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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

My course on Statistical Communication and Graphics

We will study and practice many different aspects of statistical communication, including graphing data and fitted models, programming in Rrrrrrrr, writing for specialized and general audiences, lecturing, working with students and colleagues, and combining words and pictures in different ways. You learn by writing an entry in your statistics diary every day. You learn by […]

I didn’t say that! Part 2

Uh oh, this is getting kinda embarrassing. The Garden of Forking Paths paper, by Eric Loken and myself, just appeared in American Scientist. Here’s our manuscript version (“The garden of forking paths: Why multiple comparisons can be a problem, even when there is no ‘fishing expedition’ or ‘p-hacking’ and the research hypothesis was posited ahead […]

“Regular Customer: It was so much easier when I was a bum. I didn’t have to wake up at 4am to go to work, didn’t have all these bills and girlfriends.”

Love the Liberry is still going strong.

“Derek Jeter was OK”

Tom Scocca files a bizarrely sane column summarizing the famous shortstop’s accomplishments: Derek Jeter was an OK ballplayer. He was pretty good at playing baseball, overall, and he did it for a pretty long time. . . . You have to be good at baseball to last 20 seasons in the major leagues. . . […]

What is the purpose of a poem?

OK, let’s take a break from blogging about economics. OK, I haven’t actually been blogging so much about econ lately, but it just happens that I’m writing this on 19 July, a day after poking a stick into the hornet’s nest by posting “Differences between econometrics and statistics: From varying treatment effects to utilities, economists […]

Some time in the past 200 years the neighborhood has changed

“In that pleasant district of Merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.  The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the […]

Updike and O’Hara

I just read this review by Louis Menand of a biography of John Updike. Lots of interesting stuff here, with this, perhaps, being the saddest: When Updike received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, in 1998, two of [his second wife’s] children were present, but his were not invited. Menand’s […]

Battle of the cozy comedians: What’s Alan Bennett’s problem with Stewart Lee?

When in London awhile ago I picked up the book, “How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian,” by Stewart Lee. I’d never heard of the guy but the book was sitting there, it had good blurbs, and from a quick flip-through it looked interesting. Now that I’ve read […]

Trimmed Hedges

Sorry about the title. It was the closest I could come to “Shattered Glass.” The subhead is “Pulitzer winner. Lefty hero. Plagiarist.” Chris Hedges is a reporter who apparently has been very busy for many years, in fact, according to this report by Christopher Ketcham he’s been so busy telling important things to the world […]

Fooled by randomness

From 2006: Naseem Taleb‘s publisher sent me a copy of “Fooled by randomness: the hidden role of chance in life and the markets” to review. It’s an important topic, and the book is written in a charming style—I’ll try to respond in kind, with some miscellaneous comments. On the cover of the book is a […]

How literature is like statistical reasoning: Kosara on stories. Gelman and Basbøll on stories.

In “Story: A Definition,” visual analysis researcher Robert Kosara writes: A story ties facts together. There is a reason why this particular collection of facts is in this story, and the story gives you that reason. provides a narrative path through those facts. In other words, it guides the viewer/reader through the world, rather than just throwing […]

In the best alternative histories, the real world is what’s ultimately real

This amusing-yet-so-true video directed by Eléonore Pourriat shows a sex-role-reversed world where women are in charge and men don’t get taken seriously. It’s convincing and affecting, but the twist that interests me comes at the end, when the real world returns. It’s really creepy. And this in turn reminds me of something we discussed here […]

Literal vs. rhetorical

Thomas Basbøll pointed me to a discussion on the orgtheory blog in which Jerry Davis, the editor of a journal of business management argued that it is difficult for academic researchers to communicate with the public because “the public prefers Cheetos to a healthy salad” and when serious papers are discussed on the internet, “everyone […]

What is the appropriate time scale for blogging—the day or the week?

I post (approximately) once a day and don’t plan to change that. I have enough material to post more often—for example, I could intersperse existing blog posts with summaries of my published papers or of other work that I like; and, beyond this, we currently have a one-to-two-month backlog of posts—but I’m afraid that if […]

A good comment on one of my papers

An anonymous reviewer wrote: I appreciate informal writing styles as a means of increasing accessibility. However, the informality here seems to decrease accessibility – partly because of the assumed knowledge of the reader for concepts and terms, and also for its wandering style. Many concepts are introduced without explanation and are not clearly and decisively […]

Parables vs. stories

God is in every leaf of every tree, but he is not in every leaf of every parable. Let me explain with a story. A few months ago I read the new book, Doing Data Science, by Rachel Schutt and Cathy O’Neil, and I came across the following motivation for comprehensive integration of data sources, […]

Advice on writing research articles

From a few years ago: General advice Both the papers sent to me appear to have strong research results. Now that the research has been done, I’d recommend rewriting both articles from scratch, using the following template: 1. Start with the conclusions. Write a couple pages on what you’ve found and what you recommend. In […]

Things that I like that almost nobody else is interested in

This post by Jordan Ellenberg (“Stoner represents a certain strain in the mid-century American novel that I really like, and which I don’t think exists in contemporary fiction. Anguish, verbal restraint, weirdness”) reminds me that what I really like is mid-to-late-twentieth-century literary criticism. I read a great book from the 50s, I think it was, […]

Spam names

There was this thing going around awhile ago, the “porn star name,” which you create by taking the name of your childhood pet, followed by the name of the street where you grew up (for example, Blitz Clifton). But recently I’ve been thinking about spam names. Just in the last two days, I’ve received emails […]


There’s lots of overlap but I put each paper into only one category.  Also, I’ve included work that has been published in 2013 as well as work that has been completed this year and might appear in 2014 or later.  So you can can think of this list as representing roughly two years’ work. Political […]