Are you ready?

For ages I’ve had this one question, on an online test, that just reads “are you ready to answer some questions about this research”.

Honestly, it happened originally because I couldn’t figure out a way to paste a large body of text into the online test except by making it a question, so I just tacked “are you ready” onto the end and called it question one.

But I was always amused to see who said yes, and who said no, and enjoyed pretending I was gonna count that question wrong if they said “no” but then got an A.

Now I have a new favorite answer though: “My mind is telling me no, but my body is tellin’ me yes”

Which you have to admit, covers all the bases in style




Interesting, why do you consider harry potter is a dystopia?

I find it impossible to think of Harry Potter as anything BUT a dystopia. Even Hogwarts itself is a dystopia.

Children are segregated based on a personality test at age 11, and then left to fulfill roles that were set out a thousand years ago, leading to cultural divides that continue for the rest of their lives. The Hogwarts house system is one of the main foundations of the pureblood/muggleborn conflict. And I haven’t even gotten into how Hogwarts is run, how useful it is as a tool for preparing people for adult life, and how dangerous it is to live there.

As for Wizarding Britain at large:

  • There’s no evidence that the Ministry of Magic is organized by anything other than cronyism.
  • The Minister for Magic is not a democratically elected leader.
  • Voldemort easily finds a foothold in mainstream society (even within living memory of his last reign of terror!) and his supporters easily infiltrate the government and implement all sorts of nightmarish and bigoted policies.
  • Azkaban,
  • We rarely see people working to innovate any aspect of wizarding society, with the exception of eccentrics like the Weasley Twins or Luna Lovegood.
  • Wizarding society is so isolated that purebloods find it strange if a witch or wizard takes much interest in muggle culture, even if they are muggleborn.
  • Umbridge is allowed to torture children and spread propaganda at the only major educational institution in the country.
  • There’s a huge amount of discrimination relating to non-human races, particularly House Elf slavery.

I could go on at some length on this topic, but instead I’ll finish with my pet theory: that Wizarding Britain is so fucked up that the rest of the wizarding world has just given up on it.

We know from the Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament that there are plenty of magical cultures all over the world, but Britain receives NO kind of international help when Voldemort is on the rise or when the Ministry of Magic is in turmoil.

Obviously the “real” explanation is that the Voldemort/Harry/Hogwarts narrative must to be isolated for Harry’s story to be told… but I still quite like the explanation that Wizarding Britain has been abandoned by the rest of the world. Their society has become so warped, so backward and so beholden to irrational beliefs and traditions that other international wizarding powers have decided the situation is unsalvageable.

There’s no point in stepping in to get rid of Voldemort unless he becomes a threat overseas, because another Dark Lord will probably rise up in a few years anyway. And Wizarding Britain seems functionally incapable of defending itself from this threat without the help of Harry and his team of teen sidekicks — who by the end of the series are all suffering from PTSD because they have spent their formative years fighting in a dystopian war.

(P.S. Even if my pet theory ISN’T true, then the international wizarding community must still have SOME reason not to step in and help Britain fight back against Voldemort. Which, in itself, makes the world of Harry Potter seem even more dystopian than before.)

Super into this person who has exactly the same wacky fan theory of Harry Potter that I do.

It’s almost as if the actual public school educated British Establishment is some kind of dystopian influence.

This makes me so happy

Deep Blues

"Marybeth Hamilton, in her not unsympathetic autopsy of James McKune’s mania, comes dangerously close to suggesting that McKune was the first person to hear Skip James as we hear him, as a profound artist. But Skip James was the first person to hear Skip James that way.”

Excerpt From: Sullivan, John Jeremiah. “Pulphead: Essays.”

The problem with creating statistical models is that of course your assumptions about your modelling choices work, and have worked in the past, until they don’t.

"It’s also important to check whether modeling choices have a sound basis in theory. One variable our model uses is an ideology score for each candidate, which seeks to estimate how liberal or conservative he or she is relative to voters in his or her state. This variable is highly statistically significant in predicting election outcomes — but just as important is that it has a strong basis in the political science literature (in this case, see the median voter theorem). By contrast, if we’d found that past election outcomes had been well predicted by the number of consonants a candidate had in her middle name, we’d strongly suspect this was a statistical fluke and we wouldn’t include it in our model."

And of course Silver is right to base the model against the theoretical literature.  This Orangutan correctly predicted seven straight Super Bowl winners.  It’s very impressive, but I don’t think the sports book took him seriously.  And while in the past ideology score might have been useful in predicting winners, that’s not statistics anymore, now it’s just guessing.  Well reasoned, informed, careful guessing, but guessing nonetheless.  And guesses like this will be right all the way up until suddenly they aren’t, when, say, the way the electorate of a state starts thinking about political ideology differently.

