Snow!

I tried dropping some hints with the secretaries in the main office but there were obviously no administrators in earshot-- and I also tried to foment rumors amongst the students and teachers in the hopes of a bottom-up emergent decision-- but despite my efforts, we didn't get an early dismissal . . . and it's still snowing buckets outside so maybe we'll have a delay tomorrow (and I'm not sure if "snowing buckets" is an expression but I'm not going to google it, you know what I mean).

When Do I Get to Buy a Dune-Buggy?

This has been the year of spending money on expensive, sober-minded stuff: a sick dog, braces and a palate expander, a washer/dryer, and now a dishwasher (although we did buy a ping-pong table somewhere amidst the pragmatic purchases).

Fantasy Football Explained (Using Status and Contract)

I love arming my students with the terms "status" and "contract" and then encouraging them apply these terms to whatever we are reading; there are status/contract motifs in The Merchant of Venice, Death of a Salesman, and The Great Gatsby and I also think the terms apply to the weird relationship between playing fantasy football and having a rooting interest in a professional football team; so allow me to take a page from one of lesson plans and explain: when you root for a particular team, because of where you were born or familial influence or whatever, then you possess the status of being a a fan of this team . . . you really can't change this-- perhaps you could be an ex-Giants fan, just as you can be an ex-wife-- but that status remains forever part of your past; on the other hand, fantasy football is all about temporary contracts that you make with your "team" and its montage of constituent players (and these players don't even have the knowledge that you've made a contract with them . . . nor do they know they are playing for your team) and these theoretical contracts are negotiated and broken from week to week and season to season, with little emotion to bind you to your team and your players; this is in no way similar to how you are bound to your status as a particular fan . . . the brilliance of fantasy football from a marketing standpoint is that it enlarges the purview of the once-casual fan well beyond their limited rooting status, and makes them more of a broker of contracts, a more focused consumer of football, without the emotional ups and downs of the old-time subjective supporter . . . a contract conveys professionalism, a contract is monetized and contains all due diligence, a contract assures rule of law and logic, and this is what fantasy football promises and delivers, you no longer have to suffer the caprices of your fate, you can strategize, formalize, capitalize and fetishize, while the fan is a dilettante, a simpleton, a rube, an amateur, limited who tunes in for the love of the game and the love of his or her team (and also often tunes out for the same reasons).

Let's Get Naked (Statistically Speaking)

Charles Wheeler likes to get naked . . . he's the author of Naked Economics, which I highly recommend, and I also enjoyed Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, which is full of fun facts and lots of number sense (and it will make you think about all the times you are offered either percent of increase or a number, when you really need both to make an assertion) and here a some random moments I enjoyed:

1) texting while driving causes crashes and laws banning texting while driving may also cause crashes because people can't stop texting while driving, but if there's a law against it, then people will hide their phones down by their crotch and take their eyes off the road;

2) people who buy carbon-monoxide monitors and little felt pads for the bottom of their furniture almost never miss credit card payments;

3) the top 100 grossing films only makes sense when it's adjusted for inflation . . . Hollywood likes to tell the story that each new blockbuster movie is so good it has blown away all the older films, but they like to list the gross (nominal) ticket receipts, not the real, adjusted receipts: here is the real list . . . The Exorcist makes the top ten and Jurassic World makes the top 25 so this list isn't any more cultivated than the gross profit list (though it's less homogenous);

4) our data sets are getting more and more predictive . . . people who buy birdseed are far less likely to default on their loans, but if we can identify drug smugglers 80 times out of 100, is it okay to harass those other twenty people over and over? so statistics generally leads to ethical dilemmas . . .

5) the most dangerous job stress seems to be jobs that have "low control" over their work situations . . . which makes me happy, because teaching and coaching feels highly stressful at times, but I always have control over what's happening . . . but this is only true if we trust the regression analysis, which is the most powerful statistical tool in existence, but very difficult to do well;

6) because you can screw up regression analysis in a number of ways: you can use regression to analyze a nonlinear relationship, you can screw up correlation and causation-- buying birdseed does not cause you to have good credit, those two things are simply correlated-- you can complete reverse the causality, you can omit variables, you can have variables that are so highly correlated that you can't extricate them from each other, you can extrapolate beyond the data, and you can have problems with too many variables;

7) Wheeler concludes with a quick overview of some real-world problems that are going to need clear statistical analysis: the future of NFL football, the rise in autism, the difficulty in assessing good teachers and schools, the best tools for fighting global poverty, and personal data privacy . . . if you're looking for a fairly in depth take on statistics, with more formulas and math than a Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell book, this is the one for you.

