Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Decision Theory category.

Voltaire (4) vs. Benoit Mandelbrot; Veronica Geng advances

Yesterday‘s contest was surprisingly tough. I thought of Santa-man and the inventor of the Monte Carlo method as both being strong candidates—but the best comments on both were negative. Phil argued convincingly that there’s no point in inviting Sedaris to speak at Columbia as there are lots of other opportunities to hear the guy, and […]

Principal Stratification on a Latent Variable (fitting a multilevel model using Stan)

Adam Sales points to this article with John Pane on principal stratification on a latent variable, and writes: Besides the fact that the paper uses Stan, and it’s about principal stratification, which you just blogged about, I thought you might like it because of its central methodological contribution. We had been trying to use computer […]

David Sedaris (3) vs. Stanislaw Ulam; George H. W. Bush advances

Best comment yesterday came from J Storrs Hall: I have eaten the money that was in the piggybank which you were probably saving for retirement Forgive me it was delicious so sweet read my lips But it’s not clear if this is an endorsement of Bush, for his economic policies, or Williams, for his poetry. […]

George H. W. Bush (2) vs. William Carlos Willams; Mel Brooks advances

All of yesterday’s comments favored Mr. Blazing Saddles. Jeff had a good statistics-themed comment: Mel Brooks created Get Smart (along with Buck Henry), which suggests a number of seminar topics of interest to readers of this blog. “Missed It By That Much: Why Predictive Models Don’t Always Pick the Winner” “Sorry About That, Chief: Unconscious […]

Chris Christie (2) vs. Mel Brooks; Boris Karloff advances

We had some good arguments in favor of Karloff. If I had to choose just one, it would be from J Storrs Hall, who writes: Well, the main problem with Anastasia is … she’s dead. However, we can be relatively certain that 31 or so pretenders would show up in her place. One of them […]

Boris Karloff (3) vs. Anastasia Romanoff; Lance Armstrong advances

I’m still feeling bad about my ruling the other day. . . . I mean, sure, Robin Williams doing Elmer Fudd doing Bruce Springsteen was amazing, but Veronica Geng—she was one of a kind. Anyway, yesterday’s winner is another dark horse. There’s little doubt in my mind that Bobby Fischer, if in a good mood, […]

Bobby Fischer (4) vs. Lance Armstrong; Riad Sattouf advances

Our best argument from the last one comes from Bobbie: I used to believe that Euler could draw circles around anyone but after some investigation I now believe that Sattouf could draw anything around anyone (and write about it beautifully as well). And today we have a battle of two GOATs, with Fischer seeded fourth […]

Riad Sattouf (1) vs Leonhard Euler; Springsteen advances

I really wanted to go with Geng, partly because I’m a big fan of hers and partly because of Dzhaughn’s Geng-tribute recommendation: In the way that many search their memories for significant aromas when they read Proust, re-reading Geng led me to recollect my youth in Speech Club, of weekends of interpretive readings and arguments […]

Bruce Springsteen (1) vs. Veronica Geng; Monty Python advances

Yesterday’s contest wasn’t particularly close, as it pitted a boring guy who got lucky with one famous book, vs. some very entertaining wits. I saw Life of Brian when it came out, and I think I laughed harder at that spaceship scene than any other time in my life. In any case, Ethan brings it […]

Darrell Huff (4) vs. Monty Python; Frank Sinatra advances

In yesterday’s battle of the Jerseys, Jonathan offered this comment: Sinatra is an anagram of both artisan and tsarina. Apgar has no English anagram. Virginia is from New Jersey. Sounds confusing. And then we got this from Dzhaughn: I got as far as “Nancy’s ancestor,” and then a Youtube clip of Joey Bishop told me, […]

Frank Sinatra (3) vs. Virginia Apgar; Julia Child advances

My favorite comment from yesterday came from Ethan, who picked up on the public TV/radio connection and rated our two candidate speakers on their fundraising abilities. Very appropriate for the university—I find myself spending more and more time raising money for Stan, myself. A few commenters picked up on Child’s military experience. I like the […]

Julia Child (2) vs. Ira Glass; Dorothy Parker advances

Yesterday we got this argument from Manuel in favor of Biles: After suffering so many bad gymnastics (mathematical, logical, statistical, you name it) at seminars, to have some performed by a true champion would be a welcome change. But Parker takes it away, based on this formidable contribution of Dzhaughn: Things I Have Learned From […]

Moneyball for evaluating community colleges

From an interesting statistics-laden piece by “Dean Dad”: Far more community college students transfer prior to completing the Associate’s degree than actually complete first. According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, about 350,000 transfer before completion, compared to about 60,000 who complete first. That matters in several ways. Most basically, […]

Dorothy Parker (2) vs. Simone Biles; Liebling advances

I was surprised to see so little action in the comments yesterday. Sure, Liebling’s an obscure figure—I guess at this point he’d be called a “cult writer,” and I just happen to be part of the cult, fan as I am of mid-twentieth-century magazine writing—but I’d’ve thought Bourdain would’ve aroused more interest. Anyway, the best […]

Anthony Bourdain (3) vs. A. J. Liebling; Steve Martin advances

Yesterday‘s decision was pretty easy, as almost all the commenters talked about Steve Martin, pro and con. Letterman was pretty much out of the picture. Indeed, the best argument in favor of Letterman came from Jonathan, who wrote: I’ll go with Letterman because he looks like he could use the work. Conversely, the strongest argument […]

Steve Martin (4) vs. David Letterman; Serena Williams advances

Yesterday‘s matchup featured a food writer vs. a tennis player, two professions that are not known for public speaking. The best arguments came in the very first two comments. Jeff wrote: Fisher’s first book was “Serve It Forth,” which seems like good advice in tennis, as well. So, you’d get a two-fer there. That was […]

Causal inference data challenge!

Susan Gruber, Geneviève Lefebvre, Tibor Schuster, and Alexandre Piché write: The ACIC 2019 Data Challenge is Live! Datasets are available for download (no registration required) at (bottom of the page). Check out the FAQ at The deadline for submitting results is April 15, 2019. The fourth Causal Inference Data Challenge is taking place […]

M. F. K. Fisher (1) vs. Serena Williams; Oscar Wilde advances

The best case yesterday was made by Manuel: Leave Joe Pesci at home alone. Wilde’s jokes may be very old, but he can use slides from The PowerPoint of Dorian Gray. As Martha put it, not great, but the best so far in this thread. On the other side, Jonathan wrote, “I’d definitely rather hear […]

Data partitioning as an essential element in evaluation of predictive properties of a statistical method

In a discussion of our stacking paper, the point came up that LOO (leave-one-out cross validation) requires a partitioning of data—you can only “leave one out” if you define what “one” is. It is sometimes said that LOO “relies on the data-exchangeability assumption,” but I don’t think that’s quite the right way to put it, […]

Oscar Wilde (1) vs. Joe Pesci; the Japanese dude who won the hot dog eating contest advances

Raghuveer gave a good argument yesterday: “The hot dog guy would eat all the pre-seminar cookies, so that’s a definite no.” But this was defeated by the best recommendation we’ve ever had in the history of the Greatest Seminar Speaker contest, from Jeff: Garbage In, Garbage Out: Mass Consumption and Its Aftermath Takeru Kobayashi Note: […]