Sunday, December 18, 2011

Statistics for Badgers

I just discovered BadgerStatsan organization that presents data driven commentary on Wisconsin's economy, education, business climate, and other topics.

Our work is motivated by our belief that:
  • Many Wisconsinites want crediblenonpartisan information about their state, including insights into what’s working and what’s not, and about our state’s challenges and opportunities.
  • Meeting Wisconsin’s challenges will require government that is more efficient andeffective, producing better results for citizens and better value for taxpayers. 
  • Wisconsin government, at the state and local levels, would benefit from a more performance-oriented culture that focuses on results and uses performance data to manage.
  • Every citizen deserves to know how their government is doing in key policy areas. Toward that end, every level of government (and every agency) should provide, online for citizens, a set of clear, timely, and accurate performance measures and goals. 
  • Wisconsin’s future depends on an informed citizenry, since meeting our state’s challenges — and seizing our opportunities — will require people of all political stripes to come together in informed public dialogue to help chart our future.

Speaking as a data-guy, I appreciate and encourage this sort of information oriented reporting. This could become Wisconsin's own version of

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Drinking Liberally in Waukesha

I just returned from the local Drinking Liberally event, which I learned about from reading local political blog Waukesha Wonk. Lately I've been to buried in work to be very motivated about anything, much less politics. However, this meeting was very informative about some behind the scenes goings-on, and it makes me realize how little I know about how politics actually works. The more I know, the more I want to make it work differently.

The guest speaker was Scott Wittkopf (Badger Democracy), who lead the discussion, shared some of his insights, and tipped us to some recent events. Scott is soft spoken and well-informed. I haven't been reading his blog previously, but it was clear he put a great deal of time into research for his blog and the articles he writes. If I had to pick one thing I came away with from this session, it new sense for the corporate political machine that has its grip on Wisconsin (for that matter, the nation), and the vital need to fight back against it.

Despite the "liberal" in Drinking Liberally, the event was non-partisan. People there seemed reasonable, and all were concerned about how wrong things have gone politically in Wisconsin. My thanks to Lisa and Phil for organizing, and the Spizzo Cafe for hosting. I plan to drink liberally* again next month.

* full disclosure - two beers is pretty liberal drinking for me nowadays.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Science Blogs Survey

I just participated in the Science Bloggers Census. There was some question in my mind if this blog really qualifies, but Edward was kind enough to link me to an article answering that question of "Just what is a Science Blog?".

Looking back at my recent posts, I haven't been posting very much science related content recently, but I'm also counting some of my mathematical posts at my other blog. That blog gets more traffic, and in a way it's even more scientific than what I write here, but most people don't consider games as science.

The survey results will appear in September at .

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jiggle The Handle

Given the recent space toilet troubles, I am reminded of similar troubles aboard the space shuttle Challenger nearly 30 years ago (November, 1981), and comedian Robin Williams commentary on the solution to the problem. The relevant part starts at 2:35.

Thirty year ago, this put me in stitches. It's still a good one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Unquote #2

The greatest human talent is self-delusion. (Often propped-up by another, our penchant for self-righteousness.) Across recorded history, delusional leaders were responsible for countless horrific errors of statecraft, though it was common folk who suffered. Yet, ruling castes always made it their top priority to limit criticism, the only thing that might have corrected their mistakes. This dire contradiction propelled much of the tragedy of the last 4,000 years. (

Author David Brin, found here.

Three Times Fast

Say the following three times fast, I dare you.
photoaffinity labeling of a 14,15-epoxyeicosatrienoic acid receptor.
Or for that matter, once, without pausing for breathe.

The next time someone tells they think statistics are hard to understand, I'm going to send them to a biochemist.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Credit and copyright, wikimedia commons
Borrowing (maybe stealing) a regular feature at Futility Closet, a quote for our times:
If you have a weak candidate and a weak platform, wrap yourself up in the American flag and talk about the Constitution. -Matthew Stanley Quay, senator (1833-1904)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Now I Get It

Back when I played D&D, we had a special place for that most silly sounding weapon: the Bohemian Earspoon.

My wife recently related to me that an earspoon is a tool once used for cleaning the ear, and putting the wax so acquired to other industrious uses (Eeeewww!)

So the suggestion is that a large polearm be used for cleaning the ear is kind of funny (at least if it's not your ear!), and was obviously intended to be a joke all along.

Now it get it! :-)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Les Paul Doodle

Heads up Waukesha - Today's Google Doodle is a tribute to to local legend Les Paul. The best parts is you can play it! (Not this image tho, go but go to and try it.)

This will appear on for the rest of the day, and starting tomorrow it should be archived at .

