Posts with mood awake (18)

Scorecasting review
Mood: awake
Posted on 2011-02-11 02:02:00
Tags: reviews books
Words: 797

My latest Kindle read is Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won. It's a combination of Freakonomics (not that I've actually read it...) and Moneyball (but not just for baseball). I've read a few books like this but this was the most entertaining - the writing style is light and breezy but the analyses seem fairly well done. Some of my favorite chapters:

- Football teams should really really go for it more on fourth down than they do. One estimate showed that, in ~1000 fourth-down situations where they should have gone for it, they punted it away almost 90% of the time! The authors attribute this to loss aversion, specifically coaches that try strategies that are not "common sense" and fail are more likely to get fired, while if you do the "safe choice" even if it's less efficient, nobody holds it against you (i.e. "No one ever got fired for buying IBM"). (Incidentally, this is the second place I've read about stickK in the last month - it's a site where you set a goal for yourself and pledge to donate money to a cause you don't like if you fail. Something I'm considering for weight loss!) They also discuss similar seeming inefficiencies in basketball (pulling a star who's in foul trouble), baseball (always saving your closer for the ninth inning, even if there's a more important situation earlier in the game), and hockey (pulling the goalie when behind happens way too late). One prominent exception is Bill Belichick, who has such job security that he can do crazy things and people trust him.

- There are two fascinating chapters on the home field advantage. I will lay out the salient facts and present their conclusion:
* The home field advantage varies from sport to sport (from ~65% in soccer to ~54% in baseball) but doesn't vary much between different leagues of the same sport, and it's been remarkably consistent over time.
* It does not seem to exist for free throws in the NBA, or shootouts in hockey, or penalty kicks in soccer, or punts and field goals in football.
* Schedule padding in college football does account for about half of the home field advantage. In the NBA, teams get a more friendly schedule when they play at home (more days between games), which accounts for ~20% of the home field advantage.
* A lot of other things don't matter.
Their conclusion is (highlight to read) the biggest factor is "officials' bias" - not necessarily on purpose, but the home fans have a psychological effect on the officials, who call more fouls on the visiting team. In soccer, the length of injury time is affected. In baseball, balls and strikes are biased towards the home team, especially in high leverage situations. Notice that all of the situations where the home field advantage doesn't exist the officials have basically no impact on the outcome!

- There is a most excellent chapter on the "curse" of Chicago Cubs. First, the Cubs aren't really unlucky - they generally succeed in the playoffs as you would expect given their regular season record (i.e. not much). If you want an unlucky team, look no farther than the Houston Astros! (reached the NLCS 4 times, the NLDS 7 times, and no World Series wins) Interestingly, the St. Louis Cardinals have been surprisingly lucky. (all three teams play in the same division, sadly for this Astros fan)

So the question is why the Cubs don't put together a better team. Generally, there is a financial incentive for teams to do better: more fan attendance at games. The Cubs, however, have the least sensitive attendance with respect to their record - their attendance consistently hovers around 90%. This is very much not true for (say) the Chicago White Sox. And despite usually fielding a not-very-good team, the Cubs are the fifth most valuable franchise in baseball (thanks partially to WGN showing their games around the country).

So...what's up with the Cubs fans? Apparently they are loyal to a fault, and the atmosphere at Wrigley Field is more like a party than watching a baseball game. In perhaps my favorite statistic ever, attendance at Wrigley Field games is four times more sensitive to beer prices than to winning or losing! (and as such, beer is the third-cheapest at Wrigley out of all MLB ballparks) To quote the authors:

In other words, Cubs fans will tolerate bad baseball and high ticket prices but draw the line at bad baseball and expensive beer. That makes for a fun day at the ballpark but doesn't give the ownership much incentive to reverse the culture of losing.


Anyway, I enjoyed the book a lot and definitely learned a few things from it. Recommended if you like some combination of sports and statistics!


late links
Mood: awake
Posted on 2011-01-09 01:02:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 170

More on the shooting of a congresswoman - she was awake after surgery and recognized her husband, which is pretty amazing given that she was shot in the head at close range. James Fallows looks at this and other political shootings and points out that, while the shooter is usually deranged and not really related to the normal opposition to the figure, "the political tone of an era can have some bearing on violent events".

An interesting graph of stock market returns based on when you enter and exit the market. Note that the light red actually means a 0-3% return over inflation, which confused me for a bit. The 20-year median is 4.1% over inflation, which is not bad but not the 7% that I've seen mentioned elsewhere. David made a good point that it would be interesting to see how this looks with dollar-cost averaging - possible project sometime?

