Sunday, November 30, 2014

We need a word for this:

Implementing a general rule that causes a lot of bad edge cases.

For example: in India, there's a rule that you can't leave and come back into the country within two months on a tourist visa. This is ostensibly to prevent terrorism, but it sometimes causes a lot of annoyance for regular tourists like me. (they've since amended it to exclude tourism to neighboring countries; whatever.)

In programming, we'd call it a bug. Then we'd fix the code so it is more complicated but hopefully works fine. At any rate, the more the world gets bigger and more global, the more general rules we get, which means the exceptions get more common, which leads to either super-complicated rules (the IRS approach) or lots of people getting screwed (or both).

It's a common thing. I think we could talk about it better if there were a word for it. (or is there one that I just can't think of?)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Vitamin B12 has made my canker sores better

Check this the hell out. Internet browsing plus real data making a positive change in my life. tl;dr: I used to get canker sores a lot, then I started taking B12 daily, and now they are much less bad.

Long version: since I've been a kid, I got canker sores in my mouth pretty often. They are painful. One day last year I started tracking them. Then one day this year I was browsing the internet and saw this great infographic about supplements. I noticed there's a study about vitamin B12 helping canker sores. So I bought some B12 and kept tracking.

Every day I recorded how bad my sores were, from 0 (no sores) to 10 (terrible). Here's a graph:

Darker red = worse. Also, if it's light gray, that means I recorded data and I had no sores; if it's white, I didn't record data. Got lazy a bit. Y'know. The day I started taking B12 was June 14 2014, so in the bottom row, about midway through.

Then I compared average badness per day. In 2013 it was 1.8. In early 2014 (pre-B12) it was 3.4. After I started B12, it was 0.9. T-tested pre-B12 vs post-B12, and it was y'know significant P < .0000 etc but that's kind of BS because for so many reasons I can't use a T-test here (data's not normal).

Also, there are many data sins of different magnitudes here: collecting data on arbitrary periods each year (both starting with a sore), ignoring seasonality, using colors that we probably don't perceive linearly, scoring differently at the ends (e.g. 2 means I have a tender spot but no sore, so I really don't mind) etc.

But! There's theoretical backing too: I asked my dentist if B12 should help canker sores. He said, oh yeah, whole B complex is great for that kind of thing. Well dang, why didn't anyone tell me? But anyway, now I know, and now you know too. At least for me, seems to be working.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thing about Ferguson I copied from Facebook

Ok I guess I talk about much more trivial things all the time, and it's enough of an issue that I better say a thing on Ferguson, so the few who are not in my echo chamber (older relatives?) might get a taste of what their 28yo white male privileged Facebook Friend thinks.

The one thing we as a nation, and particularly the sub-nation of white privileged people, have to learn here from Ferguson is that racism is alive and well here in America.

But bear with me! The word "racist" (and "racism") have become so toxic that you might have even written me off as an "angry liberal" even when I just said the word "racism". Please don't. I'm not trying to say that there are *bad people* being *purely evil*. It's just that we're dealing with a lot of broken systems, and the first step to fixing any problem is to acknowledge that it exists.

Here are some ways it is working:
- white cop shoots unarmed black teenager, gets not even indicted.
- said white cop gets $400k+ in "legal fund" donations - for what? he's not even on trial. Google "darren wilson fund".
- media coverage of teenager focuses on how he maybe smoked weed sometimes and might have stolen cigars, not the fact that he is an innocent human being whose life matters. Google "he was no angel".
- media coverage of aftermath focuses on "rioting" and "looting", while ignoring 3 things: 1. white "riots" are just as often called "celebrations", 2. looting is not the same as murder, 3. the over-the-top terrifying police-military response.
- you might not be able to imagine anything from their perspective. Google "why it's so hard for whites to understand ferguson."
- some people get caught up in the particulars of the case. Particulars of this case don't change the systemic issue. Getting caught up in the particulars is like saying "well, but look at that one game the Cavs won last year, see, they didn't need Lebron."
- there may be more but I should get back to work. Uh, I guess it may be good to google "respectability politics."

edit: ok, so anyway, those who would quibble over particulars of the Mike Brown case, now there's Eric Garner, so point is, institutional racism exists.