- What ‘Good’ Dads Get Away With – this is one of those articles that reading the title makes me angry, then I read the first paragraph and get angrier, and so on and so forth. Here:
Umm, right, I’m sure that’s what’s going on here.
A father in Portland, Ore., confirmed that his wife takes on more but said: “It has to do with her personality. She always has to stay busy. No matter what day of the week it is, she has a need to be engaged, to be doing something.”
To be perfectly honest, I think part of the reason I get so angry at these sorts of articles is that I worry that I would be like these guys if I had married a woman – doing more than “society expects” but still way less than my share. (I worry I’m not doing my share right now, too!)
- Taboola, Outbrain and the Chum Supply Chain – I’ve seen these “chumboxes” before (see this article that categorizes the most common kinds), but hadn’t really thought about why they’re so profitable. Which they must be, because putting them on high-quality sites should be embarrassing!
- Can Sports Show The Way To Smarter Voting? – Neat, I didn’t realize that sports used so many different voting methods! This is especially relevant now with the Democratic primary having > 20 candidates – first-past-the-post quickly breaks down with that many candidates, we should be using some kind of Condorcet voting…
- Thanks to Facebook, Your Cellphone Company Is Watching You More Closely Than Ever – this is so bad. Speaking of which, here’s an article on the need for “ambient privacy”.
- Why You Need a Network of Low-Stakes, Casual Friendships – I’m all about this!
- 10,000 Steps A Day? How Many You Really Need To Boost Longevity – either 4400 or 7500, which are much easier to do!
- An Updated Lead-Crime Roundup for 2018 – I really like this theory, as it is probable (we know that lead in the environment is very bad for kids’ development), shows how humans have the potential to really screw up the environment but later fix it.
- Project Galileo: Lessons from 5 years of protecting the most vulnerable online – Good for Cloudflare! (they are the people you want protecting you from these sorts of attacks!)
Positive Populism: Revolutionary Ideas to Rebuild Economic Security, Family, and Community in America by Steve Hilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a gift, and when I saw the author was a Fox News host I was quite confused. But he grew up in the UK, so he’s a European-style conservative.
And to his credit, there are some pretty good ideas in here! Some of my favorites are: more local (i.e. neighborhood) control over things that make sense, a national service program, more help/resources for parents, serious antitrust enforcement, getting rid of noncompete clauses, and a living wage(!).
There are also some less-good ideas: in particular he’s proudly a nationalist (not a white nationalist, mind you), and he was strongly pro-Brexit when he worked in the UK. And he’s enthusiastic about “green/brown” zoning, which means that land is either zoned for nature (like a park) or for any sort of development. (I don’t really know how to feel about that. Maybe it’s good?)
The book has almost a verbal tic about “elites” – it goes on and on about how elites are trying to keep you, the people, down, and it’s a bit excessive and maybe even a little dangerous.
One amusing running thread is that in the introduction he talks about how liberals and conservatives are both wrong, and only by looking for pragmatic solutions can we find things that will benefit the people. This is the kind of thing that sounds great but breaks down pretty quickly. For example, in the section about health care he says that
– Democrats want universal coverage
– Republicans want competition and consumer choice
– There have been some scandals in England’s NHS (National Health Service); it’s not so great!
– But actually people in England are very proud of the NHS despite its problems
– And obviously people shouldn’t go bankrupt because of medical bills
– So clearly the pragmatic middle ground is the government paying for healthcare, but the healthcare itself is provided by private doctors.
And I was like…umm, great, but this is clearly a leftist/Democratic position! Have you met the modern Republican party? You should watch some of the other shows on your network!
Anyway, there are a lot of interesting ideas here and it was a fairly easy read. Would recommend, even though I don’t agree with all of his policy ideas.
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Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies by Charles Perrow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a bit of a fascination with airplane crashes, and several books I’ve read mentioned this one as a seminal work in describing how accidents in complex systems happen.
The main part of the book is setting up a system for categorizing systems. One dimension is “loosely-coupled” versus “tightly-coupled” – this roughly corresponds to how much slack there is in the system. A good example of a tightly-coupled system is an assembly line if parts are going down a conveyor belt or something – if something goes wrong to mess up a widget at one station, that widget will quickly be at the next station which can cause other problems.
The other dimension is “linear” versus “complex”, which roughly describes the interactions between parts of the system. An assembly line with a conveyor belt is a good example of a “linear” system because the interactions between the different stations are pretty predictable. Usually the more compact in space a system is, the more “complex” it is because lots of different parts of it are close together.
Tightly-coupled complex systems are prone to what the author calls “normal” accidents which aren’t really preventable. Basically, when a system is tightly-coupled you need to have a pretty strict plan for how to deal with things when something goes wrong, because you don’t have a lot of time for analysis or debate. (a military-like structure can help, although obviously this can have bad consequences for organizations that are not the military) But complex systems require more deliberation to figure out what’s actually going on and possibly more ingenuity to find a solution.