Thanks to Obamacare, more small businesses are offering health care to employees because of a tax credit for doing so. Hooray!


a few links
Mood: awake
Posted on 2010-07-21 10:27:00
Tags: links
Words: 113

The Big Lies People Tell In Online Dating - more fascinating data from OkCupid; people lie about height, income, etc.

A graph of tweet volume during the World Cup by country - those Brazil fans are really representing! Although the highest volume (3283 tweets/second) happened when Landon Donovan scored that goal against Algeria to advance the US to the knockout round.

Top 10 and bottom 10 state/province flags - Texas is #2! And look at that lettering on "Kansas" and "Montana" - yuck! Also, I learned there is a group that studies flag designs, which is pretty neat.

There is a Wells Fargo ATM on Antarctica - actually there are two, but one is basically for spare parts.


happy 2009!
Mood: awake
Posted on 2009-01-02 10:32:00
Tags: links
Words: 168

Games I played for the first time in the last few days: Agricola, Dominion, Stone Age, Fjords, Shadow Hunters. Life is good!

- Outline of "Predictably Irrational" - lots of examples about how we are not rational. Take that, economists!

- Alberto Gonzales Can't Find a Job, Whines includes this amazing quote:

for some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror.
This makes me angry. There are many casualties of the war on terror (victims of 9/11, US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan) and you are not one of them!

- Remember all those weird commercials for shows on the Cartoon Network? (djedi does! :-) ) Here's links to a bunch of them, including the ones I remember: "Signal in the Sky" by The Apples In Stereo, "Courage the Cowardly Dog" by They Might Be Giants, and "Back to the Lab" by Prince Paul.


where's lunch rolls on
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-10-28 11:07:00
Tags: whereslunch projects links
Words: 108

Finished the adding of restaurants last night! Now I just need to add an editing interface and do some more testing...

A long lipdub of Thriller - impressive camerawork! I wish I could keep the camera that steady while I walked. (obviously I should have combined all my Thriller links into one post, but oh well)

A federally funded group is sponsoring a contest to find an engaged couple who hasn't had sex yet. No takers yet...

Election data: lots of people have already voted early. Deadline in TX is Friday, and I'd recommend doing it today or tomorrow because I bet Thursday and Friday will be quite busy...


politics, whereslunch, magazines: an entry in three parts
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-10-24 10:19:00
Tags: whereslunch projects poll politics links
Words: 410

Will Ferrell was on SNL last night as George W. Bush and it was pretty good (although maybe not "one of the best skits ever"). It still looks like Obama is way ahead. It warms my heart that someone who wants to investigate all members of Congress to see whether they're pro-American or not (hello, Joe McCarthy!) can suddenly find that most people won't stand for that crap. Obama makes a good fantasy football partner. Also, politics has always been sleazy - this is not a recent phenomenon.

Where's lunch:
This is my project for a google map of lunch places in Austin. It's kinda stalled out, because I haven't had a lot of free time and I can't decide what to do next. Right now you can view restaurants, rate them, leave comments, color the markers based on rating and some other things, and filter which markers are shown. (if you're interested in trying it out, drop me a line and I'll hook you up) Things I want to add at some point:
- letting people add restaurants themselves. This is kind of a pain to do, and raises some security issues and means I have to police the data to some extent.
- suggesting restaurants you might like based on other people's ratings. This isn't too hard to do but since there are few ratings in the system it won't be interesting for a while.
- add user profiles where you store where you work and you can limit lunch places by their estimated time for lunch (2 * travel time + time it takes to get food).
- putting ads on the site to make $$$
So, how interested would you theoretically be in these features?

Time vs. Newsweek:
When I was a kid, I had a penchant for stupid rivalries. We got the Houston Chronicle, a friend got the Houston Post so I immediately assumed the Chronicle was better, "rooted" for it, and was not exactly happy when the Post folded but I felt victorious. Same thing for Newsweek and Time - we got Newsweek and it was clearly better for no particular reason.

But now I'm wondering - maybe Time is the better magazine? I like some of the columnists Newsweek has (Fareed Zakaria, Anna Quindlen) but Time has Joe Klein, and I read a copy randomly this week and it was pretty interesting. I barely get through the magazines we have, so getting both is not a reasonable option. Which should I get?


early voting starts today!
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-10-20 09:55:00
Tags: politics
Words: 252

Early voting opens in Texas today and lasts until October 31. According to the paper, the busiest days are the first one and the last three, so avoid those if you can! The Austin American-Statesman's voting guide is here and here's a list of Travis County early voting locations. (pdf) For my Houston friends, here's a list of Harris County early voting locations. (pdf) For people in other places, Googling "(county name) county secretary of state" is usually a good place to start.

Why early vote? Well...

