Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nate Silver was less wrong than you might think

A difference between 2 degrees can mean 2 inches of rain 12 inches of snow.  It's a nonlinear system, and the hallmark of nonlinear systems is that small chances can have big impacts.

The electoral college makes the US election a nonlinear system.  A small change in vote numbers here and there, concentrated in the wrong way, can make a huge difference. 

Clinton won the popular vote by about 1% point.  538 had Clinton up about 3% points.  The total error of the polls was pretty small, but the errors themselves were in critical areas.  In particular, Clinton did really well in states that she had no chance to win or lose, like Texas and California. 

Nonlinear systems are just not very intuitive and just don't seem fair, but they are all around us, and we need to understand them to view the world in a more complete way.

Monday, November 7, 2016

If Nate Silver's model is correct, he should get a few states wrong

On Wednesday, there will be articles written trying to decide which pollster got the most right.  They will add up all the states Silver and 538 are called correctly and come up with a final score, and then use this score to decide whether or not Silver's model works.

This is wrong.

Silver and the 538 forecast have a number of states very close, between 50-50 and 60-40 for a number.  If his model is correct, that means that the odds are that he will get at least a few states wrong.  In fact, if he were to clean sweep, that would mean that he either got very lucky or his model was actually wrong and was overly cautious.  Especially considering his 50/50 call in 2012, it is almost certain that Silver missing a few states would be considered a failure, but now you know better.

Monday, October 31, 2016

the new macbook pro

The standard PC argument against the Mac was always price.  In the 90s until the early 2000s, it was not hard to price out a PC cheaper than the equivilant in specs to a Mac or one with better specs at the same price.  This changed once Apple switched the Mac to Intel chips, which made the comparisons much more direct.  But for the first time in a while, the new Mac book pro reverses this trend.

Check out a comparison here.

This is the most surprising thing to me from the recent Apple event.

here's another comparison

Friday, October 21, 2016

Probably Wrong Mac Pro prediction

I am probably wrong but I wanna get credit if I am right. Hence this post.

I don't think we are getting a new Mac Pro.

Instead, I have two thoughts.

1)  Apple introduces new prosumer apps on the iPad and Mac that leverage cloud computing to speed up computations.  There are already apps that do similar things, the iTunes store sorta works this way, as does Siri (or at least it used to, not sure if it still does).  This way, every single Mac and iPad out there becomes the "Pro" model.

2) Introduce the new Mac mini as a beefed up "thin client" (thick client?), the job of which is mainly to connect to cloud servers that again speedup computations.  This requires some more software magic than I understand but I think it is workable in theory.  There is no reason the Mac mini, with up to date hardware, couldn't be a competitive computer.  It has a cute form factor and space to put in decent parts.

Why would Apple do this, well Amazon and Msft have done well in this space, and it makes them a lot of money. It's more portable.  I really don't think Apple wants to be in the brick that sits on your desk all the time business anymore. This is a solution that can be applied to every computer they have.

The biggest hitch here is latency and privacy, since alot of information would have to be sent to Apple's servers.  Privacy can be handled through encryption, though I am not sure how efficiently this would work.

Monday, October 10, 2016


I've defended Samsung copying Apple's designs in the past but this just takes the cake and is idefensible (I feel like Paul Ryan).

New Samsung Pro

The other stuff they copied were at least Apple's good ideas.  When you copy something that is logical but someone else did first, at least you can claim it was a tried and true design and so why not deviate from something you know works.  But when you copy bad design, it just makes it blatantly obvious that you are copying for the sake of copying.

The evolution of my musical taste (part 1)

I've had this idea for a series of blog posts for a long time and I've had some small mentions, but I want to get the whole thing done.
What I want to do is cover the major evolutionary moments of my musical taste.  This is going to be the punctuated equilibrium version.  By that I mean that I will not review every single band I ever listened to liked, and some of these bands or songs might not even end up being ones I still listen to or even liked very much, but they are the ones that moved the course of my musical taste the most.  Where did I start, where do I end up?  What were the turning points?

I think an appropriate place to start would be around age 12, when I got my first walkman.  (technically that is cassette player, as walkman is trademarked by sony, but whatever).  Until then, all the music I ever really listened to was what was on mainstream radio.  I really liked a lot of this stuff, at the time it was grunge and early adult alternative (which was grunge for people who were afraid of loud music).  But before the walkman, I had no real control over what music I was listening to.  It's hard to have real tentpole musical tastes when you are just getting whatever is coming over the radio.

I had only a few tapes, so I listened to them a lot.  But that just bred familiarity a lot of those songs never really grabbed me even though I enjoyed them.  I think the one tape that really was a first tentpole worth mentioning on this list was some recordings I made from a Simon and Garfunkle CD.  One of the first songs I ever loved was the Sounds of Silence.

What did I like about this song?  Hmm, it's a minor key song, starts with some simple triads. It sounds sad and mysterious, but somehow warm.  It's a song that's going to make you sad but it's going to be ok.

Then the first lyric, "Hello Darkness my old friend"  What a great opening line!  You are drawn into the song right away.  As the song builds, strains of major keys come into the bridge, but never quite make it.  It has a great repetition structure.

Where this song put me on the musical plane.  It's a mature song. It's not in a major key.  It isn't the sappy stuff you usually hear in pop music.  It isn't about love or being in love, or wanting to party.  Considering where I ended up musically, I think those were big factors.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Advice to new teachers

I am a wise old veteran of two years, and as such I feel qualified to give advice.

Here is my advice.

Find your own voice as a teacher, don't try too hard to emulate the teachers around you.  Find what works for you, and get good at that.

Observe good teachers, see what they are doing, feel free to borrow their techniques as needed, but recognize that not every technique works for everyone and that not all techniques are needed for each class.

Don't beat yourself up if things don't go well, but recognize that this is a sign that things in your classroom need to change.  That change starts with you.

Don't give up on a technique or practice too early, some of them take a bit to learn well and for students to get used to.

Your supervisors don't expect you to be a brilliant teacher right away but they do expect you to be receptive to criticism and to be willing to work at becoming a brilliant teacher.

Lastly, "Know your students"---quoted from the teacher at my alternate route course whose named I totally can't remember, but maybe it will come to me.