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Category: Fun

Two cannibals are eating a clown and one says to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

June 1, 2018 | 15 Comments

The Curse Of Kenny Rogers

The story I am about to tell is true. You will not believe it.

I am a radio man from way back. My career began in 1971 when I disassembled my old grandpa’s cathedral-style tube radio in his Dearborn basement. I wanted to see how it worked.

I failed. Worse, I never succeeded re-assembling it. Worst, I never actually asked permission. But my gramps was a far greater man than I will ever be, and he forgave me.

It wasn’t long after that I went at my mother’s transistor kitchen clock radio with a screwdriver. I can report to you that everything you see in the movies about how electricity, when encountered in its raw form, can throw bodies great distances is true. To this day, I’m not sure my mom knows why the radio broke (Hi, mom).

The Air Force finally paid me to routinely shock myself. And also to learn about flip flops, bi-mags, tubes, and that bad booze rots young guts but vodka goes well. I became adept with o-scopes, solder suckers and wicking wire. And I figured out how radios worked.

In due course, I became a ham (no stretch) and began the quest for radio’s holy grail: the perfect antenna. I have never found it. But I still listen.

Now I have complained here before that location of my apartment on the small, but densely populated, island on which live is constructed almost wholly of EM radiation. Picking up radio stations, even local ones, is a battle between noise and interference. So to feed my habit, I switch to listening on line.

There exists a few hundred software-defined radios which their hosts graciously make available to the internet. They can be controlled much like a local radio, but with the added benefit of waterfall displays (to spot signal intensity), variable bandwidth, filters for different modes, and so on.

I mostly enjoy broadcast AM. You can log onto a machine in, say, Mala, Sweden, which I did just yesterday, navigate to the first visible station, and out comes…”Allaaaaaaah”. A call to prayer? Indeed, four or five stations in Sweden were in (what I took to be) Arabic, and were religious broadcasts. I found a Christian one, too, with songs in English. As well as one with a DJ speaking heavily accented English. First song: AC/DC Back in Black. I settled on a German station playing volksmusik. Let’s Polka!

But this was not a normal session. Something else usually happens to me instead. And I promise this is true. It’s a thing that occurs so often that I sure it cannot be a coincidence.

First example, from maybe a year ago. I though, “Let me try Julusdalen, Elverum-Norway. That’s sounds exotic.” Strong signal at 1215 kHz. Click!

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field
We’ve had some good times, we’ve had some bad times
But this time your hurtin’ won’t heal
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.

I need to go to Norway to hear Kenny Rogers?

The very next station I tried was in Athens, Greece. I believe it was 854 kHz. Get ready to zither! Click!

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, find a way…

Opa! Kenny Rogers in Norway, maybe. But simultaneously in Greece? I shut the site off.

These were not the only times. As I said, it happened to me not infrequently, and all around the world on stations I had never heard of. It happened again today, this very Thursday evening. I switched on KXPA, 1540 kHz in Seattle.

You got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run.

I ran. Spooked, but still wanting to listen to some music, I launched Accuradio. They had a suggestion for me. “Top 40: Week of May 21, 1977.” Say, 1977 was a good year. Living on the lake in northern Michigan. Fireworks. Fishing. Food. I clicked. This, I swear, was what I heard:

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field…

No more radio for me.

May 25, 2018 | 7 Comments

Other Practical Books On Par With Uncertainty? Reader Question

Got this email from VD. I’ve edited to remove any personal information and to add blog-standard style and links. I answered, and I remind all readers of the on-going claassre, but I thought I’d let readers have a go at answering, too.

I greatly appreciate the wealth of material contained on your website, and I am an avid reader of both your articles and papers and a consumer of your videos/lectures/podcasts on YouTube. You bring a clarity to the oft misunderstood, and—to an uncultured pleb such as myself—seemingly esoteric field of magical, complex formulae known as statistics.

I have a twofold question: First, do you have any plans to produce a textbook for students utilizing the principles within Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability and Statistics—something along the lines of an updated Breaking the Law of Averages? I confess I have not yet read Uncertainty but assure you that it is at the top of my books-to-purchase list (although I’m under the impression much of the content therein is elucidated on your blog). If Uncertainty is the book I’m looking for then please let me know. I am also working through Breaking the Law and find it extremely helpful, lacking only in solutions to check my work.

If I simply need to go through Breaking the Law a few more times, please let me know if that’s the best route. In any event, I would appreciate a sequel that is an even better synthesis of the ideas since-developed and distilled in Uncertainty while also functioning as introductory-to-intermediate text on logical probability/objective Bayesian statistics. I appreciate your approach utilizing logic, common sense, and observation, to quantify the uncertainty for a given set of premises rather than becoming so consumed with parametrical fiddling that I forgot the nature of the problem I was trying to solve.

Second, if no new book is in the works, do you know of any good textbooks or resources for undiscerning novices such as myself for learning logical probability/objective Bayesian statistics that aren’t inundated with the baggage of frequentist ideals or the worst parts of classical statistics, baggage still dragged around by many of the currently available textbooks and outlets for learning statistics? It seems every other book or resource I pick up has at least a subset of the many errors and problems you’ve exposed and/or alluded to in your articles. If no such “pure” text exists, can you recommend one with a list of caveats? I also have found a copy of Jaynes’ Probability Theory, so I’ve added that to the pile of tomes to peruse. Since reading your blog I now make a conscious effort to mentally translate all instances of “random”, “chance”, “stochastic”, etc. to “unknown,” as well as actively oppose statements that “x entity is y-distributed (usually normally, of course!)” and recognize the fruits of the Deadly Sin of Reification (models and formulae, however elegant, are not reality).

