The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Battery strangeness

When I left home, my iPod, Kindle, computer, and GPS were all fully charged. When I got to Finalnd, my iPod and computer were still fine, but my Kindle and GPS were completely drained. I have no idea why. All of them were in the same bag, all of them were off (except the laptop, which I used in flight), and the two that were drained were completely drained, not just low. Plus they recharged just fine once I got here.

What gives?

Checking in

I'm right now at JFK on my way to Europe, to attend the CCMBA residency in St. Petersburg. This is just about the first moment I've had to chill in a couple of days. Thus the dearth of posts recently.

First, I want to build a copy of Scott Adams's house:

My home office is designed with a sound baffle. It's a 10-foot diagonal hallway between my office door and the main office space. It's a kill zone for sound waves, and it works like a charm. The house has no carpets, so sound carries, but none of it makes it to my desk. The master bedroom has the same feature.

... We made room for the oversized kitchen and the theater by leaving out rooms you normally find in a home. We left out the fancy foyer, formal living room, and formal dining room. Our dining table, which hasn't arrived yet, will float just off the kitchen and double as the main thoroughfare for the downstairs. That way we avoid extra walls and hallways that ruin the flow of a house.

Second, and more importantly, my friend DC got a new puppy, Rex:

He's a pure-bred German Shepherd dog, and he's just a sweetie. He's also drooling; he, like lots of puppies, gets car sick. He made it all the way to O'Hare but by then his forelimbs were covered in drool. Poor puppy. DC reports he eats a quarter of his weight in food every day, so I'm kind of glad he didn't lose it in the car.

6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6...70-68

The longest tennis match in history has ended:

When John Isner finally won the longest match in tennis history, he collapsed on the Wimbledon grass and then summoned one last burst of energy, springing to his feet to applaud along with the crowd.

The American hit a backhand winner to win the last of the match’s 980 points, and he took the fifth set Thursday against Nicolas Mahut, 70-68.

The first-round match took 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days, lasting so long it was suspended because of darkness — two nights in a row. Play resumed Thursday at 59-all and continued for more than an hour before Isner won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.

Yikes.

Morning round-up

After a Strategy exam, Finance exam, Strategy team paper, project estimate for work, and...well, that's really all I did the last four days, come to think of it...I'm more or less back.

Herewith a quorum of things I noticed but didn't have time to note:

  • The Washington Post reported yesterday that MC 900 Ft. Jesus—sorry, I meant an actual 30 m statue of Jesus—got struck by lightning Monday night and burned to the ground. Signpost to Armageddon? Probably not, but it has an element of Apocalyptic whimsy to it, don't you think?.
  • Via Sullivan, the Vision of Humanity project's Global Peace Index puts New Zealand at the top and Iraq at the bottom. We're 85th (of 149); Britain is 31st; and Finalnd and Russia, countries I'm visiting in two weeks, are 9th and 146th, respectively. Check out the interactive map.
  • The Economist's Gulliver blog linked to a Sunday Times (reg.req.) article about the beauty of window seats. I always get the window, if possible; so does Gulliver, apparently, and the Times author who wrote: "My favourite window-seat ride is crossing America — with the asphalt labyrinth of the crammed east coast giving way first to ceaseless Appalachian forest, then to the eerie geometric perfection of the farm-belt fields, then to the intimidating, jaw-dropping emptiness of the west, before the smog starts lapping at your window as California sprawls into view." Yep.
  • Today has tremendous significance to my small and fuzzy family which I will relate later.

Back to the mines.

Quake simulation

Via Bruce Schneier, an interesting experiment at Wharton School of Business showed students have a bias towards short-term gain—even in the face of certain disaster:

It’s not like the students don’t know what’s coming, either. When asked if they understand what’s going on, they always say, yeah, they get it: they’re about to get hit by an earthquake. So if it’s not stupidity or ignorance, why do the students keep losing? Kunreuther and Meyer believe the game demonstrates a psychological bias toward short-term maximization instead of long-term planning—a psychological bias all humans share.

