Happy birthday

Happy birthday big brother!


Crystal Bottling Company

My great-grandfather August sold the Crystal Bottling works to the Raimer brothers in Portage Wisconsin around 1910. Here is a picture of a bottle from that plant. Click to zoom.

I found it here. It was sent to a bottle-collection site by a fellow named Tim, a descendent of the Raimers.

Feeling the Future

A research article in press in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" by Daryl J. Bem of Cornell University shows that it is possible to study for a test after you take it... and influence your grade! As amazing as it seems, that is what the statistics show.

the current experiment tests the hypothesis that memory can “work both ways” by testing whether rehearsing a set of words makes them easier to recall—even if the rehearsal takes place after the recall test is given. Participants were first
shown a set of words and given a free recall test of those words. They were then given a set of practice exercises on a randomly selected subset of those words. The psi hypothesis was that the practice exercises will retroactively facilitate the recall of those words, and, hence, participants will recall more of the to-be-practiced words than the unpracticed words.

In other words, one hundred Cornell students were given a bunch of words to look at. Then they were asked to recall as many as they could. After that recall test, a computer randomly chose a subset of the original set of words for the students to study. A statistical analysis was then performed, and showed that the students did better at remembering the words they studied post-test! Woah. Maybe it's not too late for me to ace those SATs.

Cool 3D Mandelbrot Renderings

Benoît Mandelbrot passed away recently. He was a mathematician known for his work with fractals. Indeed, he coined the term. I saw him speak once, and I got the impression that he was a bit of a kook. Whatever my impression, there is no question that his work was of great influence.

Here are some beautiful renderings of 3D fractal sets. Be sure to scroll down the page for the best ones. Quite spectacular.


Megan McCardle uses my idea

Kinda cool.

A couple of days ago Megan McCardle in The Atlantic wrote a story titled "The Gentrifier's Lament". Here's the opening:
So having finally closed on the house, we're living in what is euphemistically known as a "mixed" neighborhood, where poor black residents who have lived there for a generation or more exist somewhat uncomfortably side-by-side with more affluent whites who are drawn to the relatively cheap rents and lovely Victorian housing stock. The tensions thus built up are played out in many places, notably local politics, where a recent attempt by a local cafe to get a liquor license triggered many of the arguments that we heard after Adrian Fenty's loss in the mayoral race.

Yesterday, I rode the bus for the first time from the stop near my house, and ended up chatting with a lifelong neighborhood resident who has just moved to Arizona, and was back visiting family. We talked about the vagaries of the city bus system, and then after a pause, he said, "You know, you may have heard us talking about you people, how we don't want you here. A lot of people are saying you all are taking the city from us. Way I feel is, you don't own a city." He paused and looked around the admittedly somewhat seedy street corner. "Besides, look what we did with it. We had it for forty years, and look what we did with it!"
It goes on to discuss how neighborhoods change from white to black and back again, from poor to rich, and so forth.

It put me in mind of an old article I read back in 2002. I actually was able to remember that it was also in The Atlantic. I figured out a keyword from that old article and was able to find it again. It was "Seeing Around Corners" by Jonathon Rauch. In the article, he talked about a researcher, Thomas Schelling, who used computer modeling of neighborhoods to see how they change over time. One model Schelling built was very simple: how would a neighborhood change over time if each individual would prefer having at least two neighbors of the same race. In the end, he determined that, even if each individual wanted to live in a diverse community, their desire to have at least 2 same-race neighbors would eventually result in solid segregation:
In the random distribution, of course, many agents are unhappy; and in each of many iterations [...] unhappy agents are allowed to switch places. Very quickly ... the reds gravitate to their own neighborhood, and a few seconds later the segregation is complete: reds and blues live in two distinct districts....

...When I first looked at it, I thought I must be seeing a model of a community full of racists. I assumed, that is, that each agent wanted to live only among neighbors of its own color. I was wrong. In the simulation I've just described, each agent seeks only two neighbors of its own color. That is, these "people" would all be perfectly happy in an integrated neighborhood, half red, half blue. If they were real, they might well swear that they valued diversity. The realization that their individual preferences lead to a collective outcome indistinguishable from thoroughgoing racism might surprise them no less than it surprised me...
I then posted a comment on McCardle's piece quoting from the other Atlantic article.

Today, McCardle followed up on her article with another, "Gentrification and Its Discontents", which went deeper into the issue of the first post.

And how did she end today's post?...This way:
But the stable mixed-income neighborhood with something for anyone remains very much a goal, rather than an achievement, of city planners.

An article from our pages several years ago might explain why. Jonathan Rauch watched simulated societies in a computer, and noted what happened even when the "people" of the model had only a modest preference for being around others like them:

[ Extended quote from the Rauch article I handed her on a silver platter! ]

This is not just true of race; it is true of a number of characteristics, especially economic class. Which is understandable, because neighborhoods have network effects. Having more people like you means having more services for people like you, which is very valuable. Unfortunately, even a very mild preference for being around a few of your "own kind" seems to result in fairly homogenous neighborhoods--which explains, in this era of labor mobility, why people seem to live around others who are not only similar in income and race, but also in political views and other characteristics. A city planner trying to fight this has a heroic task in front of them.

None of this is new, of course; it's a bog standard debate in most urban centers. The problem can also be readily observed in situ by going to the many cities which have enacted inclusionary zoning and similar measures in response to gentrification, yet still seem to be gentrifying. If Ms. Baca wants me to "change my attitude" about this area of city planning, she is going to need to offer a little more than a lecture. I'm going to need some actual evidence--and so far, she's utterly failed to provide it
You're welcome, Ms. McCardle :)

I don't think Drudge likes him much

Have you ever gotten the impression that Matt Drudge (who is supposedly a Democrat) doesn't like Obama much? Here are the 4 photos of the president that Drudge had up on his site today. Quite flattering, don't you think? (Click to enlarge)

I don't think he ever gave BushII this kind of treatment.

Chandra Levy murder trial begins

After 9 years and Condit's fall, Levy trial begins.

Yes, that's right. Someone else is standing trial for her murder. I wonder if FoxNews, and Bill O'Reilly in particular, will make a big deal about the trial? After spending countless hours harping on Condit--with O'Reilly being the biggest offender--perhaps they should do a little equal time reporting on this other suspect.

The worst part is, O'Reilly, who led the rampage against Condit, now decries how evil the press were when they jumped to conclusions. I know he gets his hair and makeup done by someone else, but you'd think he'd occassionaly look in the mirror.

Inside the Supreme Court

Just in case there was still some doubt as to how the Supreme Court functions, consider this letter posted at The Corner

"She [Justice Ginsburg] told those assembled that the justices do not use the analytical framework to reach the results in a given case, but that they decide the result first and then fit the opinion into the existing framework."

All together now, kids, bang your head on your desks!

Michelle Rhee has resigned as chancellor of the Washington DC schools.

When she came in, she found a completely disfunctional system, where they didn't even know how the payroll system worked, who was getting checks, or why. She found a system deeply sclerotic and profligate. D.C. claims to spend more than $14,000 per student, but a recent study which took into account all funding methods for schools, put that number much higher: over $28,000.

It is quite clear that that torrent of money is doing very little to improve the education of DC's kids.

In came Rhee. She demanded concessions from the unions and managed to fire a couple of hundred poor-performing teachers. Her reforms were a tiny first step towards what DC needed, and she got results. The DC schools were starting to turn around.

