Convention Crowd, Chicago. 1912. Library of Congress via Flickr Commons

  1. Kuler (via Liz Gerber) – Adobe-owned site for user-uploaded color combinations. Elegant color combinations can be wonderful tools for data visualization, graphic design, and more. In this case, the names provided for the combinations are more colorful than the combinations.
  2. Metro Chicago Data – A handy repository of public datasets from various government agencies and other public sources.
  3. Chicago Crime Map – Crime statistics with a friendly interface. Provided by the Chicago Tribune.
  4. Bewtween the Bars – Brilliant prison blogging project initiated (as I understand it) by Charlie de Tar at the MIT Center for Civic Media. Best of all, you can help transcribe posts!
  5. Bikenapped (via Mako) – A site mapping bicycle theft data around the Boston area. This should exist for every city.

Following up on my last post on the tie between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh in the qualifiers for the U.S. women’s 100 meter team, I thought I would briefly revisit the subject and, in the process, respond to Hal’s comment.

The reason I thought this story merited a second post is that, amazingly, Tarmoh withdrew from the run off, thereby conceding her spot on the Olympic team to Felix!

You can watch Tarmoh explain her decision in this highly unusual SportsCenter clip.

The video is pretty interesting – as is Tarmoh’s choice to make the statement at all! She reveals a number of additional details about her experience as well as her interactions with Felix after the race. After watching it, I came away thinking that her overall manner had suggested that she felt conflicted about her decision.

While I don’t think it makes sense to draw too many conclusions about what happened from Tarmoh’s statement, the events that have transpired since the original race suggest that it may make more sense to approach the whole situation from a game theoretic perspective (like Daniel Lametti started to do) rather than from the sort of statistical vs. moral fairness point of view I tried to articulate in my post.

That brings me to my response to Hal’s suggestion that a run off would (assuming it was announced ahead of time) represent the most “morally fair” way to settle a tie (at least more morally fair than a coin flip).

I think I actually agree with most of Hal’s points – especially, insofar as moral fairness does seem to be more important than statistical fairness when it comes to how most people view athletic contests. I should have clarified that the kind of fairness I had in mind was more statistical than moral. Given the rise of statistical tools in sports and the fact that it is possible to think of athletic contests in terms of the probabilities of particular outcomes, I think my argument is more focused on the fact that the probabilities of victory are never equal and that (at least in the case of many sports) that doesn’t seem to bother many fans.

In any event, I love Hal’s idea for a world-wide coin flip tournament! We should make sure to incorporate the descendants of Paul the Octopus somehow.

 

Pride Parade, San Francisco 2012. Photo by torbakhopper.

This week’s edition of “Five Things” is brought to you by the letter Q and all the colors of the rainbow! That’s right, it’s pride week in San Francsico and the city has been celebrating in its usual colorful, costumed, semi-clothed and totally fabulous fashion. So put on your hottest, tightest, most colorful dancing socks, and away we go!

  • According to this fascinating article by David H. Freedman in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, the no-longer-so-notorious behavioral theories of B.F. Skinner are alive and well in the growing field of mobile health and dieting applications development. The article is well-written and raises a bunch of questions about everything from scientific ethics to the politics of technology to agency and theories of progress and well-being.
  • For you current or aspiring R users out there, I just came across this Cookbook for R by Winston Chang. It has some excellent code examples. Also, in the course of refining some figures for a paper earlier this week, I discovered that Hadley Wickham recently made some significant updates to ggplot2 and has released new documentation for the package.
  • Amara, a.k.a. the program-formerly-known-as Universal Subtitles is an awesome piece of free (as in freedom and beer) subtitling and transcription software. I’ve been tinkering with it over the past few weeks in an effort to help design a system for crowdsourced video transcription and while it isn’t quite optimized for that purpose just yet, it seems terrific and I hope to find more reasons to use it soon.

This post marks the latest installment of Mako’s (and, to a lesser extent, my) ongoing series on cliches in academic paper titles.

My selections this time around all incorporate the phrase “old wine in new bottles.” By the numbers, this phrase may not blow away the Iron Laws, Manhattan Projects, invisible hands, frailties, and tangos of the world, but it nonetheless seems to push authors to comparably dizzying heights of rhetorical inspiration.

My favorite examples all share a little bit of extra oenological boldness – instead of merely tacking the phrase “old wine in new bottles” onto a given topic (there are, literally, thousands of paper titles following that model), these authors take the liberty of ever-so-slightly altering the formula. The result is more than just old wine in new bottles – maybe “old wine in slightly cracked, twisted, and re-labeled bottles,” ….or something like that.
Without further ado, here we go:

Old Wine, Cracked Bottle?
New Bottles, Old Wine: Communicative Language Teaching in China
Pervcutaneous absorption after twenty-five years: or “old wine in new wineskins”
Carbon-motivated Border Tax Adjustments: Old Wine in Green Bottles?
Self-efficacy and expectancy: Old wine with new labels
Old wine in new bottles, or a new vintage?
Old wine in new bottles tastes better: A case study of TQM implementation in the IRS
Old wine or warm beer: Target-specific sentiment analysis of adjectives
The “new” growth theory: Old wine in new goatskins (!)
Coal tar therapy in paimiplantar psoriasis: old wine in an old bottle?
New Wine: The Cultural Shaping of Japanese Christianity
Old wine, new ethnographic lexicography
Territorial cohesion: Old (French) wine in new bottles?
Old Wine in Old Bottles–The Renaissance of the Contract Clause
New Wine Bursting from Old Bottles: Collaborative Internet Art, Joint Works, and Entrepreneurship
Cybercrimes: New wine, no bottles
Migration, dependency and inequality in the Pacific: Old wine in bigger bottles?

