysis in absentia the world has ever seen.

(22) slime cows and siberian grendel

until around 1930, tigers continued to pose such a risk that, in north korea, the bulk of offerings made to some buddhist shrines were prayers for protection from these animals.

(23) the king of handcuffs

(24) the past fifty years of the book

books were hamburgers, fast-moving items with mass appeal served by unsophisticated staff to anonymous customers.

technological change is discontinuous

(25) hawking's latest in multiverses..and the hippocratic oath, but for physicists: avert the next manhattan project

(26) what's wrong with this country

i mentioned to both strangers and friends the video wikileaks released of a helicopter in baghdad gunning down reuters journalists and civilians while its crew whooped with delight.  they either hadn't watched it, or just wanted to talk about what a bad man assange was and whether he ought to be taken out.

(27) tax havens come home

a race to the bottom

'delaware can protect you from politics.'

(28) more on that digital public library of america idea

 (29) public vs. private vs. technology in the postal system

the consumer, as europe's former citizens are now known.

a few hundred giant firms and organizations which want to send bursts of millions of letters and catalogues every few days are competing for the same set of postal workers with millions of people who want to send a few christmas cards and once in a while something that needs signing.  in this competition the power lies with the few, whose priority is cheapness, rather than the many, whose priority is regularity and universality; cheapness wins, and it is the postal workers who suffer.

(30) the race to build the catalog of life

an ant that had evolved to resemble a spider.

when the malarial parasite was linked to mosquites..suddenly, the capacity to distinguish insects by the tiniest differences in wing venation or 'hairs on legs' became much more than a diverting hobby for eccentric naturalists: it was a lifesaver..a utilitarian argument has been used ever since to justify species hunting: who knows if this small weed might not contain a cure for cancer?

darwin..became..'a machine for generating hypotheses'.

(31) what development statistics from india, china, bangladesh mean

(32) independent flu data, please

(33) the deindustrialization of america

stop scapegoating public sector workers for problems that originated on wall street

interested in identity politics rather than class politics, in individual rights rather than collective ones


this week i

ate some chicken hearts with my old neurobiologist physicist friend bruno..

..and then gave a two-hour workshop introducing his graduate students to r.

noted for next time: send out a pre-lecture packet and make sure to conclude with some graphics.

drove back to ipanema..

 ..for some triple-bacon carbonara.

appreciate the expansion of google flu trends into google correlate.  rather than forcing the search topic, they now let you experiment with the timing and wording of correlations.

walked through the botanical gardens.

hopped on a bus to paraty, seen here via doctored-up photo..

here, selling out just a little

..and here, impersonating venice a bit too well.

felt torn.  so many places i want to be.  our richer expenditures of time have the unfortunate side effect of reminding us of the limitlessness of experience under a finite clock.

found a good description of my own country, now..

‘america created the 20th century,’ gertrude stein wrote in the autobiography of alice b. toklas, ‘and since all the other countries are now either living or commencing to be living a 20th-century life, america having begun the creation of the 20th century in the sixties of the 19th century is now the oldest country in the world.’ she meant, quite reasonably, that america was the oldest country in the world because it was the first to be modern.

..and an in-depth look at brazil's rise.

enjoying the approval of 80 per cent of its citizens.  by any criterion, luiz inacio da silva is the most successful politician of his time.

lula's victories in 2002 and 2006 can be mapped with uncanny closeness onto roosevelt's of 1932 and 1936

returned to rio.

strolled along the beach to see..

tightrope infertility

extreme security precautions

talented soccer volleyballers

rough surf.

don't fully understand the portuguese language, but love it anyway..

..for example, the word for 'the' is 'o', so you constantly think people are lamenting something when they're just neutrally introducing it.  this plaque should not be confused for walt whitman's hit single, "oh captain! my captain!"

..also, i think that milkshake carried a choking hazard warning, but i'm certain it was delicious.

toured the famous lapa aqueduct.

can't explain it, but the whole country smells good.

headed home before homesickness stung.  a warm and wonderful place to be.