I do miss the camaraderie of everyone voting on the same day, but early voting is much more efficient and awesome.
(if you're wondering why to vote at all in Texas, see my previous post)


people like talking to people they don't like
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-06-02 13:04:00
Tags: math projects politics
Words: 165

According to a new Gallup poll, 67% of Americans believe the president should meet with the leaders of enemy countries, and 59% of Americans believe the president should meet with the president of Iran. (I guess that means 8% of Americans don't think Iran is an enemy?) That seems like a pretty firm rebuttal of McCain's attacks on Obama for wanting to do just that.

The Target probability page is really filling out now. I think I'm going to give up on justifying the counts for a mixed straight (a 4 card straight including cards of all 4 suits) which seems really really tough to count, and maybe the 3 card and 4 card straight flush of any suit (which are only really tough to count, but still more than I'm up for). After I calculate the numbers I'll do a graph and try to figure out what the dividing line is of which targets are worth which points, and see if any are "misclassified".


number of Blokus games?
Mood: awake
Posted on 2008-02-28 13:50:00
Tags: math
Words: 253

Last night we were playing Blokus and I wondered how many possible games of Blokus there were. Todd said it shouldn't be too hard to figure out, so I'm gonna start working on a script to calculate it. I'm assuming the colors all start in a fixed corner and normal rules apply (except you have to play a piece if you can), and I'm counting the number of games and not the number of board positions because it seems easier.

How many possible games do you think there are? For reference, there are somewhere around 1014 legal board positions in Connect 4, 1050 board positions in Chess and 10171 board positions in 19x19 Go (from this Wikipedia article, which unfortunately doesn't list the number of games) I'm going to guess something like 1080 which, come to think of it, means it might not be possible to count them all in a reasonable length of time. Still, worth a shot!

Thousands of people might be infected with Hepatitis C or HIV in Las Vegas. From the article,

The virus may have been spread when clinic staff reused syringes and used a single dose of anesthesia medication on multiple patients, the district said.
Now maybe my perspective is different because my mom's in public health, but a clinic sharing syringes?? How could this happen?
To retain its state license and Medicare certification, the center faces increased on-site inspections and fines yet to be determined.
Yeah, this is a pretty big screwup.


Mood: awake
Music: Lager Rhythms - "MLK" (IMH)
Posted on 2007-10-22 01:41:00
Tags: logic cluesolver
Words: 649

So for the second time in a week I find myself unable to sleep. I would be more worried except that (as a mostly-awake djedi pointed out) we slept until 1 today, so it's not too surprising.

As long as I'm up, some thoughts on the clue solver:

In general it's coming along very nicely. The reason we slept until 1 today is that we stayed up late with quijax and wildrice13 playing Clue and watching the movie Clue, which was great fun. Point being, I got two games of data (in which I wrote down all my cards and every suggestion made) to test it on. After actually making the effort to enter an entire game (eating my own dogfood!) I found that it did technically work. Oh, except I entered one entry wrong the first time and I had no idea until I got to the end and didn't get the right result. So now there's undo and a history tab showing every piece of information that has been entered. That makes things a lot less painful.

An deduction algorithm problem: You often have information of the form "Player 1 has at least one of the cards {Professor Plum, Knife, Lounge}" (from observing someone else's suggestion). Now that I'm requiring the user to enter how many cards each player has, so you can do some nifty inferences from that. For example, if you know Player 1 has two cards and has at least one card from each of the following sets:

{Professor Plum, Knife, Hall}
{Professor Plum, Candlestick, Conservatory}
{Professor Plum, Revolver, Dining Room}

you can deduce that Player 1 must have the Professor Plum card. The way I'm currently making deductions like this is to, for each card, assume that they don't have it and see if there's any way to satisfy all of the sets given the number of cards they have. In this case, they can't, so by contradiction they must have the Professor Plum card.

This is all well and good, but this algorithm doesn't cover more tricky things you can do. For example, if Player 1 has two cards and at least one from each of the following sets:

{Professor Plum, Knife, Hall}
{Professor Plum, Knife, Conservatory}
{Professor Plum, Knife, Dining Room}

we can deduce using similar logic that Player 1 must have Professor Plum or Knife, but the algorithm above doesn't pick up on that. In this particular application we're OK because if we ever determine that Player 1 doesn't have Knife, we remove it from all the sets above and then can figure out she has Professor Plum, but it's an interesting problem in general. (it's kind of like finding a vertex covering of a generalized graph where the vertices are the cards and the "edges" are the sets)

Anyway, the other major feature that's left is doing simulations to determine the probability of players holding certain cards. (for example, if Player 1 had three cards and the first three clauses, it's pretty likely that she has Professor Plum even though it's not guaranteed) I was going to take a stab at this tonight but I'm losing steam. My idea is to iterate over all possible solutions, and do 500 trials per solution (or whatever). For each trial, somehow assign the cards to each player, making sure that we give them the ones we know they have and not to give them the ones we know they don't have (doing this without somehow biasing the results is the hard part it seems), then seeing if that distribution of cards conforms to everything we know about. (i.e. the clauses above) If so, record that, and if not, throw it out. But you can't keep trying until you get the same number for every solution, because that biases the results.

