Blog

Against the World Health Organization

During the COVID-19 crisis, World Health Organization (WHO) has failed us in a truly spectacular manner. Throughout the crisis, the WHO has repeatedly published misleading information that has at-best generated confusion that reduces people’s faith in experts and at worst actively driven people to avoid common-sense safety measures. From initially recommending against the obviously common...

White Noise

This year I re-read my favorite novel — White Noise by Don Delillo. It’s one of the very few novels I’ve read more than once, and I think this was my third or fourth time through. I won’t recommend it to you, because, and for good reason, there are very few other people who enjoy this novel as much as I do. Most people hate it. However, I’d like to write a bit about...

Book Notes: Against the Grain

This year I read both Seeing Like a State and Against the Grain, two books by anthropologist James C. Scott. Seeing Like a State showed how governments systematize and abstract information about a populace in order to make it visible, measurable, and above-all administrative — in particular, Scott talks a lot about how that process of abstraction necessarily loses important on-the-ground...

Some Facts About the Police

Edit 2020-06-01: Check out Samuel Sinyangwe for more information on what actually does work when it comes to reducing police violence. I, like many others, have been absolutely heartbroken this week after seeing a black man murdered in broad daylight by uniformed police offers, yet again. For obvious reasons, lots of folks are talking about the role of police in our society. In conversations with...

Tech Wages After Covid

In a few of the tech-oriented slacks I’m a member of there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about what might happen to tech wages in a post-COVID (and during-COVID) world where lots of tech jobs (prominently including more and more major players like Twitter and Facebook) are moving to fully remote. Before getting into this topic, I want to acknowledge what a privilege it is to...

Getting Infected

I, like pretty much everyone else, have been spending a lot of time thinking about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. My particular line of thought tends to drift along two tracks: what the policy response to the crisis should be and what our moral obligation as individuals is. I’ve come to the conclusion that intentional self-infection, ideally though not necessarily as part of a human-challenge...

Books: Dreamland

So I finally read the book Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic and just as everyone had said: it’s very, very good. The book tells two stories in parallel: the first is the tale of the development and marketing of Oxycontin by the now-disgraced pharmaceutical giant Purdue and the second is the story of how a relatively unsophisticated (or at least loosely-organized)...

Announcing: Databases Demystified

I know what you’ve all been thinking: you’ve missed listening to me ramble on for minutes at a time about random pieces of technology that I find interesting. You’ve also been wondering if I’ve grown a quarantine mustache. Well, have I got a treat for you: Databases Demystified Youtube Channel In this course, we’re going to cover all of the most important topics for understanding how and why...

The magical power of random sampling

Recently I read the paper Statistical Paradises and Paradoxes in Big Data (I): Law of Large Populations, Big Data Paradox, and the 2016 US Presidential Election by Xiao-Li Meng and I found a number of insights in the paper really fascinating — however, I haven’t seen much coverage of these insights in other locations likely because the paper is pretty dense and the way Meng presents...

Book Review: Evicted by Matthew Desomond

I’m taking advantage of the quarantine to get caught up on a lot of my long-overdue reading and this week I finished Evicted by Matthew Desmond and it was incredible (it won a Pulitzer, so it’s not like I’m the first person to say that). The book does an incredible job of blending ethnographic study with policy analysis in a way that brings the actual problems that actual poor people face to...