I Rate This Film 0.0

Friday night, my family sat down together and watched Animal House . . . first time for my kids (they are 13 and 14 years old) and I haven't seen John Belushi imitate a zit since 1991, when I watched the film in it's entirety several dozen times in one summer (we were living in a shithole in Nags Head, I disconnected the cable, and the only movies we had on VHS were Animal House and Spinal Tap . . . so most nights we alternated, although we occasionally watched both in the same evening) and I'm happy to say the comedy really holds up (my son Alex had a three word review: "That was awesome!") but there are more gratuitous boobs than I remembered . . . I guess there was no internet porn back then so people had to get their gratuitous boobs in R rated movies. 

Living on the Meniscus

The final ingredient in my wife's cup of coffee is a healthy dollop of danger . . . while I like to keep my hot beverages well below the rim, she fills her mug right up to the top, a meniscus of hot liquid quivering in the air above the cup . . . and this is before 8 AM.

Just When You Thought it Was Safe

I'm pleased to say-- though many of the ladies in the English department might not agree-- that the incessant high school soccer discussions will continue in my general vicinity, as both the school at which I teach (East Brunswick High School) and the town in which I live and coach (Highland Park) are Sectional State Champs in Central Jersey (in Group IV and Group I respectively) and while nearly all the other high school teams are done, East Brunswick and Highland Park are now headed to neutral fields to try to win it all: congratulations to all the players and Coach McKibbin and Coach Roig, great job extending the season and the concomitant soccer-related discussions.

Indolence Abetted by Dog

There is no better nap than when your dog is just outside your room, sleeping at the head of the stairs, guarding your indolence against all intruders.

Happy G:TBday!

In honor of fifteen years of taking life less seriously over at Gheorghe: The Blog, my buddy Whitney got real serious about being less serious and-- in a fit of expansively effusive generosity-- sent all the members of the site a couple of thoughtful gifts . . . this was a concerted effort, after ascertaining all our addresses, he then warned us about an incoming package and instructed us not to open it until G:TBday . . . because of all the ominous emails, we all imagined the worst: pipe bombs, blackmail photos and Gwyneth Paltrow's head . . . but the gifts turned out to be oddly thoughtful and quirkily sentimental; I got a Big Lebowski script (signed by Jeff Bridges . . . the Dude himself!) and a Jim Zorn jersey (signed by the King of the Scramble himself!) and you can read about the rest of the gifts here.

Dave Throws His Vote Away

In honor of yesterday's post, I voted for Madelyn Hoffman today . . . go Green Party!

Happy Midterm Elections!






Every America of voting age should be required to listen to the new episode of Freakonomics: America's Hidden Duopoly which gives some serious reasons as to why the relatively rational Median Voter Theorem doesn't apply to America any longer-- the best way to imagine the Median Voter Theorem is to think of a long beach, which is the continuum of American voters-- and two ice cream vendors (with trucks) which represent the Democrat and Republican parties and while the vendors might position themselves at the far ends of the beach-- which indicates radical liberalism and radical conservatism-- then they can't capture much of the middle vote . . . the walk is too far, so naturally, the ice cream vendors should move towards the center because then they can capture more and more of the middle of the continuum because the radical voters on the far edges have no choice (in a two-party system) but to walk to get their ice cream . . . but this implies that if the ice cream trucks remain very far to the right or the left, then an ice cream truck can open shop in the middle and win the election . . . Tyler Cowen offers a number of reasons why this theory doesn't work, and this new episode of Freakonomics clarifies the argument; veteran business competition expert Michael Porter realized that our two party system is not a public service, it's a political industrial complex . . . and the thing the Democrats and Republicans are best at is not serving their constituents or serving the American people as a whole, the thing they are the best at is cooperating to create policy and protocol to prevent any outside forces from impinging on their duopoly; like the battle between Coke and Pepsi, the duopoly war gets great media coverage and generates its own feedback loop of coverage, but unlike Coke and Pepsi, there is no Dr Pepper . . . and the Democrat and Republican parties have done a great deal to ensure this; Porter cites five forces that could ruin a duopoly:

1) the threat of new entrants;

2)the threat of substitute products or services;

3) the bargaining power of suppliers;

4) the bargaining power of buyers;

5) and rivalry among existing competitors;

and the voting consumer is pretty much screwed in every category . . . neither party has to worry about an independent, and can often dissuade party loyalists merely by mentioning the spoiler effect-- if you vote for an independent, you're just throwing the election to the other party, which then has all the power and will use it to gerrymander maps and stymie any diplomacy or bi-partisan agreement; we've got no bargaining power as voters and only the extremists in each party are willing to supply money and people for the cause . . . it's basically two ice cream vendors who don't give a fuck about most people, provide shitty, biased ice cream, and exist by convincing people there's no reason to walk so incredibly far for ice cream and that that ice cream vendor is a terrible human and there's no chance of better ice cream along the way because they've convinced the town not to allow any other vendors . . . it's a bad situation, but the episode has some solutions-- we could vote the way Ireland does (listen to the new Radiolab for more on that) and use "rank choice voting" and then re-tally the votes until there's a consensus, tossing out extremely partisan choices that can't get fifty-percent of the vote . . . anyway, both parties love to say that our democracy is broken, but that's a ruse and they don't believe it-- our democratic system is fantastic at keeping Democrats and Republicans in power, something that worried John Adam . . . this system assures us that almost everyone who runs will be the same, that there will be no bi-partisan agreement-- there wasn't with Obama and there isn't with Trump-- and neither party cares because they know there's no alternative, so they cater to their base, knowing that the rest of the rational middle ground consumers have no bargaining power and have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils . . . there are bi[artisan groups working on solutions, but it is rough going because Democrats and Republicans alike don't want to cede any control to bi-partisan committees or non-partisan committees . . . they want to wait their turn and then take power back, the way we've been doing it for a while now . . . Seattle tried another interesting solution, which may not have worked perfectly, but it's a start . . .  anyway, happy mid-term elections and recognize that if you vote Democrat or Republican, you're really voting for the current political industrial complex and for more of the same bipolar vitriol and more of the same atrocious customer service.

Boom Goes the Book

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson is a platinum-level-must-read for American men (and hairy-chested American women) and when I list the topics, you'll understand why I make this claim-- and these manly topics are all woven together in a rocket-fueled tapestry of a narrative . . . a manly tapestry:

1) Oklahoma Thunder basketball during the Westbrook, Durant, Harden era and the post-Harden Reconstruction;

2) the Land Rush of 1889 . . . retitled by Anderson as either the "Chaos Explosion Apocalypse Town" or "Reckoning of the Doom Settlers: Clusterfuck on the Prairie;

3) the Sooners, who actually had the gall and wherewithal to cheat at the Doom Chaos Apocalypse Town Clusterfuck;

4) tornadoes, extreme weather, and the men and women that predict and chase these monstrous storms;

5) Clara Luper and the Oklahoma City Civil Rights movement;

6) city planning and the tension between top-down bureaucracy bottom-up up emergence;

7) enigmatic, experimental, anomalous and loyal native OklahomanWayne Coyne and his band The Flaming Lips;

8) domestic terrorism and a tragic explosion more devastating than the original formation of Oklahoma City;

and if there's nothing on this list that piques your interest, then I've got nothing much to say to you; this is the book of the year (and maybe the book of the last ten years . . . I loved it!)

Sentence Postponed Due to Hirsuteness

Catherine and I are off to my cousin Keith's wedding, so though I have a lot of rambling run-on sentence type thoughts they have been superseded by the categorical grooming imperative (the hair on my face was just as unkempt as the hair on my back).

Dave Summons a Hackerlike Miracle

My wife just told me fantastic news: the school computer system erased all the teacher conferences she scheduled for our son Ian and now the time slots are all filled up by other people . . . this rectifies an impending marital conflict, as the Highland Park boys varsity team is playing in the State semi-finals on Monday night-- which is when the conferences were scheduled-- and I told my wife that i was not going t attend the conferences because of this conflict and she told me that I was "a slacker parent" and if I stuck to my guns and skipped out then I was certainly going to be in the doghouse-- but now there aren't any conferences to attend . . . I'd love to say I hacked into the school computer system and erased the conferences myself but I couldn't code my way out of a paper bag, so we'll just have to call this a November miracle.

Dave Stubs His Toe on an Invisible Box




My right quad is sore but I'm getting better and better with each attempt (although I'm not nearly good enough yet to post) but someday soon I'm going to achieve my newest wildest dream . . . I'm going to step on an invisible box and then I'm going to hop over it.

Fred Armisen is the Democratic Inversion of Donald Trump

The Undiscovered podcast episode "Party Lines" is the best piece of non-partisan political commentary I've heard in a long time (especially since Dan Carlin hasn't put anything out for a while) which means that very few people will be interested in what they have to report; the show explains a new mathematical method to determine how much gerrymandering has gone into a particular voting map (and the answer is usually "a lot")  and the groundbreaking method-- like the method of throwing a cornhole beanbag-- is beautiful in its simplicity; votes are tallied and then a computer draws a trillion feasible voting maps and re-tallies the actual votes in regards to these particular borders, so you can see lots and lots of results and determine a few things:

1) what probably should have happened,

2) what's in the realm of possibility,

3) and what's an absurd result because of rigged maps . . .

