Monthly Archives: October 2014

Book Review- We’ll Always Have Paris: Stories

We’ll Always Have Paris: Stories
by Ray Bradbury, 2009

we'll always have paris

This is a series of short stories, written by Ray Bradbury, of Fahrenheit 451 fame. Unfortunately, I was fairly repelled by this collection. Too many of them had odd, “in the closet” homosexual underpinnings for my taste. There were a handful that were interesting, including “The Twilight Greens” and “Remembrance, Ohio”, but not enough to justify the duds. I’d recommend many of Bradbury’s other books, but not necessarily this one.

I listened to these stories via CD while driving to/from work.

Amazon Link: We’ll Always Have Paris: Stories

Two Links Tuesday- October 28, 2014

Coder’s High: Article by a current writer/former coder about being immersed in coding to the extent that you can block out the world. I’ve done that on occasion and made some really complex code. Now I’m more practical and use the same coding strategy over and over again (for similar problems), which means I don’t get into that high as often.

How the Other Half Works, an Adventure in the Low Status of Software Engineers: Stuff to think about if you’re a technical worker and looking to position yourself in the workforce.

Code Monkey Monday- Math Mode in Microsoft Word

If you write in LaTeX (or can learn), you’re well-equipped to write mathematical equations in newer versions of Microsoft Word. I have Word 2010 installed on my computer. To enter math mode, hold down the Alt key and hit the “=” key. Math mode accepts LaTeX-like formulas. It is slightly better than LaTeX as well, because you can see exactly how your equation will look as you type it. Whenever you’ve finished typing a complicated symbol or function and want it to display, just hit spacebar. You can click outside the math mode box or type Alt+= again to exit math mode.

Here’s an example. In math mode, type “\int_0^24 \lambda(t) dt” to get an integral that looks like \int_0^{24} \lambda(t) dt. This saves you from having to find and click on all the suggested symbols in Word to get an equation you want.

Thanks to Alex Mills for this suggestion.

Remember that you can also use LaTeX in WordPress blog posts.

Book Review- Earth Awakens

Earth Awakens: The First Formic War
by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, 2014

earth awakens

The third book about the First Formic War, which pre-dates the war the kids fight in Ender’s Game. I wrote about the second book here. This book follows the efforts of our heroes to destroy the invading alien ship and save humanity. It succumbs to the tried and true method of killing all the secondary characters in predictable ways while the heroes survive ridiculous encounters repeatedly. There is one exception to that, as one main character does die of radiation poisoning toward the end of the book.

This book was more great action from Card and Johnston. It is the 18th book written or co-written by Card that I have read. While I initially expected the First Formic War books to be a trilogy, there is a cliff-hanger at the end of this book that suggests there is more to come.

Amazon Link: Earth Awakens (The First Formic War)

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2015


Just bought a non-MIT student ticket ($200) for MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2015.

Anybody else going? Tickets literally just went up for sale. They sell out early each year, so grab yours now!

UPDATE 1: Early Bird general admission tickets (non-student) sold out in considerably less than 10 minutes.

UPDATE 2 (11/5/14): Student tickets seem to be sold out.

Book Review- The Missile Next Door

The Missile Next Door: The Minuteman in the American Heartland
By Gretchen Heefner, 2012

the missile next door

I was hoping for a description of military strategy and technology. I got an opinionated piece about disruptions in farmers’ lives and dependency on the military-industrial complex. At least I learned some things about the scale of missile building, the process of deciding upon and acquiring sites for missiles, and the lengthy draw-down in silo force post-Cold War.

I feel the author lost some perspective in writing the book. How many people were really impacted by missile silos? Maybe 10,000, spread across the western half of the country? Those missiles were our main deterrent against nuclear war. And they worked. Perhaps we went a little overboard in terms of number of missiles, but it’s hard to argue with the results. We won the Cold War. While I agree that the military industrial complex wastes lots of money, I think this book was too negative in its appraisal.

While it definitely wasn’t the intention of the author, I am now interested in visiting the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota. Perhaps we’ll stop on the way to Montana to visit two of my college friends.

I listened to the audio book version of this book.

Amazon Link: The Missile Next Door: The Minuteman in the American Heartland

Project Updates- October 16, 2014

Well, middle of semester hits, and my posting frequency goes down. Predictable.

6 main projects of interest to me right now, 4 of which are actively being undertaken:
1. Investigating feasibility of multi-level triage in EMS: Gave a presentation in front of the department last Friday. It went very well. I am beginning the first draft of the paper.
2. Predicting sports attendance: A project for two classes (Econometrics and Service Operations) that is in the initial stages. I am looking to improve day-to-day forecasts of attendance for baseball games. Perhaps other sports too.
3. NFL betting model: Presented a poster on the successful betting model we created. Need to find time to write up the results. Analysis is done. Model wins enough bets (over 30 years) to make a profit, even if you bet equally on every game.
4. Finding sunk costs in call centers: Very initial analysis done. It looks like the longer someone spends in the button-pushing segment of the call center (sunk cost), the longer they are willing to wait for service. Among other findings.
5 (in planning). Prestige rankings: Want to create a website that generalizes the effort shown in this paper to all sports.
6 (in planning). Have a great idea for optimizing end-of-game decision making in basketball. Dynamic programming will be involved.

I’m also doing work for 3 PhD classes and teaching myself advanced econometrics. Busy.

Book Review- Average is Over

Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation
By Tyler Cowen, 2013


A few weeks ago, I covered The Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen. This book is the follow-up, which discusses the implications of changing technology, demographics, and information availability on incomes, education, and politics.

Cowen is a strong believer in the disruptive ability of machine intelligence. Call it artificial intelligence, call it data mining, call it automated pattern recognition, call it Skynet. Whatever you call it, machines, programmed by smart people, are getting smarter and infiltrating more areas of life and business. The main premise of the book is that the few individuals who can work best with the machines in the future will be high earners. Everyone else will be worse off. Thus ends the middle class. Thus ends average.

Computers may be excellent at computation and statistics, but they typically need a human to interpret and implement their analyses. Those who can work well with computers, be they programmers or just technically-savvy subject matter experts, will be well-placed to succeed. With the depth of information available on the internet, it will be possible for self-starters to educate themselves and position themselves well with technology. It will be a meritocracy.

Closely related: Humans Need Not Apply.

Amazon Link: Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation