Saturday, May 31, 2008


The Week in Haiku

Like three out of five
with three lost, Clinton goes on,
says I win because!

Won't let relief in,
won't let Aung San Suu Kyi out,
chase storm victims "home."


Friday, May 30, 2008

L'Émétique de l'Amour

The Emetic of Love

c’est un art of performance,
c’est un act of pain,
c’est un state of the mind
that one must grieve
to prove one’s love,
to cry for love,
to be consumed by love,
to suffer a French film of love,
one more tormented nausea of love,
just give me the emetic of love
and eject that Guantánamo
of a DVD.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Confessions of a statistics teacher

I have a confession. I've taught statistics to master's students in public administration and planning and given them, in a one-semester course, just enough to make them dangerous. (I've also seen far too many papers at professional conferences where college faculty didn't seem to understand what I'd expect master's students to know from a year-long stats sequence.)

Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression is a statistical technique for estimating a relationship between two variables. For example, it can be used to estimate how varying doses of a particular drug relate to reductions in blood pressure, or how hours of tutoring relate to a subsequent increase in SAT scores.

Here is an explanation of OLS with a presentation using calculus and matrix algebra. Here is an explanation for the non quant jock. The title of the poem below is taken from the matrix algebra formula (Wikipedia uses a T superscript where I use a prime (')). The first two lines of the poem restate the title in words if you're baffled about the pronunciation of the title. Only a statistics major or a doctoral student in a good social science program would get into the rigor of the matrix algebra model. When I teach master's students, there's no calculus and no matrix notation. When I teach the one-semester course, the goal is to teach the students to be discriminating consumers of statistical studies that they may see in future public sector employment. In a doctoral course or a year-long master's course, the goal is to teach students how to do their own studies. I've only taught the introductory classes in which I don't have time to give students sufficient experience and depth to develop good studies of their own after they leave. I hope I haven't sent students along armed with a weapon they can't fire properly.


X prime X inverse
X prime Y
relates phenomenon X
to phenomenon Y.
Umbrella counts on the street
relate to likelihood of rain,
but does rain cause umbrellas,
or do umbrellas cause rain?
Most users of the tool
wouldn’t know the source,
wouldn’t know how their theories
could stray miles off course.
All they know is software
regresses a line,
from that they conclude
that X causes Y:
put X more umbrellas
out on the street,
you’ll get BX more rain,
measured in feet.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

You will be assimilated


Is that
my command to you,
to read my request,
to translate to ones and zeroes,
obediently perform
all I that have asked
before humbly returning,
ready to be commanded again?

Or is that
your pronouncement to me,
that you will be back
with further instruction,
that I will be assimilated
into machine-convenient
syntax and thought,
that I will dance
while you fire
error messages at my feet,
until I scream uncle or worse
and surrender?