Here's a Forbes article with more details about this tribute to Les Paul, and another from

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wisconsin Suburban Coyote Scat

Caution: The topic of todays' post is entirely scatological. This is evidence of a coyote marking it's territory, with the territory in question being the sidewalk by my house. I knew there were coyotes nearby; I've seen the scats when out walking on some undeveloped land by a nearby quarry, and actually spotted a few roaming by the highway. However, this is the first evidence they are actually in my yard.

It should not be surprised, because the local rabbit population is absolutely exploding. I can't say I am unhappy either, because those rabbits have been doing terrible things to my strawberry patch. Now maybe they will get some natural population management. I scooped up the scat (now nicely dried) and moved it to a corner of my vegetable patch, where it may discourage rabbits from eating my newly planted squash.

On the down side, I will need to escort my little dog on her nighttime excursions. I don't want her getting on the wrong side of nature.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Musical Accompaniment for the End of the World

In the unlikely event that Harold Camping is correct, wouldn't it be nice to go out humming along with some appropriate music? The selections are presented here in alphabetical order by artist, because I think it especially silly to be highly organized in my response to the apocalypse.

Barry McGuire: Eve of Destruction
(does double duty as a protest song)

(And the MORE COWBELL! version, with Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell)

IT BOYS! End Of The World
(Good old Man-in-Black)

(or the studio version)
(Have you seen the movie?)

The Doors: The End
(really should have let this one go last)

2012 Movie Theme ( it aint the end of the world )
(original artist uncertain)

YES: Tempus Fugit

OK - that's enough from me, but please contribute your personal "end notes" if you like. - Happy last day on Earth everybody!

 This IGN article was the idea source for some of these.
 NPR has some creative suggestions too, and there are over 3800 responses on Facebook.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ogre versus Troll: Is Intelligent Design Anti-Evolution?

A blogging-friend, who goes by the name of Ogre MkV, is debating another blogger, JoeG, on the topic: Is Intelligent Design Anti-Evolution? Ogre's opening statement is up now at Cassandra's Tears:

Having read that, I wanted to get some thoughts down before I read JoeG's response.

1) Ogre MKV makes a strong case that ID is anti-evolution by any reasonable definition. He builds a case that is it first necessary to define intelligent design and what it supports, and then goes on to cite conflicting definitions, all of which are anti-evolution.

2) Of the many people I have encountered via the internet, JoeG may well be the nastiest (thus the "Troll"). The more I think about it, the more I wonder what Ogre was thinking when he agreed to this debate. I will try to keep an open mind about what JoeG might say, but ... I've encountered him before at Uncommon Descent (where he is moderated) and his own blog (where he is vitriolic), and ... I expect more nastiness.

[ ... time passes ...]

And now I'm back from reading JoeG's opening statement, which was rather disappointing, but at least it maintained civility. The post consists primarily of long quotes of things other people (Wells, Behe, Dembski, etc.) say about ID, and winds up saying that ID has little to say about pretty much all aspects of evolutionary theory ... except the "blind watchmaker thesis". The blind watchmaker is a favorite topic that JoeG brings up often, and always as an argument against evolution. Maybe JoeG does not understand what "anti" means? (Ogre thought of that too).

Ogre MkV has cross-posted JoeG's opening statement. I can't actually recommend it, but there it is.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Heavy Hand of the Koch Brothers

Just this quick note for a BUSY election day. Cognitive Dissidence reports some excellent detective work on how the Koch brothers are operating behind the scenes in Wisconsin. Check it out, and go vote. Maybe not in that order.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Madison as Hell

"An activist judge stubbornly insists that Wisconsin's legal system must be obeyed, even if Republicans disagree with it."

Or see it at Colbert Nation.

Wisconsin's Tuesday non-partisan elections are turning out to be anything but. The intensity and nastiness of 3rd party television advertising cannot be understated. I'm getting really tired of one sided calling the other stupid, ignorant, dirty, rabid, wicked, sleezy, anti-American, Communist, [re]tards, {inset ad hominem here}, scum, more ad hominemdisgusting, cruel, thug*, brutes, etc. etc..** Opinions aside, this language is uncalled for in any civilized discussion. If you cannot be bothered to think of an opponent as a real, thinking person with honest opinions, then you may not be qualified to be part of a civilized discussion.

* There seems to be a particular agenda to push this word, because it is showing up everywhere. It ain't random!
** These words culled from the comments at a site with decidedly one-sided opinions, but I'm pretty sure there are people on both sides speaking of/to each other like this.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What Would Woody Do?

What Would Woody Do?

Simply amazing political events in Wisconsin this week (a few samples: 1, 2, 3).

