Apartment-Owners of the World, Unite

by Harry on August 1, 2007

From a friend of Scott’s (update — and, now I know who it is, of mine!), this. All our friends (mine and Scott’s) who suffered at Barnes’s hands, spit now.

… some swing madly from the chandeliers

by Chris Bertram on August 1, 2007

The British pro-war “left” and its hangers-on (such as the crypto-neocon Oliver Kamm) are busy screaming abuse at traitors to the cause in the aftermath of “apostate-from-decency” Johann Hari’s _Dissent_ review of Nick Cohen (see “Chris Brooke for links”:http://virtualstoa.net/2007/07/30/hari-cohen-cage-match/ ). The contrast between the current scene and the “heroic” early phase of “decency” (the early days of the Iraq war) reminds me of some lines from Auden’s _Letter to Lord Byron_:

bq. Today, alas, that happy crowded floor
Looks very different: many are in tears:
Some have retired to bed and locked the door;
And some swing madly from the chandeliers;
Some have passed out entirely in the rears;
Some have been sick in corners; the sobering few
Are trying hard to think of something new.

Conor Foley will no doubt add to their discomfort with “his own brilliant dissection of Cohen”:http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/conor_foley/2007/08/trotting_out_tired_cliches.html . The highlight of Foley’s piece is a hilarious quote from Nick Cohen himself in which he characterizes his opponents:

bq. Rather than accepting the psychological consequences of confessing error, people lose their bearings. They talk only to friends. They imagine conspiracies as they seek the worst possible motives for their critics. They retreat into coteries and speak in code … To cut a long story short, they go a little mad.


by Chris Bertram on August 1, 2007

I’m a big fan of the “Lifehacker”:http://lifehacker.com/ site, especially for their software tips, but when you read them every day you get to see that their lifestyle advice is pretty much all over the place. Yesterday’s “roundup”:http://lifehacker.com/software/it-all-comes-together/communication-roundup-284437.php includes a link back to a “May entry”:http://lifehacker.com/software/personal-relationships/how-to-improve-your-body-language-256873.php on body language:

bq. Slow down a bit – this goes for many things. Walking slower not only makes you seem more calm and confident, it will also make you feel less stressed. If someone addresses you, don’t snap you’re neck in their direction, turn it a bit more slowly instead.

But as recently as last Sunday, they treated us to “Improve Your Self-Confidence”:http://lifehacker.com/software/self-improvement/improve-your-self+confidence-283450.php, which linked to “Ten Ways to Instantly Build Self-Confidence”:http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/10-ways-to-instantly-build-self-confidence/ :

bq. One of the easiest ways to tell how a person feels about herself is to examine her walk. Is it slow? tired? painful? Or is it energetic and purposeful? People with confidence walk quickly. They have places to go, people to see, and important work to do. Even if you aren’t in a hurry, you can increase your self confidence by putting some pep in your step. Walking 25% faster will make to you look and feel more important.

I think I’ll just sit where I am for now.

Pixels and Pies

by Kieran Healy on August 1, 2007

Via “John Gruber”:http://www.dashes.com/anil/2007/07/pixels-are-the-new-pies.html I see “Anil Dash”:http://www.dashes.com/anil/2007/07/pixels-are-the-new-pies.html wondering about the trend toward “square blocks of color … being used to represent percentage-based statistics instead of the traditional pie chart.” Like this.


I’d seen the one on the left — from a “New York Times story”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/magazine/29wwln-lede-t.html?ref=magazine about beliefs in the afterlife, and wondered about it, too. The white block in the middle of the Times graphic presumably represents “Don’t Knows” but it is not labeled. This is especially odd in the context of belief in the afterlife, as agnosticism is a recognized point of view and so not equivalent to “Don’t know” answers on other survey questions.

The main problem with this style of presentation is that it uses two dimensions to display unidimensional data. As the graphic on the right, especially, makes clear, the layout of the subcomponents of the graph is arbitrary. Maybe laying out responses on a line is impractical in a newspaper column. This is one reason pie charts are popular, but their problems are well known. (Word to the wise: don’t use them.)

“Mosaic plots”:http://rosuda.org/~unwin/Japan2003/UnwinISMTokyoNov03mosaic.pdf superficially resemble the ones pictured here, and they are sometimes used to very good effect. But the whole point of a mosaic plot is that it visually represents several categorical variables at once. It’s a picture of an n x n table, in other words, where the sizes of the blocks reflect the cell values in the table. “Here’s an example.”:http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~ihaka/120/Lectures/lecture17.pdf Even here you have to be careful interpreting the results. But the boxes above take this kind of picture but use it with only one variable, which doesn’t make any sense at all.