Que sera sera

Statisticians love to develop multiple ways of testing the same thing. If I want to decide whether two groups of people have significantly different IQs, I can run a t-test or a rank sum test or a bootstrap or a regression. You can argue about which of these is most appropriate, but I basically think that if the effect is really statistically significant and large enough to matter, it should emerge regardless of which test you use, as long as the test is reasonable and your sample isn’t tiny. An effect that appears when you use a parametric test but not a nonparametric test is probably not worth writing home about [2].
A similar lesson applies, I think, to first dates. When you’re attracted to someone, you overanalyze everything you say, spend extra time trying to look attractive, etc. But if your mutual attraction is really statistically significant and large enough to matter, it should emerge regardless of the exact circumstances of a single evening. If the shirt you wear can fundamentally alter whether someone is attracted to you, you probably shouldn’t be life partners.

A statistician argues you shouldn't be nervous on a first date. This sounds like math for “if it's meant to be, it will happen.”


ME: Because you’re my sister’s son. And I care about her.


ME: Because I just do.


ME: Because, I guess, when I was born, she was three years old and, like any younger sibling, I put her on a pedestal.


ME: I probably idealized her, which is strange considering that your mom was not very nice to me.


ME: She probably felt a mix of confusing emotions.


ME: She was an only child, and when I came along she was forced to share everything.


ME: We each had needs, and I think it was difficult for our parents to satisfy us both.


ME: Because needs are so ephemeral. I think it was Maslow who said, “It’s a rare and difficult psychological achievement to know what we want.”

With my 21 month old niece staying with me the past few days, I was reminded of this humor piece for the New Yorker by Jesse Eisenberg.

Incidentally, while Eisenberg is an accomplished actor, I'm way more impressed with his body of writing for the New Yorker. I suppose that's largely because I think of him as an actor first, but being published under that banner is an accomplishment in and of itself. 

True Detective Season 3: Strunk and White

Police tape marks the scene. Red and blue lights flash. A young, nervous-looking BEAT COP sees STRUNK and WHITE approaching.
It’s over here, detectives. The body was found about an hour ago.
Use the active voice, rookie.
Oh god, it’s horrible. I feel nauseous.
Unless you mean you’re sickening to contemplate, you mean “nauseated.” Now get out of  my crime scene before you puke all over it.
WHITE (inspecting the body)
It’s definitely our guy, Strunk.
The Crossword Killer?
Yeah. And look, he’s getting more confident. This time, he used a pen.

True Detective needs a reboot anyway.

The Passion of the Christ: Blooper Reel

Pulling links to old McSweeneys humor pieces, I couldn't help but think of one other classic humor piece when I was reading back through the Unused commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky for The Fellowship of the Ring, and that is The Passion of the Christ: Blooper Reel.

Christ, shackled to a stone, is being scourged by Roman soldiers. Blood runs down his gory back. His pain is palpable. 
Jesus: [writhes in pain, hands shaking]
[Cell phone rings.]
Jesus: [hands shake furiously]
[Cell phone rings. Caviezel looks up, sheepish.]
Roman soldier: Jim? That you?
Jesus: Yeah.
[Cell phone rings.]
Soldier: Want me to get it?
Jesus: Yeah.
[Roman soldier gingerly reaches into Caviezel’s blood-soaked loincloth, pulls out phone and opens it, then holds the phone to Caviezel’s ear.]
Off Camera: [laughter]
Jesus: Hey, Mom.



The Last Supper. Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples. Judas (Luca Lionello) is seated nearby.

Jesus: If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world—ah, Christ.

Judas: Hateth you. 

Jesus: Who’s on first, right?

Judas: [laughs]

Jesus: [rolls eyes at camera] John could write gospel, but, you know, could he write dialogue?

Off Camera: [laughter] Cut!

Taylor Swift, a Socratic Dialogue

TAYLOR SWIFT: Tell me, Socrates, must the player always play, play, play?
SOCRATES: Well, that depends on what it is to be a player and what it means to play. Could you be more specific?
SWIFT: I’m thinking of the dirty, dirty cheats of the world. Those about whom so many get down and out while they could be getting down to sick beats. Alcibiades, for example, abandoned Athens and sought refuge in Sparta, then left Sparta for Persia before finally returning to Athens, leaving an inter-imperial trail of broken hearts.
SOCRATES: Yes, I see. Alcibiades is, in fact, a player who will play, play, play.
SWIFT: Yes, very much so.
SOCRATES: But must he? That is the question at hand.
SWIFT: I believe he must for, consider that the hater must hate, hate, hate, and the faker must fake, fake, fake. Why should the player be different?

From McSweeneys, in sort of what I think of as an exemplar of what one of their homepage humor pieces is like, a bit of a highbrow-lowbrow remix. Since I'm here, some of my other favorites from McSweeneys.

