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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

Of book reviews and selection bias

Publishers send me books to review. I guess I’m on the list of potential reviewers, which is cool because I often enjoy reading books. And, even if I don’t get much out of a book myself, I can give it to students. A book is a great incentive/reward for class participation. For any book, if […]

Why I Rant

Someone pointed me to an over-the-top social science paper that is scheduled to be published soon. I then wasted 2 hours writing some combination of statistical commentary and rant. I expect that, once the paper is published, there will be major controversy, as its empirical findings, such as they are, are yoked to political opinions […]

Knives Out

Since I just ran a post without the 6-month delay, I might as well do another, this time to recommend Knives Out to you. We saw it a few days before Christmas, and it was our most enjoyable time at the movies since . . . actually, I can’t remember the last time we had […]

Science is science writing; science writing is science

Meehan Crist writes: There is a belief, particularly prevalent among scientists, that science writing is more or less glorified PR – scientists do the intellectual work of discovery and writers port their findings from lab to public – but [Rachel Carson’s 1962 book] Silent Spring is a powerful reminder that great science writing can expand […]

Oscar win probability as a function of age. And many other things . . .

I received the book “Oscarmetrics: The Math Behind the Biggest Night in Hollywood,” by Ben Zauzmer. I liked it; it was a lot of fun, a good mixture of stories and graphs: This one is my favorite: Also this: I also passed the book over to a student to review:

Should we mind if authorship is falsified?

In a typically thought-provoking piece, Louis Menand asks, “Should we mind if a book is a hoax?” In his article, Menand (whose father taught the best course I ever took at MIT, in which we learned that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty) focuses on imaginative literature written by white people but attributed to […]

“I’m sick on account I just ate a TV dinner.”

I recently read “The Shadow in the Garden,” a book by James Atlas that’s a mix of memoir about his experiences as a biographer of poet Delmore Schwartz and novelist Saul Bellow, and various reflections and anecdotes about biography-writing more generally. I enjoyed the book so much that I’m pretty much just gonna have a […]

When did “by” become “after”?

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. I just did a Google News search for “injured after”, and these are some of the headlines that came up: 16-year-old bicyclist seriously injured after being hit by car in Norfolk At least 1 injured after high-speed crash in Bridgeport Teen injured after falling off rooftop Driver […]

Alternative titles for Regression and Other Stories

– A Book Called Regression – What to Expect When You’re Regressing Any other good silly ideas out there ???

Perspectives

“Bellow began seeing a psychologist, a man named Paul Meehl.” Or as we might say it, “Meehl began seeing a patient, a writer named Saul Bellow.”

Poetry corner

Ray Could Write Statistics Be What has happened down here is the winds have changed Spin The Paper of My Enemy Has Been Retracted Imaginary gardens with real data A parable regarding changing standards on the presentation of statistical evidence Laplace Calling Thanks to W. B. Yeats, Young Tiger, Randy Newman, W. H. Auden, Clive […]

Automation and judgment, from the rational animal to the irrational machine

Virgil Kurkjian writes: I was recently going through some of your recent blog posts and came across Using numbers to replace judgment. I recently wrote something about legible signaling which I think helps shed some light on exactly what causes the bureaucratization of science and maybe what we can do about it. In short I […]

“Boston Globe Columnist Suspended During Investigation Of Marathon Bombing Stories That Don’t Add Up”

I came across this news article by Samer Kalaf and it made me think of some problems we’ve been seeing in recent years involving cargo-cult science. Here’s the story: The Boston Globe has placed columnist Kevin Cullen on “administrative leave” while it conducts a review of his work, after WEEI radio host Kirk Minihane scrutinized […]

The uncanny valley of Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell is a fun writer, and I like how he plays with ideas. To my taste, though, he lives in an uncanny valley between nonfiction and fiction, or maybe I should say between science and storytelling. I’d enjoy him more, and feel better about his influence, if he’d take the David Sedaris route and go […]

The Wife

I was on the plane a few months ago and watched on that tiny screen some movies, the best of which was The Wife, starring Glenn Close. It wasn’t a great movie, but it was OK, the acting was good, and my main thought was: This seems like a much better story for a book […]

Discussion with Nassim Taleb about sexism and racism in the Declaration of Independence

Nassim Taleb points to this post from congressmember Ayanna Pressley linking to an opinion piece by Matthew Rozsa. Rozsa’s article has the title, “Fourth of July’s ugly truth exposed: The Declaration of Independence is sexist, racist, prejudiced,” with subttile, “How we can embrace the underlying spirit of the Declaration of Independence — and also learn […]

Leonard Shecter’s coauthor has passed away.

I don’t really have anything to add here except to agree with Phil that Ball Four is one of the best nonfiction books ever. (And, no, I don’t consider Charlie Brown to be nonfiction.)

How to read (in quantitative social science). And by implication, how to write.

I’m reposting this one from 2014 because I think it could be useful to lots of people. Also this advice on writing research articles, from 2009.

It’s a lot of pressure to write a book!

Regression and Other Stories is almost done, and I was spending a couple hours going through it starting from page 1, cleaning up imprecise phrasings and confusing points. . . . One thing that’s hard about writing a book is that there are so many places you can go wrong. A 500-page book contains something […]

Harvard dude calls us “online trolls”

Story here. Background here (“How post-hoc power calculation is like a shit sandwich”) and here (“Post-Hoc Power PubPeer Dumpster Fire”). OK, to be fair, “shit sandwich” could be considered kind of a trollish thing for me to have said. But the potty language in this context was not gratuitous; it furthered the larger point I […]