Meyer has tried out the Quake simulation with groups of corporate executives, and the results are the same. The players always see the quake coming, and they always “have a difficult time translating that belief that it’s going to happen to a short-term action”—much the same way, in fact, that the government of Haiti failed to adequately prepare for the possibility of a major earthquake.

Though I wonder: since the experiment targeted business students and corporate executives, might there be some bias? I'd like to see the experiment repeated with a larger, more random sample.

Anyway, the results might explain how, for the next few days, I'm locking myself in my apartment to finish two exams and a research paper, all of which are due Monday.

Painter of light, stiffer of creditors

In a move calculated to let millions of people believe that taste has not fled the American continent altogether, Thomas Kinkade has filed for bankruptcy:

The Chapter 11 petition was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Jose in the name of the Kinkade production arm, Pacific Metro of Morgan Hill, Calif. It allows Pacific Metro to reorganize and puts an automatic stay on the collection of all judgments, including one for $3 million owed to Karen Hazlewood and Jeff Spinello.

"Kinkade is a … deadbeat," said their lawyer, Norman Yatooma, who accused the artist and his Los Angeles attorney, Dana Levitt, of "breaching their agreement" to pay up. "Kinkade's word is as worthless as his artwork. His lawyer is no better."

(Oh my god! It's a gazebo!)

Coffee and maths

From Matthew Yglesias, information about coffee consumption worldwide, which apparently peaks in Finland:

The Swedes are actually a bit less coffee-mad than the Finns, Norwegians, Danes, or Icelanders but as you can see here all the Nordic peoples drink a ton of coffee, in the Swedish case a bit less than twice as much per capita as Americans do. The Södermalm area of Stockholm where Mikael Blonkvist and Lisbeth Salander live and Millenium and Milton Security are headquartered is just littered with coffee houses like nothing I’ve ever seen in America (incidentally, this is where I stayed when I was in Stockholm on the recommendation of a blog reader—it’s a hugely fun neighborhood, definitely stay there if you visit). Personally, I drink way more coffee than the average American and find this aspect of Swedish life congenial. Even I, however, had to balk at the extreme quantity of coffee I was served in Finland where consumption is absolutely off the charts.

And another from math teacher Dan Meyer:

It is exceptionally easy for me to treat the skills and structures of mathematics as holy writ. My default state is to assume that every student shares my reverence for the stone tablets onto which the math gods originally etched the quadratic formula. It is a matter of daily discipline to ask myself, instead:

  • what problem was the quadratic formula originally intended to solve?
  • why is the quadratic formula the best way to solve that problem?
  • how can I put my students in a position to discover the answers to (a) and (b) on their own?

This last is particularly intriguing because not only would I like those answers about the quadratic formula, I'd also like those answers about the Capital Asset Pricing Model and Black-Scholes.

Off to San Francisco this afternoon, to put off dealing with my head-exploding workload for three days. If the guy sitting in the row ahead of me leans back so I can't use my laptop, I will cry.

Four examples of mathematics in our lives

Exhibit the First: This morning on NPR, a "retired banker from Eagle River, Wis.," when interviewed about the retirement of Rep. David Obey (D-WI) claimed, "I think the majority of people up here are independent thinkers."

Exhibit the Second: via Gulliver, a study of airfare fluctuations in the U.S. market found airfares fluctuate millions of times per year for some city pairs in the U.S. For example, airfares between Atlanta and Las Vegas changed almost 2.5m times last year. Gulliver pointed out that this reflects intense price competition and really good pricing strategies. As for the number of changes? Multiply out the number of seats available times a modest frequency of changes (hundreds of seconds between changes for each seat) and you get into the millions. I'm interested what my marketing professor would say.

Exhibit the Third: via Sullivan, a Spanish mathemetician has examined marital breakups, complete with colorful charts.

Exhibit the Last: Glenview, Ill., police arrested four kids over the weekend for trying to tip cows at a local museum farm. The mathematical tie-in comes from the mass differential between a 500 kg cow and a 80 kg human. Said Wagner Farm director Todd Price, "cow tipping has never been a major concern, mostly because it's harder than people think."