As you can imagine, the union's fury knew no bounds, and in heavily-democratic and union-friendly DC, that mattered. The Democratic mayoral primary election was all about Michelle Rhee. One candidate was the guy who appointed her; he stood by her and defended the reforms. The other candidate sided with the unions and opposed her reforms. The union-backed candidate won. (On the Republican side, no one ever seems much point in running anyone to oppose the Democrats, so no one was on the ballot. However, Rhee's patron, Adrian Fenty got over 800 Republican write-ins on the same day--in my mind, proving which party really stands with the kids and which doesn't. He said he was a Democrat, and so declined the Republican nomination.)

So, Rhee saw the rude graffiti on the wall and turned in her ruler.

The students of D.C. just lost their best friend and their best advocate. In addition, school reforms in D.C. will now be set back a decade or more.

But the union is happy.

Everyday Math

Interesting... many of the bits I've seen from Everyday Math are similar to the way I do arithmetic in my head. For 754-472, I would add 200+80+2.

Ann adds: I spontaneously did what I call "adding-up" subtraction a few years ago. I put absolutely no thought into it, but suddenly found myself looking at the bottom number, figuring out how many to add to get to the upper number, then, if I had to borrow, borrowing by adding to the bottom, instead of subtracting from the top. Instead of crossing off and rewriting above the problem--leaving everything a mess, all this method requires is a little tick mark on the summation line to signal when you have to add to the bottom number. I've been afraid to teach that to the kids, because (unlike EM), I think they should use just one algorithm, and get that one down, and not jump between a lot of different methods.

So, for your example, I'd ad 2 to get to 4, then, since I can't add to get from 7 to 5, I put a tick next to the bottom 4 and add from 7 to 15. Then add the tick mark to the 4 to turn it into a 5, and add 2 to get from 5 to 7. It's a really clean and easy way to do it.

Where EM really falls down is the inordinate time spent doing the "lattice method" for multiplication. I think they spend better than half of their multiplication time on it. And, when you start working with really large numbers, the method gets really tough to use.

And falling...

I just checked the InTrade numbers for the Senate.

Current betting has Dem control of the senate down at 44%, and falling. It fell below 50% just a few days ago.

Remember back a whole month ago, after Christine O'Donnell got the Republican nomination for the Senate in Delaware? Remember the hue and cry that this doomed...DOOMED!!!!...Republican chances at capturing the Senate?

Well, it's been an interesting month!

Hope the parachute opens

From Powerline:
I talked with a Republican Congressman a few days ago who told me that he expects the GOP to take the House, but doesn't think the election will be as much of a rout as it probably should be. The reason, he said, is that across the country, Democratic incumbents are sitting on huge piles of cash. He mentioned Oberstar and South Dakota's Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin as examples of incumbents who will be able to "carpet-bomb"--his term--their districts with ads during the campaign's last weeks. Republican fundraising has been good this year, but the concerned citizens who are contributing to Republican campaigns can't begin to match the mega-rich and special interest donors who are trying to stem the conservative tide by financing the Democrats.
If they control that cash...and if they know the Republicans are going to win the house...which means being a congressman just won't be as much fun...doesn't campaign finance law still allow them to walk off with the money? I know the law used to allow that, I'm not sure if it's been changed. If it hasn't been changed, these guys might prefer the golden parachute to another two years in office.

Still moving

Real Clear Politic's House preditions/poll section, has made 15 adjustments to their calculations since 9/28. Of those, only one goes towards the Democrats (VA5), and even that one is still in the "leans GOP" category--it's only dropped from "likely":

Also, today Rasmussen has the Senate tied at 48/48 with 4 toss-up races. Which means they still very much have the Senate in play. The toss-up states, according to Rasmussen, are: California, Illinois, Nevada, and Washington.

Right now, the momentum in the CA Governor's race is towards the Dem, Brown. But the momentum is the senate race, I think, is away from the Dem, Boxer. CA could easily send a Republican woman to the Senate (and by removing Boxer, would raise the IQ of that august body by about 100 points.)

Update: Mark Perry over at Carpe Diem notes that Intrade has a Democratic Senate now at less than 50% chance.