Archive for the ‘humor’Category

Merci, FIFA

This is a French-language FIFA billboard about Ebola:

FIFA-FAIL-1024x682

It has 11 anti-Ebola messages from famous footballers, which happen to be printed small enough to be unreadable from the street or sidewalk.

Not that it would matter anyway: it’s on a major road in Monrovia, Liberia, where no one speaks French.

13

04 2015

Taxi conversations (caution: low external validity)

I will try not to generalize too much — a la Thomas Friedman — from conversations with taxi drivers to entire cultures or the state of nations, but I thought these three were worth sharing:

  • In Zambia in October, I was asked “In America, who pays the the other family for a wedding, the man’s family or the woman’s family?” He was aghast that the answer was “neither,” although on further discussion of American wedding rituals I conceded that the bride’s family does pay more of the costs. This then led to many interesting conversations throughout my work in Zambia.
  • In Kenya this week, I listed to a 20-minute explication on US foreign policy on the International Criminal Court. This lopsided knowledge, where non-Americans almost always seem to know more about US policy than Americans know of other countries’ policies, is always a bit surprising, but also an indication that US decisions are felt around the world.
  • In Tanzania last week, I was asked where I’m from. I respond “the US,” and often get “which state?” but “Arkansas” yields blank stares. So, I typically say “Arkansas… it’s next to Texas” or “Arkansas… it’s where Bill Clinton was governor before he became president.” This time I went with the latter explanation. The driver paused, and said “Bill Clinton… Yes, I think I know that name. He is Hillary Clinton’s husband, yes?”  Progress, there.

14

02 2014

Year in review – infographic style!

It’s been about six months since I wrote a real blog post other than a link round-up. One of my 2014 resolutions is to write more regularly — either for this blog or for myself — and I’m calling on you, blog readers, to hold me to it.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a bit about what it was that kept me too busy to blog. It was a jam-packed year between finishing school, starting a new job, and traveling for fun and for work. At some point in the fall I made a pie chart of where I had spent time so far in the year, and that led to the idea of doing a holiday greeting card in the form of an infographic. I put one together over the holidays and share it with friends and family — it’s supposed to be a bit over the top and tongue in cheek, and it might just become an annual tradition, though future versions will have much better metrics. Click for the PDF:

 

I also updated the Photography page with links to these albums from 2013: EthiopiaCosta RicaCape Town, and Lesotho. I’m sure there’s a better way to present some of these, so suggestions in the comments for integrating photography into a blog are welcome.

13

01 2014

Fun projects are fun

Jay Ulfelder, of the blog Dart-Throwing Chimp, recently wrote a short piece in praise of fun projects. He links to my Hunger Games survival analysis, and Alex Hanna’s recent application of survival analysis to a reality TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. (That single Hunger Games post has accounted for about one-third of the ~100k page views this blog got in the last year!) Jay’s post reminded me that I never shared links to Alex’s survival analysis, which is a shame, so here goes:

First, there’s “Lipsyncing for your life: a survival analysis of RuPaul’s Drag Race”:

I don’t know if this occurs with other reality shows (this is the first I’ve been taken with), but there is some element of prediction involved in knowing who will come out as the winner. A drag queen we spoke with at Plan B suggested that the length of time each queen appears in the season preview is an indicator, while Homoviper’s “index” is largely based on a more qualitative, hermeneutic analysis. I figured, hey, we could probably build a statistical model to know which factors are the most determinative in winning the competition.

And then come two follow-ups, where Alex digs into predictions for the next episode of the current season, and again for the one after that. That last post is a great little lesson on the importance of the proportional hazards assumption.

I strongly agree with this bit from Jay’s post about the value of these projects:

Based on personal experience, I’m a big believer in learning by doing. Concepts don’t stick in my brain when I only read about them; I’ve got to see the concepts in action and attach them to familiar contexts and examples to really see what’s going on.

Right on. And in addition to being useful, these projects are, well, fun!

02

04 2013

#MiddleEarthPublicHealth

The weekend is almost here, and the new year — so how to celebrate? For a start, here are the results of a mashup meme I tried to start last night on Twitter: #MiddleEarthPublicHealth:

https://storify.com/brettkeller/middleearthpublichealth

 

If the Storify version (which shows all the tweets) doesn’t work, you can search on Twitter for the #MiddleEarthPublicHealth hashtag.

28

12 2012

Do they know it's Christmas? No, because it isn't.

Remember “Do they know it’s Christmas?” That’s right, the 1984 hit song intended to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia.  If that’s not ringing a bell (See what I did there?) then here’s the video:

You probably didn’t get very far, so here are some of the inane lyrics:

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

In addition to reinforcing all sorts of stereotypes about Africa, this video gets one very important thing wrong: Do they know it’s Christmas time? No, they don’t, because Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians and don’t celebrate Christmas until January 7th. So next time someone says they love this song, you now have an annoying know-it-all response to shut them down — which you can consider your holiday gift from this blogger. Merry Christmas!

[On a more serious note, Ethiopia has made huge strides on food security since the fall of the Derg. If you want to read more on that, MoreAltitude (an aid blogger who recently relocated to Addis) has this take.]

21

12 2012

Best billboard ever?

I have no idea whether this is an effective ad… but:

(Also note the address at the bottom: there’s no commonly-used system for designating addresses in Addis — or most road names for that matter — so directions often simply describe a general area close to some landmark.)

23

09 2012

Hunger Games critiques

My Hunger Games survival analysis post keeps getting great feedback. The latest anonymous comment:

Nice effort on the analysis, but the data is not suitable for KM and Cox. In KM, Cox and practically almost everything that requires statistical inference on a population, your variable of interest should be in no doubt independent from sample unit to sample unit.

Since your variable of interest is life span during the game where increasing ones chances in a longer life means deterring another persons lifespan (i.e. killing them), then obviously your variable of interest is dependent from sample unit to sample unit.

Your test for determining whether the gamemakers rig the selection of tributes is inappropriate, since the way of selecting tributes is by district. In the way your testing whether the selection was rigged, you are assuming that the tributes were taken as a lot regardless of how many are taken from a district. And the way you computed the expected frequency assumes that the number of 12 year olds equals the number of 13 year olds and so on when it is not certain.

Thanks for the blog. It was entertaining.

And there’s a lot more in the other comments.

20

09 2012

Another type of mystification

A long time ago (in years, two more than the product of 10 and the length of a single American presidential term) John Siegfried wrote this First Lesson in Econometrics (PDF). It starts with this:

Every budding econometrician must learn early that it is never in good taste to express the sum of the two quantities in the form: “1 + 1 = 2”.

… and just goes downhill from there. Read it.

(I wish I remembered where I first saw this so I could give them credit.)

12

09 2012

Another kind of "game" theory

Alan Greenspan wooed his first wife by inviting her to his apartment so that he could read her an article he had written on monopolies:

We had been discussing monopolies at dinner, and I was trying to keep her engaged. So I invited her back to my apartment to read an article I wrote in the mid-1960s. I was raising serious questions about the whole basis of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, and I actually went through considerable detail as to what I thought was wrong about it. Nothing I’ve seen in reality has changed it. I’m not denying that monopolies are terrible things, but I am denying that it is readily easy to resolve them through legislation of that nature. But we were in conversation of some form or another which related to this. So I was terribly curious to see how she’d respond.

Also:

I’ve frankly forgotten how she responded.

30

08 2012