Archive for March, 2014
25 Mar 2014

Nat Silver Who Accurately Predicted All 50 States in 2012 Has Good News for the GOP in 2014



Nate Silver, the New York Times statistics whiz and FiveThirtyEight founder and chief editor who accurately predicted every state’s election results in the 2012 election, has some good news for the Grand Old Party: The 2014 midterm Senate election he deemed a toss-up last July now projects a slight edge for the Republicans. Why the switch? He explains that Obama’s shrinking approval ratings and the fact that Republicans have recruited quality candidates have given the party the edge they now enjoy.

Hot Air reports that Silver predicts a has a 60% chance for the GOP to take control of the upper chamber, and a 30% chance of winning it big. Of the 36 Senate races this November, he’s predicting that Republicans will pick up 6 seats, and possibly as many as 11. Senators Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan are some of the incumbent Democrats whose seats are considered vulnerable. Montana, West Virginia, Arkansas and South Dakota are Democrat-held seats likely to be picked up by the GOP.

25 Mar 2014

Havana House


24 Mar 2014

“Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”

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Judith Levy, editor of Ricochet, went through 175 responses to The Edge’s 2014 inquiry: What scientific idea is ready for retirement?, and selected a few responses offering very likely the best candidate: statistics.

Emanuel Derman, professor of financial engineering at Columbia, wrote that the power of statistics is an idea worth retiring:

    …nowadays the world, and especially the world of the social sciences, is increasingly in love with statistics and data science as a source of knowledge and truth itself. Some people have even claimed that computer-aided statistical analysis of patterns will replace our traditional methods of discovering the truth, not only in the social sciences and medicine, but in the natural sciences too.

    … Statistics—the field itself—is a kind of Caliban, sired somewhere on an island in the region between mathematics and the natural sciences. It is neither purely a language nor purely a science of the natural world, but rather a collection of techniques to be applied, I believe, to test hypotheses. Statistics in isolation can seek only to find past tendencies and correlations, and assume that they will persist. But in a famous unattributed phrase, correlation is not causation.

    Science is a battle to find causes and explanations amidst the confusion of data. Let us not get too enamored of data science, whose great triumphs so far are mainly in advertising and persuasion. Data alone has no voice. There is no “raw” data, as Kepler’s saga shows. Choosing what data to collect and how to think about it takes insight into the invisible; making good sense of the data collected requires the classic conservative methods: intuition, modeling, theorizing, and then, finally, statistics.

Science journalist Charles Seife wrote that “statistical significance” is almost invariably misused, to the point that it has become

    a boon for the mediocre and for the credulous, for the dishonest and for the merely incompetent. It turns a meaningless result into something publishable, transforms a waste of time and effort into the raw fuel of scientific careers. It was designed to help researchers distinguish a real effect from a statistical fluke, but it has become a quantitative justification for dressing nonsense up in the mantle of respectability. And it’s the single biggest reason that most of the scientific and medical literature isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
24 Mar 2014

New York Doesn’t Love You


John DeVore has a great rant expressing his love/hate relationship with the world’s financial center city which just elected a communist mayor by a 73% margin.

New York isn’t your fantasy. You’re the fantasy in New York’s imagination. One day the fever will break and every New Yorker will immediately cease to be.

If New York were a cat, it would eat your face after you collapsed in the kitchen from a heart attack.

New York is Galactus. New York is Cthulhu. New York doesn’t change; it mutates. Evolves. In two hundred years it will have a hundred thousand centipede legs and the entire mass will migrate south for the winter.

When did you think you were the center of New York’s universe? Why did you think that? Shame on you. Your Instagrams aren’t that great.

No one “wins” New York. Ha, ha.

You will lose. Everyone loses. The point is losing in the most unexpected, poignant way possible for as long as you can.

Jay Z and Beyonce are doing okay.

Struggle, motherfucker. Hustle. Fail, fail again, fail until you forget what succeeding is, and then, on your deathbed, as you’re full of rotten phlegm and regret, you can look back and crack a smile that you won a couple, and survived everything else.

Hell, maybe your kin will survive the apocalypse and sing mighty ballads of your tragic battles by a roaring bonfire.

But until then — accept that your umbrellas will turn themselves inside out. That your rent is a tumor in the guts of your bank account. Complain that you deserve a raise, that the N train never, ever, ever runs when you need it to run (and that it’s probably personal,) and that New York is a giant meat grinder extruding tons of chewed up dreams.

Complaining is the only right you have as a New Yorker. Whining is what children do. To complain is to tell the truth. People who refuse to complain, and insist on having a positive outlook, are monsters. Their optimism is a poison. If given the chance they will sell you out.

New York will kick you in the hole, but it will never stab you in the back. It will, however, stab you multiple times right in your face.

24 Mar 2014

Lose Yourself on Malaysia Airlines

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Hat tip to Vandeleun.

23 Mar 2014

Oldest Family Business in Britain: 500-Year-Old Butchershop

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Richard Balson who operates a Butcher Shop in Bridport, Dorset can trace his family business back to 1515.

22 Mar 2014

What a Car!

