Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

The Westlake Review

I came across this site one day: The Westlake Review is a blog dedicated to doing a detailed review and analysis of every novel Donald Westlake published under his own name, as well as under a variety of pseudonyms. These reviews will reveal major plot elements, though they will not be full synopses. People who […]

Irwin Shaw, John Updike, and Donald Trump

So. I read more by and about Irwin Shaw. I read Shaw’s end-of-career collection of short stories and his most successful novel, The Young Lions, and also the excellent biography by Michael Shnayerson. I also read Adam Begley’s recent biography of John Updike, which was also very good, and it made be sad that probably […]

An improved ending for The Martian

In this post from a couple years ago I discussed the unsatisfying end of The Martian. At the time, I wrote: The ending is not terrible—at a technical level it’s somewhat satisfying (I’m not enough of a physicist to say more than that), but at the level of construction of a story arc, it didn’t […]

Classical statisticians as Unitarians

[cat picture] Christian Robert, Judith Rousseau, and I wrote: Several of the examples in [the book under review] represent solutions to problems that seem to us to be artificial or conventional tasks with no clear analogy to applied work. “They are artificial and are expressed in terms of a survey of 100 individuals expressing support […]

From Whoops to Sorry: Columbia University history prof relives 1968

I haven’t had much contact with the history department here at Columbia. A bunch of years ago I co-taught a course with Herb Klein and some others, and the material from that class went into my book co-edited with Jeronimo Cortina, A Quantitative Tour of the Social Sciences. More recently, I’ve had some conversations with […]

A quote from William James that could’ve come from Robert Benchley or S. J. Perelman or Dorothy Parker

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s a William James quote that could’ve been plucked right off the Algonquin Round Table: Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.

A collection of quotes from William James that all could’ve come from . . . Bill James!

From a few years ago, some quotes from the classic psychologist that fit within the worldview of the classic sabermetrician: Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain. A great many people think they are thinking […]

Design top down, Code bottom up

Top-down design means designing from the client application programmer interface (API) down to the code. The API lays out a precise functional specification, which says what the code will do, not how it will do it. Coding bottom up means coding the lowest-level foundations first, testing them, then continuing to build. Sometimes this requires dropping […]

Reality meets the DeLilloverse

From 2009: “They thought ASU’s brand was too strong to compete with. Incarnate Word is now part of the Communiversity @ Surprise, a newly opened one-stop learning center for higher education in the northwest Valley.” I guess my statistics textbooks probably read like parodies of statistics textbooks, so from that perspective it makes sense that […]

Journals for insignificant results

Tom Daula writes: I know you’re not a fan of hypothesis testing, but the journals in this blog post are an interesting approach to the file drawer problem. I’ve never heard of them or their like. An alternative take (given academia standard practice) is “Journal for XYZ Discipline papers that p-hacking and forking paths could […]

Storytelling as predictive model checking

[cat picture] I finally got around to reading Adam Begley’s biography of John Updike, and it was excellent. I’ll have more on that in a future post, but for now I just went to share the point, which I’d not known before, that almost all of Updike’s characters and even the descriptions and events in […]

I’m thinking of using these as the titles for my next 97 blog posts

Where do you think these actually came from? (No googling—that would be cheating.) P.S. Anyone who wants to know the answer can google it. But there were some great guesses in the comments. My favorite, from Frank: I’ve got to go with “before the colon” in questionable social science papers, e.g: “Don’t make me laugh: […]

When do stories work, Process tracing, and Connections between qualitative and quantitative research

Jonathan Stray writes: I read your “when do stories work” paper (with Thomas Basbøll) with interest—as a journalist stories are of course central to my field. I wondered if you had encountered the “process tracing” literature in political science? It attempts to make sense of stories as “case studies” and there’s a nice logic of […]

Comment of the year

In our discussion of research on the possible health benefits of a low-oxygen environment, Raghu wrote: This whole idea (low oxygen -> lower cancer risk) seems like a very straightforward thing to test in animals, which one can move to high and low oxygen environments . . . And then Llewelyn came in for the […]

Objects of the class “George Orwell”

image George Orwell is an exemplar in so many ways: a famed truth-teller who made things up, a left-winger who mocked left-wingers, an author of a much-misunderstood novel (see “Objects of the class ‘Sherlock Holmes,’”) probably a few dozen more. But here I’m talking about Orwell’s name being used as an adjective. More specifically, “Orwellian” […]

Christmas special: Survey research, network sampling, and Charles Dickens’ coincidences

image It’s Christmas so what better time to write about Charles Dickens . . . Here’s the story: In traditional survey research we have been spoiled. If you work with atomistic data structures, a small sample looks like a little bit of the population. But a small sample of a network doesn’t look like the […]

How to include formulas (LaTeX) and code blocks in WordPress posts and replies

It’s possible to include LaTeX formulas like . I entered it as $latex \int e^x \, \mathrm{d}x$. You can also generate code blocks like this for (n in 1:N) y[n] ~ normal(0, 1); The way to format them is to use <pre> to open the code block and </pre> to close it. You can create […]

Unfinished (so far) draft blog posts

Most of the time when I start writing a blog post, I continue till its finished. As of this writing this blog has 7128 posts published, 137 scheduled, and only 434 unpublished drafts sitting in the folder. 434 might sound like a lot, but we’ve been blogging for over 10 years, and a bunch of […]

Spin

Yesterday all the past. The language of effect size Spreading to Psychology along the sub-fields; the diffusion Of the counting-frame and the quincunx; Yesterday the shadow-reckoning in the ivy climates. Yesterday the assessment of hypotheses by tests, The divination of water; yesterday the invention Of cartwheels and clocks, the power-pose of Horses. Yesterday the bustling […]

Some people are so easy to contact and some people aren’t.

I was reading Cowboys Full, James McManus’s entertaining history of poker (but way too much on the so-called World Series of Poker), and I skimmed the index to look up some of my favorite poker writers. Frank Wallace and David Spanier were both there but only got brief mentions in the text, I was disappointed […]