this week i

posted code to analyze a little survey about meals on wheels and other programs for american seniors.

asked curtis an important physics question..

..he explained some stuff via skype, then we solicited second opinions from stackoverflow.

concluded: bend your knees before the bridge collapses, jump as late as you can.

joined andrea from the census bureau, as they practice for carnaval.

walked two blocks to my neighborhood beach..

 ..just before sunrise.


this week i

updated our report on the burden of health expenses on older and disabled households.

squoze half a lime into cold water, tasted better than gatorade.

learned that the harvard school of public health named their indian version of the health and retirement study the "longitudinal aging study in india" - abbreviated: lasi.  another reason to go to hopkins.

lectured at the brazilian census bureau's graduate school of statistical sciences.

walked around my neighborhood a bit.. cup-, olympic-, or just bustling economy-construction.

toured the hand-planted tijuca national forest with - get this - the president-elect of the international statistical institute, dr. pedro silva..

not pictured: me waterfall-swimming with census bureau employees.  only in brazil.

the country's namesake

faded pink chapels, deep in the woods

excitable little macaques..

..breaking stereotypes, dining on the jackfruit instead

diurnal raccoon cousins

dwellings lakeside, seaside, mountainside


gradually withdrew from air conditioning, only on the cooler evenings.

feel tired, sad, alone, wonderful, perhaps just like this.

travel with a bookshelf.

(1) university policy

english higher education is, to change the metaphor, seen less as a useful pilot experiment and more as the canary in the mine

july 2012 the senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions..found that at such institutions a mere 17.4 per cent of annual revenue was spent on teaching, while nearly 20 per cent was distributed as profit (the proportion spent on marketing and recruitment was even higher).

drop-out rates of 63 percent for bachelor's degrees and 84 per cent for associate degrees

the biggest player in this market is the university of phoenix..89 per cent of [their] revenue comes from federal student spends twice as much on marketing as on teaching

one market consultancy group has described the higher education sector as 'treasure island'

(2) the five eyes

we are still in the dark about most of the nsa's actual methods and day to day activities

every time one of the spies' methods comes under the spotlight, questions of legality arise.  the law is changed, purpotedly to stop such abuses happening again.  but inevitably the new law includes a new route by which some version of the old system is made valid again, and a programme that once had to be kept highly secret can be discussed in public as much as you like

(3) more china in central asia

'we came to moscow as political correspondents we leave as crime reporters'

group resentment that turns to violence is more easily sparked by ethnic jealousies than by anger with the regime

the flag usually follows when the dominant power decides its merchants and settlers need 'protection'

the 'sixth people of central asia'

cold politically and scorching economically

(4) to michelle rhee: if we cannot rank our doctors, how can we rank our teachers?

she now heads a lobbying organization called studentsfirst, which opposes tenure for teachers and has raised over $1 billion for political candidates whom it finds congenial

untroubled by doubt

"testing mania"

strange to hear such faith in the salutary power of competition from someone who calls herself "radical"

for every 'miracle' school..there are scores of 'dumpster schools'

to read rhee and ravitch in sequence is like hearing a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch followed by the report of an auditor who discloses mistakes and outright falsehoods in the accounts of the firm that's trying to make the sale

(5) postwar collective guilt

277,000 legitimate dutch births in 1946 constituted the highest figure in the recorded history of the nation

need to prove to themselves that they were still alive

another nurse promised to rip the jews apart as soon as surgery was over

once you have no papers, you do not exist

(6) the women of india

"missing women," which refers to the shortfall of the actual number of women from the number we would expect to see, given the size of the male population

indians buy more newspapers every day than any other nation

india's problem may well lie not so much in a particularly high incidence of rapes, but in its inefficient policing, bad security arrangements, slow-moving judicial system, and, ultimately, the callousness of the society

bangladesh's steel fall in total fertility rate from nearly seven children not long ago to 2.2 now (quite close to the replacement rate of 2.1) is strongly connected with the power of women to gain more control of their lives, and both girls' education and women's outside employment have done much to yield that result

females do better than males in survival, if they have equal care, which they tend to get in the uterus

(7) the constitutionality of intervention in syria

past presidential violations of the constitution hardly justify unconstitutional action today

if the only time presidents should seek congressional authorization is when they are sure they will get it, the constitution's war powers clause would be a toothless check

(8) prison data

in 2011 and 2012, 3.2 percent of all people in jail, 4.0 percent of state and federal prisoners, and 9.5 percent of those held in juvenile detention reported having been sexually abused in their current facility during the preceding year

in juvenile facilities, victims of sexual misconduct by staff members were more likely to report eleven or more instances of abuse than a single, isolated occurrence

the number of jails denying access to the bjs has doubled with each new version of the national inmate survey

(9) the new oil

amazon..didn't make a profit for six years

the odd thing about writing even a cursory reprise of the events attendant to the birth of the internet is that those events are so recent that most of us have lived through them..who can forget the fuzzy hiss and chime of the dial-up modem

for these internet companies, the convenience of sending e-mail, or posting high school reunion pictures, or finding an out-of-the-way tamale stand near reno is merely bait to lure users into offering up the intimacies of their lives, often without realizing how or where or that those intimacies travel

