Skip to content
January 28, 2009 | 15 Comments

Playing catch up

When I was out, a lot of people sent me leads and links which I did not have time to upload. Here are a few of them.

* Many people emailed me this article from the New York Times about the R statistical software platform.

R is my daily bread and butter. It is probably the most used piece of statistical software, in the sense that most statisticians have a copy of it. I am lucky, because I am independent and I can choose to use what I like, and my luck is extended because of the beauty of R. Many statisticians are not so fortunate, however, and are forced to use something ugly, and ridiculously expensive, like SAS. Remind me to tell you sometime why SAS is so awful.

* Tom Hamill sent this Time’s article about the failure of Value at Risk (VAR) models in the finance industry. Our friend, Black Swan ego-boy Nicolas Taleb is there calling everybody idiots and “intellectual charlatans.”

* Tom also sent this along. Just click and then come back. Yes, people have truly lost their minds. Except for scanning for metal weapons, everything about airport security is useless and even harmful as it gives a false sense of security. Liquids? Don’t get me started. Strap a plastic bottle full of explosive fluid to a woman’s leg; as long as she wears a skirt, it gets through, etc., etc.

* My Aunt Kayla sent me this article, subtitled “Who will wear the Chief Probability Officer hat in your organization?” I hereby volunteer to be the CPO at any large company as long as my executive compensation package is at least half as large as any other officer. I’m not greedy. I’ll sit in my office all day with my auguries and predict. Incidentally, JMP is software developed by SAS when they realized SAS stunk.

* Harvey Motulsky noticed that Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams is fond of statistical argumentation.

January 26, 2009 | 7 Comments

Just got back

Thanks to all who commented on the Dahn Yoga story, and on the Taiwan trip. I’ll be writing more about Taiwan over the next week.

I’m back a few days later than I had thought and am behind on a bunch of work, but I’ll try and go through the old comments and answer questions when I can.

January 16, 2009 | 16 Comments

Random encounters

(All the Chinese words are my own spelling.)

There are a lot of other akward, geeky white guys in Taipei, but apparently not too many because I find I am a bit of a spectable in many places. My presence has lead to some strange meetings.

One old man with just a few teeth left came up to me and stuck up his thumb and said, “Number one!” It was so sudden, all I could remember was Japanese—“Ichiban desu!” I put my thumb up, too. He said, “Number one good!” I finally remembered the Chinese, “Hao Ban!” He left, very satisfied, saying “Good, good.”

Another old man saw me from a distance and waited until I wandered near. He said, in English, “Do you speak Chinese?” I said, “Yi dian dian” (a little bit). Didn’t phase him. “Do you speak Japanese?” I said, “Hai. Wakarimasu. Skoshi desu.” He gave me a bg smile and walked off repeating “Wakarimasu“.

The last time I was here I was in a toilet and a guy was at the sink. I was about to wash my hands and he just stuck his hand out to me to shake. I did. He nodded and left. No expression on his face the whole time.

I was at a street fair and a businessman started to walk beside me. He finally worked up the courage to say something. “Why are you in Taiwan?” I said, “Vacation” He said, “That’s good.” I told him I loved Taipei, the food especially, and that I was very happy to be here. I could see his chest swell with pride. I made the man very happy.

A man at a Hakka rice wine stand saw me and said, “Where are you from.” I told him New York. He smiled and said, “Good bye!”

When I am at street food stands, the proprietresses (more women than men run these stations) often watch me eat every bite, so I feel like I have to put on a bit of a performance. I repeat “Hao chu!” (delicious) or “Hao hua!” (same for liquids). I make delicious faces and act as if I’m critically assessing the food. With the amount that I am eating, I am making friends all over the island.

The encounters aren’t always good, though, but only because my Chinese stinks. For example, I am so stupid that I can never remember the difference between the words Bukachi and Duebachi. This can lead to disaster. Yesterday, at a Japanese bakery, I bumped into an old lady and upset her tray of food. “Bukachi!” I announced. The look she gave me! It means “You’re welcome!” I did the same thing to a young woman whose foot I stepped on causing her shoe to come off, and to a guy driving a car that I stupidly stepped in front of. I keep telling people they are welcome for me making an idiot of myself. I should say Duebachi, which of course means “I’m sorry”.

January 14, 2009 | 5 Comments

Taiwan travel

Petanque in Taiwan!

Completely by luck, I passed this sign by the entrance to a seaside almost-beach. There was a little sand but mostly coral. No swimming signs were posted. No people were around at all, so I couldn’t ask anybody who played and when. I did find this article via Google, about a field built right in Taipei. Doesn’t say where, though. I found another site that says a club with six members plays in Da-an park, which is not far from where I’m staying.

Ah, well. I didn’t bring my manly steel balls so I couldn’t play anyway.

What? You don’t know about Petanque? Incredible! Remind me to tell you about it when I return, or search for an earlier article.

Taiwan Market

This is from a food market. The man is selling two kinds of tofu-kan and some peanuts. The tofu-kan here is the best you can have anywhere. It’s smooth and creamy, but not soupy. Delicious. Peanuts are everywhere. Hai and bai, or black and white. The black ones are actually look the same as regular but have a purple skin around the nut. Peanut snacks that are made into a crumbly interior coated with a hard shell are my favorite. The Hakka people make a kind that is very small, bite size. You can’t stop eating them. And I haven’t.

Taiwan Market

I’m dying to have the pork that’s in the middle pan. It makes my mouth water every time I walk by.

Taiwan Market

The meat for sale here is displayed a little differently. This is all pig meat. My favorite, and the most popular in Taiwan.

Taiwan Oyster Omlette

This was the end of today’s lunch. Pork blood soup and an oyster omelette. The pork blood soup is a thin base of ginger and garlic with, of course, green onion. The blood is in small bite size pieces. Perfectly silky and just a hint of saltiness.

Oyster omelettes are famous. They start by frying half a dozen oysters, then pouring over a rice batter. An egg is then broken on top and a bok choy-like vegetable is shredded all over everything. After a while, the whole thing is flipped and put on a plate with the red sauce, which is very sweet and just a hint of pepperiness. I prefer mine spicy, so you see the red and yellow jar or hot sauce, which is unbelievably good. I have it every morning with my dumplings. It’s smoky, has little beans that are salty, and is very spicy. I haven’t tasted anything like it in the United States. My last trip here I brought back two jars, which they made up for me at my breakfast place.

Once I have some time, I’ll try and describe the food in better detail and explain why it is among the world’s best.