Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Immigration Debate

Could we stop ruining peoples' lives for the sake of the Republican presidential primaries and pass some immigration reform already?

p.s.-Sorry America, foreigners write some of the best lyrics:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dear Pandora

Dear Pandora,

Why do we need remixes of Kesha songs?  They start out staccato spastic and adding a techno beat just doesn't do much to save them.



Why do ecologists still use Excel for statistics?

Thanks to John Cook for linking to an article on the statistical shortcomings of Excel (rampant and unrepented):
The random number generator has always been inadequate. With Excel 2003, Microsoft attempted to implement the Wichmann–Hill generator and failed to implement it correctly. The “fixed” version appears in Excel 2007 but this “fix” was done incorrectly. Microsoft has twice failed to implement correctly the dozen lines of code that constitute the Wichmann–Hill generator; this is something that any undergraduate computer science major should be able to do. The Excel random number generator does not fulfill the basic requirements for a random number generator to be used for scientific purposes: (1) it is not known to pass standard randomness tests, e.g., L’Ecuyer and Simard’s (2007) CRUSH tests (these supersede Marsaglia’s (1996) DIEHARD tests—see Altman et al. (2004) for a comparison); (2) it is not known to produce numbers that are approximately independent in a moderate number of dimensions; (3) it has an unknown period length; and (4) it is not reproducible. For further discussion of these points, see the accompanying article by McCullough (2008); the performance of Excel 2007 in this area is inadequate.
This makes me want to design an undergraduate course in ecolgical statistics which triggers one of these errors in each homework (you might have to do more than one to get through all of them in one course)!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chainsaw on a rope swing

John Cook quotes Merlin Mann:
If a project doesn’t have an owner, it’s like a chainsaw on a rope swing. Why would anyone even go near that?
By itself, that is a fantastic visual.  Personally, I try to run as fast as possible. Then he comments further:
Perhaps worse than a project with no owner is a project with a powerful owner who doesn’t care about the project. The project is important in the sense that the worker bees will be held responsible for seeing it happen, but not so important that it’s worth the owner’s time to help. “This is important for you to develop, but not important enough for me to take the time to tell you in any detail what it should be.”
Sure this is a problem in industry, but it's practically the definition of academia.