50 of the most popular websites (representing 40 percent of all web pages viewed by americans) placed a total of 3,180 tracking devices on the journal's test computer..most of these devices were unknown to the user

a group of clever programmers launched a website called eeightmaps that showed the names and addresses of anyone who had donated over $100 to the campaign to prohibit same-sex marriage in those who support same-sex marriage this may seem just desserts, but the precedent has been set, and next time the targets may be those who support marriage equality or gun control or abortion

half of all states use some kind of predictive data analysis when making parole decisions

(10) human labor in the robotics age

in the 1810s, handweavers..rampaged through factories in the english midlands, smashing the new automated looms that were allowing less skilled (and therefore lower-paid) workers to replace them

keynes..speculated that..society would deemphasize the link between people's personal role in the production process and their claim on what gets produced

from 1973 to 2012, per capita economic production in the united states expanded by 93 percent but the median american family's real income rose by only 12 percent

10 percent of americans received fully one half of the country's total income in 2012..the top 1 percent received nearly half of that

how much of our total income will accrue to those who own the capital rather than those who do the work

(11) us policy toward syria

the world may be "better off without saddam hussein," as former officials of the bush administration never tire of insisting, but it is a stark fact that the war to unseat him, which cost more than $1 trillion and nearly five thousand american lives, has left the united states dramatically worse off in its strategic position in the middle east

"in my meetings with american policymakers..i often detect a conversation between ghosts.  the ghosts of afghanistan and iraq are vying with the ghosts of rwanda and kosovo"

(12) the architect of the modern un

his first years were blessed with geostrategic luck.  stalin died weeks before his selection, senator mccarthy and his threat to the un went into eclipse, and between 1953 and 1956 there was a lull in the cold war that enabled hammarskjold to revive and rebuild the institution

leave it to dag


this week i

published code to work with the national immunization survey, plus a mildly humorous accompanying blog post.

get high when i read the enrollment numbers, especially when my name is in footnote #10.

rented a simple place.

ran along sugarloaf mountain three days, free online yoga the other two.

add brazilian architects to the italian chefs, british police, german engineers list of best-of stereotypes.

got together with the census bureau over lunch.  a first meeting with people who understand your discipline feels just like chatting with old friends.

ate more chicken hearts with bruno.  what is with this place?  also: yum.

found the street music party on the rua of the listener.

been all around this world, but jerry still sings it better than i do.


(1) the ocean cockroach

most jellyfish are little more than gelatinous bags containing digestive organs and gonads drifting at the whim of the current

after half a billion years of quiescence, they're on the move

the creatures arrived from the east coast of the us in seawater ballast (seawater a ship takes into its hold once it has discharged its cargo to retain its stability)

a stingy-slimy killing field

if jellyfish fall on hard times, they can simply "de-grow"

(2) state politics

dysfunction begins in the states

the ohio election: obama won the state with 51 percent of the vote, but because of redistricting, its house delegation is 75 percent republican and 25 percent democratic

only an estimated thirty-five house seats out of 435 will actually be competitive in the 2014 election

(3) public health 1901

discouraging hazardous practices such as feeding the baby beer

tantamount to bolshevism..the ama's position to a congressional committee: we oppose this bill because, if you are going to save the lives of all these women and children at public expense, what inducement will there be for young men to study medicine?

eugenically minded child health experts believed that the deaths of newborns..were due to their inborn "sub-normality"


this week i

co-wrote how many people have nongroup insurance.  consider it a baseline for the non-employer private health insurance market, before the affordable care act took effect.

moved most of the download.file calls over to hannes' download.cache function instead.  simply: if a file has already been downloaded, do not download it again.

find myself in an ancient land.


(1) the nsa's everything

yardley convinced newcomb carlton, the president of western union, to grant the black chamber secret access on a daily basis to the private messages passing over his wires - the internet of the day

like going through and stumbling and finding somebody's diary and reading it

(2) present tense brazil

the fastest urbanization of any country in recent times

of rio's 6.3 million people, 1.4 million live in the favelas

(3) turkmenistan, kazakhstan, uzbekistan, kyrgyzstan, and tajikistan

"we are not celebrating - we are mourning our independence"

china has broken the economic connections that traditionally tied central asia to russia

although he was stopped from entering the city until after the stacks of dead bodies had been cleared away

"the greatest natural fortress in the world"

(4) the war that shaped the century

the european continent was at peace on the morning of sunday, 28 june 1914, when archduke franz ferdinand, the austrian heir to the throne, and his wife, sophie chotek, arrived at sarajevo railway station.  thirty-seven days later, it was at war

without this conflict it is difficult to imagine the october revolution of 1917, the rise of stalinism, the ascendancy of italian facism, the nazi seizure of power or the holocaust

the calamity from which all other calamities sprang

to continentialise the conflict

(5) the birth of endocrinology

a stab in the heart makes better cinema

no wonder it took so long for them to be noticed

purified extract of sheep and calf adrenal glands..could cause narrowing of the arteries and a rise in blood pressure

it even revivified the heart of a dog that had been dead for five minutes, though the effect was disappointingly temporary

(6) depression in the silly media

a very personal statement about what it was like to be someone who continuously experienced life as not worth living

when i told one of her critics that i had often written about that sort of state and asked if i too should have shut up, or not been published, they replied that it was different because 'you write well'

because of her anorexia - which she partly blames on her mother wanting her to eat buttered toast and marmalade for breakfast - she didn't have a period until she was 19, and she was still a virgin, apparently (i can't manage to finish the sentence without that 'apparently'), into her thirties


this week i

quit my job.

turned in my keys to the office.

signed a yearlong contract with my former employer.

purchased the company laptop.  marked my territory.

practiced pimsleur portuguese for thirty minutes each morning.

traveled 37,287 miles by plane this year.  divided by 260 workdays, that would be a 72 mile one-way commute.

landed in brazil for the new year.


this week i

published a brief on the characteristics of individuals who fall in the supreme court's coverage gap, a second brief on the effects of the coverage gap in the world of health disparities, and some research to soothe the hysteria over what happens if younger adults do not enroll in state exchanges.  the new republic mentioned me by name and the washington post called me an expert, which almost never happens.  then robin wrote about uninsured but currently eligible for medicaid and, last one i swear, larry posted this infographic simplifying where everybody lands.

figured out which colleagues to send end-of-the-year gifts with mit's immersion then signed up for the amazon prime free trial, knocked out all of my christmas shopping, cancelled my amazon prime free trial.

wonder if there'll ever be a day when we blind ourselves to divert the capacity of our brains from vision to deeper thought.  flying cars first, of course.

bought new glasses.

loafed around with dr. shivakoti and his lovely wife who, um, well, works for deborah persaud.

spent the day on nine.

ate a long lunch with emma and howard.  we were all surprised that siri did not understand the command, "send mom porn stash."  although perhaps not as surprised as mrs. clark would've been had it actually worked.

drank in warm hamden coffee, smiles.

caption the mandela selfie: michelle obama 2016.

call dibs on david cameron in our 34th street reenactment.

drove to new jersey for my aunt's christmas..

..where the dogs are in charge.

couldn't figure out the cross-breed, so we just went with "a giant beagle" - i give you megabeagle.

cannot visit without eating at least one cheesesteak.  state law.

receive a best christmas present every year, this year no different.

tuned the dulcimer.  learned one real song done right by johnny cash.  then followed the lyrics.

this week i

built a mountain dulcimer.  matthew wrote this post about it.

found a dusty old book..

..with almost one hundred pages of exploded designs.

convinced matthew..

..and david to join in.

borrowed my father's car..

to maryland's pennsylvania border

hand-picked our inventory

..alongside mennonite lumberjacks.

planed the boards down to appropriate instrument thickness.

loaded up diagonally.

paid near nothing.

drove carefully.

parked in the woodshop.

 measured out the curves.

traced out the mold.


..the white whale.

squared up the sides.

fired up the steamer.

clamped the curves into place..

..but they sprung back too quickly.  blame the weather.

disposed of mold number one, built mold number two.

regrouped over some coffee.  reinvented our autographs.

spent our snow day wisely.

ran a straightener to assure symmetry.

confirmed both fit and grain pattern.

glued the fronts and backs right down the spine.

join this walnut in perfect matrimony.

soaked the sides overnight.

slept on david's air mattress more than once.

sawed the endoskeleton.

smoothed every groove.

have no common ancestors.  none.

sawed through epoxy, still unclear how this fit into the construction plans.

retried the curvature of the sides.

kept them warm at david's house.

maintained the vice for two tense days.

hollowed out the sound-cavity on the back of the fretboard.

drilled through the tuning holes near the top of the fretboard.

carved homes for both nut and bridge.

circumcised the far bottom edge.  a sonic improvement, allegedly.

sanded down the strumming well.

glued in some romantic padauk..

..and the nut and the bridge.

measured out the frets.

had our first taste of fame.

cut across the first two frets.

repeated ad nauseam.

filed down the prickly edges.

plotted the tuning pegs.

drilled into a dowel.

handmade a few violin clamps.

figured out a shortcut.

mass-manufactured luthier clamps.

understood most of what transpired, but not this part.

broke for ms pac-man.

opened up those ratchet straps.

had the sides, now needed matching tops and bottoms.

pasted on the side-reinforcements, conceptualized.

glued on both sides.  wow.


still might just be a box

mowed down the top-center.

saw something semi-recognizable.

aligned the fretboard hollows.

pressed on the top.

spoke-shaved every corner.

sanded down the body.

flooded each imperfection with epoxy.

hammered in the bottom pegs.

ate nutella donuts.  do not miss this step in the process.

blew the dust out of the body.

gazed at the innards one last time.

laid down the fretboard.

didn't know ravi shankar played dulcimer too.

dusted the naked instrument.

coated her in tung oil.

polished every crevice.

hung her from the ceiling to make sure we hit every spot.  kind of like achilles' mom.

attached the first few strings.

have something.

brought her back to david's for the afternoon.

let 'er rip.

built a mountain dulcimer.