Idiot Calling on Twitter – Frequency of You’re vs Your

At the risk of being forever branded a grammar elitist, lets take a quick look at use of the phrase “your an idiot” on twitter.

Inspired by the tweet by @doctorzaius referencing a URL to Twitter’s search page for “your an idiot”, I used Twitter’s streaming API to download a sample of 6581 tweets containing the word “idiot” overnight, for about 12 hours.

Of these 6581 tweets, 65 contained our friend “your an idiot”. 161, two and a half times as many, contained “you’re an idiot”. Additionally, there were 2 tweets with “your such an idiot”, and just one “you’re such an idiot”. The forces of good grammar have won this round?

Note: This is a very small sample. It may be interesting to compare Facebook status updates to see what the you’re/your ratio looks like there one day…

High Trek (Stingy) Adventures

Kristi and I joined forces as team “puppy nappers” for yesterday’s scavenger hunt race around Boston. I think we ended up somwhere in the middle of the pack after a couple of hours running around Boston’s south end, Harvard Square, and searching for a clown in the Public garden. It was a good (if tiring) time.

I was disappointed at the beginning of the day when they announced that the race had raised $350 for a local AIDS group that had provided volunteers. The race had 250 teams at $86 a team, so that’s $21,500 in revenue. While not run as a fundraiser, that’s a pretty poor showing. That aside, this thing is a huge cash cow. There’s a whole raft of sponsors that surely covered all the prizes and gift bags and then some so their only expenses are salary. It was hard to say who was an employee vs. a volunteer, but the number is probably no more than 6, more likely 4 or so. Not a bad gig if you can get it, as they say.

Patriotism jumps the shark?

Free agency comes to the Olympics. This has probably been happening for a long time, but two recent articles on told of athletes acquiring citizenship in other nations for the sole purpose of playing on their Olympic team.

  • Becky Hammon , basketball player who has no Russian family connection whatsoever, signs on with a Russian club team to play professionally and with the side benefit of a Russian passport so she can play on their Olympic team. (Because she’s not good enough to make the American team)
  • Kathryn Bertine, has an ongoing series in ESPN magazine in which she searches for a sport in which she can make the Olympics, and then after settling on cycling, ends up sending emails to scores of countries in the hopes one will give her a passport before finally being taken in by St Kitts and Nevin. She actually makes a pretty good case for what she’s doing in the eight part of her series: “If being an Olympian means being part of something internationally positive, does it really matter what country I represent?”

I’m not sure what the takeaway from all this is. You decide.

This did teach me more about the ins and outs of dual citizenship though. As I’m both British and American at this point, my understanding was that America would frown upon going out of your way to acquire more passports (instead of getting one because you’re Jewish or have an Irish grandmother) but it turns out the law says doing so only revokes your US citizenship if you do so with the intent of renouncing one’s US citizenship, and the presumption is that one does not intend that unless otherwise stated. So there you have it, you’ve got the go ahead to stock up on passports just in case the dollar finally crashes.

Old stuff lurking at the library

I get a kick out of seeing some of the really old stuff at the Tufts library. There’s something about the permanence of these objects; they’ve been hanging out on this planet for longer than me and will probably continue to do so. Tufts weekly issues from 1943, scientific journals from the 60s. I saw a few journals that had lost their bindings and were shelved with just twine holding them together, like a gift from the past.
Last weekend I wanted to pick up some books on signal processing and time series analysis, and I dragged Kristi along with me so that we could get some groceries while we were out. While I scanned the math books the find the easiest to understand, she happened upon a book called Great American Liberals, edited by Gabriel Mason and published in 1956. The most fascinating thing for me about this book is how infrequently it has been checked out of the library. The due dates are:
July 7 1959
December 3 1971
March 13 1988
April 17 2008
At this declining rate of readership, the next time it leaves the library will be in 23-25 years!

Statistics, Causality, Sports

Many sports “statistics” seem to ignore causality altogether. The most recent example that comes to mind for me was during one of the recent ACLS games, when an announcer observed that all of the Red Sox’s RBIs had been by left handed batters – so they were really getting it done tonight. This ignores the fact that, save for the case of a home run, the necessary condition for an RBI to occur is for a runner to be on base already. Surely some of the runner’s on base must been right handed hitters – so if no right handers were on base, there would be no left handed RBIs; a whole chain of events had to occur for the RBI to happen.

What of the idea of the “winning run” (touchdown/shot/field goal etc), or its converse the losing play? If your team is up by 10, and you make an error thats lets s run score, that’s no big deal. If you’re tied, it is. Did Bill Buckner lose the world series in 1986? Not by himself he didn’t. Did the Immaculate Reception win that game for the Steelers? Not if they were down by more than 7 points at the time.

This probably all depends on your ideas about causality. If you make two more touchdowns in the first half, then you wouldn’t need the last second heroics, but then your opponent would have played differently from that point on as well – a whole tree of parallel universes of game outcomes.

I love that there’s a list of famous hail mary plays on wikipedia.

Id Checks

My naturalization ceremony was at a federal courthouse. They require two forms of identification to enter as a visitor, but its just a guard looking at it to see if them match each other and you. He’s not typing them into a computer to check against a “no-courthouse” list, so what security value does that provide? Seems pointless to me.

Without insurance

I saw this disturbing story (via the wesabe blog) about a woman who can’t buy health insurance because she had a bout with cancer. Being without dental insurance bothers me enough, ( i still kick myself for not picking up the COBRA coverage before the deadline – the thought of paying for a root canal out of pocket gives me the shivers) but the thought of no health insurance is terrifying.

I can’t believe that we, as a country can’t solve this problem and make it easier for individuals to obtain insurance. By insuring everyone, even the young and relatively healthy, the risk is spread around enough that it is overall more affordable for everyone. Surely having portable insurance would allow people to start their own businesses or just take extended time off to do something different, which would have to be a boost to the economy. It seems like the anti-health care forces would have us believe that any insurance changes would be bad for small business, but I can’t believe that is truly the case if we do it right.

Wireless Net Neutrality

I saw a great paper on wireless net neutrality referenced on boing boing a day or two ago. It has a good outline of how the current state of the wireless industry mirrors the wired industry circa 1950s when it was all firmly under the thumb AT&T.;

By being greedy (demanding HALF of mobile revenue) and controlling (censoring and stifling information) the industry is getting a big slice of a small pie, but surely if they let up, they could get a small slice of a much bigger pie as the mobile information market expands and new, unexpected uses of their mobile infrastructure.

Given that wired net neutrality isn’t even a sure thing, I don’t think anyone can hold their breath on wireless net neutrality. Then again, the wireless carriers are using public radio spectrum to deliver their half assed service, so perhaps there is more leverage there than over wired carriers?

Clearly the US is lagging further and further behind Europe and Asia on the wireless front. If that remains the case surely the google or yahoo of mobile won’t spring up in silicon valley…

Tivo DRM Broken. Hurray!

I salute Jeremy Drake for providing a platform-independent mechanism to decode Tivo video files. What I like most about the code he released is that it’s not a crack per se, as it still requires the Tivo’s password (as did the windows-only tivo software). You don’t let people have what they want (and should have been given) long enough, they’re going to take it.
The cat’s been out of the bag for a while anyways, it was just more difficult and required windows and direct show dump to get files decode so they could be (lawfully) played on the mac.

I love tivo, but they’ve been teasing the mac community with unfulfilled promises of tivo to go support for at least a year now. I’ve never understood their reasoning for this; of course the windows user base is bigger, but I’d guess the percentage of tivo owners who use macs are higher than the general population mac percentage. Mac users seem more willing (and perhaps able?) to pay a bit more for a better user experience. Now that cable companies are releasing cable boxes with DVR capability, I would think Tivo would want to cater more to this community of people with higher expectations, not less.

While I’m talking Tivo, I can’t see how the company is going to be around for many more years. Cable companies DVRs aren’t as good as Tivo’s, but there’s a lot of people who’ve never used a Tivo and don’t know what their missing. Then there’s this whole Tivo Series 3 debacle; $800 for an HD DVR that doesn’t let users do anything more than a cable company DVR – there’s no tivo to go for example. Why would someone who’s just dropped a couple of grand on an HD set up not be willing to get the cable company’s box for no money up front and less money per month?

Then again, people have been predicting the death of Tivo for years, so who knows what will happen?