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Archive for December, 2006

Links – 12/12/06

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Best job ever… compulsive letter writer

Thursday, December 7th, 2006


IvyGate reports that Brown University prefessor Felicia Nimue Ackerman has (under several pseudonyms) published 130 letters to the editor in the New York Times, including 23 in the last 23 months. Perhaps Duke should hire her to teach summer school?

According to the New Yorker, The Times accepts just under 2% of the letters it receives. Whatever her batting average, I suspect Ackerman is taking a lot of swings.

True, except for the two years part

Monday, December 4th, 2006


Edward Tufte talks about himself

Monday, December 4th, 2006

VDQI Book Cover

Edward Tufte, the “DaVinci of data,” stopped by Stanford yesterday to talk about his very interesting life as an academic. At turns a statistician, political scientist, guru of information design, and sculptor, ET highlighted three turning points in his career:

  • Realizing that learning in the academy came from personal relationships with a few faculty members, rather than the contents of his classes.
  • Deciding to “try to play in the big leagues… creating ‘forever knowledge’ rather than stuff with a shelf life.”
  • Gambling on self publishing: with outside publishers, “the author always loses, the question is how gracefully.” [Tufte claims to have sold 1.5M self-published books, and done $80M in sales. He quit Yale when it represented “only 10% of my income, but 30% of my headaches.”]

His sculptures are landscape pieces with tons and tons of stainless steel. I suspect he’s been to the Dia Beacon more than a few times.
An extremely impressive man, and an interesting presentation from this (self-described!) “formidable scholar.” Nice work if you can get it.

Just wondering… about movies

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Claims Gui: “Sequels are always terrible.”

I certainly buy that sequels are typically worse than the original film. We should probably chalk this up to regression to the mean, before we try any fancier explanations.

Also, it’s hard to say whether sequels are actually worse than the average movie. Most of us are only aware of a biased subset of the movies that get released, hopefully a subset biased towards better movies. [Depends on your friends, right?]

The average movie may well be worse than we think. Since we are conscious of sequels (and watch them on airplanes) because of their famous big brothers—not their quality—they look bad when compared to our usual, biased sample.

Just wondering… about Christmas

Monday, December 4th, 2006


Seems like lots of Christmas decorating here at sunny Stanford. There’s a tree in our department lounge, some absurd holiday tunes playing at dinner tonight, and probably lots more.

Is there more tinsel because it’s warm here? Maybe if there’s snow on the ground, you feel all Christmassy even without smiling Santas on the secretary’s desks. Are winter weather and holiday decorations substitutes?

Gui suggests maybe the phenomenon is amplified by all the carpetbaggers here from colder climes.

Data, anyone?