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Exploring Python

December 27, 2012

GHL has written two very nice Python-related posts. The first is for highly-technical readers who want to use the new Blaze package ("NumPy 2.0") so badly they'll do so even if it doesn't work yet -- and yes, I'm in that camp! Here are instructions for building Blaze. Note that due to its rapid development it's […]

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The Signal and the Noise: errata

December 13, 2012

Nate Silver's new book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- but Some Don't, is, on the whole, an excellent overview of statistical thinking. I think most of my readers would enjoy it. However, it is plagued by some bizarre mistakes that left me unable to completely trust that every detail is correct. […]

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Deep learning goes mainstream

November 24, 2012

Another day, another surprise from the New York Times! This time it's a front page article on "deep-learning," an integral part of my own work and something that defies many attempts at simple explanation. Sadly, that's also true of the Times article, which never actually explains what deep learning is! Indeed, the reader is left to wonder […]

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To surprise of pundits...

November 7, 2012

Thanks, xkcd: As of this writing, the only thing that's 'razor-thin' or 'too close to call' is the gap between the consensus poll forecast and the result.

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"iPad". Just "iPad".

November 5, 2012

Having played with the new iPad mini, I am quite sure that it will become the dominant iPad product. It is the just the right size and weight; it's relatively cheap; the bezel is unobtrusive; the screen seems sharp even next to a true retina display. In a perfect world, I think that the mini […]

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Politics & Statistics

November 4, 2012

I'm a big fan of Nate Silver -- he consistently demonstrates that he is one of the best and brightest statisticians around. I like to say that statisticians (and risk managers) are professional skeptics; our job is to let data speak for itself, not to speak on its behalf. Nate Silver does that better than […]

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"And boy have we patented it!"

August 24, 2012

Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone, January 9, 2007: We've been innovating like crazy the last few years on this, and we've filed for over 200 patents for all the inventions in iPhone. And we intend to protect them. And they have. (Here are links to the title and post source videos)

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Tolerance and respect

August 19, 2012

I have been reviewing Microsoft's F# Component Design Guidelines. One section has a note to avoid using underscores in names, as it "clashes with .NET naming conventions." However, the authors found it necessary to add this caveat: That said, some F# programmers use underscores heavily, partly for historical reasons, and tolerance and respect is important. […]

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Missing pieces

August 1, 2012

Two important things to keep in mind about Mountain Lion, entirely reblogged from Adam Laiacano because his pictures are worth exactly two thousand of my words: One saving grace -- at least on my machine -- a Java runtime was automatically installed while I was installing Python. Why not just preinstall it in the first place? […]

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DIY gasoline arbitrage

August 1, 2012

Who needs futures? Now you can arbitrage gas prices right at the pump: (And if that's not enough, it costs a dollar more just down the block!)

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What Windows users?

July 28, 2012

TUAW, on Safari 6: But [Safari] Windows users have noticed something a little strange: There are no download links for a Windows version, and the latest version is still Safari 5.1.7 on Apple's official website.... Whatever the reason, Windows users wanting the new Safari will have a bit longer to wait. ...what Windows users?

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Compiling SciPy on Mountain Lion

July 27, 2012

Update 8/1: The fix I described below has just been added to the development branch. Mountain Lion users can install the development branch with: pip install -e git+https://github.com/scipy/scipy#egg=scipy-dev (note this requires a Fortran compiler; see here for more detail) I've been updating my post on installing Python/NumPy/SciPy/IPython on Lion to work with Mountain Lion. For […]

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A major Mountain Lion bug?

July 27, 2012

I just finished a clean install of Mountain Lion and have run into what appears to be a major bug: I can't browse my old Time Machine backups! It seems like I'm not the only one. This is a major, showstopping bug and it's hard to imagine how it got through Apple's QA process. I […]

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Caveat emptor

July 7, 2012

Another day, another pleasant surprise from the NYT: Tara Siegal Bernard has written a nice article encouraging a degree of educated skepticism when dealing with financial advisors. It's critical to keep in mind that not everyone offering financial advice is bound by any form of fiduciary duty to his or her clients. They aren't even […]

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Charting iPhone growth

June 30, 2012

To mark the iPhone's 5 year anniversary, comScore has released a chart of mobile use by iPhone type: The most striking thing about the chart, to me, is how steady the width of the bands remains through time. There is a perception that a small but dedicated group of iPhone owners upgrade their hardware with […]

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Filed under "things I did not expect to write today"

June 29, 2012

One company is doing a fantastic job of rolling out an innovative, attractive, intelligent and bold user interface across its entire product line: Microsoft. Here's a preview of their Metro-inspired home page redesign. Remember how apple.com looked stuck in the 90's until early last year? It looks positively dated next to this. For bonus points, try […]