Bike Lane, 41st Street, Oakland. By Eric Fischer

This past week, I returned to the East Bay, where I had the honor of participating in the 149th commencement exercises of the University of California, Berkeley. After a week on the road at CHI, a high speed tour of Chicago, and the chaos of graduation festivities, I’m happy to finally have had the chance to catch up on a little email and bike riding this weekend (not in that order). Here are five things I learned about along the way:

My cousin, Megan Cohen, is not only a badass playwright (the most produced female playwright in the Bay Area!) , but also happens to be a badass interview subject. She had me at: “I write, basically, like I’m screaming one last message out before being hit by a truck.”

Carrotmob seems like an intriguing activist application of crowdsourcing aimed at facilitating citizen-driven enhancements of communities and businesses. The basic idea is that if you can find enough people (a mob) to spend their money (the carrot) at a given place and time and for a given purpose, you can encourage a particular business or government organization to change in some prosocial way.

Some friendly editor sent me a pointer to the third issue of Limn a few days ago and it looks interesting. The theme is apparently “crowds and clouds” (with a heaping spoonful of the occupy movement stirred in for good measure) and it features the work of some wonderful and brilliant people. Also, who doesn’t want to read a well-designed, cc-licensed publication that indexes its issues at zero?

While on a brief excursion to the peninsula this past week, I learned about The San Francisco Public Press, an independent, non-commercial web and print publication featuring in-depth reporting about the Bay Area. The website not only features original reporting, but also a feed of curated local news stories.

The photo above was taken in my Oakland neighborhood by Eric Fischer (link to his Flickr photostream). Browsing Eric’s sets of photos, I found several fantastic sets of images related to maps, public transit, and bicycles in the Bay Area. My personal favorite was this gigantic colorful map of places to go on public transit in the East Bay printed in 1965 by the Alameda County Transit authority.

Kolob Reservoir, Utah (August, 2012).

For this edition of my occasional “five things” series, I’m trying out a twist on the usual theme (ideas, places, people, or things that I’ve run across in the preceding week) by discussing five things I’ll learn about next week.  So, without further ado, here are five things I am excited to encounter in the coming days…

  1. CHI and CrowdCamp – I’m headed to Austin, Texas at the end of the week to present at CHI and participate in the CrowdCamp workshop. The lineup and agenda for CrowdCamp look incredibly exciting – the plan is to rapidly brainstorm, design, and (if possible) implement crowdsourcing projects. Given the past accomplishments of many of the other people who will be in the room, I’m excited!
  2. New Zion Missionary Church (no website) – As part of my Austin trip, I hope to make a pilgrimage or two to as many of the regional holy sites of barbecue as I possibly can. In the case of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church (link points to a 2010 review on the Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog), I have heard that the slow smoked brisket can sometimes resemble a religious experience.
  3. May Day Occupy actions in New York – Tuesday marks the first of May and, so it seems, a day of rebirth for the Occupy Movement. A few friends will be attending the New York actions and I’ll try to remember to link to anything they write or photograph.
  4. The Onyx Boox M92 – Perhaps as a result of the extra attention that went to Mako’s setup a couple of weeks ago, I’ve succumbed and ordered my own e-book reader. I chose the Onyx Boox M92 because it checked all the boxes that mattered to me (linux based, large E-ink screen,  file format agnostic, vendor agnostic, and not reinforcing the Amazon empire) and because it seems to compare well against similar devices.
  5. Calibre – Mako and Alan Toner kindly introduced me to Calibre – a very widely adopted and popular piece of free software to manage e-reader libraries -  this afternoon, but I won’t really start playing with it until my reader arrives next week.

Electronika 302 Recorder - by Daniel Gallegos

Zombie trade agreements: According to some documents acquired by the organization European Digital Rights (EDRi), it appears the G8 has decided to do a Dr. Frankenstein impression and reanimate some of the most thoughtless portions of ACTA’s Internet provisions. This latest instantiation of the ACTA agreement wants control over intellectual property, technology devices, network infrastructure, and YOUR BRAINS.

An awesome experiment on awards (published in PLoS ONE) by Michael Restivo and Arnout van de Rijt – both in the Sociology department at SUNY Stony Brook – shows that receiving an informal award (a barnstar) from a peer may have a positive effect on highly active Wikipedians’ contributions. The paper is only three pages long, but if you want to you can also read the Science Daily coverage of it.