this method is so beautifully elegant that it has passed through the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (though Trump advised Pennsylvanians to "challenge" the new map, as the "original was correct"  . . . but we know Trump isn't so good at math) and while the Supreme Court is avoiding the issue (probably because gerrymandering helps Republicans right now) they won't avoid it forever, because as soon as Democrats take power, the conservative court will make the logical ruling and trust the numbers; Democrats and Republicans both love to gerrymander, it's just that Republicans control everything right now, so they need to gerrymander while the gerrymandering is good, which I totally understand; my other political thought today, which is a bit of an aside, is that, after much reading, discussion, and research, I've decided that most folks voted for Trump to give the middle finger to liberals and the political establishment-- they don't care about his lack of experience, his policy on healthcare, or his crass buffoonery . . . in fact, his crass buffoonery, unsolicited and stupid lies, lowbrow language, braggadocio, old man whiteness, racism, sexism, unwarranted confidence, clueless sensibility, and general un-hipness is exactly what Trump supporters love about him, because they know this will trigger absolutely irrational unseated anger in intellectuals and liberals-- there is no one more underserving of attention and power than Donald Trump, and therefore he is the perfect candidate to elect . . . so I tried to figure out who would be the perfect liberal candidate to trigger all the same emotions in conservatives and it's obviously not Barack Obama-- Obama actually got elected, because he's too on the nose . . . he's nerdy and intellectual, but he's black-- his saving grace-- because no conservative wants to be that overtly racist in this day and age, so I think the Democratic inversion of Donald Trump is Fred Armisen, he's ironically uncool, indecisive, apologetic but still kind of an asshole, unflinchingly liberal, empathetic, utterly nerdy, capable of weird indignance, and-- like Portlandia-- an inside joke that only liberals get.

Halloween is a Test

I have nothing creative in the tank, as I'm using all my willpower to not eat the Reeses peanut butter cups in the closet.

Will Lab-grown Chicken Still Be Slimy?

Handling raw chicken is almost gross enough to make me become a vegetarian (but not quite).

The Cheez-it Chompspiracy

I'm not a big fan of orange foods (aside from oranges, which I love) and while I'll occasionally munch on a carrot or sample a sweet potato, purely because I know they are salubrious, what I really truly and passionately despise are orange processed foods-- especially foods with weird orange dust that coat your fingers, such as Doritos and Cheese Doodles . . . my children know they can't eat those two orange foods anywhere in my vicinity, without the consequence of receiving a nutritional diatribe; one of the orange foods that I am trying to (unhappily) tolerate are Cheez-its . . . they're totally disgusting and barely qualify as victuals but my kids like them and as long as they don't take them out of the kitchen or eat an ungodly amount of them, I try to withhold my ire . . . but the classroom is a different place entirely, a place of intelligence and education, so when I noticed a charming, athletic, and intelligent student of mine chomping away at some Cheez-its, I immediately launched into a processed food lecture . . . and then I noticed a girl behind her was also snacking away . . . and she had a bag of Cheez-its and when I asked if this was planned, yet another female student lifted her own bag, the third bag of Cheez-its in a fifteen foot vicinity and these students insisted that they brought the snacks independently, and that there was no Cheez-it conspiracy between the three of them, and they were good students, honors students, so I believed them . . . and I'd like to add that I really like cantaloupe, especially if there's a slice of prosciutto wrapped around  it.

Republicans: Mad as Hell (Just The Way They Like It)

The Weeds provided a great explanation for the growing political polarization in our whacked-out nation with their episode "Republicans control everything, and they're mad as hell" . . . Republicans should be content and proud of their victories and marching forward on various conservative reforms with a coordinated consensus, but instead they are angry about everything-- the caravan, abortion, immigrants, environmental protections, the rights of consumers, football players expressing their first amendment rights, conservative voices being silenced on college campuses-- and the reason for this anger may be that even though they've galvanized their political party (through gerrymandering and the fact that rural areas are overrepresented mathematically in our voting system) they have no traction in the media and culture . . . despite, Republican political power, the media and cultural hubs of NYC and coastal California will not bend the knee; coastal elites and the entertainment industry (aside form Kanye) ridicule and lampoon Trump and his party; meanwhile, Millennials-- even conservative Millennials-- are less racist, more tolerant of gay marriage and transgender people, more open to immigration than older conservatives, and they are more willing to support socialist policies that might actually help young people navigate healthcare, college, and the labor market . . . many college campuses are more liberal than ever and the Republicans just can't seem to get anyone intellectual to respect them and listen to them . . . so they remain angry and embittered, despite the fact that they are running the country and could have a great impact (or perhaps will have a great impact in deregulating all sorts of business, banking, and environment policy) but instead of having an open dialogue about these issues, Republicans will keep pushing wedge issues like the caravan and the wall and abortion, so they can get mad as hell and lament the fact that the culture won't reflect their policies (conservatives may also be angrier in temperament due to psychological reasons, because most conservatives are concerned more about "purity, loyalty, and authority" than most liberals).
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.