If anyone is more clearheaded about this last paragraph, let me know :-)


wireless dreaming
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-10-04 10:49:00
Tags: dreams
Words: 136

Last night, as I was dreaming about being chased (or something), a thought occurred to me - wouldn't it be neat if you could dream over the Internet? It would require some way for your brain to directly connect to the local network (wirelessly, I'd assume...not many places in your body to stick an ethernet cable), and it would have to be able to interpret HTTP or some other protocol.

But think how cool it would be! You could have shared dreams with other people (would one person "host" the dream and determine what happens and the others just play a predetermined role? Or would every contribute to what happens through some complicated protocol?), and the server could record the dream so you could review it the next morning if you couldn't quite remember what had happened.


in a new york minute
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-08-27 10:28:00
Tags: travel
Words: 846

We're back from our NYC trip - I have lots of pictures that hopefully I'll get around to posting this week. I twittered some while we were there. My highlights, djedi style:

It was fun, and I'm glad we went when it's only a short train trip away!


beckham scores
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-08-16 09:08:00
Tags: soccer
Words: 34

He scored his first goal against DC United. Gotta find me some YouTube of it when I get home.

Just gotta make it until lunch then I get to run errands and such! Yay!


starcraft, buying stuff
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-08-08 09:12:00
Tags: starcraft poll
Words: 98

Cracked open Starcraft last night (found my old CD as well so djedi and I can play at the same time!) and played the first 5 or so Terran missions. Good stuff!

Apparently I was allergic to something I ate or touched on Saturday, because I had a ton of red bumps (that looked like mosquito bites but didn't itch) on my chest and back. Thankfully, they're almost gone now.

Here's a question I've been meaning to ask: Let's say you go into a retail store alone with the expressed purpose of buying a birthday gift for someone.


for a monday, things are pretty good
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-08-06 12:59:00
Tags: movies worldofwarcraft
Words: 154

wonderjess and friends came down to visit for the weekend, and Friday and a lot of Saturday was spent painting DC red. We toured the US Capitol and went to the top of the Washington Monument, as well as lots of other things. I'll put pictures up sometime this week. At night we watched old Square One episodes. (search for "Square One" on YouTube and you'll find lots of good sketches :-) )

Played some WoW on Saturday and got Rilinar (my old priest on Alleria) up to 61. It took a while to remember to watch the health bars and not the mob's health, but I still do enjoy healing.

Yesterday we were both feeling kinda blah, and it would have been perfect to have someone over or go over to a friend's place. Instead I programmed some Haskell and eventually we rented and watched the first Die Hard, which I hadn't seen. Good movie!

1 comment

Cheney series at Washington Post
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-06-26 09:36:00
Tags: politics
Words: 62

Wow, the Washington Post is doing quite the series on Cheney. Here's the chapter I found most interesting. (may require registration, use bugmenot if you must)

In response to Cheney's claim that the Office of the Vice President is not in the executive branch (um, right), Rahm Emanuel wants to stop allocating it money from the executive branch. Sounds fair to me.


orange juice morning, noon, and night
Mood: awake
Posted on 2007-03-08 09:43:00
Tags: health worldofwarcraft
Words: 174

I went to the doctor last week to get a physical for the first time in, oh, three years. I guess I should go more often, but I've been pretty lucky when it comes to health problems. Anyway, my precious bodily fluids were also taken and sampled, and I found out my good cholesterol (HDL) was lower than it should be. (my bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides were a tiny bit high as well) Apparently diet and exercise help a lot, as well as certain foods (orange juice), so I'm really trying to stay on the wagon with the whole losing weight thing. I find it's almost impossible for me to avoid eating when I'm bored (especially at work), so that's something to work on. No sodas before dinner this week is going pretty well, though.

Did a similar analysis for jewelcrafting as I did for alchemy (which things can be crafted for profit on the auction house) - there seem to be some decent possibilities there but I don't know much about the items.


The Prestige
Mood: awake
Posted on 2006-10-28 12:10:00
Tags: movies
Words: 46

Saw "The Prestige" lsat night. Very good movie! Can't go wrong with Christopher Nolan directing and Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, etc. Darker than I expected, though, and it taught me not to practice magic around the turn of the 20th century - bad things happen!


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