Unused commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky for The Fellowship of the Ring:

ZINN: Well, power needs to have its proxies. That way the damage is always deniable. As long as the Hobbits have the ring, no one will ever question the plot Gandalf has hatched. So here is the big scary ring, and all that happens when Gandalf moves to touch it is that he sees a big flaming eye. And notice it is a… different kind of eye — not like our eye.
CHOMSKY: Almost a cat-like eye.
ZINN: It’s on fire. Somehow being an on-fire eye is this terrible thing in the minds of those in Middle Earth. I think this is a way of telling others in Middle Earth to be ashamed of their eyes. And of course you see the Orcs’ eyes are all messed up, too. They’re this terrible color. And what does Gandalf tell Frodo about the ring? “Keep it secret. Keep it safe.”
CHOMSKY: “Let’s leave the most powerful object in all of Middle Earth with a weak little Hobbit, a race known for its chattering and intoxication, and tell him to keep it a secret.”
ZINN: Right. And here we receive our first glimpse of the supposedly dreadful Mordor, which actually looks like a fairly functioning place.
CHOMSKY: This type of city is most likely the best the Orcs can do if all they have are cliffs to grow on. It’s very impressive, in that sense.
ZINN: Especially considering the economic sanctions no doubt faced by Mordor. They must be dreadful. We see now that the Black Riders have been released, and they’re going after Frodo. The Black Riders. Of course they’re black. Everything evil is always black. And later Gandalf the Grey becomes Gandalf the White. Have you noticed that?
CHOMSKY: The most simplistic color symbolism.

It's Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers:

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I’m about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it’s gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is—fucking fall. There’s a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash.
I may even throw some multi-colored leaves into the mix, all haphazard like a crisp October breeze just blew through and fucked that shit up. Then I’m going to get to work on making a beautiful fucking gourd necklace for myself. People are going to be like, “Aren’t those gourds straining your neck?” And I’m just going to thread another gourd onto my necklace without breaking their gaze and quietly reply, “It’s fall, fuckfaces. You’re either ready to reap this freaky-assed harvest or you’re not.”

“Toto's 'Africa'” by Ernest Hemingway:

The plane’s wings were moonlit and reflected the stars. The moonlight had guided him there, toward this salvation. He had stopped an older man along the way, hoping to find some long forgotten words, or perhaps an ancient melody, for such an occasion. The old man had said nothing at first, and instead stared cryptically into the sodden earth. Then he raised his head and turned slowly.
“Hurry, boy. It’s waiting there for you,” the old man had said.

The one I read every winter during the holidays, as classic as Little Drummer Boy, In Which I Fix My Girlfriend's Grandparents' WiFi and am Hailed as a Conquering Hero:

Some in the kingdom thought the cause of the darkness must be the Router. Little was known of the Router, legend told it had been installed behind the recliner long ago by a shadowy organization known as Comcast. Others in the kingdom believed it was brought by a distant cousin many feasts ago. Concluding the trouble must lie deep within the microchips, the people of 276 Ferndale Street did despair and resign themselves to defeat.
But with the dawn of the feast of Christmas did a beacon of hope manifest itself upon the inky horizon. Riding in upon a teal Ford Focus came a great warrior, a suitor of the gentlefolks’ granddaughter. Word had spread through the kingdom that this warrior worked with computers and perhaps even knew the true nature of the Router.
The people did beseech the warrior to aid them. They were a simple people, capable only of rewarding him with gratitude and a larger-than-normal serving of Jell-O salad. The warrior considered the possible battles before him. While others may have shirked the duties, forcing the good people of Ferndale Street to prostrate themselves before the tyrants of Comcast, Linksys, and Geek Squad, the warrior could not chill his heart to these depths. He accepted the quest and strode bravely across the beige shag carpet of the living room.

Ack, I need to stop. McSweeneys humor pieces are like Doritos or Pringles, you can't eat just one.

This week in NBA Twitter

That should be a television show. It's too bad Twitter wasn't around when Michael Jordan was at the height of his basketball powers because his homicidal competitive streak would have had him up all night looking for any perceived slight on Twitter and then responding in some terrifyingly inappropriate manner.

Having MJ-wannabe Kobe actively tweeting is a solid consolation prize, though.


I missed this Rembert Browne deep read of this photo of Nicki Minaj at a bar mitzvah when it came out in April, but it is truly a timeless work that deserves to be memorialized one more time here.

Even after reading Rembert Browne's piece, I'm filled with questions. What is going on here?

When you’re this age, and a boy, you have no idea what to do. In any situation. At any given moment, you could curse or cry. It’s a wild time to be alive. Your body is constantly betraying you, causing your mind to do backflips — typically as a failed attempt in calming yourself down — further causing your body to betray you.
This picture is all about dreams coming true, excitement, and then panic. It’s a moment that was never supposed to happen, a moment you’ve long been waiting to have happen, a moment in which you have no idea what to do. This picture should not confuse you. Because every single thing happening makes perfect sense.
First off, Nicki. Look at Nicki. There are three 13-year-old boy #SQUAD hands on her body, while she holds one #SQUAD boy’s face and daintily holds the hand of a cool eighth-grader.
Just hands everywhere. And interestingly enough, it’s extremely confusing to determine whose hand belongs to which member of the #SQUAD. You think you know at first, but you quickly realize you have no idea.