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Turing's Cathedral

June 27, 2012

I've just finished Turing's Cathedral, a wonderful new book by George Dyson about John von Neumann's team at Princeton that built one of the first computers. In the title chapter, there are a few excellent quotes: "I asked [Turing] under what circumstances he would say that a machine is conscious," Jack Good recalled in 1956. "He […]

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Autoencoders go mainstream

June 27, 2012

My inbox has been buzzing with links to an interesting new research paper from a team at Google led by Andrew Ng (of Stanford AI fame) and Jeff Dean. However, I'm receiving far more links to an NYT piece covering the research. It's great that the work is getting mainstream coverage, but somewhat unfortunate because […]

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Misreading misleading headlines: VIX edition

February 13, 2012

I was shocked to see the following bold headline this morning, as it describes something which did not actually happen: CBOE 'fear guage' drops 6% in Monday trading Let's be clear: the VIX is measured in percentage points. A 6% drop in the VIX is very significant, as it represents a 6 point drop in […]

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But what does "exponentially higher" actually mean?

February 10, 2012

An NYT article about a text-message-based ad that aired during the Super Bowl talks about the high follow-through rate that the ad earned for its creator, the NFL. In fact, the ad did so well that one executive described it like this: While Mr. Berman [general manager of NFL Digital Media] declined to say exactly […]

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Data does not make decisions

February 7, 2012

Darren Herman gets it: This is important.  Data alone does not make decisions. An organization built for the next century is one who has to be able to wonk through large datasets, find insights and action them.  Just having data alone is not a winning proposition.  It’s the application of data, the extrapolation, and understanding that […]

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I can chartjunk and so can you!

February 6, 2012

Here's a brilliant post by Andrew Gelman, highlighting a tutorial that will actually destroy information in 25 steps, allowing you (yes, you!) to create this anti-masterpiece: People who treat chartjunk infographics as real data visualizations should be redirected to a GeoCities archive every time they access Wikipedia.

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Facebook au lait

February 5, 2012

The NYT's Bits section, which up until now I thought was doing a wonderful job of evolving technology reporting to a higher, "post-blog" level, has left me stunned with a bizarre editorial in which the author requests compensation for his contribution to Facebook's success. Is it just a tongue-in-cheek opinion designed to attract eyeballs and -- yes […]

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Desperately seeking an informed financial community

February 4, 2012

A sweeping tip of the hat to Barry Ritholtz's guest blogger SilverOz, who was willing to call out the mad (tinfoil) hatters at Zero Hedge on their usual nonsense (emphasis mine): So Rick/Zero Hedge, unless you would like to argue that the population of the United States also grew by 1.5 million in one month (since […]

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Another for the futurist set...

February 4, 2012

It's been a while since we posted one of these, so here's Corning's latest peek at the future, "A Day Made of Glass 2:" (And here is a narrated version with additional details on what is -- and isn't -- currently possible.)

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Does a department store credit card really hurt your credit score?

January 27, 2012

I came across an article on whether or not closing credit card accounts lowers your credit score, which included this bizarre observation: The addition of new credit card debt also increases your credit utilization, or debt-to-credit limit ratio, on revolving accounts such as credit cards. For FICO scores, this ratio is part of a factor […]

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High tech's hottest calling

January 26, 2012

The NYT's Bits blog has a new post on "high tech’s hottest calling:" statistical analysis. The article isn't just about the jobs market, focusing as well on students' increased demand for statistics classes at top universities. The opening anecdote will be familiar to anyone in the field: “Most of my life I went to parties […]

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If it's unclear, non-specific and vague... it's probably true

January 25, 2012

Mashable has a new standard for fact-checking rumors: ...While you should look at all of this information with a skeptical eye, a raised eyebrow and folded arms, the rumor sounds slightly more credible than the junk typically spewed out from Taiwan industry pub DigiTimes. For starters, reviewing various prototypes before deciding on the final production model […]

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"Big Data" is meaningless

January 20, 2012

Roger Ehrenberg gets it: Every so often a term becomes so beloved by media that it moves from “instructive” to “hackneyed” to “worthless,” and Big Data is one of those terms.... Every business generates data, but it is a far smaller number that view data as a strategic asset that is actively managed for the benefit […]

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The Internet is on strike

January 18, 2012

I'm very impressed by the broad reach of today's internet blackout. For those living under a rock, the logo above belongs to Google; the search giant probably reasoned that a full-scale shut down a la Wikipedia or Reddit (which got the blackout ball rolling in the first place) would be too disruptive. Just think how all the […]

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