The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes

Got The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes from the library after reading a Burkinabè author cite him as an influence. I was like, “Who is this guy?” Fascinating and sad story. The fiction is exactly as advertised: lurid hardboiled Harlem detectives and criminals. Lots of action, no character development, impossible stereotypes.  But a fun read, of course.  Not nearly as taut as Elmore Leonard, but broader, more slapstick.  Lots of vocabulary that I am sure Google will enjoy looking up for you.

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Grammar Girl : “On Accident” versus “by Accident”

I still cringe when my children say “on accident” but I do not correct them… Barratt’s study is dead on, is my personal experience.

According to Barratt’s study, use of the two different versions appears to be distributed by age. Whereas on accident is common in people under 35, almost no one over 40 says on accident. Most older people say by accident. It’s really amazing: the study says that “on is more prevalent under age 10, both on and by are common between the ages of 10 and 35, and by is overwhelmingly preferred by those over 35.” I definitely prefer by accident.

An interesting conclusion from the paper is that although there are some hypotheses, nobody really knows why younger people all over the U.S. started saying on accident instead of by accident.

via Grammar Girl : On Accident Versus by Accident :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™.

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Take 15 minutes to watch The Six Dollar Fifty Man

The Six Dollar Fifty Man  Sukie and I had watched it several times some years ago. We just watched it again.  Wow, great job, Directors – Mark Albiston & Louis Sutherland, Writer – Louis Sutherland, Producer – Wendy Cuthbert

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Why use R instead of Excel or SPSS, for quantitative archaeology or any social science for that matter!

For a long time archaeologists had few options to deal with these problems because there were few alternative programs. The general alternative to using a point-and-click program is writing scripts to program algorithms for statistical analysis and visualisations. Writing scripts means that the data analysis workflow is documented and preserved, so it can be revisited in the future and distributed to others for them to inspect, reuse or extend. For many years this was only possible using ubiquitous but low-level computer languages such as C or Fortran (or exotic higher level languages such as S), which required a substantial investment of time and effort, and a robust knowledge of computer science. In recent years, however, there has been a convergence of developments that have dramatically increased the ease of using a high level programming language, specifically R, to write scripts to do statistical analysis and visualisations. As an open source programming language with special strengths in statistical analysis and visualisations, R has the potential to be a solution to the three problems of using software such as Excel and SPSS. Open source means that all of the code and algorithms that make the program operate are available for inspection and reuse, so that there is nothing hidden from the user about how the program operates (and the user is free to alter their copy of the program in any way they like, for example, to increase computation speed).

via ATOR: Doing quantitative archaeology with open source software.

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China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh

200px-ChinaMountainZhangI had recently read a short story and then Nekropolis by McHugh, so I ordered China Mountain Zhang.  Great novel.  But not what you think it will be.  As numerous commentators point out, it is an ambitious sci-fi novel about ordinary people living fairly ordinary lives in a sci-fi future that is not too far away (certainly closer than 1992 when the novel was published).   I kept comparing it to Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen, another novel about “regular” folks (hey, we’re all special, as we learn in elementary school).   it is quiet, the epiphanies are small but important for the characters lives, and their lives change with a natural flow.

So I have nothing but praise, except for the long lecture by Zhang when he teaches his first class. Read like something McHugh had written elsewhere, or maybe before writing the novel, and she stuck it in at the end.  Just does not work, and not really necessary.

Posted in Book reviews

Michael, can you recommend some fiction podcasts?

Funny you ask, yes I can.  I love going on a long run and listening to someone read and short story and then discuss.  This week I heard three.

Richard Ford reading Raymond Carver’s “The Student’s Wife”.  Pretty sad. OK very sad.  The way Raymond Carver is sad.  You can’t even get pleasure out of the artistry because it services the sadness.

Thomas McGuane reading “The Tree Line, Kansas, 1934,” by David Means.  McGuane more enthusiastic about the story than I was. He reads it well, and I understanding the point. but the story feels (hears) more like an exercise than something authentic. Like a museum diorama.  The craft more on display, compared with Carver.

David Gilbert reading “Leg,” by Steven Polansky.  Any parent of a teenaged boy who is going through a certain period is going to feel an immediate resonance with this story.  In fact, inside your head you’ll probably change the name of your child to Randy.  Triesman and Gilbert have a nice discussion: from a super obvious metaphor you can keep drilling down until you can honestly decide you don’t really know just quite what you get out of the story.  A feeling that can quite be fingered, a sense of ambiguity and mystery.

Michael, don’t you listen to fiction podcasts read by women? Yes I do, that these three were all men and male authors is purely coincidence.


Posted in Book reviews

Something I need to remember…

reading a 100M csv file into R, read.csv takes 61s, and with read_csv in readr just 3s. That’s amazing. #rstats @hadleywickham a great job

via Hadley Wickham (@hadleywickham) | Twitter.

Posted in R statistics