Which isn’t necessarily an argument one way or another, for more or less complicated statistical models, but it is a reminder that analysis isn’t really science, no matter how much we dress it up with complicated numbers.

A list of things about the 2014 Senate race, and the attempts to predict its outcome:

  1. More than anything I wish I had found a way to have my methods class play the Iowa Electronic Markets this year.  Most academics use it as a resource to teach business students how markets work, but it would be a fantastic way to play around with polling data as well. 
  2. In 2012 Nate Silver said some things that really resonated with me, especially in response to critics who didn’t believe his relatively confident prediction of an Democratic win could possibly be accurate.  With our 24 hour news cycle, most media outlets need to assume (pretend?) that major political races are in play, when usually they are not.  Most of the time if you know who’s leading several months before the election, you know who will be leading the day of the election as well.  Most major media players NEED to ignore this, because they need new content EVERY DAY.  Sadly, Silver now has a shiny new blog associated with ESPN, and while they publish lots of non-political content, it still means they need new content EVERY DAY.
  3. Finally, the online back and forth between Silver and Princeton’s Sam is depressing.  The slagging in the comments section on their various websites even more so. “I hated discussing ideas with investors,” Michael Burry says, “because then I became a Defender of the Idea, and that influences your thought process.”  And I think this applies to statistical modelling just as well. 

"This is ironic, because every aspect of that narrative has been subjected to withering criticism by social scientists over the last thirty years. It is not simply that the aspects of black culture that the narrative identifies have been shaped by structural forces like racism; for the most part, they either don’t exist at all, or else are reflective of norms and values that are commonplace in the United States — and are not, therefore, unique features of the “black community.” Every component of the culture of poverty narrative is a phantasm, a projection of racial fantasies on to the culture of African Americans, which has for several centuries now served as the screen on which the national unconscious plays out.

Put more bluntly, they are lies.”

"The pernicious, toxic and inescapable lifelong effect of being disciplined physically – either to the point of abuse, or to the point that the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable blurs in your mind – is that you almost have to say you turned out fine, just to redeem the fact of being who you are. That you “turned out fine” is the only way to make sense of having once felt total terror or uncontrollable shaking rage at the sight of one (or both) of the two people expected to care most for you in the world. The thought that you might have ended up relatively OK or perhaps even better without all that fear is almost unbearable: the suffering only doubles if you admit that it truly had no purpose.”

Exams as Polls!

Sociology 101 Top Three Foods!

  1. Pizza
  2. Cheeseburger
  3. Sushi

Sociology 101, you are a six year old.  

Ok, a six year old who likes sushi.

"Today, 89 percent of House Republicans are white men, compared to just 47 percent of House Democrats. For some context, according to 2013 Census estimates just 31 percent of U.S. residents are non-Hispanic white males."

"There’s only one problem: The oft-cited 10-to-1 figure is almost certainly inaccurate. It’s a crude estimate from 1972 that established itself as a fact through repetition and generations of citations. As such, it reveals the staying power of convenient falsehoods—and how an obscure scientist who left a peculiar legacy has been cited by top researchers for decades."

When a number gets repeated, even just a little, it quickly transforms into fact.  What should the thermometer read in a healthy human body? How many cups of water should you drink in a day?

Elements of this article that might turn into a test question:

  1. "Why every real man carries a tote bag." Real men huh…
  2. Don’t call it a ‘murse’. And don’t you dare call it ‘gay’. ” Gender and sexuality, together again…
  3. "part from convenient storage, the tote bag can function in the city as a similar kind of social semaphore to cars in the suburbs, signaling who you are, where you’ve been…" Consumer identity as the only identity?
  4. Oh yeah, and let’s talk about why we shouldn’t call it a murse? What’s happening with language here, and what’s implied by this particular stance?

But we’re not influenced by the media, of course not, don’t be silly…

Spoiler alert: no, no it was not. 

Let’s talk about the foods that scare Americans…and why

Psychologists have found that people’s belief in a just world helps explain how they react to innocent victims of negative life circumstances. People become cognitively frustrated when presented with stories of victims who suffer through little fault of their own. They can deal with this frustration in two ways: they can conclude that the world is an unjust place, or they can decide that the victim is somehow to blame. Most people reconcile their psychological distress by blaming the victim. Even when we know that suffering is undeserved, it is psychologically easier to blame the victim rather than give up the idea that the world is basically fair.
~ Melissa Harris-Perry