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Scarlett Johannson

Anthony Lane
drools all over Scarlett Johannson in the New Yorker:

There is no getting away from Johansson, and that is how her uncountable fans, female as well as male, would like it to be forever. They do not want to get away. Even if they can’t afford to open a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne, as endorsed by Johansson in 2011, they can still enjoy her likeness on the shell case of their iPhone 5, and come a little closer to her with a deep sniff of The One, the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance that the actress, as an official face of the fashion house, is paid to advertise. Ideally, we are informed, it should be “used to adorn pulse points or misted into the air.” She made a short film, in luscious black-and-white, as a means of encouraging us to buy the perfume. The director was Martin Scorsese, who, presumably, was attracted by its top notes of zesty bergamot and mandarin. And the co-star was Matthew McConaughey, one of Johansson’s few rivals, right now, in the stakes of global celebrity. As I said, exciting times; and she doesn’t even turn thirty until November.

Scorcese directing a perfume commercial?!

I certainly had to see that.

Dolce & Gabbana The One perfume commercial, “Street of Dreams” (2013), directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McConaughey.


Good commercial, but I thought the show was stolen from Scarlett Johannson by that old Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. That automobile is somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty to sixty years old, being manufactured between 1954 and 1965, and it is still cooler than 90% of the cars on the road today.

Scorcese’s commercial didn’t make me want to buy any perfume or date Scarlett Johannson, but it did make me regret that I only once owned a first series 1966 Duetto Spider, and never the more poetic earlier Giulietta Spider.

I wonder if the Giulietta’s rusted as fast or had Weber carburetors as impossible to tune properly for mere mortals. But what a car!

Better yet: the 1956 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider

22 Mar 2014

Settled Science

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22 Mar 2014

Got a Light?

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A German soldier gives a comrade a light with his flamethrower.

Via You’re Not Bulletproof.

22 Mar 2014

Cheetah Cub Investigates Photo Safari Land Rover


My Modern Met:

Bobby-Jo Clow encountered a [cheetah] cub [which] began walking towards her Landrover while on safari at the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Instead of panicking, the photographer, who happens to double as the Tanzania Zoo’s elephant keeper, embraced the moment. She kept calm as the young cheetah climbed onto the open sun-roof, dangled its paws in front her face and sniffed her hair. Luckily, Clow had a camera handy and documented the chance meeting.

The results are crystal-clear shots of a curious cat. We see the lanky cub approach the vehicle and peer into the car, first standing on its hood before moving to get a better view. His looks of wonder and later trepidation show us that he is not completely fearless, yet really has the urge to explore. Although similar behavior can be seen in a house cat, the images reinforce that this is a wild animal. As Clow leaned forward to capture the perfect shot, the movement caused the cheetah to hiss and bare its teeth.

Not very bright human behavior. Wild animals are interesting, but they actually do not reciprocate your affection and are perfectly capable of deciding you are lunch. Fortunately, this was only a cheetah and a cub. The lady did get amusing photos, though.

Hat tip to Ratak Monodosico.

21 Mar 2014

“Ready for Bechers!”

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Beth Mantel sent this photo of herself to Horse & Hound:

“Just thought you may like this photo of my horse Dora (Caoimhes Delight) out with the Berks and Bucks on Sunday 16 March at West Wycombe jumping this awesome hedge. Think I’m now ready for Bechers Brook!”

21 Mar 2014

Stanford Demonstrates How To Shut Down Non-PC Speech

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Rod Dreher learns that Free Speech at Stanford is pretty darn expensive.

[L]ast week… the student government at Stanford refused to commit funds for a one-day conference run by the Stanford Anscombe Society, an organization named for the prominent 20th century British philosopher. Why the stinginess? Because the Anscombe Society stands, in part, for defending traditional teachings about sexual morality and the family. Their conference will bring to campus Ryan T. Anderson, … a Princeton-trained political philosopher best known for making a natural law case for privileging traditional marriage. That cannot happen on the campus of Stanford University, it seems; one student said that the presence — the mere presence! — of Anderson would make her feel “unsafe.” Thus does one of the world’s great universities appear as the Palo Alto School For Tots. …

[A]s was pointed out, correctly, refusing to fund a conference isn’t the same thing as suppressing it.

The SAS found other sources of funding for its conference, and all was well. Until this week. From an SAS news release:

    The Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) is requesting that Stanford University remove a burdensome $5,600 security fee it imposed on the conference organizers following the Graduate Student Council’s revocation of funding for its April Communicating Values conference.

    “This fee is a tax on free speech,” said Judy Romea, SAS co-president. …

    The fee is intended to pay for the presence of ten event security personnel, including four police officers, at the single-day conference. Approximately, 120 participants are expected, making the ratio of participants to security personnel 12 to 1. The administration only insisted on the added security after a vocal group of LGBTQ activists announced their opposition to the event. …

    [T]he Grad Student Council’s decision to revoke the previously-granted $600 of funding was because of this same pressure from LGBTQ activists. …

This is jaw-dropping. The only danger on campus is to the 120 participants in this conference, who will no doubt face heckling and possibly worse from gay activists and their allies, trying to disrupt the meeting. And the university — an actual American university! — is requiring them to pay nearly $6,000 to guarantee their right to lawfully assemble and practice free speech. On a campus. Of an American university.

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