Mako’s extensive account of his workflow tools is finally up on Uses This. The post is remarkable for many reasons. First of all, Mako puts more care and thought into his technology than anybody I know, so it’s great to see the logic behind his setup explained more or less in full. Secondly, I found it extra remarkable because I have been collaborating (and even living!) closely with Mako for a while now and I still learned a ton from reading the post. My favorite detail is unquestionably the bit about his typing eliciting a noise complaint while he was in college. As a rather loud typist myself, I have been subject to snark and snubbery from various quarters over the years, but I’ve never had anybody call the cops on me!

The Soviet Union lives on! But maybe not quite where you’d expect it. My friends and former Oakland neighbors Daniel Gallegos and Zhanara Nauruzbayeva have recently moved themselves and their incredible Artpologist project to New York. Upon arrival, they found themselves surrounded by a post soviet reality that most New Yorkers or Americans simply do not know exists at all, much less in the epicenter of finance capital. Their latest project, My American New York, chronicles this “post soviet America” through photos, stories, Daniel’s beautiful sketches, drawings, and paintings (e.g. the image at the top of this post), all wrapped up in a series of urban travelogues.

Philosophy Quantified: Kieran Healy has done a series of elegant and thoughtful guest posts on Leiter Reports in which he explores data from the 2004 and 2006 Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR) surveys in an effort to generate some preliminary insights about the relationships between department status and areas of specialization.

Iron Lawlapalooza

March 25, 2012

Following Mako’s extremely ambitious lead, I have compiled an iron-clad list of iron laws. You may already be familiar with one of the two famous iron laws (one of oligarchy and the other of wages). Below, you will find some lesser known examples (that I believe would do Michels and Pareto proud):

The Iron Law of Prohibition
The Iron Law of Government Intervention
The Iron Law of Climate Politics
The Iron Law of History
The Iron Law of Responsibility
The Iron Law of Emulation
The Iron Law of Chaos
The Iron Law of Birtherism
The Iron Law of British Newspaper Stories
The Iron Law of the Horde
The Iron Law of Selfishness
The Iron Law of Tennis
The Iron Law of the Burden of Debt
The Iron Law of Bubbles
The Iron Law of Admissions
The Iron Law of Peonies
The Iron Law of Unintended Consequences
The Iron Law of Anti-Incumbency
The Iron Law of Fiefs
The Iron Law of Interest Rate Restrictions
The Iron Law of Evaluation Studies
The Iron Law of Nationalism and Federation
The Iron Law of Evaluation and Other Metallic Rules
The Iron Law of Full Faith and Credit
The Iron Law of Consensus
The Iron Law of Important Articles
The Iron Law of Currency Crises
The Iron Law of Imprisonment
The Iron Law of Paternalism
Thr Iron Law of Admissions
The Iron Law of Hollywood Dominance
The Iron Law of Competence Development
The Iron Law of Health Care Expenditures
The Iron Law of Happiness

Previously in this series (by Mako): frailty, the invisible hand, science as dance.

The recently opened Wasserstein Hall at Harvard Law School has a lot of little plaques around to recognize the donors that made such a behemoth new building project possible. However, only one of those donors has won my heart and mind and that is William A. Falik, who (in collaboration with then HLS Dean Elena Kagan) perpetrated this gem:

Professor Falik's enduring gift to HLS (photo from Above the Law blog, 2012).

Yes, you read that right and yes, the donor knew what he was doing. Here’s an explanatory excerpt from Elie Mystal’s slightly surreal phone conversation with Professor Falik (he’s on the faculty at the Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley) in which he explains his actions:

Although I have developed several new communities in California, with a name like “Falik,” there are limited naming opportunities. (Somehow “Falik Blvd” or “Falik Ave” does not cut it). [As the] piece in the SF Chronicle suggests, I thought the best use of my name would be to name a Gentleman’s Lounge (aka Men’s Room), when I made a large donation to the Berkeley Repertory Theater. Dean Kagan, who has a great sense of humor, liked the idea, but for reasons that I cannot articulate, the Falik Gentleman’s Lounge moniker did not get through the chain of command at HLS, so alas, it is now the Falik Men’s Room.

So basically, this guy has successfully trolled future generations of students and theatre-goers at HLS and Berkeley Rep.

Best. Donations. Ever.

(H/T to my fellow residents of the Geek Cave at the Berkman Center – and especially Dan Jones for forwarding the story to me)

Unknown Fiddler from Southern US Field Trip, 1959 (Lomax Collection, US Library of Congress)

  1. Supposedly, much of the Alan Lomax archive of music will eventually go online. Until then, I console myself with this tiny playlist from the album versions of his “Southern Journey” (and in particular the Fred McDowell track “What’s the Matter Now”).
  2. The New York Public Library released a stereogranimator.
  3. The experimental turk website includes a nice list of Mturk experimentation resources (via John Horton).
  4. Chris Blattman’s offered some sound recommendations on how to be a better reviewer & respondent.
  5. Henry Farrell (and many others) are taking a stand against Elsevier and you can join.
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