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

“David Brooks And Jeremy Paxman To Judge The Golden Giraffes”

I don’t think I have much of a chance here, not because of the judging—I’d trust Brooks and Paxman to recognize good writing—but because the competition includes some heavy hitters, including Dan Davies with a meta-blog-post called The Verjus Manifesto, Sara Paretsky on The Detective As Speech, and Charles Pierce with . . . well, […]

Don’t miss this one: “Modern Physics from an Elementary Point of View”

I was googling *back of the envelope* for a recent post and I came across these lecture notes by Victor Weisskopf from 1969. I can no longer really follow this sort of thing—I really really wish this had been my textbook back when I was studying physics. If they’d taught us this stuff, I might’ve […]

Top 5 movies about scientists

In this NYT interview, Philip “Stanford Prison Experiment” Zimbardo gives his list: 1. “Madame Curie,” 1943 2. “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” 1976 3. “Awakenings,” 1990 4. “The Insider,” 1999 5. “The Imitation Game,” 2014. Not a very impressive list. But that’s the point, I guess: there haven’t been many good movies about scientists. I was racking […]

Annals of Spam

OK, explain to me this email: God day, How are you? My name is **. I came across your contact email at the University of Cyprus, Department of Economics. I seek for a private Economics teacher for my Daughter. I would like to know if you would be available for job. If you would be […]

Erdos bio for kids

Chris Gittins recommends the book, “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos,” by Deborah Heiligman. Gittins reports: We read it with our soon-to-be-first-grader this evening. She liked it and so did we. I knew a little about Erdos but the book probably quadrupled my knowledge. Thought it might be of interest […]

Review of The Martian

I actually read this a couple months ago after Bob recommended it to me. I don’t know why I did this, given that the last book Bob recommended to me, I hated, but in this case I made a good choice. The Martian was excellent and was indeed hard to set down. Recently I’ve been […]

Being polite vs. saying what we really think

We recently discussed an article by Isabel Scott and Nicholas Pound entitled, “Menstrual Cycle Phase Does Not Predict Political Conservatism,” in which Scott and Pound definitively shot down some research that was so ridiculous it never even deserved the dignity of being shot down. The trouble is, the original article, “The Fluctuating Female Vote: Politics, […]

Irwin Shaw: “I might mistrust intellectuals, but I’d mistrust nonintellectuals even more.”

A few weeks ago I picked up a paperback of stories by Irwin Shaw, printed in the late 1950s. I love these little pocket books—but this one was a bit too disposable: after about 50 pages the spine gave out and the pages started to fall out, which was a bit irritating because then I […]

Harry S. Truman, Jesus H. Christ, Roy G. Biv

Are there any others?

This sentence by Thomas Mallon would make Barry N. Malzberg spin in his grave, except that he’s still alive so it would just make him spin in his retirement

Don’t get me wrong, I think Thomas Mallon is great. But what was he thinking when he wrote this: I know the New Yorker doesn’t do fact-checking anymore, but still. The funny thing is, Malzberg has similarities with Mailer both in style and subject matter. I’m guessing that in his statement Mallon is trying to […]

Ripped from the pages of a George Pelecanos novel

Did anyone else notice that this DC multiple-murder case seems just like a Pelecanos story? Check out the latest headline, “D.C. Mansion Murder Suspect Is Innocent Because He Hates Pizza, Lawyer Says”: Robin Flicker, a lawyer who has represented suspect Wint in the past but has not been officially hired as his defense attorney, says […]

“17 Baby Names You Didn’t Know Were Totally Made Up”

From Laura Wattenberg: Want to drive the baby-naming public up the wall? Tell them you’re naming your daughter Renesmee. Author Stephenie Meyer invented the name for the half-vampire child in her wildly popular Twilight series. In the story it’s simply an homage to the child’s two grandmothers, Renee and Esmé. To the traditional-minded, though, Renesmee […]

Wikipedia is the best

“It is not readily apparent whether Boo-Boo is a juvenile bear with a precocious intellect or simply an adult bear who is short of stature.”

“History is the prediction of the present”

Ethan Bolker sent me an email with the above title and wrote: That’s the first sentence of a Louis Menand book review in the March 30 New Yorker. It touches on some ideas you play with. If you haven’t seen it, you might put it on your (long?) queue of things to read, maybe blog […]

What’s the worst joke you’ve ever heard?

When I say worst, I mean worst. A joke with no redeeming qualities. Here’s my contender, from the book “1000 Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids”: – Knock Knock. – Who’s there? – Ann – Ann who? – An apple fell on my head. There’s something beautiful about this one. It’s the clerihew of jokes. Zero cleverness. […]

Objects of the class “Foghorn Leghorn”

Reprinting a classic from 2010: The other day I saw some kids trying to tell knock-knock jokes, The only one they really knew was the one that goes: Knock knock. Who’s there? Banana? Banana who? Knock knock. Who’s there? Banana? Banana who? Knock knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say […]

Bob Carpenter’s favorite books on GUI design and programming

Bob writes: I would highly recommend two books that changed the way I thought about GUI design (though I’ve read a lot of them): * Jeff Johnson. GUI Bloopers. I read the first edition in book form and the second in draft form (the editor contacted me based on my enthusiastic Amazon feedback, which was […]

Apology to George A. Romero

This came in the email one day last year: Good Afternoon Mr. Gelman, I am reaching out to you on behalf of Pearson Education who would like to license an excerpt of text from How Many Zombies Do You Know? for the following, upcoming textbook program: Title: Writing Today Author: Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Charles Paine […]

Eccentric mathematician

I just read this charming article by Lee Wilkinson’s brother on a mathematician named Yitang Zhang. Zhang recently gained some fame after recently proving a difficult theorem, and he seems to be a quite unusual, but likable, guy. What I liked about Wilkinson’s article is how it captured Zhang’s eccentricities with affection but without condescension. […]

Statistical significance, practical significance, and interactions

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: interaction is one of the key underrated topics in statistics. I thought about this today (OK, a couple months ago, what with our delay) when reading a post by Dan Kopf on the exaggeration of small truths. Or, to put it another way, statistically significant but […]