Maybe clothes DO make the man

Here’s a school program that’s so off-the wall it might actually make a difference: providing washing machines in public schools.  It’s early days, with little data collected, but compared to Michelle O’s disastrous school lunch madness, it’s an intriguing experiment with potentially outsize benefits.  Virginia Postrel might have some insight into ideas like this.

Tip from Happy Acres, who’s gotten this a bit muddled with the more general notion of personal hygiene* as a component of good sanitation and public health programs.

whitemansoap

* I’m usually very critical of do-gooders descending upon folks and telling them what to do “for their own good.”  I call that the Bwana Syndrome, and progressives thrive on it, at home and abroad.  However, Bwana says “wash your hands” seems eminently sensible to me.  Can “wash your clothes” be that much different?

An end run around an impossible integral

Ever-insightful polymath John Cook shows how to integrate the Gaussian PDF, in less time than it takes to make breakfast.  The trick?  Coordinate transformations and the Jacobian are your friends.

normal_distribution_pdf-svg

A suitably-embellished version of Cook’s post will appear in my lecture notes in the Spring semester.  Thanks, J.C.

 

Holy Brainstorming!

Francis Menton, the Manhattan Contrarian, has been kicking around a idea so radical it might actually work: giving Manhattan public housing units to their residents to kickstart them out of poverty.  What really caught my attention was this:

Well, what happened to the idea of making it possible for the poor to get out of poverty?  The residents of Manhattan public housing are living, breathing human beings who deserve the opportunity to escape from poverty and achieve success in the world; they are not animals to be kept imprisoned in a zoo for the viewing pleasure of their superiors.

Tip from Menton himself, discussing Ben Carson, which came from a tip at Maggie’s Farm.

Rating a Published Clinical Trial…

…can be done in 10 minutes or less, using the Jadad score.  There’s a full explanation in the original paper,  but suffice it to say, it’s pretty easy to identify sketchy studies using this method.  Aaron Carroll, writing in the New York Times, shows how this affects the credibility of nutrition research.  For those who want to try this at home, here’s the scorecard from the paper:

  1. Was the study described as randomized? (YES/NO)
  2. Was the study described as double blind? (YES/NO)
  3. Was there a description of withdrawals and dropouts? (YES/NO)

Give 1 point for each YES, and 0 points for each NO, with no partial credit.  Then assess these

  • For question 1, GIVE 1 additional point if the method to generate the sequence of randomization was described and it was appropriate (table of random numbers, computer generated, etc.) Otherwise, DEDUCT 1 point if the method to generate the  sequence of randomization was described and it was inappropriate (patients were allocated alternately, or according to date of birth, hospital number,etc.)
  • For question 2, GIVE 1 addtional point if the method of double blinding was described and it was appropriate (identical placebo, active placebo, dummy, etc.).  Otherwise, DEDUCT 1 point if the study was described as double blind but the method of blinding was inappropriate (e.g., comparison of tablet vs. injection with no double dummy).

Hey, it’s not perfect, but then neither is the APGAR score, and look where that’s gotten us.

Tip from Andrew Gelman’s often contrarian Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science blog.

 

You Crosstalk too much

I s-o-o-o wanted to enjoy Connie Willis’ latest book, Crosstalk, and I settled down in great anticipation to read her latest screwball comedy.  The characters and situations are familiar to Willis fans who liked To Say Nothing of the Dog, “Blue Moon”, or the underappreciated Bellwether.  There’s even one of Willis’ hilarious lists, this time D. B. Schwartz’ Rules for Lying, peppered throughout the book:

  • Stick to one story (p. 78)
  • Never say any more than you absolutely have to (p. 77)
  • Have a cover story ready in case people start asking questions (p. 108)
  • Keep your stories straight (p. 129)
  • Don’t look guilty (p. 130)

As well as some insights on the practice, such as”Any sentence beginning with ‘of course’ was automatically a lie…”, and a great quote from one of her faves

It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar.  — Jerome K. Jerome, The Idler’s Club

crosstalk

Having said all that, the book is not fabulous.  The heroine lets everyone from her nine-year-old niece to her mendacious fiance jerk her around, and her acceptance as a center of obsessive phoning, texting, and Facebooking exposes her as a lightweight.  Everyone with the exception of the (obvious) hero, the aforementioned D. B. Schwarz, is a child of (mainly female) white privilege*, screeching at each other about Princess Problems.  The story is overlong, too long to be concluded with the sort of feminist Deus ex Machina resolution that leaves everyone (except the fiance) living sappily ever after.

Coming after the conclusion of her four-novel plus love letter to the rapidly-being-overrun people of Great Britain (Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout, and All Clear), Crosstalk is a big letdown.  If you haven’t read any Willis, start with Bellwether or Doomsday Book, not this clinker.

*Willis is a softcore SJW, whose post-election stance is “I’m OK, you Trumpers are messed up.”  Oh, and I don’t live in a bubble.  Con safos, chica.

Do you have King Salmon in a can?

At last, we tinned fish eaters will have our day!  Aaron Gilbreath pens an Ode to Canned Fish, and it’s  a treat.

tonnino-tuna

Just a few minutes with Bing found some great suggestions from the Chowhound.  What’s not to like?  I’ve just ordered McIntosh’s Tin Fish Gourmet, and I’ll post recommendations as I try recipes.

Tip from American Digest, which is patronized by a band of deplorable band of canned fish and (gasp!) Spam eaters.