I currently work to some degree as an analyst in Business Intelligence/Operations for a [large] company—a field where uncertainty, risk, and accurate predictive modeling are of paramount importance—and confess my grasp of mathematics and statistics is often lacking (I am in the process of reviewing my high school pre-calculus algebra and trigonometry so I can finally have a good-spirited go at calculus and hopefully other higher math). I think my strongest grasp at this point is philosophy (which I studied in undergrad with theology and language), and then logic and Boolean algebra, having spent a bit of time in web development and now coding Business Intelligence solutions. It’s the math and stats part that’s weak. If only I could go back 10 years and give myself a good talking to; hindsight’s 20-20 I suppose.

While not aiming to be an actuary by any measure, I want to be able to understand statements chock full of Bayesian terminology like the following excerpt from an actuarial paper on estimating loss. I want to discern whether such methods and statistics are correct:

“We will also be assuming that the prior distribution (that is, the credibility complement, in Bayesian terms) is normal as well, which is the common assumption. This is a conjugate prior and the resulting posterior distribution (that is, the credibility weighted result) will also be normal. Only when we assume normality for both the observations and the prior, Bayesian credibility produces the same results as Bühlmann-Straub credibility. The mean of this posterior normal distribution is equal to the weighted average of the actual and prior means, with weights equal to the inverse of the variances of each. As for the variance, the inverse of the variance is equal to the sum of the inverses of the within and between variances (Bolstad 2007).” (Uri Korn, “Credibility for Pricing Loss Ratios and Loss Costs,” Casualty Actuarial Society E-Forum, Fall 2015).

I understand maybe 25% of the previous citation.

My end goal is to professionally utilize the epistemological framework given on your blog and in Uncertainty. I want to be able to do modeling and statistics the right way, based on reality and observables, without the nuisances of parameters and infinity if they are not needed. I deal with mostly discrete events and quantifications bounded by intervals far smaller than (-infinity, +infinity) or (0, infinity),

I appreciate any advice you could share. Thank you sir!


April 16, 2018 | 4 Comments

Chicken Chicken Chicken Chik-Fil-A

Sanity took a hit to the gizzard when the New Yorker posted an article by an atheist presumably addicted to Chick-fil-A sandwiches and ashamed of his obsession.

The article is “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City.” The writer is Dan Piepenbring from Brooklyn, whose Twitter bio reads in part “I want to watch TV in a different time zone. I want to visit strange, exotic malls.”

The benefit of modest goals is that it is east to meet them. And then we remember it is at malls where Chick-fil-A restaurants are often found. It appears Piepenbring went to one too many.

The black truth is that once an addict starts on a bag of waffle fries there is no stopping him until he reaches the salty end. He enters a strange, exotic mall and is not able to overcome the irresistible force driving him to the food court. He will feel that he is outside himself, that it is another person altogether, who for the fourth time that day orders a chicken biscuit. With cheese.

He will hate himself after. And he will hate his obsession. If he is too far gone, he might even hate God.

A Slave to Taste Buds

What else can account for Piepenbring calling the opening of a new Chick-fil-A branch an “infiltration”? Why else would he cry against the chain’s “pervasive Christian traditionalism”?

We feel the man’s searing anger when he writes, “[Chick-fil-A’s] headquarters, in Atlanta, is adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet.”

But at last the reason for his lashing out becomes shockingly clear when he cries, “Its stores close on Sundays.”

The man has it, and he has it bad.

Now it all makes sense. Now we can see his frustration over the company’s stated purpose “to glorify God.” Now we understand the fixation on cows.


Moo Cow

Piepenbring says “It’s impossible to overstate the role of the Cows.”

Chick-fil-A, if you didn’t know, has a series of amusing ads which portray cows saying “Eat Mor Chikin.” Cows are notorious spellers. One stunt had life-sized cows scaling a water tower on which was painted the slogan, one cow dangling from a rope held by another.

Cows are not chickens. It takes chickens to make Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Chicken sandwiches, therefore, are not hamburgers. Evidently the thought of hamburgers must set poor Piepenbring off.

He says cows are the chain’s “ultimate evangelists.” Evangelist, as in “a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching.” In this case, not the Christian faith, but the worship of the chicken nuggets combo deal.

Incensed with the company’s ads, he clicked here to read the rest.

April 1, 2018 | 5 Comments

Shocking Eyewitness Account Of An Actual Miracle

Here is what happened, according to an eyewitness and participant to the events described (he humbly called himself “the other disciple”). Evidence doesn’t get any better than this.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Then the disciples returned home.

But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?r Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

An hilarious April Fool’s joke was subsequently played by a certain someone who said these events did not occur. Strangely, he said they didn’t occur because eyewitnesses said they occurred. The joke quickly got out of hand, such that many forgot it was a joke. This is life.