It’s interesting because in retrospect for each particular accident it’s usually easy to see what went wrong and what the people involved did wrong. (or what the organization did wrong before that point) The author’s point is that most of the time blaming the people involved is missing the point – these sorts of accidents are inevitable.
Most of the book is looking at specific systems (nuclear power plants, chemical plants, airplanes, marine shipping, dams, spacecraft, etc.), trying to categorize them, and looking at examples of accidents.
(I should point out that I’m grossly oversimplifying here…)
I think I mostly agree with his points, but I really don’t have the depth of experience to know how reasonable his approach is. The book was written just before Chernobyl (so the part about nuclear power plants seems prescient), but there’s also an afterward written in the late 90s about the Y2K problem and how maybe everything will be fine but there will likely be unpredictable serious problems, which didn’t pan out. So I dunno.
The book itself is pretty academic and was kind of a slog to get through even though I am interested in the topic.
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A walk-off is when the home team wins the game on that play, by scoring a run to go ahead in the ninth or later inning. So a walk-off walk is when that happens because the batter is walked. It’s kind of very dramatic and anticlimactic at the same time!
In this case, the walk was on four pitches, which seemed exceptionally rare, because you might as well throw at least one strike, right? At first I thought “maybe this has never happened before!”, but (spoiler!) it turns out there are a lot of baseball games that have been played. So I wanted to at least know how common it was.
My baseball win expectancy finder is powered by a Python script that can parse games, so I extended the parsing code to make it easier to run these sorts of reports and ran it. (source available on GitHub, see
So, the numbers: in the ~128000 games I have data for, a walk-off walk has happened only 442 times. That sounds like a lot but it’s only around 7 times a season. Not all the games have pitch-by-pitch data, but ~73500 of them do, and walk-off walks on four pitches have happened only 60 times. (not including data from this year)
Since there are roughly 2100 games per season (including the playoffs), this means we’d expect this to happen around 1 time per season. Which is indeed pretty rare!
In fact, Altuve got his walk-off walk with 2 outs – walk-off walks with 2 outs have only happened 257 times (~4 times/season), and ones on four pitches have only happened 41 times, which is around 2 every 3 seasons!
When I was in the middle of this work I remembered that baseball-reference has an incredibly powerful Event Finder, and lo and behold it can do this search as well. In fact, at first our numbers were pretty far off so I found some bugs in my script 🙂 (the numbers are still off by a few because it’s counting a walk where the fourth ball was a wild pitch and a runner scored, while my script doesn’t count those)
My original thought was that I could make it easier to use my script to find stuff like this, but the baseball-reference Event Finder is so incredibly powerful and relatively easy to use I probably won’t bother. Kudos to them!
- How long do vaccines last? The surprising answers may help protect people longer – The “surprising answer” is “for some vaccines, not that long!”. Apparently for the flu shot your immunity can vanish as soon as three months after you get the vaccine, which means if you get it in September it might be gone by January, which is around the peak of flu season. So I think we’re going to start getting our flu shots a bit later! (thanks David!)
- A ‘Blockchain Bandit’ Is Guessing Private Keys and Scoring Millions – ah, cryptocurrency. Here’s another take on this. While this particular problem seems unlikely to hit average users (I guess? why the extremely weak private keys were chosen is still not really known), this is a good example of why you probably shouldn’t be using cryptocurrency unless you know what you’re doing, and even if you are you’re still vulnerable to shady operators like Bitfinex.
- The most effective ways to curb climate change might surprise you – a fun interactive quiz that shows that we need government or industry action to make the biggest impact. (thanks Justin!)
- How pharmaceutical industry financial modelers think about your rare disease – even if “big pharma” is behaving well, this is why leaving the development of medicines up to “the market” seems to be a pretty bad idea to me.
- How America’s Oldest Gun Maker Went Bankrupt: A Financial Engineering Mystery – spoiler alert: a private equity firm did it.
- Chasten Buttigieg has been a homeless community college student and a Starbucks barista. Now, he could be ‘first gentleman.’ – a reminder of how far we’ve come!
- How pharmaceutical industry financial modelers think about your rare disease – Even if “big pharma” is behaving well, this is a great example of why it doesn’t seem to make sense to leave development of medicines up to “the market”.
- ‘Getting Worse, Not Better’: Illegal Pot Market Booming in California Despite Legalization – interesting; I really would have thought that legalization would have driven most people to buy pot legally. Maybe the problem is that each city in California can set their own regulations? (it seems like Colorado doesn’t have this problem?)
- Indonesia Plans To Move Its Capital Out Of Jakarta, A City That’s Sinking – it’s sinking because they pumped out too much groundwater, but yikes!
- Teen Suicide Spiked After Debut Of Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why,’ Study Says – there are some legitimate questions about the study, but mental health professionals warned about this before the series was released…
- Bikes, bowling balls, and the delicate balancing act that is modern recycling – cool, I wondered how single-stream recycling worked!
- James Comey: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr – sigh.
- A Conspiracy To Kill IE6 – neat story! I think I remember when this happened; it was big news!