I have been recalling the words of a wise man - a business professor and amazingly good teacher - and I recall them as:
Unions are bad, but if your company has a union, they probably deserve it.
It's not too hard to see how unions might cause inefficiency, and if business and workers all played fair with each other, everyone would be better off. It's not too hard to see the track record of businesses, and see that unions are sometimes the only recourse workers have to gain fair treatment - or even to punish businesses for bad behavior.

I don't have any easy answers, but I'm pretty sure that Governor Walker's move to take away collective bargaining rights for State workers is only asking for worse trouble. The union might be bad, but you deserve it. Deal with it. Negotiate with it. Be fair, and treat it with respect. Don't try to legislate it away, or it might be replaced by something even worse.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Political Cheese Fondue

There are extraordinary events in Wisconsin politics this week. Our new Governor's anti-union legislation has ignited an amazing response, turning normally placid Cheeseheads into a melting pot of political turmoil.  Here is a sampling:

Daily Kos: Scott Walker's Pants Spontaneously Combust!

The Political Environment: Republicans in Madison are Flailing Fleeing, Failing

Brew City BrawlerPackers, Catholic Church denounce Walker union busting

Live Twitter updates from the Capitol Rotunda, via @RecallWakerNow

Illusory Tennant: Scott Walker receives 8,000 emails

The Corner TavernWisconsin’s Diabolical Plot to Make Me Support the Packers

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Darwin Day!

Something a little different for Darwin Day (Charles Darwin's 202th Birthday!); I'd like to introduce my new co-blogger, Darwin the Cockatiel.

Darwin likes to assist me by landing on the keyboard while I am typing and supervising my fingers. This supervision consists of nipping at my fingers if he feels are not moving in an appropriate manner. By his definition, "appropriate" means they ought to be scritching his head instead of pecking at the keys.

Darwin came to us as as a "found" bird while we were searching for our own escaped bird. Some other people contacted us about a bird they found. It wasn't our bird, but we agreed to take care of him and help look for the original owner - which we did, but no takers. He's a delightful creature though and we are happy to keep him. Despite considerable effort we never did find our own bird, but for a short time we were fostering two Cockatiels. Apparently finding a bird that belongs to someone else is much easier than finding a bird that belongs to you. Maybe there are a lot of bird owners that don't want to be bird owners. No matter, we thing Darwin is a keeper!

The name was suggested by my wife, because we both admire Charles Darwin's contribution to science,  and when the bird puffs up the feathers around his beak, there is a striking resemblance.
Image found here, source unknown
Darwin can be contacted at Darwin dot The dot Cockatiel at Gmail dot Com

Friday, February 11, 2011

Science Fail #4

Fail #4 refers to an editorial published in the Idaho Press-Tribune. It is copyrighted, so you will need to follow the link to the article, or you can just take my word that it is some amazingly stupid stuff. Much of it refers to old arguments that even Creationist are embarrassed to have even supported.

[Via Greg Laden's Blog]

Bonus Section:

The award for the most unexpectedly non-sequitur comment in response to a a science article goes to ...
Morp: I observed an inverse reaction .When pigs call loudly for food you can silence them instantly and for a while by blowing a trumpet   [Found on SCIAM]
Um ... OK ... I don't doubt it ... but ... you play the trumpet to pigs???

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And now for our next musical number!

And now for our next musical number!

 [Found on Pharyngula]

edit - forgot a title! Silly me.
edit = forgot the video! Doh!!
Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How to tell the difference between a theoretical statistician and an applied statistician

How to tell the difference between a theoretical statistician and an applied statistician?
A theoretical statistician knows all about measure theory but has never seen a measurement whereas the actual use of measure theory by the applied statistician is a set of measure zero.
--- Stephen Senn
Found on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science
Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Science Fail #3

This is a second-hand fail, but still a winner loser. This was posted by RetiredSciGuy in the comments on the Sensuous Curmudgeon post: Theocratic Terror in the Classroom. The Curmudgeon is always a good read. Now prepare for failure!

RetiredSciGuy writes ...

I didn’t have any aggressively ignorant students trying to bait me into a science vs. religion discussion while I was teaching. Had some interesting conversations with a few parents during parent-teacher conferences, though. One that particularly stands out was a mom who said, “We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we don’t believe in glaciers.”
Now that's what I call denial of the cold hard facts.

In an unrelated matter, if you read through the comments of another recent Curmudgeon post, you will learn that I have been appointed as Lord of the Outer Planets. Definitely the coolest thing to happen to me all week!

I haven't posted much lately - not quitting, just busy - and I refuse to be one of those silly bloggers that posts apologies for not posting.
Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature